An old boring argument

Another letter in the paper. This one is quite important.

Too many otherwise intelligent and reasonable people are taken in by simplistic classism because they have never been able to understand the reality of being Scottish.

Dear Editors,

I write in response to the feature in last Sunday’s edition on Ben Elton.
Although I have always had a great deal of respect for his work, and very much enjoyed his ranting humour and many contributions to the cultural changes inspired by punk, I always suspected he had been taken in by an old, very boring argument.
It goes like this: anybody who wants to live in an independent country is guilty of nationalism; nationalism is bad because it interferes with working class solidarity by erecting borders. This is a position taken by many more than Ben Elton, otherwise intelligent and apparently reasonable people. To my great chagrin for example, on the eve of the 2014 independence referendum, I found myself remonstrating extensively with a member of one of the left-wing factions who stood outside Haymarket Station in Edinburgh humourlessly manning a stall emblazoned with NO propaganda. Much as I suggested that by taking this position, he was aligning himself with all sorts of people who could hardly be described as natural bedfellows, he insisted that independence means nationalism means restricting working class solidarity with artificial borders. Much as I tried to point out that the various autonomist and independence movements swelling up all around us were based on grass roots activism, often in working class communities, he insisted that these must all be infected by false consciousness. No matter what I said, the position was repeated with no possible room for discussion.
Mhairi Black’s oft repeated assertion that she did not leave the Labour Party, rather the Labour Party left her, illustrates precisely what is at issue.
The left wing playbook begins by asserting the universality of working class struggle, which then becomes a dogma enabling followers to remain blind to the obvious reality that working class struggles vary a great deal from one community, region or country to the next, and that despite borders, these quite often link up in transnational movements. Conveniently, the Labour Party also forgets that the State plays a major role in capitalist society, mediating working class struggles in favour of capital, while at the same believing that it will be possible to use the State to attenuate the worst excesses of capitalism.
The obvious contradiction is obscured by the simplistic classist position taken by Ben Elton and many others, and it reveals a woeful misunderstanding of both the reality of (Scottish) politics and the subtleties of any radical critique of capitalism. Without, getting bogged down in theoretical arguments, it must be asserted loudly that: by seeking independence from an unashamedly capitalist state, the independence movement shows itself to be an intrinsically working class struggle; that this is not a nationalist but a national movement; that a new international border between Scotland and whatever remains of the UK will not thwart struggles there against the British state, but rather enhance them; and that we will not submit to simplistic dogmas in order to ensure that the ‘official’ party of the working classes becomes the government, on the off chance that it might then redistribute power, wealth and privilege.
In fact, it is the left wing factions and the Labour Party that are suffering false consciousness. Most of us in the Scottish independence movement are well aware of the complicity of the British State with capitalism and of the real threat we pose to it. Perhaps this should be pointed out firmly by whichever Sunday features writer interviews the next left leaning Anglocentric cultural icon who regurgitates the boring old trope about working class solidarity and borders.



Author: Duncan Spence

Mountaineer, retired bicycle messenger, philosopher, wordsmith, proofreader, Dutch translator.

One thought on “An old boring argument”

  1. Well said
    The Labour Party left us all
    I am 64 I’ve waited several decades for the promises by Labour to materialise I’ve given them another chance and another chance and another but each Time they govern they tinker and abandon their promises of the past.
    I’m hearing the same promises from labour now about shorter working weeks more house building more healthcare spending it’s all been said before by Labour.
    It never happens
    We don’t trust them
    Empty promises is what labour give us most
    I’m lucky ,fortunate, I have a good life
    I’m sick of seeing so many of my neighbours and countrymen and women struggle without spare money without the peace of mind , choice and freedom that spare money brings, it doesn’t take much improvement in incomes to give people spare money.
    When you have spare money your whole family benefits for generations .

    Liked by 2 people

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