Scottish Communists believe people collectively have the right to determine their future. That will require building an alliance that can isolate and defeat monopoly capital and, through struggle, expose the exploitative and oppressive nature of its power, and of the capitalist state itself.
Over a number of years, Britain’s inadequate model of democracy has been weakened. We have witnessed the interests of monopoly capital limit the scope of institutions.
- The EU fettering our national parliament;
- ·Denying the Scottish Parliament the powers necessary to intervene decisively in our economy;
- Westminster and Hollyrood parliaments hollowing out local government, slashing funding, and privatising services;
- Local authorities, in the main run by senior officers due to weak political representation, reducing community representative models of accountability;
- An unelected House of Lords.
The Tories continue to promote sham forms of democracy which, in reality, are about a further centralisation of powers in favour of unaccountable big business interests.
Following the right-wing Brexit, the Tory Government’s imposition of the Internal Market Act is designed to stop Scotland from making unilateral strategic state aid interventions (for example to promote particular industries or to save jobs). The SNP and Greens call for an ‘Independent’ Scotland but also want to re-join the EU, risking shackling Scotland to all the neo-liberal pressure of big business and robbing it of powers to intervene democratically in its own economy.
It is against this backdrop that the Communist Party’s programme British Road to Socialism (BRS) indicates that “the struggle to promote the economic and social interest of working people is directly linked with the battle to expand democracy against the power of big business.
The debate around independence in Scotland requires Party members to go back to basics and consider a Marxist understanding of nations and nationality. Marx understood that such entities are not fixed, they are not products of nature but come into being as a result of socio-historical processes.
Forged in the course of class struggle, each new ruling class seeks to re-mould national culture and ideology in its own image and interests. At any particular point in history, loyalties will be defined by the dominant class.
There is a need to avoid emotive appeals and to base our strategic analysis and tactical moves on an understanding of the balance of class forces and trends at any given moment.
There is an (understandable) tendency to consider proposals for governmental reform (e.g. constitutional matters, the organisation of regional and local government) on technocratic grounds. Instead, the BRS calls for political judgements on whether new institutions will help “to shift the balance of power in favour of the majority and enable working people and their allies to exercise increasing control over the allocation of resources at the federal, national and regional levels.”
Specifically, and linked to the current debate over further devolution to the Scottish Parliament, the BRS calls for:
- A British federal parliament, elected by STV in multi-member constituencies to have jurisdiction over foreign affairs, defence, macro-economic policy and national insurance, the power to raise taxes on wealth and income and the responsibility to redistribute income among the nations and regions on the basis of social need.
- National parliaments in Scotland, Wales and England together with English regional assemblies should be elected on the same basis, with powers to raise revenue and specifically to advance democratic control through public ownership, state investment and public procurement.
- A federal upper chamber elected by the national parliaments and regional assemblies.
What is to be done?
Trade unions – we need to consider how best to raise issues of economic democracy through the trade unions. For example, in Scotland, the STUC has published a series of proposals for economic recovery, the People’s Recovery.
Community Wealth Building – even within constrained circumstances it is possible for left-labour Councils to take a different approach to economic development. For example, in Preston Council in NW England and North Ayrshire Council in Scotland, there are attempts to redefine how, and for whom, local economic development works. Using their procurement approach and to work with other anchor institutions to boost the local economy.
Creating broader alliances – we can work with others to pursue our agenda for Progressive Federalism. For example, in Scotland, there is the Red Paper Collective and ROSE and we have also worked on events with left-Labour politicians under the Claim the Future banner and on events at the Marx Memorial Library.
But there is much more to be done. When involved in discussions on independence or the devolution of powers, we should look deeper into the immediate technocratic fixes offered. We should analyse each proposal against the political framework outlined in the BRS. We should highlight the blatant profiteering our institutions facilitate to win the ideological understanding of the nature of this stage of capitalism and for support for our Alternative Economic Strategy.