Monday, April 08, 2013

Communist Party of Scotland: Scotland A Nation Again?



by Robert Laurie

Scotland A Nation Again? Glasgow, CPS, 2013 pp. 46. Copies available from Jean Muir, CPS/Alert Scotland, House 01, 112 Shawbridge Street, Glasgow G43 1LY price £2.00.

THE EMBLEM used in this cover of this pamphlet accurately reflects the contents. It is a Saint Andrew’s cross surrounded by vertically arranged words, some of which are obliterated by the fluttering flag. On close examination these are the English words of Eugène Pottier’s The Internationale, but presented in such a way that they are reduced to gibberish: “For reason in r...” and “strike the iron come rally” and so on. In short identity politics override class politics. Surely a communist party should use the good old hammer and sickle as an emblem, perhaps with an added thistle or a bottle of whisky to symbolise Scotland?

This is the third such pamphlet produced by the tireless Communist Party of Scotland in as little as nine years. Radical Perspectives for an Independent Scotland came out in 2004, in 2007 they issued the less radical Perspectives for Scottish Independence, and in February of this year they published the present work, partly based on a seminar they held as recently as November 2011.
  The pamphlet also marks the 21st anniversary of the CPS which was founded in 1992 following the dissolution of the revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain. Curiously instead of encouraging new members to rally to the CPS, the back page appeals for recruits to a new organisation the “Scottish Socialists for Independence”. Explicitly admitting to having a diminishing membership which is too frail to attend meetings (page 43) might be honest but not very inspiring. Neither organisation has set up one of these new-fangled website things on the Interweb.    

The religious and nationalist symbol is appropriate because much of the pamphlet is devoted to promoting the cult of Saint Alex Salmond and his blessed Scottish National Party. Opponents are damned as heretics rather than offering any informed criticism of their opinions. One particular example of this occurs on page 37 when Maggie Chetty attacks former Labour MP Maria Fyfe who dared to criticise the SNP links with big business in a letter to the Morning Star.
Chetty also berates Fyfe for ignoring Labour’s links with big capital but she does not take the chance to deny the influence of big business on the SNP or take up the other points in the original letter about the lack left-wing protest in the SNP about their neoliberal to cut corporation tax in an independent Scotland. 

The pro-independence Green Party and the surviving rump of the Trotskyite Scottish Socialist Party provide more robust left wing pro-independence critiques of the SNP than is attempted here. There is little discussion of economic issues beyond a moan about plans for high speed rail links from the dreaded London not reaching Scotland.  Is an independent Scotland to be a member of the European Union or not as the SNP insists will be the case? What view does the CPS have on an independent Scotland in or out of the EU? Is the CPS support retaining the pound sterling, joining the Euro like Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus or restoring the bawbee? I think we should be told.

Another contributor deplores the Morning Star for ignoring or attacking the SNP and actually accuses it of censorship (page 20). How the paper can both attack and ignore the SNP at the same time is difficult to comprehend. While the Star’s editorial line does not support the SNP it has given space to pro-independence views in both the features and letters pages. Why should a left wing paper not criticise a neoliberal political party?
Earlier he noted that the SNP has won some working class seats from Labour at Westminster by-elections, but carelessly forgets that all those they mentioned are now back in the hands of Labour. It is an interesting paradox of Scottish politics that gains by the SNP in working class (two words rarely used in the pamphlet) areas are partly due to the more backward elements abandoning their traditional Orange allegiance to the Tories in favour of the SNP in protest against Labour’s successful policies on Northern Ireland.

Another hero often mentioned here is Jimmy Reid who is frequently praised for joining the SNP. This is absurd. Reid was the Communist firebrand deservedly famous for playing a leading role in the struggle to save Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the early 1970s. But by the time he joined the nationalists he was a pitiful whisky sodden shadow of his former self. After joining the Labour Party he made his name by joining in Kinnock’s attacks on the left and betrayed the miners in a disgusting article penned for the Tory Spectator at the height of the 1984-5 strike. His career is warning rather than an inspiration to the left. 

Scottish culture as a bonus, the pamphlet offers a competition. It is to provide “stirring Scottish Music” for a new “Sang fir Scotland” entitled The braw blue an’ white Saltire Here is a sample verse to inspire any musical reader: 

Nae flag o’ tryant or oppressor
Bit yin o’ people’s liberty an’ pow’r
Fluttering in the Scottish breeze
Oor braw blue an’ white Saltire

If this sort of sub-Andy Stewart doggerel is the sort of Scottish culture to be expected in an independent Scotland then the high speed rail link will find most of its passengers heading south of the border.

The editing could have been better. Pages 23 and 26 have two references to one Ian Trevitt before they are corrected to Levitt. On page 31 there is a mistaken reference to our Gracious Queen’s “Golden Jubilee” last year, anyone who was not on an interplanetary journey to Mars in 2012 will know it was the Diamond Jubilee. The quote on page 36 describing London as “the Great Wen” is wrongly attributed to Samuel Johnson; it was in fact William Cobbett.

Anyone interested in the question of Scottish independence and the left would be better off consulting the Scottish Left Review. Available online at  this six-times-a-year magazine offers a platform for various shades of the Scottish left and actually includes some real debate sadly lacking here.