We can do better than either Scottish or British nationalisms, argues the latest pamphlet from the Red Paper Collective, as STEPHEN LOW explains


People Power” is the latest publication from the Red Paper Collective – a grouping of Trade Unionists, academics and left activists.  The stance, Fighting for Real Power for Scotland’s People,   is outlined by Neil Findlay MSP and Tommy Kane. They examine the unholy alliances that make up the Yes to Independence campaign and its Better Together mirror image. They believe  neither campaign is capable of articulating any sort of vision or  programme which can address the reality of a country crippled by inequality, dominated as both these campaigns are, by “business friendly” ( ie, worker-unfriendly) interests and attitudes.

The focus throughout the pamphlet is on social change; the worth, or otherwise, of constitutional change is measured by what contribution it will make to advancing the interests of working people.

With that aim in mind Richard Leonard examines the reality of ownership in the Scottish economy and what independence on a Murdoch-friendly, pound-retaining,  Salmond ticket would mean industrially and economically for workers. He discusses the “unfinished business” of the Scottish Parliament advocating, amongst other policies, a Scottish style “Marcora law”.

Dave Watson examines the fiscal implications of constitutional change   examining not only independence but also Devo-Max and the Devo-Plus scheme favoured by Reform Scotland. While he has little time for the SNP’s Laffer Curve-driven low corporation tax economic policy, he also criticises the limitations of the recent Scotland Act, making the case for more borrowing powers and the devolution of all property taxes and income tax.

Pauline Bryan makes an explicit appeal  for a labour movement alternative  to the nationalisms  currently dominating the debate, stressing  the history of the movement’s approach to home rule, a

…position which, unlike the nationalist one, acknowledged the bonds the British working class had forged in two centuries of struggle and recognised shared class interests over and above the shared interest of living in Scotland. Far from wanting to separate from the English they wanted to join with working people across the islands in creating a socialist alternative.

The question of class and class power, and the lack of consideration of these, by nationalists in general and mystifyingly, by nationalists who claim to be on the left, is tackled Professor John Foster. He outlines some of the circumstances that have combined to produce a Scotland that is a bit (but not much, look at British Social Attitudes Surveys – SL) to the left of England. He examines how such values are to be sustained concluding

The process of negotiating independence would itself tend to shift attitudes away from those of class solidarity. …economic policy, as set out by the SNP, is based on attracting investment away from other parts of Britain. Given the virtually complete control of Scotland’s press and media by external big business, the potential for the further erosion of progressive and socialist class values would be considerable.

Throughout all of the contributions are the twin concerns  of avoiding turning the UK into “four neo-liberal economies vying with each other to be the lowest taxed and the lowest paid”  and of outlining what is needed to make Scotland a better place. Something that will take more than constitutional change, or no change. As (red paper collective member) Stephen Smellie from UNISON told the STUC Congress in April: “The answer to all these questions is not a flag, a border or even a list of powers in Edinburgh and London; it is what you intend to do with these powers and for what purpose.”

Stephen Low is a member of Unite,  the Labour Party and is part of the Red Paper Collective. He has wisely avoided being on Twitter so far.

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12 thoughts on “The socialist alternative to nationalism

  1. Anybody within the Labour Party who feels the need to attack the Better campaign at this time really must accept that they are nothing better than Alex Salmond’s ‘useful idiots’.

    Neil Findlay’s sneering attack on Alistair Darling may have delighted some in the party, however you can be absolutely sure that it delighted ALL in the SNP.

    Good going, Neil…

    If the Red Paper Collective (who thought up that doozy of a name?) can’t see that their sanctimonious navel-gazing is giving succor to the reactionary forces of nationalism then they are even more naive and self-obsessed than they at first appear.

    We are in the middle of quite literally a battle for Britain and this kind of distraction is the kind of self-indulgent, posturing nonsense which was consigned to the bin in the ’80s. Neil Findlay really is much too old to be afflicted by this kind of infantile disorder.

    Finally, I’ve always found that hard men don’t need to tell you that they are hard in much the same way that honest folk don’t need to tell you that they are honest.

    Likewise folk who need to declare themselves ‘left’ as in ‘left activists’ (ahem) are rarely that..

  2. @Grahamski anyone who feels the need to go on a labour supporters website and attack an elected representative of the labour party is far worse than a “useful idiot”. Let’s remember that people like Neil Findlay MSP have the balls to stand for election and get elected. That means they have a legitimate platform to comment from. Not someone sneering from behind a pseudonym and a laptop.

    Like them or not Neil Findlay and all of the red paper collective care about the labour movement, the history of our party and the future of our country. You don’t need to accept their view points but you should respect their right to make them.

    Also on one of your other points were you actually at the event when Neil Findlay MSP made the light hearted joke you refer too? Doesn’t sound like it. It sounds far more like you just read the media’s misrepresentation of it.

    As for the actual article and not personal attacks – it is good to have a political input into a debate which has so far swung in semantics from both sides.

  3. Grahamski

    ‘Left’ was more about indicating that not everyone involved is in the LP than anything else.

    I’m sorry that a group of thirteen people that includes three members of the Labour Party Scottish Executive, the chairpersons of two Trades Councils, A former Chair of Scottish CND (currently a Medicine Sans Frontiere volunteer in Sierra Leone), the deputy convener of Scotlands second biggest union, two shop stewards and a member of the Scottish Parliament, fails to reach your threshold for being described as ‘activist’.

  4. Grahamski – It sounds like you just don’t want any well-groomed party political feathers being ruffled. \Well democracy doesn’t work like that. Your reply is testimony to a dreadful anti-democratic streak that pollutes important branches of Labour and Scottish labour. Even for non-nationalists or half-nationalists the process of negotiating for independence opens up interesting power struggles and power gaps which enliven politics. Its the process not the product that is the hallmark of democracy.

  5. What is most worrying is what is already happening to democracy in Scotland

    We did not intend for a Scottish Parliament to replace local government in Scotland

    We are a country of 5 million people yet MSPs of every party have decided they should control everything

    As a country of 5 million – why should 69 MPs have control of everything and steal powers from local councils for themselves

    Should 69 people be in total control of every police force in Scotland – especially as this has created a situation where G4S are holding secret talks with police leaders and by forming a national police force and MSPs grabbing control of policing for the whole of Scotland we now face the reality of 1 MSP and 1 Police leader awarding a contract to bring G4S into every single police station in Scotland – something G4S knew could not happen if local democracy still controlled policing

    Alex Salmond is grabbing control of Police, Fire Services, Education (every school and every local education budget it’s in his manifesto), Social Work and Social Care from every single council in Scotland

    We elected councillors to run these services and yet the Scottish Goverment has become a place which is stripping Scotland of democracy and our elected Scottish councillors of their powers.

    We need to look long and hard at what is happening now – because 69 MSPs grabbing so much power into the hands of too few people is bad for democracy and bad for Scotland

    Scotland is not a village – it has 5 million people – and we cannot afford for 69 people to have total democratic control over every decision, every service and the entire Scottish budget.- because that is not democracy that is a total perversion of what the Scottish parliament was meant to be about

    We wanted a Scottish parliament to ensure our councils were protected from Thatcher’s grab for control of local democracy – yet our parliament and our MSPs of all colours have proven no better than Thatcher when it comes to the descruction of local democracy

    These are dangerous times and many people have not added together all these reforms to realise the reality – a Scottish goverment deliberately destroying democracy in Scotland

    We need to seriously look at the pattern of the destruction of local democracy and the blatant wrongdoing of the Scottish Parliament in grabbing powers they are not entitled to – especially when the SNP, Labour and Tories formed a cartel opinion regarding these power grabs from local councils.

    When 3 political parties create a cartel opinion on grabbing policing and fire service powers from councils – that is not democracy in action – that is denying the public their say and denying the public an option –

    And any political party who stands to defend local democracy and transfer these powers back to where they should be to ensure a healthy decomracy in Scotland has my vote

  6. Stephen Low is a member of Unite, which represents workers in Britain & Ireland, like a host of other trade unions. Would the class solidarity that exists between the memberships across those two sovereign states suddenly disappear overnight if that was altered to include Britain, Scotland & Ireland?

  7. Drew

    No it wouldn’t. But it wouldn’t strengthen it either.

    John Foster analyses some of the pressures that would be put on in terms of class and economic policy .

    My own take , not being a Professor of Social Science is a wee bit more basic than his.

    One of the ‘left wing’ left wing arguments for independence seems to be that progress in Scotland is impossible within the UK – ie the working class in England is so backward that we cannot be in the same political entity as them . I appreciate you’ve not said this, but it is a reasoning that has been implicit in many arguments for independence. This is often accompanied with, rhetoric along the lines of scotland being a ‘beacon of progress’ even (my own personal favourite) the radicalism that will emanate from Scotland will “Give the people of England confidence ” that they can do the same.

    I can’t help but feel that this is not the stuff of which solidairity is made.

    1. I see what you are saying Stephen but for me the trade union movement must always be cross border and international in it’s outlook.

      To decide whether I empathise with workers based on what passport they have or where their tax office is is also dubious.

      I would feel uncomfortable not identifying with worker’s struggles in Ireland, India, Australia or Jamica because they once decided to be independent from the UK and I would hope people in Wales, England and Northern Ireland would feel the same about Scotland if it ever happened.

      In my opinion one of Labour’s greatest faults in Government was being drawn into tabloid debates about immigration, Europe and British identity like the now infamous ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ speech. There are elements of this in the current debate around independence and something I hope the Labour leadership will hopefully avoid. But as they are part of the Better Together campaign I fear it is inevitable they may get dragged into it.

  8. I find it sad that someone like Grahamski resorts to personal abuse and cannot recognise self deprecating humour instead repeats the lazy line that it was a “sneering attack” which it most certainly was not. If trying to work with senior and respected and committed Labour movement people like Richard Leonard, Dave Watson, John Foster, Pauline Bryan, Vince Mills and the rest in trying to develop a Labour alternative to the SNP’s neo liberal free market vision for Scotland is “infantile, posturing, self in dulgent nonsense” then I stand guilty as charged. I have to ask however what Grahamski is contributing to the debate? I guess one word – No!

    1. Direct quote from Mr Findlay: “We had that nice man Alistair Darling and he had tea and home baking provided by his wife at his flat in Pilton. It is Pilton that Alistair stays in isn’t it?”

      That’s not self-deprecating humour – that’s a sneering attack.

      I really have no problem with you and your chums cobbling together a ‘socialist’ alternative to the SNP’s reactionary policies. Go on, knock yourself out; why you can even call for the nationalisation of the top two hundred companies for all I care.

      However, what I do care about is you blundering into the constitutional debate with calls for devo-whatever. That, quite frankly, hands the nats a stick to with which to beat us.

      That is my problem with your actions, not your simplistic take on economics.

      You ask what I contribute to this debate?

      My contribution takes the relatively mundane form of delivering leaflets, working on phone banks and participating in street stalls. Oh, and I have a wee blog which tries to counteract the massive online presence of the nats.

      And as a simple a foot soldier who has been a party member and trades unionist for over thirty years and holds no position in the party nor seeks any office can I just say how disappointing it is to read about anybody in the party handing the nats ammunition with which to attack us.

      In future I would ask you to consider who actually gains from calls made at this time for devo-whatever and ask you respectfully to hold your tongue until at least the number of questions on the ballot has been settled.

      Finally, I had a wee chuckle at you, who so casually had a snide personal dig at political friends and foes alike, telling us how disappointed you are that somebody would make a personal attack on you…

  9. Neil is old-school Scottish Labour, Grahamski is Scottish new-Labour. Neil likes to talk about socialist issues like class and redistribution of wealth. Grahamski likes to talk about the SNP and staunch unionism. Neil talks about labour values and fairness. Grahamski talks about British state superiority. Neil makes a joke at the expense of a millionaire pseudo-socialist and Grahamski’s totalitarian attitude shines through. Am I suprised? – Not a jot!

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