by Joe Middleton
(Swans - April 24, 2006) The question "Is there a Scottish Road to Socialism?" begs the obvious answer, "yes there is and it's called Scottish independence."
Without independence it won't matter what fantastic dreams Scots enjoy for socialism because without the power to run our own Government those dreams will remain just that, fantasies of a better society in a democratic vacuum.
Luckily, Scottish independence isn't some far off dream. According to opinion polls it's the favourite constitutional option of the Scottish people and the main question is how to organise the independence movement in a way which will show the British state that we want out of it.
If there is no Scottish Road to Socialism, then what is the alternative? The well trodden British road which has seen every Scottish socialist trudge to London and rarely come back with anything but the look of a dog that's been kicked too much?
The British parliament is about one thing, retaining power in the hands of the Conservatives or those who represent no threat to traditional Conservative opinion. London-based trade unionists could pull the rug from under Labour tomorrow by removing their funding of the pointless so called "Labour" party.
That the British-controlled unions have allowed Labour to metamorphose into Thatcherism Mark II without taking any financial action is a disgraceful cop-out and the delusion that any improvement will be made by Blair's partner in Toryism Gordon Brown is as absurd and desperate as it is pathetic.
At the end of the day England, with ten times the population of Scotland, chooses the Government it wishes. If England wishes to continue with pseudo-Conservatism in Blue or Pink flavours -- i.e., Blair or Cameron -- and is willing to vote for it then that is their democratic choice.
Incidentally I am not surprised that Tony Blair has "no problem" with Prince Charles lobbying parliament as reported in various papers recently. He also has "no problem" using the undemocratic prerogative powers of the Crown to declare illegal wars, decide foreign policy, make treaties, appoint peers, and issue pardons.
No wonder he has "no problem" keeping Charles and his mother as modern day "Toom Tabards" while he wields monarchical power with impunity. We live in the reign of King Tony the First.
Tony also has "no problem" upholding an unwritten constitution which bars Scottish and Irish republicans from political representation by forcing all the UK's political representatives to read a modern version of the "ragmans role" before entering the House of Commons or the Scottish Parliament.
He has "no problem" maintaining the House of Lords, but instead of hereditary peers he has filled it with "Tony's Cronies," an even worse set of carpetbaggers than the originals.
Worst of all he has had "no problem" selling his political soul and the Labour party's by following Thatcherism during his entire term of office. That people have now begun to look to the discredited Tories again for an alternative is a savage indictment of his wasted years in power.
What the English left psychologically requires from the Scottish left is not continued mutual suffering within the British state's quackocracy but an example of a better way forward. True democracy will only appear when the UK is split into three modern democratic republics. The first logical step towards that ultimate objective is Scottish independence.
In Scotland there are three independent Scottish parties, all on the political left, all of whom believe in Scottish democracy and normal powers for this country in the international community.
The traditional British unionist parties are as hopelessly antiquated and out of touch with the people of Scotland as the state they wish to maintain.
I am a democratic socialist, which means I think socialism will happen when the people vote for it. An independent Scotland would offer a democratic space for socialist views to flourish, if they can win the political arguments.
Sadly, a lot of socialists appear to imagine that repeating the words of Karl Marx in the style of a religious preacher and/or disagreeing with others on technicalities is the way to move socialism forward. I hate to break it to them but we live in the twenty-first century and for Marxist or socialist ideas to have any contemporary relevance they must be put across in a way that the general public can understand, appreciate, and vote for, without worrying at the same time that a communist monolithic state will be the result!
Communist Russia and China is the spectre that haunts all socialists and leads all normal people to a natural distrust of anyone waving a red flag or spouting glib political theory.
That there are fifty-seven varieties of socialism suggests that some socialists prefer to fight amongst themselves rather than work together with others. Of course the British state does play games within most radical left movements but nonetheless the pathetic state of all the groups on the fringe left suggest that much of the damage has been self inflicted.
What do I mean by socialism? Quite simply that the main industries and services should be run by the state in the public interest. That public interest includes that these organisations should be efficiently run, but not that they should be run by small private cliques attempting to improve their bank balance.
We need to achieve the following initial objectives:
The health service must be free to all and include a comprehensive set of options, including dental services. Education should also be free to all and available to all.
Wages should be fixed at a decent minimum level and all employers should be forced to make appropriate pensions provisions for all their workers.
Working hours must be limited for everyone who is paid a wage. Reliance on overtime is an indication of inadequate basic wages.
Local Government should be paid for by a local income tax.
All of the above should be paid for by progressive taxation and reducing spending on unnecessary military adventuring or unusable nuclear "deterrents."
In Scotland we have an opportunity with independence to remove nuclear weapons and power stations from our soil. All the independent Scottish parties support this step. We have ample natural resources and the potential to run a small effective economy which has respect for the environment.
As far as I am concerned, these changes are all achievable within any parliamentary democracy and with these objectives met in Scotland we would live in a far more progressive society where people would rise or fall on their own merits.
At the end of the day, with independence the Scottish public will get the administration they choose, and socialism only if they choose it. In a democracy there are no other options and nor would I want any. A modern political revolution needs to happen in people's minds, not in riots on the streets.
So how do we get to independence? The Scottish parties have all began working together with a Scottish independence convention. It is this body which will draw up a constitution for a new Scotland and also a road map of how the constitutional settlement will be achieved. Much work has been done over the years on this.
At the same time it must be proven that Scotland wants independence beyond any reasonable doubt. There needs therefore to be either a referendum held and won which proves desire for independence or a majority in the Scottish parliament of pro-independence Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
Whether the Scots want a republic, to be in or out of the EU, or socialism or capitalism, we can only make these decisions once we manage our own affairs. Independence must therefore come first before all other political priorities.
A grassroots campaign, Independence First, has been set up, which is purely and simply about a referendum on independence and nothing else.
The simplicity of this democratic demand has led to Independence First gaining support from SNP MSPs, SSP MSPs, Green MSPs, the Free Scotland Party, the Scottish Independence Party, the Communist Party of Scotland and other pro-independence groups like the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement and Celtic League.
A website for the campaign is available on: http://www.independence1st.com.
This initiative has a genuine chance of success and making it a success should be the priority of every socialist and every democrat in Scotland.
[This article is a chapter for the forthcoming book by Gregor Gaul, Is there a Scottish road to Socialism?]
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