If you press a Labour politician hard – and you may have to press very hard – he or she will admit to being a socialist and an internationalist. The reason that the admission is reluctant is because Labour’s most successful attempts to gain and hold power in the last sixty years have relied in downplaying both to the point of invisibility, and their actions when in power have been a denial of both beliefs, the exception being the great Labour Government of 1945-51 that created the welfare state and the NHS. Perhaps only by considering this government’s achievements, its towering figures and what they stood for can we truly understand how far Labour has fallen since 1951.
Nationalisation of coal mining, creation of British Railways, establishment of the National Health Service and the creation of the Welfare State. Only the working class generations that experienced what preceded these things – my generation, and that of my parents and grandparents - can really appreciate what that meant.
The towering figure in this government, arguably the greatest British Labour figure of all time, with due respect to the Scots pioneers, was Aneurin Bevan. He and his wife Jennie Lee were the archetypical socialist couple. On Tories, he was uncompromising. “"We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders. We enter this campaign at this general election, not merely to get rid of the Tory majority. We want the complete political extinction of the Tory Party."
He was a politician who was not afraid to challenge his party when it departed from left-wing policies, and he led the left-wing of the party, known as the Bevanites. He would not recognise the right-wing, expedient thing the Labour Party has become today. He led a Commons revolt against the British hydrogen bomb test, and had the whip withdrawn briefly. In opposition, he opposed Suez. His remarks then would be directly applicable to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“If we are going to appeal to force, if force is to be the arbiter to which we appeal, it would at least make common sense to try to make sure beforehand that we have got it, even if you accept that abysmal logic, that decadent point of view.”
But in 1957, at the Labour Party Conference, this led him to oppose nuclear disarmament, with a remark that was seized upon by every advocate of nuclear weapons in every British party. On unilateral disarmament, he said -
“"It would send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference-chamber".
(Although this posture dismayed the left, who were opposed to nuclear weapons, one informed opinion - Paul Routledge, a journalist - suggested that he had been induced to take this stand, as an internationalist, by the Soviet Union, who suggested that he argue for British retention of nuclear weapons to permit the USSR to use this as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States.)
The traditional posture of the socialist has been a commitment to the international brotherhood of man, and a notional global government of workers, and because of this they have always entertained a distrust of nationalism.
In the heady days after 1917 and the Russian Revolution, British socialist, the British Communist Party and the left-wing of the Labour Party managed to convince themselves that this socialist Utopia was at hand, and the nation states would become irrelevant. This went hand in hand with utter denial of the murderous brutalities of the Soviet regime, and the refusal to recognise that it was brutal imperialism under a red flag. Senior British diplomats, Burgess and Maclean (and Sir Antony Blunt, exposed decades later) were prepared to spy for the Soviet Union in acts of treason against their country.
This intellectual denial and dishonesty persists to this day, but without the personal courage, however misplaced and naive, that characterised the old British socialists. Labour has spent the entire life of its party under an imperialistic red, white and blue flag – the British Empire and the UK. Initially hostile to empire, it regarded this as transitional, but rapidly moved to support every imperialistic manifestation, under the seductive lure of power, influence and money. This process reached its peak under Blair and Brown.
The UK is now one of the most narrowly nationalistic states in the world, exalting ancient and outmoded imperial values, deeply distrustful of foreigners, insular, yet ready to interfere brutally and violently in the affairs of nations remote from these shores. Labour is the enthusiastic handmaiden of this ultra-nationalist state. Their vaunted internationalism is a fig leaf – a fiction – to cover their complicity with the rump of the British Empire.
Scotland is the antithesis of all that the UK stands for – open, inclusive, anti-nuclear, committed to a true social democracy, anti-inherited wealth and privilege, but entrepreneurial and committed to a vibrant private sector supported – and humanised – by a well-resourced public sector. And Scotland is, and always has been, truly European and internationalist in its most fundamental instincts.
And this is why the independence of Scotland poses such a threat to the Labour Party – because it exposes the depths of Labour’s betrayal of all its socialist ideals, and its shoddy complicity with power, wealth, non-democratic structures and institutions (e.g. The House of Lords) and the military/industrial complex.
I appeal to Scottish Labour voters and Scottish trades union members (it is useless to appeal to Scottish Labour politicians or the Scottish trades union hierarchy, who are deeply embedded in these UK power structures) to recognise where your real interests lie.
Embrace nationalism and independence, and be part of creating a nation that is truly internationalist, instead of the sham offered to you. Either join the SNP or rejuvenate the Scottish Labour Party from the grassroots up, make it truly Scottish, and reject your politicians and trades union leaders hostility to Scotland.
Campaign for your country’s independence, and vote YES to independence in the referendum.