- Created: Tuesday, 09 September 2014 11:56
- Written by Michael MacGregor
'May He sedition hush, And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush.' - 1745.
Sixth Verse of the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen.
The emergence of the Scottish working class, particularly its poorest sections, into the campaign for Scottish independence has been a very recent phenomenon. A YouGov poll published on Saturday 6 September showed for the first time that a majority of people intended to vote Yes. With ‘Don’t Knows’ stripped out, 51% are supporting independence while 49% are for remaining in the UK. The next day saw falls in the value of the pound and billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Scottish firms. The skies are darkening for the loyal Labour, Tory and Liberal No campaign.
Estimates of an 80% turnout for the referendum vote on Thursday 18 September are now being made and considered credible. This is the complete opposite to the declining rate of voter turnout for general, local and European elections across the present United Kingdom. In some working class areas only 15% of voters turned out for the May EU poll. While bourgeois politicians pretend to be unsettled by this widespread and historical situation of very low participation in the usual electoral charade, the opposite is happening in Scotland. This new situation is causing an unprecedented problem for the British ruling class. The working class here are proving to be increasingly disloyal in increasing numbers as regards support for the continuation of the United Kingdom.
In FRFI 237 (see Scotland: Yes to independence - No to British imperialism)
we argued that the plight of the poorest sections of the working class barely figured in the SNP government's White Paper on Independence. The poorest sections of the working class are now pushing their way into the battle. Support for independence among working class voters has risen from 41% to 56%; among women from 33% to 47%; among Labour voters from 18% to 35%, and among the under-40s from 39% to 60%. Those suffering most acutely from the economic crisis precipitatedby the imperialist banks have seized on the moment of democracy offered by the independence vote to go for real radical change. James Connolly, leader of the 1916 Easter Rebellion for Irish Independence, became a socialist in Dundee. He stated in 1899: ‘Examine the great revolutionary movements of history and you find that in all cases they sprang from unsatisfactory social conditions, and had their origin in a desire for material well being. In other words, the seat of progress and source of revolution is not in the brain, but in the stomach.’ This positive advance for the oppressed is causing worries for the nationalists as well as the unionists.
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister in the Scottish Parliament visited Dundee on Monday 1 September. Arriving just steps away from the Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions (DAWS) campaigning stall outside the Job Centre, local supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and DAWS activists spoke to him and pointed out that the Job Centre had issued a record number of benefit sanctions causing hunger and poverty for thousands. They demanded that the Scottish National Party government immediately end the benefit sanctions policy – regardless of the vote outcome. The SNP government has covered tenants' arrears built up through the unjust bedroom tax. It must be forced to likewise cover losses caused by benefit sanctions. As winter approaches, the awful choice between eating and heating looms – in an energy and oil rich country!
The life or death contradictions of a capitalist and predominantly imperialist economy are becoming stark in a developed country that is, for now, a part of the British state. The movement remains to be built which can either push the Scottish Nationalists on or aside, but a new class dynamic is emerging. Anti-imperialist politics have to be consciously brought into this rising working class vote but a Yes vote will still objectively shake the foundations of bloody British imperialism and open a channel of democratic progress for the working class and oppressed both in Scotland and even in England. Yes or No, the working class in Scotland is moving forward to challenge austerity because of the dire material conditions its poorest sections are experiencing.
FRFI supporters active in anti-sanctions campaigning work at Job Centres over the last few months have noted the overwhelming support for Yes – 95% - amongst the poorest people. Radical Independence Campaigners and others have gone door-to-door on the housing estates for the last year and confirm this development. Over the last period DAWS has hosted joint stalls with Yes campaigners and helped register over 700 new voters in a few days last week. Registration has now closed but there are many who are frustrated at not having a vote. Increased police presence at polling stations has been announced, presumably to prevent trouble from those who may be unable to vote.
The Labour Party is on the run everywhere in Scotland and this can also mean a long overdue political advance for the working class, whatever the outcome of the vote. Weel kent- well known- as the original party of austerity, sanctions, the bedroom tax, NHS privatisation and imperialist wars, it is mocked and shunned at every meeting and street corner, becoming utterly marginalised amongst the poorest working class on the housing estates and at the Job Centres. Do these arrogant Labour Party fools think that by bringing up Miliband, Prescott and Balls they can stop the haemorrhaging of No support even from their own heartlands? Nor can Nigel Farage or the blustering Orange Order stop the advance of independence either. These are changing times and working people are not prepared to be misled any more by unionist and racist bigots.
All anti-imperialists, socialists, progressives and democrats can take heart from these positive developments. British imperialism may be about to receive the most almighty, unexpected and deserved kick in its guts from the working class in Scotland. The oppressed of the world will cheer a Yes victory and a fatal weakening of murderous British imperialism.
Yes to Independence. No to British Imperialism!
Alba Gu Brath! Scotland will be Free!
(James Connolly, The New Evangel, The Economic Basis of Politics, The Stomach, not the Brain,
Workers’ Republic, 12 August 1899)