Debunking the myth - part four

Neil Davidson The origins of Scottish nationhood Pluto Press, London 2000, pp264, pbk, £14.99

Great Britain is a trinity of two kingdoms and one principality, according to the stipulations of the monarchical constitution. Yet the actual inhabitants themselves are united by more than having a common crown state above their heads and a common island territory at their feet (incidentally described as Great Britain not for reasons of imperial braggadocio, as leftist and other such simpletons seem to believe, but solely in order to distinguish it geographically from Little Britain or Brittany: ie, the same as Great Russia as opposed to the Ukraine or Little Russia, etc).

The people of Britain possess a common language (a greatly simplified Low Germanic with a huge number of loan words), a common economy and a historically formed common culture and psychology. In other words Britain is not some loose or ephemeral conglomeration of peoples who are doomed to a swift divorce, but a stable, historically constituted community: ie, a nation.

Nations are a multitude of connected moments, realities and living beings. So it is self-evident that every nation is a process of making and remaking. The union of 1603 was a regal arrangement brokered and sanctified from on high. Cromwell's republic began with a puritan revolution from below, but was completed by a military dictatorship, the crushing of Leveller democracy and the terroristic confiscation of all Irish landed property.

Nevertheless, be they subjects of the United Kingdom or citizens of the Commonwealth, the majority of inhabitants already possessed a common language - English, and a common religion - protestantism. These masses too placed their unmistakable imprint on the emerging nation and demonstrably affected its path of evolution. By 1820, Davidson writes, a common working class consciousness existed which was both British, and as the case may be, English, Scottish or Welsh. Britishness, he states, involves by its very nature a dual national identity.

Hence when speaking of a British nation no one is claiming it is a singularity. Both Davidson and myself therefore profoundly disagree with those left Scottish nationalists who cyclops-like can only see official Britain (and a mythical Scotland).

4.1. Scottishness

So what is Scottishness? As we have seen in parts one to three of this review article Scottish nationalists answer this question not only by inventing a completely ahistorical Scottish nation: they are also prone to claiming it as a victim nation and therefore by implication on the side of the angels. Tommy Sheridan MSP indignantly talks of 400 years of oppression suffered by Scotland. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Following the union of the crowns in 1603 lowlands bourgeois Scots were quick to think of themselves as British. They constituted the foremost advocates in the British Isles calling for a mutually beneficial merger and the construction of a British socio-political commonality. The union of parliaments in 1707 began uneasily. Despite that, Davidson shows, after 1746 and Culloden, there was a rapid development of British national consciousness, not least in the highlands. Jacobitism was effortlessly swapped for a cult of the insipid Hanoverian monarchy by aristocratic landowners and the traditional elite. As Davidson says elsewhere, highland Scots came to be the ultra-loyal "warrior vanguard" of British imperialism (C Bambery [ed] Scotland class and nation London 1999, p129).

Protestantism, inter-continental wars with France, a staggering growth of capital accumulation, the joint colonisation of Ulster, North America and Australasia, and mutual success in building, administering and exploiting what was to become a vast British - not English - empire made and remade what was the world's first nation. This Britishness, Davidson stresses, was an integral part of and proceeded in parallel with the making and remaking of a common Scottish consciousness.

Scottish aristocrats, capitalists and middle class careerists thrived through promoting and participating in the British market, the British state machine and the British empire. Glasgow was one of the premiere industrial workshops of the world. Edinburgh a banking centre second only to the City of London. Scots disproportionally occupied top posts in the British civil service, politics and the army. For example, during the first half of the 18th century 25% of all regimental officers were Scots.

Through the work of writers and poets - the most outstanding being Walter Scott - a largely fictitious highlandism provided the model for a common Scottish consciousness which was safely encased within a common British consciousness. As clan society died, as the highlands ceased to be bandit territory, as the Jacobite feudal-military foci in the highlands turned into a mere memory and gave way to mass recruitment of highland regiments, as English replaced Gaelic as the first language in the highlands, lowland Scots could safely adopt, modify and celebrate an inauthentic highland culture.

Highlandism metamorphosed into "a source of pride" rather than something to be "disavowed as a source of shame" (p129). Its paraphernalia - the plaid, bagpipes, and a supposedly age-old, but actually forged Ossianic literature - were incorporated into the dominant culture as essential signs and symbols, above all in the army. The highland regiments and their bonnets, kilts and distinguishing tartans were adopted by an "emergent Scottish mass culture", which due to imperialism spread throughout the empire, to wherever Scots and their descendants settled (p138).

In the early 18th century lowland Scottish intellectuals regarded the highlands as a barbaric other country. Some 50 years later a reinvented highland garb was accepted as the traditional national dress. Scott himself masterminded George IV's historic state visit to Scotland in August 1822 when the king was fitted out in full highland apparel. Highland landowners - who Scott insisted on calling 'chiefs' - were similarly decked out - this at a time when, as Davidson points out, Scott "was quite aware of the historical falsity of the enterprise" (p138).

Davidson writes of an "imperial Caledonia" (p106). This is no exaggeration. Scottish colonists, merchant adventurers and soldiers proved just as rapacious and ruthless in their treatment of natives and colonial rivals as their English and Welsh partners in conquest. Indeed, as Davidson suggests, in many ways highland Scots colonial settlers in America proved more British than the English, Welsh or Ulster Scots.

Where the latter transformed themselves into Americans and rebels, the former remained, in the greater part, stubbornly attached to the Hanoverian monarchy throughout the revolutionary war of independence. Allan Macdonald - husband of the celebrated Flora, the saviour of Bonnie Prince Charlie - was "particularly active in mobilising support for the king among the highland settlers" in North Carolina (p125). Macdonald led his men in full highland costume.

4.2. The Britishness of Scottish radicalism

Like British national consciousness and culture Scottishness has two contradictory poles determined and coloured by the whole range of class and sectional interests and conflicts. True, compared with what existed before and what existed elsewhere in Europe, dominant British-Scottish culture was initially at the cutting edge of progress and freedom. As James Thomson, the Scottish writer of 'Rule Britannia', proudly boasted, "Britons never, never shall be slaves". Post-1688 the monarchy in Britain was forced to abandon absolutist ambitions. The balance of political power increasingly resided with parliament and the office of prime minister, not crown and court. Britain was as a consequence viewed by enlightenment thinkers on the continental mainland as a beacon of liberty, a model to be emulated.

Yet, due to fighting counterrevolutionary wars against the American colonists and then the French republic, Britain never had its expected 1789. Instead aristocratic reaction gained the upper hand. Wellington not only beat the enemy without, but the enemy within. Reform of the House of Commons was put off till 1832. When it finally came the extension of the franchise was firmly restricted to the respectable classes. Chartism rose in angry response, but was successfully rebuffed time and again. By 1850 both wings of Chartism had to all intents and purposes exhausted themselves. The introduction of universal male suffrage happened at a time of working class passivity. Workers voted for their masters and embraced imperialism and monarchism. Obviously there were breaks and exceptions to this general pattern. Nevertheless the dominant strand in British national consciousness has been conservative. Labourism and reformist trade unionism prove it.

On the basis of such evidence nationalist-inclined historians maintain that Britishness was an artificial construct, only real for those at the top of society. These people - aristocrats, the upper sections of the bourgeoisie, members of the officer corps, expatriate colonial officials - intermarried and sent their sons to Eton, Harrow, etc. They alone met together regularly - in politics, in business, in London town houses and at country balls and other such social occasions. They alone operated at an all-Britain level.

Logically, for this school of thought, it follows that those below, especially in Scotland, had an ambiguous attitude towards Britishness; the subordinate classes were apparently the main bearers of Scottishness. More, it is claimed by left nationalists such as Peter Berresford Ellis and James Young that Scottishness implies opposition to Britishness, and therefore the union with England and Wales, and in turn an almost innate desire for independence.

Davidson demolishes this thesis. As we have already shown, there was no Scottish nation or Scottish common national consciousness prior to the 1707 union. When it did emerge by incorporating highlandism, Scottishness was not in the main set up against Britishness, but was integral to it. Robert Burns and other contemporary radicals in Scotland had a "combinatory" national consciousness which was both Scottish and British, says Davidson (p159). In that respect Burns was no different from the conservative Walter Scott.

Crucially, the majority of people in Scotland, as manifested through their organisations, mass actions and political demands, were not committed to a nationalist project of independence: rather to various attempts to reform or even overthrow the existing British state. This was true also for the nascent working class in Scotland during the brief burst of revolutionary militancy following the Napoleonic wars.

Davidson stresses that, while the industrial revolution took place simultaneously throughout Britain, the change in Scotland was that much more marked and hence traumatic. Scotland went from self-sufficient peasant agriculture to capitalist industrialism within a time span of 30 to 40 years. In England this social transformation took several centuries.

The mix of political radicalism, on the one hand, and the horrors and degradation of life in the airless factories and cramped slums of urban Scotland, on the other, propelled the newly formed working class in Scotland against the unreformed state of the aristocratic junta. In 1820 the Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government issued an appeal for a general strike across whole western central belt. The results, notes Davidson, were "dramatic" (p187). Around 60,000 struck in the Clyde valley alone - a large proportion of the working class at that date.

The aim of this insurrectionary movement was to topple the government both sides of the border. An uprising was planned to occur "simultaneously" in Scotland and in the north of England (p188). While some of the radical leaders thought Scotland had been reduced to the status of a conquered province, there was a general wish for a closer, just and fully democratic union.

John Brims is quoted on the oath of the United Scotsman. It "called upon prospective members to swear that they would persevere in endeavouring 'to form a brotherhood of affection amongst Britons of every description', to 'obtain an equal, full and adequate representation of all the people of Great Britain'" (p189). The secret societies of 1815 employed a similar formulation: "I ... do voluntarily swear that I will persevere in my endeavours to form a brotherhood of affection amongst Britons of every description who are considered worthy of confidence; and that I will persevere in my endeavours to obtain for all the people of Great Britain and Ireland not disqualified by crimes or insanity the elective franchise at the age of 21 with free and equal representation and annual parliaments" (pp189-90).

Such abundant programmatic material leads Davidson to conclude that at "no time in the history of the radical movement between 1792 and 1820 was Scottish nationalism the predominant political ideology" (p189).

The slogans and banners of radical Scotland working class invoked the names of William Wallace and Robert Bruce. 'Scots wha ha'e' was frequently sung. However, they also claimed the magna carta and other references to the imagined history of English resistance to the Norman yoke. Davidson details how the same thing happened in England. 'Scots wha ha'e' was an anthem of liberty in England right down to the Chartist days. Above all in terms of its immediate aims leftwing politics was, as today, all-British in scope and ambition. Peterloo was an injury to all. The demand for 'universal suffrage and annual parliaments' would save "this country" - ie, Britain, from "military despotism" (p190). Etc.

The general strike of 1820 announced that workers in Scotland had joined those in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Cardiff in forming a united working class that was British. Hence Davidson rightly attacks the notion that Britishness or "any national consciousness can be solely composed of reactionary elements" (p193). National consciousness must contain "all possible social impulses" - revolutionary international socialism apart.

That, it should hardly need saying, does not make Davidson or any other Marxist who recognises the ideological and material reality of the British nation a British nationalist - as Scottish left nationalists dishonestly pretend. He correctly puts forward the view that "there is nothing inherently desirable about feeling British" (p203). Indeed nationalism - be it British or Scottish - has "acted as a barrier to socialism".

All that Davidson wants to locate is the undeniable fact that central economic, social and political issues for all classes have since around 1820 tended to be expressed at a "British level" and that the setting up of a Scottish class state would do nothing to combat chauvinism or bring nearer universal human liberation.

He ends his excellent book with an inspiring proletarian internationalist message: "The task of socialists is to seek the abolition of capitalism, not its endless reproduction under new national flags. And, for the Scottish left in particular, it reminds us that we are not, or should not be, Scots who happen to be socialists, but socialists who happen to be Scots" (p210).

4.3. Combating nationalism

Britain is plural. Britain is therefore open-ended. Hence there can be disunity in defeat or unity in revolt, disunity in passivity or unity in victory. Nothing is predetermined. But we must have a starting point. That is why a firm, scientific grasp of the present and a vision of the future is essential.

Hence Marxists highlight the corporeal reality of the British nation - not to trumpet British nationalism, but in order to wield a polemical scythe. For my part, and I am sure comrade Davidson's, the intention is to lay bare the divisive nonsense cultivated by Scottish nationalists ... and thus lessen the danger of a disastrous split in the historically constituted working class in Britain. By definition Scottish nationalism, both right and left, must on the one hand deny the tangible British nation and on the other hand invent a phantom Scottish nation.

Without their fanciful 400 years of English oppression, Scottish nationalism - whether it be the SNP or Settler Watch or the CWI in Scotland - is electoralist opportunism at best or at worst crude anti-English bigotry. (The CWI in Scotland is opportunist in an almost chemically pure form. Its break with Peter Taaffe's Socialist Party was justified in terms of swimming with the tide of popular nationalist opinion.)

Marxists do not need the British nation. We only discuss and analyse it because reality must be fully taken into account by revolutionaries. No more. Marxists start programmatically not with nations, but the world economy and the contradictory system of competing capitalist states. Within each state we seek to organise the workers into one party (needless to say, we also work for a new International with subordinate state sections). That state could be a nation-state: eg, Britain, Germany, France and Italy. By the same measure it could be a multinational state like Switzerland, Belgium, India or Canada. To the extent that it is transformed from a trading bloc into a state that also applies to the European Union. Either way, the aim of our programme is to unite the workers as a political class in order to overthrow, first, the existing state and then, according to the forward march of the world revolution, all existing social conditions. Our entire strategy is designed to achieve that end.

Unfortunately most of the left in Britain - including comrade Davidson's SWP - is hopelessly mired in economism or strikism. Pay, anti-trade union laws and health and welfare cuts are their main diet. Socialism is a splendid but disembodied future. However, the main characteristic of economism is a denial or downplaying of democratic demands. For example, in pre-revolutionary Russia the economists maintained that the task of social democrats (ie, communists), was to support, promote and politicise the economic struggles of the working class.

As proletarian confidence, solidarity and trade union organisations grew, so would socialist consciousness. Or so the strike-chasers thought. The tsarist monarchy, the fake duma parliament, demands for a constituent assembly, the right of self-determination for the innumerable oppressed nationalities in the Russian empire, peasant land hunger, women's equality, etc - all were patronisingly described as being above the workers' heads or issues that would be solved by socialism.

In contrast to today's economistic left Lenin and the Bolsheviks believed that the working class had to be united to smash the tsarist system. Socialist consciousness would not primarily grow by workers improving their own pay and conditions through economic strikes, but by taking up and fighting for the fullest, most extensive democracy. Every denial of justice, every act of bureaucratic arbitrariness in the countryside, every resentment, every example of national oppression had to be the concern of the workers if they were to become the hegemon of the revolution. Such an ability to think and act strategically comes from Marxist science and building and educating a mass proletarian party.

4.4. Self-determination

The CPGB models itself on the Bolsheviks organisationally, politically and programmatically. Hence the CPGB takes a revolutionary democratic approach to the UK state. Here stands our main enemy. In our minimum programme (ie, within the social limits imposed by the capitalist system) we therefore demand the immediate abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, the acts of union and self-determination for Scotland and Wales, and the reunification of Ireland. In place of the constitutional monarchy system we pose the need for a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales.

The 'federal republic' slogan encapsulates both the democratic right to self-determination and the unity of the working class in Britain in opposition to Blair's plan for a new constitutional monarchy system. It also encapsulates the unity of the working class in Britain against nationalism and separatism.

Actually Blair has unwittingly done us a great service. In remaking the UK constitution - albeit to strengthen the system of class rule - he shows everyone that the constitution is neither timeless nor natural. It is plastic, artificial, a product of historical making and contemporary remaking. Consequently the call for constitutional change is no longer fringe politics. Constitutional change today lies at the heart of political debate and action. What Blair has begun from above we can complete from below.

It should also be noted that we do not put a scientific assessment that there is a British nation before the palpable feelings of masses of people in Scotland and Wales. Millions think they are nationally disadvantaged or oppressed (a subjectivity that constitutes a material factor). So Stalin's fivefold classification of what constitutes a nation is not used as a "check list" of who qualifies and who does not qualify for self-determination, as comrade Davidson has hinted. That was not Stalin's intention as a pamphleteer in 1913. Nor was it his practice as the commissar for nationalities in the Soviet government of 1917. Those who take such a dry and utterly repellent stance are alien to the spirit of Bolshevism. Our approach is designed to further democracy and puts politics, not dogmatism, in the driving seat.

Having left no room for confusion that Scotland's right to self-determination is entirely a political and democratic question, let us proceed to discuss the CPGB's attitude to that right in what remains of this, the fourth and final part of my review article.

Advocating self-determination is not the same as advocating independence. The former is a democratic demand. The latter is nationalism. Scotland ought to have as a matter of principle the right to freely decide its own future. But that does not mean communists are agnostic about how that right is exercised. On the contrary we are very partisan. The CPGB is for the closest possible voluntary unity of people in general and the workers in particular. That means resolutely combating nationalism and separatism in all its many and varied manifestations.

Nationalism and Marxism are antithetical. Nationalism considers nations and national cultures positively. National differences or distinctions between people are viewed as essentially healthy and something to be sustained into the distant future. Left nationalists like the Scottish Socialist Party majority give this separatist 'principle' a national socialist gloss. The road to socialism is seen through the prism of the nation. Marxism on the other hand considers nations and national distinctions negatively. We want to create conditions whereby nationalism, nations, nationality and the nation-state quietly wither away, not proliferate. Hence Marxists oppose every form of nationalist ideology, whether this is represented by an established state or those forces striving to create a new state through a separatist breakaway.

I have argued that the relative decline of British imperialism laid the basis for a novel Scottish nationalism (certainly not the revival of a nationhood going back to Kenneth MacAlpine or Macbeth). From the mid-19th century onwards being Scottish - with the obvious exception of worst paid labour - was to share in the "lucrative" booty of the British empire (L Colly Britons London 1992, p373). Under Thatcher it meant cuts, the poll tax and a denial of rights. Identification with the state reached its zenith in World War II and in the subsequent long boom. Now there is widespread alienation. Blair's constitutional revolution has yet to reverse that trend.

Given the perceived absence of a viable socialist alternative, bourgeois nationalism comes to the fore. In the form of the SNP it promises to secure for Scotland a better position in the world economic pecking order through the formation of a new, independent Scottish state within the European Union. Separatist sentiments are undoubtedly widespread. Not only opinion polls tell us that. Every election, every grievance, every strike is tinged by the national question. And no SWP attempts to economistically explain away the national question by listing the 'primacy' of all-Britain "issues like health, education, welfare and union rights" - will make the Scots forget their "Scottishness" nor the undemocratic denial of their right to self-determination within the UK (Socialist Worker June 13 1998).

National secretary Chris Bambery insists that the SWP is committed to "politics, politics, politics". Unfortunately by that he means giving a political coloration to strikes. "Every strike becomes political," he says, bowing in the direction of Tony Cliff's last catastrophist line in prediction. Apparently in Britain today "there can be no discussion of systematic social reform and the raising of the masses' living standards" (T Cliff Trotskyism after Trotsky London 1999, p82). Demonstrably untrue. Yet when it comes to high politics - ie, the relationship between all classes and the state, the way we are ruled and our rulers rule - the SWP has tailed Blair. Instead of formulating constitutional demands in its much vaunted Action programme, the SWP reflects and panders to narrow trade unionist consciousness and even attempts to breathe new life into the so-called Alternative Economic Strategy of the 'official communists' (the SWP's Action programme was first published in Socialist Worker September 12 1998).

The main slogan of the SWP for the post-May 1997 period has been 'tax the rich'. This is, of course, a perfectly correct demand. But unless placed within the context of a communist minimum programme it does not challenge the way we are politically ruled or economically exploited. The Liberal Democrats entered the last election under the banner of increased taxation. Communists must raise political - ie, constitutional - demands and slogans. We need a working class alternative to Blair's new constitutional monarchy system.

What is particularly notable about Blair's programme of constitutional reform at this moment in time is the complete absence of any working class input or alternative. Indeed, as we have long argued, it is the atomisation, the (temporary) disappearance of the working class from the political stage that has created the conditions whereby Blair can feel safe in carrying through his programme. Though millions are alienated from the state there is neither pressure nor threat from the working class. That can, must and will be ended.

With this in mind we consider ourselves obliged to criticise those allies of ours in the London Socialist Alliance such as the SWP, Alliance for Workers, Liberty and Workers Power who downplay, avoid or dismiss the national question in Scotland by appealing for the "unity of the Scottish, English and Welsh workers" around routine trade union demands and "true socialism" (C Bambery Scotland: the socialist answer London 1997, p16). Such organisations ought to recognise that they face the danger of constituting themselves unconscious English chauvinists.

4.5. Unity

We communists are quite prepared to take self-determination to extremes - if there is a genuine grievance let Orkney, Cornwall, Shetland, the Isle of Man, etc decide their own fates up to and including independence. But we communists would try and persuade people to unite. Separation into tiny statelets is neither a communist method nor principle. Fragmentation is not a road to socialism. It is though the ideal of anarchism.

Separation only becomes a communist demand if unity is imposed by force. The relationship between England and Scotland has not primarily been characterised by violence. At least since the 1707 Act of Union. So our policy is decided on the basis of historical conditions and circumstances in each case. Communists in general favour voluntary unity and the biggest possible states as providing the best conditions for the coming together and merger of peoples. Under present circumstances there would be nothing remotely progressive about a Scottish army, a customs post at Gretna Green and the splitting of the historically bonded peoples.

That Leninist approach also informs our politics vis-à -vis the EU. The CPGB refuses to defend the pound sterling against the euro. We also oppose all campaigns for a British withdrawal from the EU.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is constitutionally the unity of hereditary crowns, not the voluntary union of free peoples. Sovereignty formally lies with the monarch, not the people. Therefore self-determination for Scotland and Wales does not and cannot exist under our present constitutional arrangement. The 1707 Act of Union had no popular mandate. The rich and powerful decided. Democracy was entirely within their fief. It suited their interests for Scotland to make a union British state - massive bribery helped no end. Not surprisingly there was a price to pay. For example, in 1712 Scottish MPs in Westminster voted unanimously to repeal the Act of Union. They were swamped by English MPs.

Given the huge disparity between the populations of England on the one side and Scotland and Wales on the other, the UK must be dominated by the English (who have no problem with self-determination). It is the peoples of Scotland and Wales who cannot freely determine their own future. With or without Blair's Edinburgh parliament and Cardiff assembly they must go cap in hand to Westminster. Hence there exists within the UK an inborn democratic deficit. So Scotland's constitutional status is not only a matter for the Scots. It is a democratic question that must see the whole of the working class in Britain united around a correct strategy.

Communists have no project to save the existing state but to create the best conditions for the closest revolutionary unity of the people of Britain against the UK state. To that end we seek to mobilise the working class of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a political struggle for a federal republic and a united Ireland.

Interestingly Marx, Engels and Lenin wrote favourably about a federation in the British Isles. For example, in his 'Critique of the Erfurt programme' Frederick Engels' wrote that federalism "would be a step forward" in Britain, which in spite of its single parliament has "three different systems of legislation" (F Engels MECW Vol 27, Moscow 1990, p228). However - and this is the point - federalism was "a step forward" towards the "one and indivisible republic". This is the form most suited to the needs and struggles of the proletariat. Engels reckoned already in the 1890s that federalism was becoming a "hindrance" in the eastern states of the USA. In Switzerland it was "tolerable" merely because of the country's torpor. Furthermore, in Germany, said Engels, federalism on the Swiss model, would be "an enormous step backwards" (ibid).

Over 100 years later, looking at capitalistically advanced countries like the USA, Australia and a catatonic Switzerland, I am of the opinion that communists should be for sweeping changes. Federalism in these countries now constitutes a constitutional weapon in the hands of backward states, territories and cantons. In Switzerland it perpetuates alpine insularity. The majority of Australians want to abolish the monarchy. But a referendum majority is required in the majority of states. State rights are the main bulwark against republicanism. We should also favour a single chamber of parliament. In the USA too not only should federalism go, but so must the presidential system and the senate.

Most leftwingers dogmatically absolve themselves of what they wrongly describe as the 'bourgeois' task of ending the monarchy and winning a federal republic in Britain. Such a demand is always countered by the likes of the SWP, AWL, the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the SSP with an abstract and purely Platonic socialism. Naturally this ultra-left pose is never applied by the likes of these to wage and other economic demands. When it comes to trade union politics, they do not turn up their noses with haughty references to the maximum demand for the abolition of the system of wage slavery - which like the call for communism is quite correct in terms of propaganda. So in rejecting the communist minimum programme these comrades one at the same time make maximalist gestures while practising the capitalist politics of the working class.

Through their own self-activity the workers become organised, strong, confident and full of initiative. Through experience they also becomes convinced that it is impossible to transform society without first conquering political power. Hence for Marxists the demand for Scottish self-determination is primarily about the struggle it can engender. At every stage we stress the cardinal importance of working class self-activity. So, while the CPGB fights for reforms, we always seek to do so using the most revolutionary means the situation allows.

Only in this way can the workers be made a class that is ready for state power.

Jack Conrad