Staring into the abyss

Most of the left campaigned with Blair for a ‘yes’ vote in Scotland and Wales - and he is very grateful

The campaign in Scotland for a ‘yes, yes’ vote in the referendum was all part of a massive conspiracy. Honest. All those whoops of joy - Blair’s permanently beaming grin, general euphoria, delighted editorials - were in reality cries of despair and anguish.  

When The Guardian editorial last Thursday urged us to “seize the opportunity” and vote ‘yes, yes’, it was really saying, ‘Please vote no’. You see, the media are in on this massive conspiracy as well. The entire bourgeoisie were secretly engaged in a plot to wreck the ‘yes, yes’ campaign and maintain the constitutional status quo.

How do we know this? Because we read The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party. Like amateur versions of Scully and Mulder from the X-Files, our SML comrades have revealed that Labour, the Liberal Democrats, pro-devolution business figures and many others are all engaged in this dark conspiracy. Blair may pretend to celebrate the conclusive ‘yes, yes’ vote, but the truth is obvious. In the words of The Socialist: “All those who represent the vested interests of the rich and privileged are trying to wreck the setting up of a Scottish parliament” (editorial, September 5).

Apparently, Blair is “worried that this limited extension of democratic rights will be seen as the first stage to the establishment of a socialist Scotland, which in turn could be a step towards a socialist federation in Britain” - which in turn, it almost goes without saying, will lead to a united socialist states of Europe and then inexorably onwards to a socialist world. After that - at last! - we will inevitably arrive at world communism. Seeing how the ‘yes, yes’ vote last Thursday was the first step on the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism, you do have to wonder why Blair appears so keen to have a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. Perhaps he is so scared of the will of the masses on this issue that he thought he would be lynched on the spot if he said anything else.

We all know that the Socialist Party/Scottish Militant Labour has had to concoct this utterly fantastic notion in order to excuse its opportunism. The none too edifying truth is the SML comrades ignobly collapsed before Blair’s sop and, in the last analysis, betrayedthe democratic and national aspirations of the Scottish people. In the process they also reneged on the Scottish Socialist Alliance’s founding statement to fight for a “sovereign Scottish parliament which has the right to decide which powers to retain in Scotland and to determine its position with Britain and the rest of the world” (April 1996). The fact that the comrades’ intentions were no doubt honourable does not diminish this by one iota.     

In the real world, as opposed to the twilight world of The Socialist and Socialism Today, Tony Blair and a large swathe of the bourgeoisie are cock-a-hoop about the unequivocal vote for a Scottish parliament with tax-raising powers. They want the same result in Wales too. Blair was speaking from the heart when he implored last Friday: “Yesterday Scotland. Next week Wales will have its turn to speak. I ask you to come out then”.

Blair’s mini-tour of Wales at the beginning of this week was another confirmation of his determation to make it a double whammy. It should be clear that the referendums were staggered precisely in order that the (stagnant) ‘yes’ campaign in Wales could gain momentum. Is this really the tactic of a man who wants to lose, or merely narrowly win, the vote?

Naturally, The Guardian, the most Blairite of publications - which these days resembles Pravda in its near mindless devotion to the government - crowed that the conclusive ‘yes, yes’ vote was a “victory for all of us” and how a Scottish “sense of pride has been stirred”. It also argued: “The torch now passes to Wales, which next Thursday will have the chance to get a more democratic grip on the way it is governed” (September 13).

Indeed, The Observer got so excited by the vote - and the ‘anti-establishment’  reverberations from Diana’s death and funeral - that it devoted an entire page to an article entitled, ‘Time to discuss Britain becoming a federal republic’. In a full-page editorial statement it proclaims: “Britain is set to change fundamentally, both in terms of its constitution and the idea of itself that binds the country together.” It even discussed the necessity for a controlled removal from above of the monarchy, otherwise the

“whole apparatus will appear absurd and redundant, thus fatally weakening the capacity of the centre to hold before the kind of popular demand for citizen sovereignty that we witnessed last week” (September 14).

We should not give the impression that the SP/SML have a monopoly on self-delusion. Last week Socialist Worker, organ of the SWP, proclaimed on its back page, ‘Bosses say no, we say yes’. In fact the entire establishment, along with a whole array of capitalists, lined up behind Blair. The SWP followed them meekly. But the headline implies that “we” must always adopt slogans in diametric opposition to those taken up by the capitalist class at any one time. Using this logic, future Socialist Worker headlines might read, ‘Bosses say yes to the legalisation of cannabis, we say no’; or even; ‘Bosses say no to death penalty, we say yes’.

The overwhelming left consensus - which unites Trotskyists, ‘official communists’, Stalinites and the SWP - is that there was no alternative but to vote ‘yes, yes’. According to this view, only hopeless ‘ultra-leftists’, like the CPGB for instance, fail to understand the necessity for ‘being with the class’.

For our SP/SML comrades history has already been made - socialism is a certainty. Therefore the task of revolutionaries is to drift contentedly with the tide of history, not obstinately stand against it. Previously it was the Labour Party which was the inevitable agent of history, and of socialism itself. All those outside of it were, naturally, “sectarians”. Now it is the Scottish parliament - and Scottish nationalism - which excuses them from fighting for what is necessary and for real socialism and internationalism. All those outside this schema are ‘wreckers’. From the British, parliamentary road to socialism to the Scottish, sop parliamentary road to socialism.

These comrades need to take a long, hard look at themselves. They are staring into the national socialist abyss - and it is staring back invitingly. Our comrades in SML and the SSA - and elsewhere - need to take a few steps backwards before it is too late.

Eddie Ford