Brar and Galloway on Scotland and Wales

In the past, I have alluded to, but rarely directly discussed, the importance of a correct line on the national question for Marxist-Leninists in any country. Because bourgeois democracy continues to provide some checks and balances in imperialist countries like the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and several other English-speaking countries where my blog might be read, the right to espouse “secessionist” views for minority nationalities is more or less protected. Because of this, many radicals don’t see the revolutionary potential in national movements in their own countries. This is a grave mistake. By the same reasoning, imperialist extraction of super-profits make it so that the bourgeois state does not regard union organisers in these same countries as an immediate existential threat, and indeed, by the same reasoning the labour aristocracy in charge of the unions is able to take a weak stance because it does not view the communists as a force among the masses. We must not deal with politics with our eyes trained only to what makes us look radical at present, but to our long-term goals*.

Two faces well-known on the Left in Britain, Harpal Brar, the Chairman of the CPGB-ML, and George Galloway, the most famous figure associated with the Respect Party, are extremely fond of posturing as radicals, occasionally together. Both defend various states which find themselves in conflict with UK and US imperialism, provoking the expected shrill cries of the Trotskyites and liberals. Additionally, Harpal Brar is well-known for his vigorous defence of Comrade Stalin, something which makes him popular by default with foreign “Stalinists”.

But what are their stances on “internal issues” of British politics, such as the national question?

Both of them uphold the correct line on the North of Ireland, condemning the British presence there as imposed to cement imperialist interests and contrary to the national aspirations of the Irish people. But such a stance is hardly controversial in the British Left. Indeed, it is expected.

Brar and his CPGB-ML take a stance on Wales and Scotland which runs totally contrary to the Leninist position on the national question. This is especially striking given their strong association with a defence of Stalin, who was responsible for the work “Marxism and the National Question”, the authoritative Marxist-Leninist answer to this question to this day**.

What is the CPGB-ML’s “Marxist” explanation for their patriotic defence of the maintenance of the bourgeois AND imperialist British state’s present borders on the island of Great Britain? It can essentially be boiled down to two parts, one of which refutes the other. Firstly: There are no such nations to begin with, as the bourgeoisies of Scotland, Wales, and England are unified. Secondly: The demands for greater cultural autonomy or independence are being pushed by the bourgeoisie (in Scotland and Wales?). The Scottish bourgeoisie is apparently simultaneously so totally unified in its interests with the English bourgeoisie as to present no contradictions between the two, but somehow also has contrary economic interests which may be pursued through a campaign for national independence!

The CPGB-ML’s stance on Wales stands in opposition with the views of almost the entire population of Wales. The CPGB-ML holds that the Welsh are more or less “British” in national character and are unified with other “British” people in speaking English. The majority of Wales’s population, bourgeois and proletarian, conceives of itself as having a separate Welsh national character, and considers its own language to be Welsh (even if British rule has beaten back the predominantly Welsh-speaking territory somewhat, the majority of Welsh certainly regard all attempts towards the restoration of their national language positively). Regardless of the questions of how to relate to Plaid Cymru or the Welsh Maoists’ attempts at building a Welsh Socialist Republican Party and Congress, there is a Welsh nation with its own Welsh language and territory, and this fact must be reflected in our politics, whether in Wales or in England.

2011WelshSpeakers
Wikipedia disputes your claims of Welsh linguistic unification with England, CPGB-ML.

There are both similarites and differences between the Welsh and Scottish cases. Similar to the Welsh, the majority of Scottish people still hold on to a specifically “Scottish” national identity. Whether or not they were “colonised” the way Ireland was is irrelevant: There is a separate nation, from the proletariat up to at least a certain section of the bourgeoisie (the national bourgeoisie, if you will), as evidenced by the bid for independence, which failed after the fanatical Better Together campaign by the Scottish wings of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Tories, and apparently approved of by the CPGB-ML!

It is however worth noting that unlike in the case of Wales, the people in Scotland are divided about a key feature of their national identity: Their language. In the Highlands, Gaelic traditionally predominated, and is having difficulty reasserting itself in part because of the Lowlands traditional use of Scots, which, being mutually comprehensible or close to mutually comprehensible with English, dilutes the strength of a campaign against English’s hegemony over all of Scotland. Could Scotland itself contain multiple nations? Perhaps. But even if there is an oppressed Gaelic nation within Scotland after independence, this independence would be a step forward, as it would qualitatively change the dynamics in the relationship between Scots and Gaelic.

But Harpal Brar and his CPGB-ML avoid all such questions, choosing to disregard the still-living languages of Great Britain entirely and insisting that all of Great Britain is one territory with one language and one people, claiming that the continuing unity of the bourgeoisies of Great Britain will bring about a greater unity of the peoples of Great Britain in struggle, and will hasten a socialist revolution (one which itself will apparently continue the trampling on the Welsh language in the name of unity of the now-socialist “British nation”!).

George Galloway praises Irish resistance to Britain, but, as an open reformist who does not even pretend to be guided by Marxism-Leninism, he does not need to prove that Scotland is not a nation. When the question of Scottish independence was raised, he informed us that the Scottish should continue to “choose” to be united with the English, that rather than splitting off from Britain, the Scottish ought to look to the EU to build a brighter future for Britain (why the Irish in the North cannot simply accept partition and live happily through the EU’s beneficence is not explained).

Fast forward to 2016:

GallowayBrexit

Mocking Galloway’s inconsistency is almost too easy. But I do so to point something out: Like Galloway, the CPGB-ML seem to see salvation for the Scottish and Welsh peoples only within the borders of the current British state (minus the North of Ireland). Unlike Galloway, the CPGB-ML consistantly has said that the EU is an imperialist and bourgeois project (although just about anyone who follows Lenin could tell you that). But do they realise that the UK is an imperialist and bourgeois state?

We cannot tolerate the CPGB-ML’s lies about the non-existence of a Welsh nation on principle. But even ignoring principle, if the CPGB-ML’s members really seek to overthrow the British state (which I do not assume to be the case for all of them), do they not see that the panic of “their own” imperialist bourgeoisie during the Scottish independence referendum indicated the danger that Scottish and Welsh political identity pose to the bourgeoisie and the imperialists? Or do they subscribe to the Kautskyite view that inter-imperialist contradictions are of no consequence?

But we should expect nothing from the CPGB-ML, which is virtually silent on the national democratic revolution led by the progressive PYD, allied with real revolutionary Marxists in Turkey and Kurdistan, while breathlessly cheering on the Baathist regime in Syria, allied only with revisionist parties and defensible only against the pro-imperialist jihadist forces which, to their credit, the CPGB-ML do rightly condemn.

For internationalism, Marxist-Leninists in Britain, and in England in particular, cannot look to the CPGB-ML, with its infantile grasp of Lenin’s revolutionary writings and sensationalist attempts to insert itself into the political picture only to condemn everything which exists as a reformist trap. In all likelihood, a new organisation may have to be built.

It is my personal hope that the comrades of Red London, who have made contact with ICOR, the premiere international Marxist-Leninist organisation of our time, will attempt to learn from ICOR member organisations and reach out to others in Britain of like mind to begin the construction of a new revolutionary organisation for Britain. If any Red London comrades are reading this, I hope that they will consult the writings of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor (USA), the only ICOR member from a predominantly English-speaking country (unless South Africa is included), for a model of how to build a Leninist organisation in an imperialist English-speaking country. In particular they should note the importance that must be placed, especially in imperialist countries, on weakening the bourgeoisie’s power over the masses by calling attention to and building up resistance of minority nationalities, who, once they become nationally conscious, gain a special progressive potential in resisting the propaganda of the bourgeoisie of the dominant nationality. As Red London comrades know, organisations in ICOR take very seriously the cause of national liberation as part of their internationalist practice, unlike the patriotic “Stalinists” of the CPGB-ML.

Workers of the world – unite!

Gweithwyr y byd – unwch!

Wirkers o the warld – unite!

Obraichean den t-saoghail – tig còmhla!

*It is also for this reason that communists even in bourgeois democracies would do well to practise a certain amount of secrecy, in view of the long-term potential for the rise of fascism and the curtailing of bourgeois democratic rights.

**Indeed, it is so authoritative that even the Trotskyites feel the need to appropriate it. Isaac Deutscher famously claimed, based on nothing but his own irrational hatred of Comrade Stalin, that Stalin could not have penned such a work. The absurdity of such a claim aside, many Trotskyites follow Deutscher in claiming that Stalin was not the true author of the work, using this unfounded conspiracy theory to rationalise their own lip-service (not practical adherence) to the line espoused within.

Raise the red flag in the struggle!

RedFlagVsTrump

Many of you have seen the image by now, a comrade triumphantly holding up the flag of the Soviet Union, once the symbol of hope for millions and millions around the world engaged in bitter struggle against fascism and imperialism, in the middle of Chicago. And the occasion? The shutdown of a trump rally at the hands of various US progressives, including supporters of Bernie Sanders and the militant Afro-American Black Lives Matter movement, whose impressive street actions are rightfully admired by committed progressives in the US regardless of their national background.

Let me emphasise before I continue that I personally look forward to the day when red flags are a common sight at clashes between progressives and reactionaries in the US, as they are in countries from Turkey to India to the Philippines.

But before the red flags come the clashes themselves. It is thanks to a broad front against the fascist Trump, who fancies himself a Hitler but has the organising prowess of a mere Ford, that this comrade was able to so triumphantly unfurl their flag. We Marxist-Leninists use the red flag as our symbol, but it is the power of the workers and the oppressed masses which this flag symbolises. It must not become an empty cypher.

I am not implying that the comrade who unfurled this red flag was engaging in mere empty posturing. Likely they are a genuine struggler. But the many internet Marxists who survive on a diet of anti-revisionist imagery and sarcastic humour might not be so engaged in concrete struggle.

A real revolutionary is at home in a broad front because they understand that by taking part in such commendable mass actions they make themselves a part of the peoples’ struggles, changing that struggle and being changed by it, dialectically. They do not merely use communist imagery to pose themselves as revolutionaries.

It is enough to indicate the reaction of the Trotskyite SWP of the US (not to be confused with the far more successful and more openly Trotskyite SWP of the UK, who are as famous for their rape scandals as they are for their cultish following among tiny pockets of petty bourgeois pseudo-Marxists around the world) to see why it is not the red flag, but the context in which it was raised which is meaningful:

The members of various radical political groups who came to shout Trump down, saying he’s a fascist and carrying signs such as “Shut down white supremacy,” are a danger to the working class. Their arguments go hand-in-hand with bourgeois commentators of all stripes who argue that Trump’s support is based among bigoted Caucasian workers. This is a slander against the working class, something we are able to confirm daily as we campaign — including at the Trump rally.

While we can hardly expect Trotskyites to take a principled stand against the supremacy of the US (North) oppressor nation, these scoundrels (who are rightly condemned even by other Trotskyites for their eclectic theoretical approach and their Zionism) not only deny the fascist character of the Trump Campaign–something agreed upon by everyone from the US ICOR affiliate Revolutionary Organization of Labor to politically moderate celebrities in that country–they even imply that the righteous anger of minorities in the US and their militant response to the Trump Campaign is “reverse racism”!

Thus, when groups like the SWP or others which hold the organic struggles of the revolutionary masses at arms length, they may boast of being the truest revolutionaries all they like:

When it was announced that the rally was cancelled, many of those bent on disruption cheered their victory over free speech, chanting “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,” praising Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Sanders is a bourgeois politician whose goal is to make capitalism work “better,” not to fight to overthrow it.

But their talk of “overthrow” is meaningless. The red flags they own are worth less than the struggles of the masses who, deprived of a theoretical education in the science of Marxism-Leninism, still take their place in the fight against capitalism, imperialism, and fascism. If we really believe, as Lenin did, that the vanguard’s job is to lead the masses’ struggles forward, it is far better to do so without necessarily revealing yourself with your red flag, than to wave the red flag without behaving thus.

The most important thing is not necessarily to unfurl the red flag (though from time to time the conditions emerge when we absolutely should). The most important thing is to live lives that are worthy of having a red flag draped on our coffins at our funerals.

The Martyr

RedCarnation

Today we got the news from a comrade that his cousin had fallen in the fight against fascism.

His cousin was not a thrill-seeker. She wasn’t a hardened adventurer. On the contrary, when we were shown her picture, it was of a young woman at her graduation. The picture was recent.

But when the fascist state decided to collectively punish her people for the crime of seeking their rights, she joined the front for self-defence. Necessity placed her on the front lines of the revolution, and she sacrificed everything she had, her entire future, so that her people could live freely and with dignity.

When we say we are internationalists, sometimes it means so little. Sometimes it means that we are nominally part of an international organisation and watch with detached semi-interest as events unfold in another country.

This is never a sufficient amount of internationalism for someone like me. I try to help in some concrete way, whether it means helping to convey information or helping to organise something in a practical sense. Although I speak with an accent, I always try to learn more of the languages of my comrades. And most of all, I try to be there for them when their people (in the collective sense or on such a personal level as today) are suffering and dying.

It is with news of martyrdom that I become a true believer again. My comrade’s cousin died so that her people could live with dignity. She had dreams which may seem impossible to some in her country today. But one day, we will make all her dreams come true.

We cannot give up the fight, and insult the memory of all the martyrs by so doing. We cannot let them have died in vain.

One day, we will make all of the dreams of all of our martyrs come true. One day, people will not be allowed to starve, or to freeze in the winter. Children will be taught in their own language, in schools that are designed with their needs in mind. We will be taught our real history instead of fascist myths. We will read philosophy that changes the world, instead of dogma that reinforces the world as it is. People of all national backgrounds will be brothers and sisters. Women will be respected and empowered. We will labour in pursuit of our needs instead of profit.

All of this will one day come to pass.

Even if it means that we too have to fall as martyrs.