by Ken Ferguson • Lenin’s famous dictum that “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” might well have been written about the hydra headed crisis sweeping post Brexit Britain.
Not since the torrid summer of 1940, as Hitler’s panzers swept across France and debate was joined in ruling class circles in London on whether to seek a peace with the Nazis, has so much been in play for the very future of the UK as a state.
The Tory cabinet put in place by newly installed Premier Theresa May is firmly of the hard right and has, in the process, ruthlessly buried predecessor Cameron’s “big society” attempt to move the Conservatives towards a softer social liberalism.
Small wonders that ruling class politicians and their servants in legal, academic and media circles sing the praises of Britain’s infinitely flexible “unwritten” constitution !
Meanwhile Labour MPs who have never been reconciled to Corbyn’s leadership used Brexit to trigger a series of resignations by parliamentary spokesmen and stage a no confidence vote in him.
Over a month later and defeated in attempts to keep Corbyn’s name off a fresh ballot the coup plotters now have only relative unknown former drug company lobbyist and claimed “left” Owen Smith, whose pitch is not being Corbyn, in the race.
If Corbyn wins again its is hard to see how a split can be avoided. However for Scotland, the outcome of Labour’s agonising struggle is far from the centre of political debate given their 2015 Westminster wipe out and relegation behind the Tories in May.
In the May election Sturgeon carefully avoided pledging a re-run of the 2014 independence vote with the formulation that it would only take place if there was a “material change” in Scotland’s circumstances.
This allowed voters who voted No in 2014 to back the SNP based on their record of competence in government since 2007 and the result was a further administration led by First Minister Sturgeon.
Scotland was set for an SNP administration soft peddling the independence demand despite pressure from its own supporters in a Gramscian “war of position” strategy to convince its way to independence in the middle distance. And then came Brexit.
Unlike the UK, Scotland voted heavily to remain in the EU by a 60/40 margin but because the vote was UK wide now faces severing its links in the teeth of the opinions of Scots overruled by largely English Brexit voters.
The Brexit vote has sparked public outrage in Scotland and certainly has all the appearance of the “material change” floated in the May election.
Sturgeon has launched a campaign to keep Scotland within in the EU, setting up an all party commission of experts to explore how this might be done and engaging in shuttle diplomacy with EU leaders.
However any attempt to stay in the EU and also a Brexiting UK faces what look like insurmountable obstacles.
Already Spanish Prime Minster Rajoy and French President Hollande have made their opposition to such a solution public with Rajoy in particular well aware of what such a solution could mean for Spain.
Rajoy is adamantly opposed to independence movements in Catalonia and the Basque country and will oppose a Scottish deal.
Besieged French President Hollande faces a major challenge from the far right Front Nationale of Marie Le Pen in next year’s presidential elections. Le Pen has promised a French referendum on EU membership if she wins and for Brussels this is the stuff of nightmares.
Thus if Scotland is to reject the Union Jack right wing politics of Brexit then increasingly national independence seems the only way to do it. Such an approach will be opposed tooth and nail by London menacing as it does not just the UK’s existence but its world role in NATO, its seat on the UN security council and of course its ability to reinvent a “British” world role post Brexit.
Nuclear armed submarines based here are treasured both as a military status symbol and guarantor of London’s seat at the “top table” of world diplomacy and the loss of there Clyde bases is unthinkable for them.
This central role of Scotland in the projection of Britishness means that unionists will pull out all the stops to defeat an independence vote.
For socialists such as the SSP and those grouped around a range of campaigning groups such as RISE and the Radical Independence Campaign the demand for independence will need to stand on a much broader base than that of for and against EU membership.
The left sees serious problems with the EU and those supporting Remain did so with a caveat on the need to build progressive alliances across the EU for change and a break with neoliberalism.
They also stress the need to address key concerns among working class voters on such issues as pensions, job and economic security and centrally what currency an independents Scotland would use.
In 2014 the left was central in both constructing a vision of an alternative socially just progressive Scotland and inspiring a mass movement around it in contrast to the essentially “UK lite” offer of the SNP and the caution of the official Yes campaign.
This vision was key in delivering massive Yes victories in key working class cities such as Dundee and Glasgow.
In any new campaign the stakes will be even higher and the battle sharper which is why the Pro Independence left needs to be campaigning on the broad case for an independent socially just Scotland which can inspire confidence and win.
The Brexit vote has created a grave crisis for the UK, and the pro-independence forces should borrow the old Irish slogan about England’s difficulty being our opportunity and act accordingly.