On Brexit, a general election and Scottish independence

TAKING STOCK: tying Indyref2 to EU membership was always destined to fail. Photo: Craig Maclean

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson

· It looks like Britain will leave the EU on 31 October without a deal after all. In order to ‘trump’ his Parliamentary opponents and their ‘No confidence’ motion, Boris Johnson intends to call a general election for November.

The date of such a vote is both in his gift as Prime Minister and designed to ‘shoot Nigel Farage’s fox’, so to speak. Johnson plans to present the choice as ‘the people vs parliament’ with the Tories posing as the ones who delivered the 2016 Leave result.

Without getting ahead of an unfolding story, I want to consider here what supporters of Scottish independence are to do if Johnson wins that election and we face another Tory government that we rejected.

Lessons of Gramsci
You may think Brexit can be stopped, that a deal can be reached with the EU, that Johnson can be defeated in the Commons and stopped from calling a general election or from winning it—a recent Kantar poll gave the Tories a 14 per cent lead. You may also feel in these strange times that ‘anything’s possible’.

I would recommend however that you make time to read the Italian philosopher and political leader Antonio Gramsci. He insisted in times like this it was necessary to face unattractive prospects head on. It was he for example who alone on the Left concluded that Mussolini might not be an insignificant phase in Italian history after all.

Counter-posing ‘the pessimism of the intellect with the optimism of the will’ he never shirked the consequences of the former. The question today therefore becomes not how do we stop Johnson winning, rather how do we in Scotland respond to it?

Initially another Tory government we did not elect being imposed upon us may illicit a desire to fightback. But first we must ask how this undemocratic situation arose? Where did our leaders go wrong? Why did their strategy for advancing independence fail? All this must be examined fully before we determine the appropriate course of action going forward.

The SNP’s decision to tie independence to EU membership must certainly be called to account.

For as the SSP warned throughout the past three years there was never any chance of Scotland remaining inside the EU when Britain left. Yet the SNP leadership ploughed on regardless. They fostered illusions in both that outcome and the EU itself.

The EU is, and always has been, an anti-democratic bosses club. Today it is more in the grip of exploitative free market capitalism than it ever has been.

Yet the nationalists and Greens repeatedly offered it up as some modern utopia responsible for all reforms working people had ever won.

The case for self-determination in Scotland was somewhat undermined by the desire to hand back our hard won independence to unelected, hostile bureaucrats in Brussels building a centralised European super-state.

As well as their failure to keep Scotland in the EU and a general election loss there looms Alex Salmond’s court case on the horizon. It may be an SNP matter but it would be extremely naive to think its reverberations will not embroil the entire Yes movement.

I will say nothing about the serious charges Salmond faces and the legal strategy he intends to invoke other than to suggest the chances of indyref2 occurring in its immediate aftermath are nil!

Then there is the impact of a worldwide economic recession which appears imminent.

Finance capital is already flocking to ‘safe havens’ across the world to avoid its worst effects. And such is the global panic and huge volumes involved that banks in Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere have started to introduce ‘negative interest rates’ where depositors actually pay the banks to hold their money.

The looming recession will see more intensified attacks on working people, their economic conditions and political rights. Europe’s power house Germany, if not already in a recession, is certainly headed for one. Britain, the US, France, China and Japan will not escape it either.

The importance of independence as an outlet for anti-Tory anger and an economic downturn is clear. But the nationalists will try to stifle any extra-parliamentary action as underlying conflicts engulf both them and Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Clear-sighted Left
The openings for a vibrant, confident, clear-sighted Left in Scotland could be considerable in the circumstances. And the prospect of seeing socialist MSPs elected to Holyrood in 2021 becomes very real indeed.

But that prospect depends above all on our ability to inspire Scotland’s working class majority to fight back not acquiesce to Johnson’s recessionary attacks. Working class Scots need to believe in a programme that can be successfully pursued and able to change the political balance of forces in front of them.

The SSP has a crucial role to play in the unfolding new politics of Scotland.

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