"Socialist Appeal" (SA), a linear descendant of the old Labour Party "Militant" tendency, has decided that its members in Scotland should quit the Labour Party and join the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).
Insofar as the statement (1) explaining this sudden turn contains anything approaching a chain of logical argument, the rationale appears to run as follows:
- The referendum of 18th September was "a defining moment." It was "a seismic shift" which "sent shockwaves through the British capitalist establishment." It has "transformed the political landscape in Scotland."
- The Yes vote was "not an expression of crude nationalism" but "a massive rejection of "austerity Britain." The "complete bankruptcy of reformism" has been exposed. Many people, especially youth, are "drawing revolutionary conclusions."
- The SSP claims to have grown by 2,000 in just 72 hours. SA is not going to "stand on the sidelines in the present political realignment." The way forward is to build the left "on a revolutionary and internationalist basis, beginning with the SSP."
Of the many questions left unanswered by the SA statement the most glaringly obvious one is:
- Was SA wrong to call for a No vote in the referendum, and is now seeking to make amends for that mistake by joining the pro-independence SSP?
- Or was SA correct to call for a No vote in the referendum, and is now joining the SSP in order to explain to them the error of their ways?
For make no mistake about it: SA was a belligerent advocate of a No vote in the referendum, and continued to defend that position in the days following the referendum.
A week before the referendum an SA article (2) explained that an independent Scotland "offers nothing to the Scottish working class." It would be "simply another form of capitalism", offering only "increased hardship" and resulting in "a division in the working class."
The pro-independence left had "jumped on the nationalist bandwagon." They had "lost faith in the ability of working class to achieve socialism." What was needed instead was "a sober analysis": "We advocate a No vote out of our commitment to the unity of the working class and the fight for socialism."
An SA article published the week after the referendum (3) referred to the campaign as "a decisive turning point in the class struggle", the "political reawakening of Scotland", and a "fundamental change in the situation" which had "revolutionary implications for the future."
But the article concluded by repeating its earlier denunciations of the Scottish left for backing a Yes vote.
The Scottish left had "allowed itself to be carried away on a wave of nationalist sentiment." It had "abandoned the class position and shamefully tagged along behind the capitalist SNP." It had tried to win "short-term popularity by climbing on the nationalist bandwagon."
"Whoever strays even one millimetre from the class standpoint," the article grimly warned, "will inevitably land in the swamp of capitulation to bourgeois nationalism."
Unlike those on the left who had sunk into this swamp, SA proudly proclaimed: "We stand not for the erection of new national frontiers but for the abolition of all national frontiers."
So, if SA now has a position that it was wrong to call for a No vote, it needs to provide a - lengthy - explanation of how its Marxist-erudite leadership could have made such a mistake, especially given its argument that a No vote flowed out of the most basic tenets of Marxism.
But, instead, one would not even know from the statement that SA had advocated a No vote in the referendum!
If, in the alternative, SA still thinks - correctly - that a No vote was the position to be adopted by Marxists in the referendum, what sense does it make for them to now join the SSP?
The ultra-pro-independence SSP epitomises those who allowed themselves to be carried away "on a wave of nationalist sentiment." In fact, the SSP spared no effort to help stir up such a nationalist wave.
The SSP did not simply "shamefully tag along behind the capitalist SNP." It consciously decided to join the SNP's pro-capitalist "Yes Scotland" campaign. And it did not merely "capitulate to bourgeois nationalism." It embraced it with open arms.
Nor is the SSP done with embracing "bourgeois nationalism" and holding out the hand of friendship to "the capitalist SNP."
The SSP conference of a fortnight ago (attended by 120 plus, not by that claimed influx of 2,000 new members) voted in favour of an electoral "Yes Alliance". This would consist of the SSP, SNP and Greens, standing a single agreed candidate against Labour.
So, having denounced "the capitalist SNP" before and after the referendum campaign, and having warned that a call to vote SNP "can only serve to sow further illusions in the nationalists", SA now finds itself, through its membership of the SSP, to be part of an SNP-dominated electoral bloc.
(If the "Yes Alliance" ever gets off the ground. With the latest opinion poll putting the SNP on course to win 54 out of Scotland's 59 Westminster seats in 2015, why would the SNP want to enter an alliance with a party which does not even register in the opinion polls?)
While SA urges its supporters to sink into "the swamp of capitulation to bourgeois nationalism", it turns its back on the leadership contest in the Scottish Labour Party - where, for the first time ever, there is a serious left challenge (and one with a realistic chance of winning).
So much for the SA claim that "the Labour Party at present appears to be dead."
In fact, the Campaign for Socialism conference held a fortnight ago was roughly the same size as the SSP conference - but with the not insignificant difference that the Campaign for Socialism, unlike the SSP, counts for something in the labour movement.
But judging by the Twitter feed of the organisation which SA has just decided to join, it would seem that there is only one candidate for Scottish Labour Party leader, and his name is Jim Murphy.
If SA wants to make a serious study of an organisation which allowed itself to be carried away on a wave of nationalist sentiment, abandoned the class position, and sought short-term popularity by mounting a nationalist bandwagon, then its own "Scottish turn" provides a textbook example.