Letter to the Editor from Australia
I would like to congratulate Lalkar for its outstanding, and most illuminating article, ‘The National Question in Scotland‘ in Lalkar Issue 214. As the British comrades can appreciate, the debate on possible Scottish secession doesn’t command a great deal of attention here in Australia, notwithstanding the many British descendants who comprise this country. Thus, the Lalkar article was most welcoming, in particular in examining the complex England/Scottish history.
One of the ‘highlights’ of the entire Scottish nationalist argument is that put forth by section’s of the Scottish proletariat and sections of the British ‘socialist’ movement, which champions Scottish ‘independence’. Thus, the question is submerged by extremely deceptive slogans presented from a ‘left’ angle, espousing English ‘oppression’ of the Scottish ‘nation’, which, on the surface, sound most alluring to people of the left, even to socialists and communists, to support Scottish secession. This is why the Lalkar article, as contributed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), provides an enormous service to the British proletariat (and elsewhere), by clarifying the argument, not from empty ‘revolutionary’ phrase mongering or romantic, mythical nostalgia, but from the concrete science of Marxism-Leninism.
The article begins with one of the most important. The definition of a nation. For this, Comrade Stalin’s groundbreaking work, Marxism and the National Question, is applied. This differentiates between a nation and a political state. Comrade Stalin makes four distinguishing features of a what comprises a nation: (1) community of language (2) community of territory (3) community of economic life (4) community of culture. It is also revealed that nations are not something that have existed from time immemorial, but are in fact a recent development, aligned to the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism. This explains the uneven development of nations, as capitalism itself developed on an uneven scale throughout the world.
Further clarification of what constitutes a nation comes from exposing author Neil Davidson and his work, The Origins of Scottish Nationalism. While Davidson’s work exposes the myth of Scottish nationhood, he makes serious theoretical mistakes, in the main by his rejection of Comrade Stalin’s Marxist analysis of nation. Not surprisingly, Davidson’s rejection of Comrade Stalin’s work is rooted in his acceptance of Trotsky’s bankrupt theories. Both Davidson and Trotsky foolishly cite Switzerland as ‘proof’ of the ‘incorrectness’ of Stalin’s definition. This falls apart, as the Swiss state is laid bare, causing Davidson to resort to such absurdities as a nation constitutes a sense of consciousness, even going to the extreme of quoting a Zionist mystic, who declares a Jewish ‘nation’ because he feels it in his heart! The extraordinary thing is that Davidson dismisses Comrade Stalin’s materialist study of nationhood, only to apply it expertly to shatter Scottish nationhood!
I also found most illuminating the history of feudal Scottish history. This withering analysis exposes the real content behind the Arbroath Declaration, namely to allow the feudal elements to continue their exploitation of the peasantry, to the battles at Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn. William Wallace, the heavily romanticised figure of ‘national liberation’ for the Scottish ‘nation’ by the oppressive English is also revealed to be fighting in the name of the nobility. As Comrade Stalin’s work emphasised, the four characteristics of modern nationhood are not sufficient by themselves to constitute a nation, but the absence of just one of the criteria excludes nationhood. The Lalkar article reveals the absence of economic unity, lack of language unity, and absence of cultural unity, as witnessed by the Highland/Lowland divide. In the paragraph, ‘Bridging the Gap’, we see how, following the union of England and Scotland in 1707, it was the rising Scottish bourgeoisie which began to forge a British identity. This Scottish bourgeoisie found great impetus following 1746 and the victory of the British state over feudalism after the Jacobite uprising. From here the British nation was born.
The question of whether Scotland was/is an oppressed nation, a victim of English colonialism, is dealt with, as is the concept of ‘internal colonialism’, by presenting statistics which illustrate the strength of Scottish industry, in terms of coal, linen and tobacco, in the 18th century, which outstripped the rest of Britain. Success in industry continued into the 19th and 20th centuries. Scottish participation in politics and other professions is also illustrated. Dealing with accusations of English ‘cultural imperialism’, we see how prominent Scottish intellectuals contributed to the British identity. The eviction of Scottish peasants in the 18th century are revealed to be the product of the rise of capitalism, not English ‘foreign’ aggression. The Scottish bourgeoisie played a leading role in Britain’s colonial plunder of the world, most graphically recorded in the account of the rape of India.
It is hoped that the entire British proletariat read and study this entire article, which I humbly believe will make an extremely important contribution to the unity of the British proletariat, their scientific understanding in their fight to destroy imperialism, and to combat the efforts of bourgeois nationalists, especially of the most deceptive and alluring ‘left’ variety, to split and weaken them. The article has certainly enriched my understanding of what constitutes a nation, which is invaluable to all Marxist-Leninists, whether applying it Britain or elsewhere.