1940s >> 1944 >> no-480-august-1944

A Scotch Broth of Peculiar Composition

As the war nears its climax, the capitalist political representatives—and their sidekicks—are doing a lot of jockeying for place and power in what they consider will be the political set-up. In Scotland, as in England, recent events in Parliamentary by-elections have indicated clearly that the working-class electorate are not whole-heartedly enamoured of the National-cum-Labour Government. A definite swing of the pendulum “leftwards” has been observed, and a post-war continuation of that process has been envisaged. The “Commonwealth” movement has had some measure of success in stealing the thunder of the Labour and Communist Parties. This organisation, which receives the financial backing of Sir Richard Acland and other rich men, has made attempts—with varying degrees of success—to take united Parliamentary action with the other reformist organisations, the Labour Party, Communist Party and I.L.P. “Commonwealth” spokesmen have, of course, demonstrated their confusion and invincible ignorance of what the term “commonwealth” means. To them it means anything and everything, from State ownership to public utility corporations—in a word, anything but the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life.

Enchanted, apparently, by the measure of success which has attended the efforts of Acland and Co. yet again to beguile the workers, a “Scotch broth” of various “lairds,” “literary men, Communist gents and Labour politicians have arisen in Scotland in the form of a “Declaration on Scottish Affairs,” in which various problems are discussed and palliatives set forth. The ancient slogan, “Scottish Home Rule,” is revived from its centuries-old semi-torpor, and blazoned forth to an —as yet—incredulous working class. This specious document contends initially that “Scottish conditions are not identical with English conditions,” a masterly and illuminating observation! In support of this, various evidence is adduced: “Hill farming, forestry and fishing are more important than in the South”; “depopulation of the Highlands is an entirely Scottish question”; “The Scottish housing question is different in scale.” The solution to these perplexing anomalies is modestly claimed to be: “A Scottish legislature and Government should be established to deal with Scottish affairs, and that Scottish representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom should be retained.”

We have heard all this before, in varying guises. Yes, my Lords and Ladies and inspired Commoners, your “fresh” Scottish fish stinks of crumbling antiquity! It was also claimed by the Irish Nationalists over long years, that the problems of the Irish workers were uniquely different from the other workers of the world. After years of bloody struggle the Irish Nationalists—to some extent—had their way, with what results? Are not poverty and unemployment inevitable accompaniments of wealth and leisure in the “Emerald Isle”? Are slums, poorhouses, pawnshops, diseases, malnutrition and the other horrible characteristics of modern society the exclusive product of Scotland, Ireland or any other country in the world?

An amusing reflection that strikes me on examining the “Home Rule” claims is the one that arises when they claim that Home Rule for Scotland will result in more work. More work for whom?—for the Lords, Dukes, ladies, authors and Labour politicians who modestly sign the declaration? No! As is usual, for the already over-worked working class of Scotland! It could be thought that, at least, it had occurred to John S. Clarke (one of the signatories) that what is wrong with the working class is not lack of work, but their divorcement from the means of wealth-production. To talk of Scottish, as opposed to English, interests is to gloss over, to ignore the basic conflict of interests that inevitably arises from the structure of capitalism. The defenders of capitalism adopt sundry devices to hide this fundamental class-antagonism, and one of the handiest ones has been for years to play on the difference of nationality and seat of government. The defence against this stratagem is, as always. the re-statement of the Socialist case and an iron confidence in the working-class ability eventually to solve their own problems without the assistance of Lairds and Lords, or leaders.

Thomas Anthony (Tony Mulheron)

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