George Galloway wrong on Scottish independence

Liam Mac Uaid takes issue with George Galloway’s rejection of an independent Scotland.

British Labourism’s deference to the reactionary trappings of the British state is as old as the movement itself. The party’s attitude to Elizabeth Windsor’s jubilee has been proof enough of that. The party has always been a willing accomplice of British imperialism. Blair started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq draping himself in the union jack. Previous Labour governments have enthusiastically conducted or supported colonial wars.

Even some on the left of Labourism aren’t immune to the contagion. George Galloway has a well deserved reputation for being one of the most anti-imperialist politicians of the last three decades. Yet he has expressed a visceral hatred of the idea of Scottish independence that pushes up against the boundaries of rationality and is accompanied by levels of personal abuse directed against his critics that is unlikely to lower the temperature in a debate.

In an article for the Socialist Unity website with the heart on its sleeve title, Socialism would wither and die in an independent Scotland, he envisions a bleak future for the country if it were to leave the United Kingdom.

Drawing on the capacity for striking imagery which makes him such a rousing speaker he predicts “brother will be turned against brother”. He goes on to foresee that wages will be driven down, Catholics and immigrants will be the victims of pogroms and, most alarmingly, that the country would see the sort of violence that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia. Not even David Cameron is predicting that.

Galloway’s commitment to the integrity of the British state is fairly mainstream in the Scottish Labour Party and among the country’s union bureaucracies. His visions of Armageddon are very much his own. There’s a good material reason for this loyalty to the idea of the union. Blair, Brown and the late John Smith all rose to the top of the British Labour Party. Alistair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer will be fronting up the anti-independence campaign to which Galloway is so committed. Being part of the British state allows Scottish politicians to move from being prominent figures in a small country to “global leaders”.

Here’s how another opponent of an independent Scotland put the issue:

“We’re stronger because together we count for more in the world, with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, real clout in NATO and Europe, and unique influence with allies all over the world. We’re safer, because in an increasingly dangerous world we have the fourth-largest defence budget on the planet, superb armed forces and anti-terrorist and security capabilities that stretch across the globe.”

David Cameron’s message is that Scotland leaving the United Kingdom would see that country diminished as a player on the world stage. While Cameron might see something positive in the British state squandering such a vast portion of its wealth on the fourth largest defence budget in the world Galloway and every other socialist would much rather see it spent on things that are socially useful. Cameron and a big chunk of the anti-independence camp see a self governing Scotland as a weakening of British imperialism. If for no other reason than that the pro-UK left should see a big positive in it.

It’s quite an imaginative leap from sectarian rivalry, much of it focussed on two football teams, to pogroms and Yugoslavia style carnage. In Scotland it’s an Irish export which has put down some local roots. A big difference is that in Ireland sectarianism was an active part of British government policy over centuries. After Partition it was the policy of the northern state, the major political parties, industry and sections of the trade unions. This is not the same as drunken brawling between football fans.

To the extent that there is a violent right wing in Scotland its emblem is the Union Jack. Have a look at any group of Rangers supporters. Taking Scotland out of the British state immediately weakens not just their ideological foundations but it’s a blow to unionism in the north of Ireland.

His assertion that an independent Scotland will certainly be poorer is not backed up with any evidence. The pro-independence campaign has sections which are committed to a more equal distribution of wealth. Even Alex Salmond stands outside the pro-austerity consensus that spans the not so wide chasm between Alistair Darling and David Cameron. An independent Scotland with a much more equal division of incomes, strong trade union rights, an ecologically sustainable development strategy won through a mass campaign will not weaken the working class in the rest of the British state, it will inspire it.

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8 Comments on George Galloway wrong on Scottish independence

  1. Spot on Liam. I tend to agree with GG on many things but on independence he has got it wrong and we will see many Scots vote for their freedom from Westminster as 2014 nears. It is a shame that GG has taken this line – he is hugely popular. In my opinion this was one of the main reasons he did not win in Scotland last year. A real pity that he has decided not to join forces with the SNP on this issue. Alex Salmond and he would have made mince meat of the unionists…still there are couple years left for him to change his mind!!

  2. I’ve just read another of George Galloway’s strange and illogical conclusions as to what will happen to us all in an independent Scotland. As much as I respect George and his consistent support for people of all colours and classes, on the question of independence his conclusion is total and absolute claptrap.
    Yes we do have the 4th largest military budget on Earth and we [the UK] have used our weapons to destroy Iraq twice, Afghanistan and Libya. We are now setting the stage for Syria and Iran. In fact his beloved UK has had 27 wars since 1707 that killed and maimed 500,000 scottish soldiers. An independent Scotland would not have been involved in these British imperial wars.
    As for safety, security and prosperity well he should just remember the destruction of our coalmining, shipbuilding, steel industries and the 200,000 unemployed workers that resulted. All in the name of Westminster government.

    As for the pogroms directed against catholics and other sectarian groups resulting in another Yugoslavia.Has George been on the magic mushrooms?
    Come on George before opening mouth, first engage brain !!!.

  3. This is very poor.

    Not really addressing Galloway’s arguments, you shift to Cameron’s, as if the fact that the Union is supported by Cameron were proof enough to oppose it. But ‘simply putting a tick where the bourgeoisie puts a cross would make every sectarian a tactical genius’ in Trotsky’s phrase.

    Instead, as a Marxist you are supposed to answer the question about whether the break-up of the British State advances the propsects of the British revolution, or whether the break-up would lead to economic dislocation and reactionary nationalism both sides of a new border.

    These are complex questions, but you didnt even ask,let alone answer them.

  4. Frank you’ve just made the case against a British withdrawal from Ireland and, without too much of a stretch, against the breakup of the British empire as well.

    Much of the domestic and virtually all of the overseas prestige of the British ruling class comes from its lingering imperial pretensions. Cameron is clear on that point. An independent Scotland is likely to have some approximately social democratic government with the possibility of the left of the SNP splitting. That would be an point of attraction for many in the English working class.

    The subsequent humiliation of the British ruling class, particularly the Tories would be a big boost to the workers’ movement in England and Wales. That is a major gain. And the obvious point for socialists is that anything which weakens British imperialism is to be welcomed.

  5. An excellent article and fine summing up of the worrying imperial tendenceis of the Labour party today and the paranoid rantings of Galloway.

  6. George Galloway is a strange person,selfish in the extreme,and angry that he missed the Independence boat.As I see it he would have went for total independence years ago but Alex beat him to it,and this is what has upset his ego.Shame as he could have been an asset,to the movement seen a more social responsible Scotland and been able to show the world that we (Scots) can make it work.

  7. Liam

    I didnt make an such case, I ientified the questions to be addressed. If you think British withdrawal from Ireland would lead to reactionary nationalism both sides of the border, you have trashed the entire tradition of socialism, learnt from Connolly on its head. The border is the cause of reactionary politics in Ireland, and only those fighting to remove it can claim to be fighting reaction.

    And there lies the principle error of this entire position.

    Ireland is a semi-colonial country with a comprador bourgeoisie. Part of it is still a direct colony of Britain.

    Scotland is not an oppressed nation.

    But even this too you have inverted- SR campaigns for Scottish independence, but does nothing to promote Irish independence.

    Capitulation to one’s own imperialism in Ireland, craven before bourgeois nationalism from within the British State. All the worst traditions of British ‘socialism’.

  8. An independent, socialist Scotland would be a cross between Ireland, Iceland and Greece within 5-years.

    However, an independent Scotland with it’s own currency, backed by gold (purchased via Oil and Gas revenues), with minimal corporate and personal income taxes; and a libertarian approach to trade and personal freedoms would make us the next Switzerland.
    Will it happen? No. Because too many people want an easy life behind someone else’s labours.
    2012 will be remembered as the year socialism and European central banking died. Let not Scotland slide down the same drain.

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