A’ dol thairis air an reifreann Albannach

na_geillAir eadar-theangachadh bhon alt thùsail le Mike Sabot, AFed Dhùn Èideann, ga riochdachadh fhèin a-mhàin.  Faodar ar n-amasan is prionnsapalan a leughadh ann an Gàidhlig an seo.

Chan eil ach glè bheag de thìde ri dhol a-nis gu reifreann mòr na neo-eisimeileachd 18mh Sultain.

Ma bhòtas tu no mura bhòt, tha e an urra riut fhèin.  Bidh cuid de dh’anargaich a’ seachnadh a’ ghnothaich uile gu lèir agus a’ cuimseachadh air eagrachadh far a bheil iad agus ge bith dè thachras, bidh cuid eile a’ cur crois sa bhaileat airson Bu Chòir, feuch gum buannaich sinn co-dhiù corra leasachadh.

Ach ma thaghas tu Bu Chòir, dèan cinnteach nach e ach roghainn phragmatach a tha ann – na gabh ri ideòlas iomairt Bu Chòir, no rudeigin a tha coltach ris, nàiseantachd-chlì.

Tha fios gu bheil sinn a’ bruidhinn mu iomairt nàiseantach Albannach – ge bith dè a chanas cuid de dhaoine air an làimh-chlì* – agus aig an dearbh àm tha muinntir Cha Bu Chòir a’ riochdachadh nàiseantachd Bhreatannach.  Feumaidh iadsan a dh’aithnicheas cho cudromach ’s a tha strì nan clasaichean cur an aghaidh a dhà dhiubh.

Ann an riochd sam bith, tha nàiseantachd a’ dèanamh dà rud: bidh e a’ feuchainn ri coimhearsnachd a chruthachadh eadar bosaichean agus an clas-obrach; agus bidh e a’ ceangal na coimhearsnachd-sa ri stàit-nàisein chalpach, a’ daingneachadh a cumhachd agus a h-àite ann am mar a tha calpachas a’ gabhail brath oirnn.

Chan urrainn seo a bhith dhà-rìribh ‘adhartach’.

Mar a dh’innis an comannach Paul Mattick, tha ceud bliadhna de dh’eòlas againn air strìthean gus nàiseanean a shaoradh far an do chrìochnaich gluasadan ma b’ fhìor adhartach an aghaidh impirealas le a bhith a’ cruthachadh clas-riaghlaidh ainneartach ùr.

A-nis, ’s dòcha gum faic sinn caibideil eile san sgeulachd agus gluasadan neo-eisimeileachd air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a’ freagairt ath-eagrachadh nua-libearalach agus na staing-chalpach a thachair o chionn ghoirid.  A bheil sinn an dùil ri toraidhean eadar-dhealaichte?

Chan e adhbhar gàirdeachais a tha ann an sgaraidhean is farpais am measg a’ chlas-obrach Eòrpaich.  Agus nuair a thig e gu eisimpleir leithid Chatalunya ’s ann a tha e gu follaiseach air a stiùireadh le luchd-an-airgid, agus airson ’s gum bi roinn nas beartaiche a’ cumail a cuid maoin bho roinnean nas bochda anns a’ chòrr den Spàinn.

mattickGàidhlig

Ach nach eil stàitean beaga nas fheàrr agus nas deamocrataiche?

Ma bheir sinn sùil gheur air na stàitean beaga Eòrpach a tha ann an-dràsta chìthear:

  • nach eil e ann an dà-rìribh nas fhasa do luchd-obrach eagrachadh annta;
  • gu bheil iad smachdail cuideachd (mar phàirt de dhreuchd stàit sam bith) agus gun urrainn dhaibh a bhith a cheart cho borb (’s e eisimpleir àraid a tha anns an dàimh eadar an eaglais Chaitligeach agus stàit na h-Èireann);
  • gu bheil iad air a bhith gu math deònach nua-libearalachd agus mòr-ghearraidhean a chur an gnìomh (agus tha fìor dhroch bhuaidh aig seo air daoine ann an stàitean beaga bhon t-Suomi gu na Tìrean Ìsle, gun luaidh air an Roinn Eòrpa a deas);
  • gu bheil treand an aghaidh in-imrich a’ fàs air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a tuath co-cheangailte ri ceannas siostamach dhaoine-geala (systemic white supremacy);
  • gu bheil cuid de na stàitean beaga seo air saighdearan a chur a-null thairis (m.e. an Danmhairg ann an Afghanastàn) no tha iad a’ cur taic ri feadhainn a bhitheas (Èirinn a-rithist, is iad a’ tabhann port-adhair na Sionainne do Fheachd-adhair Aimearaga);
  • agus gu bheil iad an-còmhnaidh fo bhuaidh mhòr structaran tar-nàiseanta an t-saoghail agus calpa fhèin.

 ‘Nuair a bhios daoine air an dochann le maide cha bhi iad idir nas toilichte mas e “Maide nan Daoine” a chanar rithe.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

 Tha e air argamaid le iomairt Bu Chòir agus cuid air an làimh-chlì gun urrainn Alba fhèin a bhith na ‘dheamocrasaidh àbhaisteach’.  ’S cinnteach nach do mhothaich iad gu bheil deamocrasaidh-riochdachail ann am fìor èiginn agus air a chàineadh gu dubh le gluasadan-sòisealta air feadh an t-saoghail a tha a’ sabaid airson fìor dheamocrasaidh compàirteach.

Mura h-eil coltas ann an-dràsta nach biodh riaghaltas na h-Alba a’ toirt a-steach nithean gràineil leithid Cìs an t-Seòmair-chadail no a’ gabhail seasamh an aghaidh in-imrich, chan e suidheachadh seasamhach a tha seo.  Bidh cumhachdan mòra poileataigeach is eaconamach a’ bualadh air poileasaidh an riaghaltais às dèidh neo-eisimileachd.  Bidh e aige ri gearraidhean a dhèanamh uair no uaireigin agus feumaidh e a chrìochan a chleachdadh airson ‘math an eaconamaidh’.

Tha stàitean beaga gu math comasach am poball a mhealladh agus a bhith a’ dol an aghaidh beachd na mòr-chuid nuair a dh’fheumas iad  (m.e. chaidh ‘a’ bhun-reachd chompàirteach’ ann an Innis-Tìle a chur gu sàmhach seolta an dàrna taobh leis an riaghaltas).  Bidh an ‘dìth deamocratach’ dhà-rìribh a’ leantainn às dèidh neo-eisimeileachd.

Dè mu dheidhinn na Làimh-chlì ann an Alba?

’S e coimeasgadh a tha ann de nàiseantachd-chlì agus deamocrasaidh-sòisealta cianalach.  Tha e ag argamaid an aghaidh nua-libearalas seach calpachas fhèin.  ’S e deagh dhòigh a tha seo buill-phàrlamaid fhaighinn anns an ath thaghadh ach chan eil e a’ buntainn ri atharrachadh-sòisealta bunaiteach idir.

’S ann a tha Common Weal agus an iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich airson calpachas a ruith nas fheàrr.

Tha Common Weal air a bhith ’s dòcha nas buadhaich na càch air an Làimh-chlì.  ’S e buidheann a tha annta a tha gu follaiseach a’ putadh co-obrachadh eadar clasaichean – agus seo air a shealltainn gu furasta nan sluagh-ghairm  ‘All of us first’.  Tha iad ag iarraidh eaconamaidh mòr-fàs, ach ’s e tha seo a’ ciallachadh ann an dà-rìribh nas urrainnear faighinn a-mach às an luchd-obrach a mheudachadh, agus a bhith a’ buannachadh an aghaidh luchd-obrach eile anns an fharpais eadar-nàiseanta.

Tha ‘comhairlean-obrach’air am moladh leotha gus dèanamh cinnteach nach eil cus còmhstri san àite-obrach – rudeigin a tha gu math cudromach ann an a bhith a’ toirt fàs air tarbhachd – i. prothaid.  Far an deach an cleachdadh anns an Roinn Eòrpa bha iad an-còmhnaidh a’ lagachadh aonaidhean agus mìleantachd an luchd-obrach.

San leabhar, Yes: the radical case for Scottish independence, gheibhear an cunntas as mionaidiche le buill iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich.  Tha e a’ gairm airson ro-innleachd na h-aghaidh-aonaichte (united front) chun na h-ìre agus nach eil sòisealachd – fiù ’s ‘sòisealachd’ choirbte na stàite – air a’ chlàr-ghnothaich, ach na h-aisling airson fada san àm ri teachd.

Bu chòir dhuinn, tha e ag innse, pàrtaidh leathann dhen làimh-chlì (seach pàrtaidh ‘an aghaidh calpachas’) a chur air dòigh ann an Alba coltach ri Syriza no Die Linke, agus tha iad a’ tabhann an aon ‘Keynesian wish list’ stèidhichte air an dearbh mheasadh lapach air calpachas agus an stàit a chaidh a sgrùdadh gu geur le Michael Heinrich.

Coltach ri Common Weal, tha briathrachas radaigeach – deamocrasaidh compàirteach, dì-mheadhanachadh – a’ breacadh a sheasaimh airson mion-atharrachadh slaodach.  Nuair a thig e gu h-aon ’s gu dhà chan eil e dhà-rìribh eadar-dhealaichte ris, ach lorgar beagan de chàineadh air corra phuing leithid mar a tha Common Weal gu mòr a’ cur taic ris a’ mhodail Lochlannach.

An eisimpleir Lochlannach

’S iad na dùthchannan Lochlannan na stàitean beaga as trice a bhios daoine ag ainmeachadh, agus tha Common Weal gu sònraichte airson ’s gum bi Alba nas coltaiche riutha.  Mar thoradh air grunn rudan – gluasad làbarach làidir, goireasan nàdarra 7c – bha iad na bu chomasaiche an solarachadh shochairean a ghlèidheadh na bha Breatann.  Bho shealladh eadar-nàiseanta, b’ ann a bha na dùthchannan seo mar flaitheachdan-làbarach (labour aristocracies) a’ tighinn beò air saothair an luchd-obrach thall thairis.

Ach às dèidh sin, tha na stàitean Lochlannach cuideachd a’ fulang bho ionnsaigh nua-libearalach agus tha neo-ionnanachd a’ fàs an sin cuideachd.  Mhìnich Asbjørn Wahl mar tha an stàit shochairean ann an Nirribhidh, a tha cho beairteach le ola, ga lachachadh bhon taobh a-staigh agus gu bheil ideòlas taigh-nam-bochd (workfare) ga shìor neartachadh.

Tha Wahl a’ cumail a-mach nach eil e gu feum dhuinn a bhith daonnan a’ comharrachadh cho soirbheachail ’s a tha na dùthchannan Lochlannach ann am measaidhean eadar-nàiseanta.

’S e an trioblaid gu bheil a h-uile dùthaich anns na measaidhean seo gan lagachadh.  Air neo, gus a chur an cèill ann an dòigh eile, tha cèaban fhathast againn air an deic uachdrach, ach ’s e deic uachdrach an Titantic a tha ann, agus tha an long air fad a’ dol fodha. (2011: 11).

Thèid againn air na h-uiread ionnsachadh bhon eisimpleir Lochlannach ge-tà, le a bhith a’ coimhead air a’ chontrarrachd agus strì nan clasaichean taobh a-staigh nan dùthchannan seo – a tha a’ breugnachadh na tha aig deamocrataich-shòisealta ri ràdh a-bhos an seo.

Am measg na Làimh-chlì Lochlannaich tha deasbad a’ tachairt air ciamar a bu chòir dhaibh sabaid an aghaidh an dùbhlain do sholarachadh shochairean.  A bharrachd air Wahl, tha obair Daniel Ankarloo, sgoilear air sochairean san t-Suain, uabhasach inntinneach.

Dh’innis e gun robh an gluasad làbarach an sin ‘air a dhì-neartachadh le […] co-obrachadh nan clasaichean’ (2009) agus ri linn ’s gun robh cus dhaoine a’ creidsinn ann an ‘rathad poileasaidh-shòisealta gu sòisealachd’ (2008: 78-84) – i. gum b’ e eisimpleir de shòisealachd a bha ann an stàit nan sochairean agus chan fheumamaid ach sin a’ leudachadh.

An àite seo, airson na bhuannaich sinn a dhìon agus gus strì airson co-chomann eadar-dhealaichte, feumaidh sinn mìleantachd mar chlas a lorg a-rithist agus ‘gum feum an radaigeachd seo […] tighinn bhon bhonn ann an riochd fèin-eagrachadh a’ ghluasaid làbariach’ (2009).

Tha strìthean airson shochairean, seach a bhith a’ cur taic ri stàiteachas shochairean fhèin, na phàirt dheatamach dhe seo – a’ neartachadh a’ chlas-obrach agus a chomais airson sabaid (ibid.).

Mar bu chòir, tha Ankarloo ag argamaid gum feum an gluasad eagrachadh air feadh a’ cho-chomainn agus am measg gnàth-bhuill nan aonaidhean.  ’S urrainn dhuinn cuideachd a bhith air ar misneachadh leis an aonadh rèabhlaideach SAC san t-Suain agus leis an Làimh-chlì Lochlannach nas fharsainge a tha taobh a-muigh agus an aghaidh na pàrlamaid – tha iad fada nas eagraichte na gluasad coltach sam bith ann an Alba no san RA.

Ag ath-nuadhachadh ar strì

Chan eil e deimhinne gum faigh sin gin dhe na leasachaidhean a tha air an gealltainn le iomairt Bu Chòir.

Cha bu chòir dhuinn earbsa a chur ann an stàit Albannach neo-eisimeileach a bhith a’ roinn mòran beairteis, a bhith dhà-rìribh a’ glèidheadh solarachadh an NHS, gun a bhith a’ toirt ionnsaigh air daoine gun chosnadh no daoine ciorramach, gun a bhith a’ dèanamh ghearraidhean, gun a bhith a’ cur dhaoine a-mach às an dùthaich le fòirneart, no a bhith a’ toirt air falbh nan cuingealachaidhean air aonaidhean-ciùird.

Tha cuid an dòchas gum bi daoine cumanta a’ ghluasaid airson neo-eisimeileachd a’ cruthachadh gluasad sòisealta dùbhlannach às dèidh sgaradh nan dùthchannan.  Nach e seo a tha gorm!  Bhiodh aige ri a bhith a’ diùltadh a  bhun-stèidh ideòlach, a nàdar fhèin mar cho-chòrdadh eadar clasaichean eagraichte leis an dearbh fheadhainn a tha a’ sireadh cumhachd phoileataigeach.

Tha a’ mhiann sa ghluasad seo airson atharrachadh sòisealta, ‘smachd dheamocratach’, agus ath-riarachadh beairteis rim moladh ach feumaidh sinne an leithid a phutadh taobh rèabhlaideach.

Mura h-eil am pròiseact nàiseantach air a bhriseadh a dh’aithghearr air creagan a chontrarrachd fhèin, bidh againne ri a chuideachadh dol na bhloighean.

Ge bith dè toradh an reifrinn, tha na buaidhean maireannach air a bheil sinn cho feumach an eisimeil air na ghabhas dèanamh leinn ag eagrachadh agus a’ strì mar chlas ‘air a shon fhèin’.

Aig cnag na cùise tha fìor eadar-nàiseantachd phractaigeach.

Chan eil dòchas ann a bhith a’ feuchainn ri flaitheachd-làbarachd ùr a chruthachadh no ann an dlùthachd eadar-nàiseanta nan nàiseantach-clì, ach ann a bhith ag aonachadh luchd-obrach a’ sabaid bhon bhonn an aghaidh stàit, calpachas, patrargachd, agus ceannas nan daoine-geala air feadh an t-saoghail gu lèir.

Nòtaichean

*Abair troimh-chèile, no doillearachadh a dh’aona-ghnothach, a tha air a bhith ann a thaobh ciall ‘nàiseantachd’.  Chùm co-neach-gairm a’ Phàrtaidh Uaine, Patrick Harvie, a-mach mar eisimpleir nach b’e  nàiseantach a bha ann dheth,  tha cuid eile air feuchainn ri sgaradh a dhèanamh eadar nàiseantachd ‘mhath’ (a tha beag, catharra no airson stàit ùr) agus ‘dhona’ (impireileis, chinnidheach, no airson stàit mhòr stèidhichte),  tha feadhainn air taic shoirbh staoin a chur an cèill airson ‘eadar-nàiseantachd’ – facal nach bite ag aithneachadh gu ro thric.  Cha b’ fhuilear dhuinn breithneachadh a dhèanamh air na bhios daoine a’ dèanamh seach na bhios iad ag ràdh.  Mar sin, a bheil iad a’ brosnachadh coimhearsnachd mhac-meanmach eadar clasaichean agus atharrachadh sòisealta tron stàit no nach eil?

Daniel Ankarloo (2008), ‘The dualities of the Swedish welfare model’, pp 78-84

(2009), ‘A new phase of neoliberalism: collapse and consequences for Sweden’

Asbjørn Wahl (2011), The rise and fall of the welfare state

Beyond the Scottish referendum

neverbedeceivedBy Mike Sabot, in a personal capacity.

It’s less than one month to the Scottish independence referendum on 18th September.

I’m not going to tell you to vote or not vote. Some anarchists will abstain and focus on organising where they are, others will vote Yes in the hope of at least a few reforms.

But if you do vote Yes, make it a wholly pragmatic choice – don’t buy into the ideology of the Yes campaign or its variant, left nationalism.

Whatever the rhetoric of some on the Left,* this is a Scottish nationalist campaign, just as the No camp represents a British nationalism.  Anyone who cares about class struggle politics needs to strongly oppose both.

Nationalism, whatever form it takes, does two things: it tries to create a community of interest between the bosses and the working class; and it binds this community to the capitalist nation-state, reinforcing the latter’s power and role in exploitation.

There is no genuinely ‘progressive’ form that this can take.

We have, as Paul Mattick observed, a century of experience of national liberation struggles where apparently progressive anti-imperialist movements culminated in an oppressive new ruling class. 

And we could now potentially see a new wave of independence movements in Europe in response to neoliberal restructuring and the more immediate crisis of capitalism.  Do we expect different results?

New divisions and rivalries among European workers are not something to be applauded.  Neither is the spectacle of a decidely bourgeois-led independence movement like that in Catalunya, where a more wealthy region seeks to stop ‘subsidising’ the rest of Spain.

Mattick2

But smaller states are better and more democratic? 

Well, if we were to take a critical look at actually existing small European states we find:

  • that they’re certainly no more favourable to workers’ organising;
  • they are also coercive (which is the role of any state apparatus) and can be just as authoritarian (an exceptional example being the role played by the Catholic church backed by the Irish state);
  • they have been remarkably open to neoliberalism and austerity (which has had a devastating effect on small states from Finland to the Netherlands, nevermind southern Europe);
  • there is a growing anti-immigrant trend related to systemic white supremacy across northern Europe;
  • that some have also sent willing to send troops abroad (Denmark in Afghanistan) or have aided others who have (Ireland again, offering Shannon airport for use by the US Air Force);
  • and they are always subject to the dictates of larger supranational structures and of capital itself.

‘When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called “the People’s Stick”.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

The claim made both in the Yes campaign and on the Left that Scotland too can be a ‘normal democracy’, is an astounding attempt to ignore the obvious bankruptcy of representative democracy and its living critique in recent global social movements. 

Even if the Scottish government is for now less likely to introduce draconian measures like the Bedroom Tax or adopt an anti-immigration stance, this is not in any sense a static situation.  Massive political-economic forces will be brought to bear on post-independent government policy – it will make cuts and it will use its borders in its own economic interests.

Small states are more than capable of manufacturing consent or of over-ruling public opinion when they need to (take the famous ‘crowdsourced constitution’ in Iceland, which was in fact quietly buried by the government). The real ‘democractic deficit’ will continue post-independence.

What about the Scottish Left? 

It is in content a mix of left nationalism and nostalgic social democracy.  It argues against neoliberalism rather than capitalism itself – a winning strategy for regaining seats in parliament, but absolutely nothing to do with fundamental social change. 

Both Common Weal and the vision of the Radical Independence campaign are concerned with trying to manage capitalism better.

Surely hegemonic on the Left, Common Weal is an explicitly class collaborationist think-tank – nicely summed up in its slogan ‘All of us first’.  Its proposals in creating a high-growth economy, are in reality about increasing the rate of exploitation and outcompeting workers internationally. 

Its advocacy of ‘work councils’ to smooth relations in the workplace is a necessary part of increasing productivity – i.e. profit.  Where they have been used in Europe they have consistently undermined unions and workers’ militancy.

Yes: the radical case for Scottish independence, the most comprehensive statement made by members of the Radical Independence campaign, is a call for united frontism to the extent that socialism – even a bureacratic state ‘socialism’ – isn’t even on the agenda, but is treated as a utopian project for some distant future. 

It seeks to create a Scottish broad left – not an ‘anti-capitalist’ – party along the lines of Syriza or Die Linke, and it reproduces the same ‘Keynesian wish list’ based on the same weak analysis of the state and capital, critiqued so well by Michael Heinrich.   

Like Common Weal, it sprinkles radical rhetoric – participatory democracy, decentralisation – on its reformism.  It doesn’t differ substantially from the latter, but offers mild criticism of certain aspects, including its support for the Nordic model.

The Nordic example

Small states par excellence, Common Weal want us to emulate the Nordic states where thanks to a number of reasons – a strong labour movement,  available natural resources etc. – it has been able to maintain more of its welfare provision than Britain.  From an international perspective, these countries have been labour aristocracies living off the toil of workers abroad.

But all of the Nordic states have experienced their own neoliberal offensive and inequality is growing there too.  Asbjørn Wahl has shown how even in oil-rich Norway the welfare state is being eroded from within and the ideology of workfare is growing in strength. 

He insists that constant reference to Nordic countries’ position in international league tables is unhelpful:

The problem is that all the teams in the league table are being weakened. Or to use another image, we still have a cabin on the upper deck, but it is the upper deck of Titanic, and the ship as a whole is sinking. (2011: 11)

The Nordic example is incredibly useful, however. We can learn a great deal from the internal class contradiction and struggle in these countries, which belies the case made by social democrats here. 

In the Nordic Left we find a debate going on about how to combat the challenge to welfare provision.  Along with Wahl, the work of Swedish welfare academic, Daniel Ankarloo, is particularly interesting.

He argues that the labour movement there has been ‘weakened by […] class co-operation’ (2009) and belief in a ‘social policy road to socialism’ (2008: 78-84) – i.e. that somehow the welfare model was an example of socialism in practice that just needed to be expanded.  Instead, to defend existing gains as well as to fight for a different society, we need to rediscover class militancy and that this, ‘radicalisation must […] come from below in the form of the self-organisation of the labour movement’ (2009).

Welfare struggles, rather than commitment to welfare statism itself, are a crucial part of this – strengthening the working class and its capacity to struggle (ibid.).

Ankarloo rightly argues that this movement needs to organise across society and in the rank-and-file of unions. We should also draw inspiration from the revolutionary syndicalist SAC in Sweden and the broader Nordic extra-parliamentary Left, which is far more organised than any similar movements in Scotland or the UK.

Renewing the struggle

None of the promised reforms of the Yes campaign are guaranteed.

We should not trust an independent Scottish state to share much wealth, to protect NHS provision, not to attack the unemployed or the disabled, not to make cuts, to deport people or remove trade union restrictions.

Some are hopeful that the grassroots pro-independence movement will produce an oppositional social movement after secession.  But this is wishful thinking.  It would require it to reject its own ideological basis, its very nature as a cross-class alliance organised by forces who seek to gain political power.

Aspirations for social change, for ‘democratic control’ and redistribution of wealth in this movement should be encouraged but pointed in a revolutionary direction.

If the nationalist project isn’t soon wrecked on the rocks of its own contradictions, we will need to work to fragment it.

Whatever the result of this referendum, the lasting gains we need depend most of all on our own capacity as a class for itself to organise and struggle.

A genuine and practical internationalism is key to this. 

Hope lies not in trying to create new labour aristocracies or the international solidarity of left nationalists, but in uniting workers struggling from below against state, capital, patriarchy and white supremacy around the world.

Notes

*There has been a great deal of confusion, or obfuscation, over the meaning of ‘nationalism’.  Green party co-convenor, Patrick Harvie, for example insisted that he is not a nationalist, some have tried to distinguish between a ‘good’ (small or new state or civil) nationalism versus a ‘bad’ (large state or imperialist or ethnic) nationalism, others have made facile declarations of ‘internationalism’ – another term warped out of recognition.  We should judge people by their actions not their rhetoric: do they foster a cross-class imagined community and social change through the state or not?

Daniel Ankarloo (2008), The dualities of the Swedish welfare model

                          (2009), A new phase of neoliberalism: collapse and consequences for Sweden

Asbjørn Wahl (2011), The rise and fall of the welfare state

 

Thoughts from a Swedish communist on national independence and welfare capitalism

A while back, I contacted riff-raff, who produce an excellent communist journal in Sweden, and asked them if they could give a critical perspective in English on the Nordic model as well as how it’s being used in the Scottish Independence debate.  One of their members kindly offered some thoughts, giving a class analysis and looking at the debate in an international context.  It gives a good grounding for others to look at things from a critical Marxist  stance.  I should add that it was written before the riots in Stockholm last week, and we’d be interested in more attempts to understand these developments.  

sweden-is-amazing

It is difficult to say what would happen exactly if Scotland were to become an independent state, but no matter what happens, this I think is true: In any capitalist country, a certain amount of value is appropriated each year; value produced within the country or value flowing from abroad. This is the gross value added or total value product, which is distributed to the various classes. Marx argues that within the specifically capitalist mode of production there are three main, fetishistic, sources of revenue: wages for productive labour, industrial profits and rent in various forms (e.g. land rent). The real source of all abstract, economic wealth, however, is productive labour: workers who directly increase the existing capital thanks to their capacity to perform surplus labour – more labour than is represented by their wages – to produce surplus value. Apart from wages, then, all other forms of income are derived from surplus value. Industrial capitalists are living on the productive workers; unproductive workers are paid from the profits of the industrial capitalist; as are the owners of natural resources, through monopoly prices. As Marx remarks, the land owner does not have to perform any work at all to receive his income. He also does not have to take the risk that is associated with producing commodities, although he still might do so. So how does this relate to the question of Scottish independence? Independence could change the distribution shares of the total value/price that is appropriated. If an independent Scotland would mean that more money derived from important natural resources, e.g. oil, were to go to people in Scotland, as opposed to those who are living in England and Wales, there is the possibility that all classes in Scotland gain from this. One could envisage for example that oil wells are nationalised and the income from these is handed out to every individual in cash or in the form of better health care. One could also well envisage that some groups or classes were to receive more of this income than others (tax cuts for the rich but just as bad healthcare). But this also means that less income would go to all the classes in England and Wales. Perhaps the London capitalists would become poorer, but English workers are likely to become poorer too. If in a different scenario Scottish independence would mean that Scotland got poorer and England and Wales richer, for example because less subsidies are paid from England and Wales to Scotland, then the opposite would be true.
Norway’s oil is owned by the state and its income benefits the population as a whole. It is well known that their living standards are very high and they are at the top of the Human Development Index (HDI). It is somewhat the same as regards Sweden’s natural resources (iron ore, the large forests, etc.). But if Norway and, to a lesser degree, Sweden are rich, this is much due to the fact that we are living on workers abroad. These incomes are land rents and this is unpaid labour, extracted from workers somewhere. To fight for independence to gain control of and extract monetary value from natural resources is therefore a struggle to live on the toil of others. Individualsgroups and nationalities may gain economically from such a struggle, but it does not help the world proletariat to loosen its chains. A struggle for higher wages, on the other hand, or better health care, can transfer money from the non-working classes to the proletariat. And we can be sure that the non-working classes will try to win this money back, either from workers close to home or far way. The struggle between capital and the proletariat over the working day and its value product does not by itself bring about a revolution, but if the proletarians are successful, they may 1) directly improve their living standards and 2) make the capitalists extract less surplus value, which could make the capitalist system as a whole work less smoothly, which in turn might heighten the class struggles and help bring about the will and determination of the world proletariat to put an end to world capitalism once and for all.

I should add that having a lot of natural resources does not necessarily bring about high living standards under capitalism. Norway is really an exception as regards equitable distribution of rental incomes. Nigeria has got huge oil deposits but is at the bottom on the HDI. Furthermore, the existence of land rent may just mitigate an otherwise problematic situation of slow capital accumulation. Despite all its hydro-electric energy, large deposits of iron ore and other metals, forests, and a highly educated workforce, Sweden had to make huge welfare cuts in the early 1990s and legalised precarious terms of employment. By “had to” I mean of course that it was necessary to maintain stable capitalist reproduction. Today’s Greece serves as an example of what happens if the government does not do what is necessary.