Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Everything In Its Power

Vince Mills comes from a position that is not entirely mine. But those whose position it is, ought to attend to him:

In 1900 James Connolly wrote in The Workers’ Republic:

“In the present state of economic development there can be no political party representing all classes in Ireland. The landlord and the tenant, the employer and the employee cannot be served by the same party.

“A political party is a party of class, is the weapon with which a particular class in the community seeks to create and maintain the conditions most favourable to its own class rule.”

So what are we to make of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which claims to advance the interests of everyone in Scotland?

It now has 100,000 members, compared to (generous) estimates of 20,000 for Scottish Labour and, if the polls are right, it is set to have the largest number of public representatives at every level of institutional politics in Scotland, including Westminster, after May.

The SNP already has the largest number of representatives in the Scottish Parliament and local government.

I suspect that there may be a body of opinion on the left in England that believes that in the event of a hung parliament, the self-styled “left-leaning” SNP could be useful allies in pushing Labour to the left.

This is to mistake the nature and purpose of the SNP and to ignore the fundamental question Connolly is posing — in the interest of which class is the SNP acting?

The history of political parties is not everything — parties do change.

However it is instructive to note that from its inception in 1934 by a merger of the left-wing National Party of Scotland and the right-wing Scottish Party, the SNP has always sought the objective of national independence at the expense of the class interest.

Until its recent post-referendum surge, as the 2014 Red Paper explored, the SNP membership was dominated by representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises and the salaried classes. It is not difficult to see this influence reflected in SNP policies.

The party website tells you that it “has already shown our commitment to small businesses which truly are the backbone to a strong and stable economy. Our small business bonus scheme has benefited almost 80,000 small and medium sized businesses across the country.”

The cost to the Scottish budget was £450 million.

By way of contrast, local government, the provider of services critical for a decent life for many out-of-work and in-work poor people, has been consciously starved of funds by the SNP.

Its website of course presents this as a benefit to hard-pressed tax payers:

“We have frozen council tax for every year we have been in government and have committed to doing so for the rest of this parliament.”

The cost to the Scottish budget was £2.5 billion.

According to Prof David Bell of Stirling University, those who benefited most are those living in larger properties — the rich to you and me.

But it is the SNP’s attitude to big business, enshrined in both its domestic policies and slavish support for the EU, that raises questions as to what the SNP really represents is a comprador middle class that has abandoned serious independent economic development in return for what scraps the large corporate companies will allow them.

This may seem to be contrary to the news in early March that the SNP has ditched its plans to reduce corporate taxation.

That is not what SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced. Instead she said that she wanted power over corporate taxation that would then be used in “a targeted way to boost research and development.”

Of course, the capacity of big businesses to access public funding for supposed public benefit without delivering their end of the bargain is legendary.

The SNP is entirely at home with tax breaks and concessions for corporate capital. Consider the oil price “crisis.”

The only difference between the Tories and the SNP on yet another massive state handout without any return for the taxpayer, was that SNP argued that the Tories should have done it years ago.

Even Gordon Brown acknowledged that there should be a role (admittedly a limited one) for the state beyond simply giving the oil giants tax breaks after years of large profits and tax dodging.

And then there is the EU and its relentless privatisation programme.

Two weeks ago Labour’s Katy Clark, MP for Ayshire and Arran and a committed socialist, voiced her opposition to the Scottish government’s decision to commence the selection process for a new eight-year Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract.

Clark is afraid that the Cumbrae-Largs ferry service could be privatised next year.

And no wonder, as from April Dutch firm Abellio, an offshoot of the Dutch state rail firm, begins its decade-long £2.5bn ScotRail franchise, having been awarded it by the Scottish government.

And the SNP response to the MP’s concerns?

As with Abellio the Scottish government tells us it is legally required to re-tender the contract under EU legislation.

The party is hardly any better on the EU-sponsored Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

While expressing opposition to what TTIP could mean for the NHS, the SNP has nothing to say about, for example, the potential attack on workers’ rights or, ironically enough, national sovereignty.

SNP MSP Angela Constance tells us:

“The Scottish government recognises that there could be many positives to TTIP — particularly for economic growth and jobs that may arise from it.”

And finally a word on austerity.

If Scotland were independent, the hole in the finances that the collapse in the oil price has meant would see turbo-charged austerity enacted there.

This is because the only way that Scotland could begin to address such a deficit would be the nationalisation of assets like oil and sharply increased taxation.

Neither are on the SNP’s agenda, as we have seen.

We would face exactly the same problems under “devo max”, the SNP’s interim objective, because under it transfer of resources from other British nations to Scotland would stop.

What would be raised in Scotland would stay in Scotland and that would not be enough to sustain current levels of spending.

Connolly was right. No party so clearly attached to the big and small business agenda can possibly act in the interests of working people.

Left-wing MPs in Scotland like Katy Clark could lose their seats to the SNP in May.

It is essential that the left across Britain does everything in its power to prevent that.

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