Bill Bland: The National Question in Britain

UK-2005

By W.B.Bland (“Communist League”, London UK)
for The National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity (Britain).

Introduction

Geographically, the British Isles consists of two main islands: Great Britain and Ireland.

Great-Britain consists of three communities: those of England, Wales and Scotland.

There is general agreement among those who regard themselves as Marxist-Leninists that the people of Ireland constitute a nation, a nation distinct from the nation (or nations) occupying the island of Great Britain. Politically, however, Ireland is divided into two separate states; the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is nominally independent, but is in reality dominated by British imperialism, is a neo-colony of British imperialism. Northern-Ireland is politically a part of ‘the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, is a colony of British imperialism. Progressive people support the unification and the right to self-determination, to independence, of Ireland.

This article is concerned with two questions:

1) whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England constitute separate-nations, or whether they form part of a single British nation; and

2) whether separate Marxist-Leninist Parties should be formed in Scotland, Wales and England, or whether there should be a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.

The Definition of a Nation

The English word ‘nation’ is derived from the Latin ‘natio’, originally meaning:

” birth, hence a creature’s entire offspring at one time, hence a clan’s offspring, hence a people’s, hence that people itself”.

(Eric Partridge: ‘Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English’; London; 1966; p. 428).

Marxist-Leninists define the term ‘nation’ as follows:

A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture”. 

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 307).

To constitute a nation, a community must possess all the above characteristics:

“It is sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be lacking and the nation ceases to be a nation. . . . It is only when all these characteristics are present together that we have a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 307, 308).

Furthermore, a nation is a:

“. . . historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 313).

In order to determine, therefore, whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England constitute separate nations, it is necessary to determine whether each of these communities possesses all the characteristics listed by Stalin. If it does not, it is not a nation.

Firstly,

” a common-language is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 304).

Clearly, the people of England possess a common language — English. The minority languages which once existed in England — Manx and Cornish — have long been extinct. Manx is a Celtic language:

“formerly spoken on the Isle of Man but now extinct”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1994; p. 802)

while Cornish is a Celtic language:

” . . formerly spoken in Cornwall, in south-western Britain; it became extinct in the 18th or early 19th century as a result of displacement by English”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1994; p. 640).

The people of Wales, for the most part, also speak a common language. But this is not Welsh, a Celtic language which is spoken by only a small and declining minority of the population, mainly in the rural areas. According to official figures, the proportion of the population of Wales and Monmouthshire speaking only Welsh has declined from 508 thousand (28.6%) in 1891 to 26 thousand (1.0%) in 1961.

(‘Census of England and Wales: 1891, Volume 4: General Record’; London; 1893′ p. 82; ‘Census 1961: Wales (including Monmouthshire): Report on Welsh Speaking Population)’; London; 1962; p. viii; Charlotte A. Davies: ‘Welsh Nationalism in the 20th Century: The Ethnic Option and the British State’; New York; 1989; p. 39).

The people of Scotland, for the most part, also speak a common language. But this is not Scottish Gaelic (Erse), which is spoken only by a small and declining minority of the population, mainly

“. . . along the north-west coast of Scotland and in the Hebrides islands”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’. Volume 10; Chicago; 1994; p. 566)

According to official figures, the proportion of the population of Scotland speaking only Gaelic has declined from 44 thousand (1.1%) in 1891 to 1 thousand (0.02%) in 1961. (‘Census of Scotland: 1891’, Volume 1: London; 1892; p. xxi; ‘Statesman’s Year Book: 1998-1999’; London: 1998; p. 1,411;

Charles W. J. Withers: ‘Gaelic in Scotland: 1698-1981: The Geographical History of a Language’; Edinburgh; 1984; p. 239).

Furthermore,

” . . many of those recorded as monoglots were old women”.

(Charles W. J. Withers: ibid.; p. 238).

Thus, the common language of the people of Scotland is, for the most part, English.

Secondly,

“. . . a common territory is one of the characteristic features of a nation.”

(Josef V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 305).

Clearly, the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England each have a common territory. The people of Britain — that is, of Scotland, Wales and England combined — also possess a common territory.

Thirdly,

“. . . a common economic life, economic cohesion, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 306.)

As Stalin makes clear, a community possesses ‘economic cohesion’ when its economic life is welded together by well-established physical ties (means of communication, division of labour, financial bonds, etc.) so as to form a single economic whole which, if it does not exist at a particular moment in the form of a separate state, is capable of such separate existence without significant disruption of its economic life.

If, on the other hand, one community is welded to another by well established physical ties, which date back to the rise of capitalist society or beyond, so that they form in combination a single economic whole and their separation would cause significant disruption to the economic life of both, then neither of these communities considered separately possesses economic cohesion.

Scotland, Wales and England have been welded together for many centuries. As early as the 12-13th centuries:

“Edward I of England established authority over Wales”,

(‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p. 1.126).

and the ‘Statute of Wales’ of 1284:

“.. . annexed Wales to the crown of England”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 126).

Then, following the victory of the Welsh noble Henry Tudor (who became Henry VII of England) over Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, Wales was finally

“. . . politically united with England at the Act of Union, 1535”.

(‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p. 1.126).

In the case of Scotland, James VI of Scotland was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII of England and the legitimate successor of Elizabeth I:

“On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, he was recognised as the rightful king of England. Thus the Crowns of England and Scotland were united”.

(‘Encylopaedia Amercana’, Volume 24; New York; 1977; p. 419).

The formal union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England

” . . . was achieved in 1707..”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 116).

by the ‘Treaty of Union’ of that year.

London is the financial, communications and cultural centre of Britain. There is a common market throughout Britain -the same branded goods are on sale in branches of the same multiple stores in Inverness, Swansea and Manchester. Scottish, Welsh and English capital is inseparably blended into British capital. There is no ‘English monopoly capital’, no ‘English imperialism’; there is British monopoly capitalism, British imperialism. The separation of Scotland, Wales and England would cause great disruption of the economic life of all three communities, as a result of these long-standing physical ties. Thus, Scotland, England and Wales taken separately do not possess economic cohesion, and so are not nations. Britain, however, does possess economic cohesion.

Fourthly,

“. . .a common psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a common culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 307).

Clearly, Britain has, for the most part, a common culture. There are, it is true, immigrants to Britain who have brought with them aspects of other national cultures. In Scotland and Wales, too, cultural elements exist which appear to be distinctively ‘national’ in character. In the case of Scotland, one thinks of Highland dress, of the bagpipes and of such Highland sports as tossing the caber. In the case of Wales, one thinks of the harp and the Eisteddfodds. It must be noted, however, that these ‘national’ elements in the cultures of Scotland and Wales are of significance mainly in the rural areas, and that they are survivals from the past which are declining in importance in relation to the culture of Scotland and Wales as a whole.

For the most part, therefore, Britain has a common culture.

To sum up: the communities of Scotland, Wales and England do not possess all the essential characteristics which go to make up nations, and so do not constitute separate nations. The community of Britain, however, does possess all the essential characteristics which go to make up a nation. Despite, therefore, the existence of declining survivals of pre-national languages and cultures in Scotland and Wales, Britain constitutes a nation, a single nation.

That Britain constitutes a single nation is not only a logical deduction from Stalin’s general principles on the nation, it is Stalin’s explicit view:

“The British, French, Germans, Italians and others were formed into nations at the time of the victorious advance of capitalism and its triumph over feudal disunity.

But the formation of nations in those instances at the same time signified their conversion into independent national states. The British, French and other nations are at the same time British, etc., states. Ireland . . . did not participate in this process”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 2; Moscow; 1952; p. 313-14).

“The British, French, Germans and Italians were formed into nations at the time of the victorious development of capitalism and its triumph over feudal disunity”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 16).

“In the West — in Britain, France, Italy and, partly, Germany — the period of the liquidation of feudalism and the constitution of people into nations coincided, on the whole, with the period in which centralised states appeared”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question, 10th Congress of the RCP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 33).

“Hence the necessity for a stubborn, continuous and determined struggle against the dominant-nation chauvinism of the ‘Socialists’ of the ruling nations (Britain, France, America, Italy, Japan, etc.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Foundations of Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 152).

“Such nations must be qualified as bourgeois nations. Examples are the French, British, Italian, . . . American and other similar nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 353).

A ‘Black Nation’-within Britain?

In October 1979, a meeting in London called with the aim of setting up an Afro-Asian-Caribbean organisation in Britain adopted a resolution which declared:

“We now virtually face a two nation situation in Britain, one comprising the majority (i.e., indigenous whites), and the other a loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa…These negative and hostile political activities have forced the predictable separate ‘National’ identity among our people”.

(Resolution of Meeting called to form an Afro-Asian-Caribbean Organisation, in: Harpal Brar: ‘Bourgeois Nationalism or Proletarian Internationalism?’; Southall; 1998; p.73).

Basing himself on the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the national question put forward by Stalin, Brar correctly writes off the concept of separate ‘black and white nations’ in Britain:

“If we apply Stalin’s rigorously scientific definition to that ‘loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa’, to wit, the black population of Britain, can we say that this ‘loose conglomeration’ constitutes one nation and that another nation is constituted by ‘the majority, i.e., the indigenous whites’? Most emphatically we cannot.

What common language do the black people of Britain speak? We find that either they do not speak a common language at all, for some speak Bengali, others speak Punjabi, yet others Hindi, others still Arabic and a multitude of other Asian and African languages; or, to the extent that they speak a common language, this is none other than the English language, the language they share with the majority, i.e., ‘the indigenous whites’, if you please. Thus it can be seen that if the community of language is one of the characteristics of a nation, this characteristic is either found wanting among the blacks of Britain or it is a characteristic which they share with the whites.

Take the question of territory. What common territory do the black people in Britain inhabit? It is clear that they do not. They are spread throughout the British Isles. . . . To the extent that they . . . inhabit a common territory, they are obliged no less to share this common territory with the ‘indigenous whites’ as well. So, once again, we find that the attempts of our esteemed gentry to conjure up two nations out of a figment of their own imagination smash their heads against the stone walls of mistress reality.

Is there an internal economic bond which welds the various components of the black population in Britain into a single national whole as distinct from the internal economic bond which welds all the people? . . . Is there, in other words, a community of economic life, of economic cohesion, specific to black people? Once again, to the misfortune of the authors of the resolution, we have to answer this question in the negative.

And when we come to the question of the ‘specific spiritual complexion’, the ‘peculiarities of national culture’, and the psychological make-up of what the authors, in a truly Freudian slip, correctly describe as ‘the loose conglomeration’, matters are wonderfully chaotic.

After all this, what is left of the . . . ‘nation’ constituted by a ‘loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa’? Nothing but the blackness of their skin, which is not . . . a characteristic of a nation . . . From this it is not difficult to see how senseless, platitudinous, ignorant and futile are the attempts of this gentry artificially to constitute two nations in this country – one black and one white. . . .

Thus it is clear that the black population of Britain does not constitute a separate nation”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 76-77, 79).

Assimilation is:

“. . . socio-cultural fusion, wherein individuals and groups of differing ethnic heritage acquire the basic habits, attitudes and mode of life of an embracing national culture”.

(‘Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language’; London; 1961; p. 132).

and, in the course of time, the black population of Britain will, like other immigrants of the past, be assimilated into the British nation:

“Despite the obstacles of racial discrimination, and overcoming these obstacles, the black population is sooner or later bound to be assimilated and form part of the British nation, in exactly the same way as the assimilation of earlier migrants took place. . . . Black people, far from constituting a separate nation, are bound to be absorbed into the British nation”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; p. 79).

Of course, this assimilation is not a one-way process:

“The black people . . ., while being assimilated over many generations, are bound to impart variety and richness to the British culture. . . . British culture (as indeed other cultures) has undergone and is constantly undergoing transformation while still remaining British. . . . Take just one example: the British diet. Engels already in the 19th century noted it had become spicy as a result of Britain’s trading position and it has become spicier still since the arrival of black workers in Britain. . . . This, however, is only a trivial example. The most important contribution of black people is to the development of British democratic and working-class culture through their struggle against racial and national oppression, and through their struggle against exploitation and their support for proletarian and liberation movements all over the world”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 84).

Wherever one finds black separatism, Brar notes,

“One can be sure of the presence of a white liberal lurking around the corner to give a helping hand to his disadvantaged black brother. So it is in this case. The high priests of black separatism . . . receive, not unexpectedly, full support for their bourgeois, divisive and anti-proletarian madness from . . . the liberal bourgeois Ken Livingstone”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 43).

For example, writing in the ‘Morning Star’, the newspaper of the revisionist ‘Communist Party of Britain’, of 12 August 1993, Livingstone refers to:

“the rise of racism and the extreme right in Europe today”,

(Ken Livingstone: ‘Strength in the United Fight’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 12 August 1993; p. 5).

and writes:

“The fight against these twin evils must be led by the black and other minority communities who are the target of racist attacks. . . .Because black and minority communities are the first target of racists and fascists, these communities must have the leading role in the antiracist and anti-fascist movement”.

(Ken Livingstone: ibid.; p. 5).

Thus, according to Livingstone, the struggle against racism must be led, not necessarily by the best anti-racists, but by black people whether or not they are, as individuals, the best people to do this. As Brar correctly points out, under the programme of the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) and Livingstone, white people can join the struggle against racism only:

‘ . . . as mere auxiliaries”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; p. 4).

This, despite being euphemistically called ‘black self-organisation’, is in fact, racial discrimination, is, ultimately, racial separatism. Writing in the ‘Morning Star’ of 7 February 1994, Bennie Bunsee makes this clear when he says:

“The situation is intensified as black people, in their pilgrimage toward black liberation, realise that every aspect of their oppression . . . leads them to assert their national identity and historical personality, based upon their own history, language, culture and civilisation, as they try to break away from the clutches of Western influence”.

(Bennie Bunsee: ‘Taking Hold of the Reins’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 14 February 1994; p. 6).

Bunsee concludes another article in the ‘Morning Star’ of 16 August 1993, with separatist sentiments which could well have emanated from the fascist British National Party:

“Allied to this demand of black people is the rejection of concepts like ‘integration’ and multiracialism or multiculturalism “.

(Bennie Bunsee: ‘A Right to Self-Organisation’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 16 August 1993; p. 7).

Brar justly comments:

“Ever since the founding of the ARA, the ‘Morning Star’ has’ provided every facility to the leaders of the ARA to help them propagate their reactionary, divisive ideology of black separatism”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; P. 28).

and correctly notes that

“. . . the struggle against racism requires the joint efforts of the entire proletariat, without distinction . . . . The ARA have set their face against this, the only correct way of fighting racism”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 11).

The Development of Nations

A nation,

“. . . like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end”.

(Josef V.Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Marxism; 1953; p. 307).

In fact, nations are a product of the development of capitalist society:

“Modern nations are a product of a definite epoch — the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 16).

Nations did not exist prior to the development of capitalist society:

“How could nations have arisen and existed before capitalism, in the period of feudalism, when countries were split up into separate, independent principalities which, far from being bound together by national ties, emphatically denied the necessity for such ties? . . . There were no nations in the pre-capitalist period, nor could there be, because there were as yet no national markets and no economic or cultural national centres and, consequently, there were none of the factors which put an end to the economic disunity of a given people and draw its hitherto disunited parts into one national whole”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

The development of communities to nationhood goes through three fundamental stages:

firstly, that of the tribe;

secondly, that of the pre-nation or nationality;

and thirdly, that of the nation.

The English word ‘tribe’ is derived from the Latin ‘tribus’, tribe. and has the meaning of

“A group of persons forming a community and claiming descent from a common ancestor’.”

(‘Oxford English Dictionary’, Volume 18; Oxford; 1989; p. 503).

It is the typical form of community under primitive communism and, as has been said, is based upon kinship.

With the development of tools and techniques, classes appear and primitive communism gives way to slavery and then to feudalism:

“In conformity with the change and development of the productive forces of society in the course of history, men’s relations of production, their economic relations, also changed and developed.

Five main types of relations of production are known to history: Primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and Socialist”.

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: Short course Moscow’; 1939; p. 123).

As the tribal community disintegrates, tribes come together into federations and kingdoms; a common language, based on one of the tribal languages, appears; a common psychology and a common culture emerge. This process leads to the eventual development of a new type of community: the pre-nation or nationality — a community based no longer on kinship, but on geographical location. A pre-nation has a common territory, a common language, and a common culture; it does not, however, possess economic cohesion. A pre-nation is the typical form of community under slavery and feudalism.

“Of course, the elements of nationhood . . . did not fall from the skies, but were being formed gradually, even in the pre-capitalist period. But these elements were in a rudimentary state and, at best, were only a potentiality, that is, they constituted the possibility of the formation of a nation in the future, given certain favourable conditions. The potentiality became a reality only in the period of rising capitalism, with its national market and its economic and cultural centres”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

With the development of capitalism within the framework of feudal society, the development of pre-national characteristics was accelerated, and alongside this the process of establishing economic cohesion throughout the territory of the pre-nation. This latter process transforms the pre-nation into a nation:

“With the appearance of capitalism, the elimination of feudal division and the formation of national markets, nationalities developed into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Concerning Marxism and Linguistics’, in: ‘Selected Works’: Tirana; 1979; p. 511).

As Stalin said, the development of a pre-nation into a nation is not inevitably completed. It is completed only:

” . . . given certain favourable conditions”.

(Josef V. Stalin:- ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

When, for example, two or more pre-nations are in course of development on adjacent territories, their development towards separate nationhood may be arrested at a certain stage and give way to fusion, to their merging into a single nation. This single nation will have the language and culture of one of the pre-nations participating in this fusion, and the languages and cultures of the other pre-nations participating in the fusion will gradually disappear:

“Linguistic crossing cannot be regarded as the single impact of a decisive blow which produces its results within a few years. Linguistic crossing is a prolonged process which continues for hundreds of years. . . . .

Further, it would be quite wrong to think that the crossing of, say, two languages results in a new, third language. . . . As a matter of fact, one of the languages usually emerges victorious from the cross, retains its grammatical system and its basic word stock, and continues to develop in accordance with its inherent laws of development, while the other language gradually loses its quality and gradually dies away”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Concerning Marxism in Linguistics’, in: ‘Selected Works’; Tirana; 1979; p. 523).

As will be shown, this has been the pattern of development, of the British nation, which has evolved from the fusion of several pre-nations – principally those of Scotland, England annd Wales.

The Development of the British Nation

For geographical and ethnical reasons, the development of pre-nations in the British Isles took place principally in six distinct regions: in the Isle of Man, in Cornwall, in Scotland, in Wales, in England generally and in Ireland.

The Development of the Manx Pre-nation

The Manx pre-nation developed in the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, and:

“. . . became attached to Norway in the 9th century. In 1266 it was ceded to Scotland, but it came under English control in 1406 when possession was granted to the Stanley family (the Earls of Derby) and was later purchased by the British”.

(‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-99’; London; 1999; p. 1,482).

The Manx language was:

“. a member of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802).

The Manx pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but was absorbed. into the English pre-nation and, later, in the 19th century, into the British nation. The Manx language:

” . . . was displaced by English”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia-Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802). 

and is:

“. . . now extinct”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802).

The Development of the Cornish Pre-nation

The Cornish pre-nation developed in the extreme south-west of the English mainland, in Cornwall.

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066:

“the indigenous manors of Cornwall were taken over to form the basis of an earldom”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

and in 1337, the Duchy of Cornwall:

“. . . was created by royal charter by Edward III for his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

Since then:

“the monarch’s first-begotten son at the time of his birth”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

has been created Duke of Cornwall.

The Cornish pre-nation did not complete its development into nationhood, but merged into the English pre-nation and, later, in the 18th century, into the British nation. Since then, Cornish:

“has not been spoken as a living language”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

The Development of the Scottish Pre-nation

By the middle of the 9th century, the tribal kingdoms of the Scottish mainland had been united into:

“A largely Celtic monarchy”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

Then, in the 13th century, England

“. . . attempted to impose direct English rule over Scotland”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

but in the 14th century was forced to recognise:

“Robert Bruce . . . as King Robert I of Scotland’.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

The Shetland and Orkney Islands, north of the mainland of Scotland, were from the 9th century:

“. . . ruled by Norway and Denmark”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 8; Chicago; 1998 p. 1,001).

but in the 15th century became part of the Scottish pre-nation when they:

“. . . passed into Scottish rule . . . in compensation for the nonpayment of the dowry of Margaret of Denmark, queen of James III”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 8; Chicago; 1998 p. 1,001).

The Scottish pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but merged with the developing English pre-nation.

The Development of the Welsh Pre-nation

The Welsh pre-nation had, by the 13th century, developed to the point where the old tribal kingdoms had been united under Llewellyn ap Grufydd, who:

“. . . proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and received the homage of the other Welsh princes.”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998 p. 427).

In the 16th century:

“Wales was incorporated within the realm of England”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 12; Chicago; 1998 p. 461).

and its native culture underwent:

” . . . progressive Anglicisation”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 12; Chicago; 1998 p. 461).

so that the Welsh pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but merged with the English pre-nation and, later, into the British nation.

The Formation of the English Pre-Nation

By the 10th century, the English pre-nation had developed to the point where the West Saxon king, Athelstan, had become:

“. . . the first king to have direct rule of all England”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1998 p. 29).

The development of the English pre-nation was interrupted in the 11th century by the Norman Conquest. The feudal system introduced into England by the Normans differed fundamentally from that on the European Continent in that its estates consisted of:

” . . . manors scattered through a number of shires”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1998 p. 31).

thus making the lords much weaker relative to the central (royal) state power. This contributed greatly to the early rise of capitalism in England.

The civil war which broke out in Britain in the 17th century:

“. . . was a class struggle, was revolutionary and was progressive. . . .The bourgeoisie of the 17th Century. . . . just because they were the historically progressive class of their time, . . . could not but fight for their own rights and liberties without also fighting for the rights and liberties of all Englishmen and of humanity as a whole”.

A.L. Morton: ‘A People’s History of England’; London; 1979; p. 229).

The Fusion of the Welsh and English Pre-nations

In 1276, Edward I of England:

“invaded Wales and subjugated Llewellyn in 1276-77”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998 p. 427).

In 1485, Henry Tudor, the grandson:

” . . . of Owen Tudor, a Welsh squire”,

defeated and killed Richard III of England,

” . . . at the Battle of Bosworth. Claiming the throne by just title of inheritance and by judgment of God in battle, he was crowned on October 30″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 5; Chicago; 1998 p. 839).

As a result:

“. . . it was widely felt in Wales that at last a true Welshman by origins and upbringing ruled in London”.

(Graham Jones: ‘A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales’; Cardiff; 1990; p. 47).

And when Wales was:

“. . . politically united with England at the Act of Union, 1535”,

(‘Cambridge Encylopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p.1,126).

“. . . articulate Welshmen were fully convinced that the political incorporation of England and Wales . . . had been a conspicuous success story. . . . Affluent and educated Welshmen confidently declared that the assimilation of England and Wales had been a happy and gladsome marriage of equals”.

(Geraint H. Jenkins: ‘The Foundation of Modern Wales: 1642-1780’; Oxford; 1993; p. 301).

The Fusion of the Scottish and English Pre-nations

James VI of Scotland was the:

” . . . great-great-grandson of Henry VII (of England — Ed.) and the legitimate successor of Eliizabeth I. . . . On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, he was recognised as the rightful king of England. Thus the crowns of England and Scotland were united”.

(‘Encylopedia Americana’, Volume 24; New York; 1977; p. 419).

Scotland and England:

” . . . remained separate kingdoms under a single monarch — except for the brief period during the English civil war when the monarchy was deposed — until 1707″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1993; p. 563).

The union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland was:

“. . . strategically as well as economically desirable. That union was achieved in 1707”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 116).

The Treaty of Union of 1707:

” . . . was the immediate product of the exclusion of developing Scottish mercantile interests from England’s expanding imperial trade”.

(Michael Keating & David Bleiman: ‘Labour and Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1979; p. 21).

Following this,

“. . . during the Victorian age, Scotland enjoyed a prosperity so great by comparison with that of the past that unionist sentiment seemed likely to destroy Scottish national self-conciousness altogether”.

(Harold J. Hanham: ‘Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1969; p. 11).

The Formation of the British Nation

The development of the Scottish pre-nation and of the Welsh pre-nation did not proceed to the formation of nations. It was interrupted in such a way that these pre-nations fused with the developing English pre-nation to form the British-nation.

The Development of the Irish Nation

The Irish pre-nation was developing across the Irish Sea, but had not had yet reached the point of the formation of a united kingdom when the forces of Henry II of England of England:

“invaded Ireland in 1171”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1998; p. 379).

and Henry:

” . . . proclaimed himself overlord of the entire island”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 379).

In January 1801, Ireland was politically united with Britain in:

“. . . the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 380).

Despite the continuing foreign oppression, capitalism — and with it, the Irish nation — continued to develop. By the 19th century, these developments had given rise to an Irish national movement:

“In the West, Ireland responded to its exceptional position by a national movement”,

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 315).

And:

” . . an Irish provisional government was proclaimed in 1916″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 380).

In order to defeat the Irish national movement, the government collaborated with the Protestant settlers in the north of the country (Ulster) to impose in 1920 partition of the country into two parts:

” . . Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, each to have its parliament and each to retain representatives in the British parliament”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ‘An Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern’; London; 1972; p. 984).

When the people in the south refused to accept this position, the British government:

“. . . granted (Southern — Ed.) Ireland Dominion status as the Irish Free-State (Northern Ireland retaining the right of keeping the existing arrangement”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 984).

In April 1949:

“. . . the REPUBLIC OF IRELAND was officially proclaimed in Dublin”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 1,177).

In the following month, the British government adopted legislation:

“. . . recognising the independence of the republic, but affirming the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 1,177).

Thus, Northern Ireland is, in fact, a colony of British imperialism, while the nominally independent Republic of Ireland, is in fact a British neo-colony.

Marxist-Leninists have always regarded British rule over Ireland (or any part of Ireland) as unacceptable colonial oppression and fought for the right of the Irish nation to self-determination:

“What shall we advise the English workers? In my opinion they must make the repeal of the Union’ (i.e., the separation of Ireland from Great Britain) . . . into an article of their pronunziamento“.

(Karl Marx: Letter to Friedrich Engels, 30 November 1867, in: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 276).

“Marx, in proposing in the International a resolution of sympathy with the ‘Irish nation’ and the ‘Irish people’ preaches the separation of Ireland from Great Britain”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 279).

“It was precisely from the standpoint of the revolutionary struggle of the English workers that Marx in 1869 demanded the separation of Ireland from England”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ”The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 274).

Pseudo-Nationalism

Within Britain — excluding Northern Ireland — there are no national tasks to be accomplished:

“In those advanced countries (England (i.e., Britain — Ed.) , France, Germany, -etc.) the national problem has been solved for a long time; . objectively, there are no ‘national tasks’ to be fulfilled”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘A Caricature of Marxism and “Imperialist Economism”‘, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 295).

In:

“The advanced countries of Western Europe the bourgeois, progressive, national movements came to an end long ago”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 275).

But if the communities of Scotland, Wales and the black inhabitants of Britain are not nations, are not oppressed nations under the ‘foreign rule’ of the English, if there are no national tasks to be fulfilled within Britain, what is the real character of so-called Scottish, Welsh and black nationalism?

Clearly, they are spurious-nationalisms.

In a genuine struggle for national liberation, workers and national capitalists of the oppressed nations have a certain temporary, common interest. But Scottish, Welsh and black workers and capitalists have no such common interests. The political effect of this pseudo-nationalism is, therefore, to preach class-collaboration in circumstances which make such class collaboration the opportunist surrender of the interests of the working class to those of the capitalist class:

“From this it is not a far cry to ‘common ground for joint action’ on which the bourgeois and the proletarian must stand and join hands as members of the same ‘nation”‘.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 38).

Marxist-Leninists understand that the cause of the special problems of Scottish, Welsh and black workers is the existence of British monopoly capital. Thus, the aim of British Marxist-Leninists is to lead a united British working class to overthrow the rule of British monopoly capital.

Political organisations which put forward the concepts of Scottish, Welsh or black ‘nationalism’ in Britain are objectively seeking to divert the working class from building class unity and from their real enemy, British monopoly capital, towards an imaginary enemy: ‘England’.

A Single Marxist-Leninist Party for-Britain?

The second question to be discussed in this article is: whether separate Marxist-Leninist Parties should be formed in Scotland, Wales and England, or whether there should be a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.

This second question is in no way dependent upon the first question already dealt with, namely, whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England form separate nations or whether they form parts of a single British nation.

This is because Marxist-Leninists have always held that there should be one — and only one — Marxist-Leninist Party for each state (.excluding any geographically separate colonies):

“Every party desiring to affilate to the Communist International must bear the name: Communist Party of such and such a country (Section of the Third, Communist International)”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: “The Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist International’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 205).

The 2nd Congress of the Communist International adopted in July 1919 the following thesis on Party organisation:

“There shall be in each country only one single unified Communist Party”.

(2nd. Congress of the Comintern: ‘Theses on the Role of the Communist Party on the Proletarian Revolution’, in: Jane Degras (Ed.): ‘The Communist International: 1919-1943: Documents;, Volume 1; London; 1971; p. 135).

Already in April 1917 Stalin had said:

“Experience has shown that the organisation of the proletarians of a given state on national lines tends only to destroy the idea of class solidarity. All the proletarians of a given state must be organised in a single, indivisible proletarian collective”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Report on the National Question, 7th (April) Conference of the RSDLP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 58).

This principle applies equally in the case of multi-national states (states which include within their frontiers more than one nation) as in the case of states which embrace a single nation. Tsarist Russia, for instance, was a multi-national state, and Lenin and Stalin fought unreservedly for the principle of a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Russia:

“We want to draw together the proletarians of the different nations. What should we do? Split up the proletarians of all Russia into separate parties and you will achieve your aim!, answer the Federalist Social-Democrats. . . .

The Social-Democratic (i.e, Marxist-Leninist — Ed) Party which functions in Russia calls itself ‘Rossiiskaya’ (All-Russian — Ed.) and not ‘Russkaya’ (Russian — Ed).. Obviously, by this it wanted to convey to us that it will gather under its banner not only Russian proletarians, but the proletarians of all the nationalities in Russia, and, consequently, that it will do everything possible to break down the national barriers that have been raised to separate them”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 36, 41).

In accordance with this principle, Lenin and Stalin consistently expressed strong opposition to similar moves to establish separate Marxist-Leninist Parties in other multi-national states:

“The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the united workers’ party into separate parties built on national lines. Austria, the home of ‘national autonomy’, provides the most deplorable examples of this. As early as 1897 . . . the once united Austrian Social-Democratic Party began to break up unto separate parties. . . . There are now six national parties”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 342-43).

And, of course, once the principle of separate national Marxist-Leninist parties within a multi-national state is accepted, it becomes logical to work for the splitting of other organisations of the working class, such as the trade unions, into separate national bodies:

“The breakup of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade unions, and complete segregation is the result. In this way the united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 343).

The Marxist-Leninist principle on this question is thus quite clear:

There should be one — and only one Marxist-Leninist Party for each state
(excluding any colonies geographically separated from it). And this principle applies equally to multi-national states as to states which embrace a single nation.

As we have seen, Scotland, Wales and England are not separate states, but form part of the state of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. This state includes ‘Northern Ireland’, which is a British colony geographically separated from the mainland of Britain.

It follows that, according to Marxist-Leninist principles, there should be one — and only one — Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain, embracing Scotland, Wales and England.

Conclusions

According to Marxist-Leninist principles,

1) Scotland, Wales and England are not separate nations, but form part of a single British nation; and

2) there should not be separate Marxist-Leninist Parties for Scotland, Wales and England, but a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.


Author: W.B. Bland
The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau
NCMLU


NOTE: The second part of this article, dealing with the question of devolution within Britain, was to be written later in 1999. To the knowledge of either the Communist League or the NCMLU – this task was never undertaken.

____________________________________________________________________

BIBLIOGRAPHY

2nd CONGRESS OF COMINTERN: ‘Theses on the Role of the Communist Party on the Proletarian Revolution’, in: Jane Degras (Ed.): ‘The Communist International: 1919-1943: Documents’, Volume 1; London; 1971.
BRAR, Harpal: ‘Bourgeois Nationalism or Proletarian Internationalism?; Southall; 1998.
DAVIES, Charlotte A.: ‘Welsh Nationalism in the 20th Century: The Ethnic
Option and the British State’; New York; 1989.
HANHAM, Harold J.: ‘Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1969.
JENKINS, Geraint H.: ‘The Foundation of Modern Wales: 1642-1780’; Oxford; 1993.
JONES, Graham: ‘A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales’; Cardiff; 1990.
KEATING, Michael & BLEIMAN, David: ‘Labour and Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1979.
LANGER, William L. (Ed.): ‘An Encyclopaedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern’; London; 1972.
LENIN, Vladimir, I.: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943.
– ‘The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935.
– ‘A Caricature of Marxism and “Imperialist Economism”‘. in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5′; London; 1935.
– ‘The Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist International’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 10; London; 1946.
MORTON, A. L.: ‘A People’s History of England’; London; 1979.
PARTRIDGE, Eric: ‘Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English’; London; 1966,
STALIN, Josef V.: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 1; Moscow; 1952
– ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953.
-Report on the National Question, 7th (April) Conference of the RSDLP, in: ‘Works’, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953.
– Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question, 10th Congress of the RCP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The Foundations of Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The National Question and Marxism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954.
WITHERS, Charles W. J.: ‘Gaelic in Scotland: 1698-1981: The Geographical
History of a Language’; Edinburgh; 1984.
‘Encyclopaedia Americana’; New York; 1977.
‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997.
‘Census of England and Wales: 1891, Volume 4: General Record’; London; 1893.
‘Census of Scotland: 1891, Volume 1; London; 1892.
‘Census 1961: Wales (including Monmouthshire): Report on Welsh Speaking Population’; London; 1962.
‘Morning Star’.
‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’; Chicago; 1994, 1998.
‘Statesman’s Year Book: 1998-1999’; London; 1998.
‘Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language’; London; 1961.

Source

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s