Reply to Bruce Wallace: From the Bruce to the Broons [1]

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16/09/2014 by socialistfight

“Bruce Wallace and his co-thinker Crucial are dogmatists!” says Peter Taaffe.

Reply to Bruce Wallace: From the Bruce to the Broons [1]

By Gerry Downing

For the benefit of all non-leftist-train-spotters Bruce Wallace leads an opposition current in the Socialist Party on the question of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. He and his supporters are correct in the main in their attacks on the reformist- Keynesian economics the SP leadership, designed to facilitate their cosy relationship with the left TU bureaucracy in the National Shop Stewards Network. Socialist Fight supporters had communicated with this apparent left opposition on the basis that if they were alleging reformism in the leadership on the falling rate of profit they might spot some other glaring examples like their unyielding tendency to support their own ruling class in all its foreign wars from Ireland to the Malvinas to present day Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. Or that they might even consider the reformism of classifying the state forces as ‘workers in uniform’ or the proposition that capitalism could be overthrown via a parliamentary Enabling Act might be too much like the Communist Party’s reformist British Road to Socialism. But then they do collaborate with the CP in the Europhobic No to EU yes to Democracy so the comparison is not too strained. But no and in his determination to prove his distance from revolutionary politics Bruce attacks the revolutionary Socialist Fight over our position of vote No in the Scottish referendum to appease the somewhat miffed leadership of the SP.

The mass organisations of the British working class are overwhelmingly for a No vote. The Labour party is for a no vote, albeit from a disastrously national chauvinist position which is costing the No campaign many working class votes. No National union has voted to support the Yes campaign. Here is a good statement from the Vote No trade unions and a list of Scottish regional sections recommending Yes votes. Two of the three biggest unions, Unite and Unison, have taken an abstentionist position.

Vote No statement to the TUC Conference by the following unions: GMB, USDAW, CWU, Community, ASLEF and the NUM

“Together, our unions represent 130,000 working people in the public and private sectors across Scotland in areas as diverse as education, postal services, steel, transport, shipbuilding, mining, telecommunications, retail and food and drink. Our unions, and our predecessor unions, have organised in workplaces across Scotland for generations.

We have always believed that our strength comes from working together and organising ordinary working people across the country; building unity, not division. We have always fought for the best deal for the people we represent, whether that is through improving pay and conditions or for better rights at work, while campaigning for real social and economic change. That is why each of our unions has made the democratic decision to support a ‘No’ vote on 18th September and why we are speaking out in favour of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom. We believe that the best future for working people across Scotland is served by continuing to work together with friends and colleagues across the UK.

Separating Scotland would damage the rights and conditions of working people across the country, and would lead to a damaging race to the bottom. It would threaten the many rights and improvements that our unions have campaigned for, and won, down the years. Together, we still have much to do to improve the lives of working people across the United Kingdom and to improve the way our country is run. We will campaign against this Tory-led UK Government as strongly as we campaign for a ‘No’ vote. The people of Scotland have never turned their backs on improving the lives of people in Scotland, or across the UK.

That is why we want Scots to help lead our fight for progressive values. Not leave the UK, and leave this fight behind.” [2]

There were very few Yes trade union votes, all Scottish regional ones:

Vote Yes

Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife, Falkirk and Stirling branch of the Communications Workers Union (CWU). Prison Officers Association, Scotland area. National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Scotland area.

And three abstentions, but these included two of the biggest unions:


Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite, Unison.

The bigger and more opportunist far left groups and anarchists tend to support the Yes vote and the smaller and more leftist ones the No vote whilst those supporting the abstentionist position are mainly third campists or opportunists not wanting to alienate Scottish supporters. This is very similar to the line up on the Ukraine, the Yes voters in general are pro-Maidan and the No voters were defenders of the Anti-fascist resistance in the Donbass with Counterfire, Democracy and Class Struggle, RCPB and the RCG the only groupings that have switched from anti-Maidan to Vote Yes that we have spotted. The latter three are of Maoist/Marxist Leninist ideology and so view socialism in a single country as possible. I have not seen any group that has moved from pro-Maidan to vote NO. [3]

Scottish Referendum; a list with group origins:


Socialist Workers Party, Counterfire (ex SWP), International Socialist Group (ex-SWP, Scotland), Revolutionary Socialist of the 21 Century (RS21, ex SWP), Socialist Party (CWI), Scottish Socialist Party (ex SP, expelled Tommy Sheridan), Solidarity (ex SP, Tommy Sheridan), Communist Party of Scotland (Mick McGahey), Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist, RCPB-ML, Albanian Hoxhaists), Socialist Resistance (USFI), Scottish Republican Socialist Movement (ex SNP 79 Group, publications Scottish Worker’s Republic and Red Duster, rallies for 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, 1692 Glencoe Massacre and John MacLean), Class War (Anarchist), Anarchist Federation of Scotland, Revolutionary Communist Group, A World to Win (ex WRP), Democracy and Class Struggle and Aflonyddwch Mawr (Wales, both Maoists), New Communist Party (Sid French).


Workers Power (Fifth International), Socialist Action (USFI), Communist Party of Great Britain ([Marxist–Leninist], CPGB-ML, Harpal Brar, Proletarian, Lalkar), Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL, Matgamna, Shachtmanite) Socialist Appeal (IMT), Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist, CPB(M-L), publications, The Worker, Reg Birch, strongly Eurosceptic), Workers Party of Britain (John Dempster info, don’t know who they are), Communist Party of Britain (CPB, Morning Star), Workers Revolutionary Party (Newsline, post WRP Healyite loyalist, Frank Sweeney Gen Sec), Socialist Equality Party (ex WRP, David North WSWS), Socialist Fight (ex WRP, British section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, whose Brazilin and Argentinean sections, CL, TMB, take a Yes position), Communist Workers Organisation (Aurora, German left communism split from International Communist Current, opposes the Russian Revolution), Socialist Democracy (USFI, Ireland), International Bolshevik Tendency (ex Sparts).

No line / others

International Socialist Network (ISN, ex SWP, though majority probably for Yes), CPGB(PCC, Weekly Worker, calling for abstention), Socialist Labour Party (Arthur Scargill’s group, no position but will respect outcome of vote), Spartacist League (Berwick-upon-Tweed to be returned to Scotland, Border Wars?), International Communist Current (Left Communist; anti-Leninist, Luxemburg, Bordiga, Gorter, Pannekoek, Rühle, Pankhurst and Mattick), Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB, founded 1904, impossibilists, state capitalists, anti Leninists, abstain), Left Unity (no formal line, but Republican Socialist Tendency in favour of Yes), Anarchist Federation (yes or abstain).

Principled revolutionary Politics for working class unity: Vote No

Having established that this disagreement is not a product of the Socialist Fight ‘ridiculous sectarian ultra left politics’ with its alleged three members and in the cause of better personal hygiene by helping to prevent Bruce Wallace pissing himself too often let us examine the politics.

He begins with a swipe at our International, the LCFI, because we have published open disagreement over the Scottish referendum, he claims:

“Latin Americans some thousands of miles away can understand the Marxist position on the national question regarding Scotland, yet Socialist Fight (SF), a quark element of the defunct WRP, based in London, echoes the voice of big business, the Tories and other reactionary forces who are in favour of maintaining the union.”

Bruce Wallace then makes the classic amalgam:

“In other words Socialist Fight stands with the forces of the British state against the forces of the masses of the Scottish nation who are in favour of independence.”

On that line of reasoning we should support capital punishment, immigration controls, homophobia and racism against Irish, Jews and Black people, to mention but a few when these reactionary populist sentiments sweep big sections of the working class. Not to mention giving enthusiastic support to the fascist-led EuroMaidan as “a great democratic revolution” as you did, ‘comrade’ Bruce.

Trotsky stood with the forces of the Spanish state and even the fascist dictator General Francisco Franco in opposing the masses of the Catalan nation who were in favour of Catalan independence from Spain in the 1930s. And we did quote extensively in our document from Lenin to make the point that what was bad for the capitalists was not necessarily good for the working class. Lenin wrote in 1913:

“Marxists are, of course, opposed to federation and decentralisation, for the simple reason that capitalism requires for its development the largest and most centralised possible states. Other conditions being equal, the class-conscious proletariat will always stand for the larger state. It will always fight against medieval particularism, and will always welcome the closest possible economic amalgamation of large territories in which the proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie can develop on a broad basis.” [4]

So it follows that we do not always advocate the right of oppressed nations to self determination, let alone imperialist ones. But that is not to deny that they have this right and if they exercise it in Scotland or elsewhere we will respect it. But it does not mean we have conceded our political critical facilities and are obliged to develop the same illusions ourselves under the influence of demagogs like Salmond. This is how Bruce misrepresents our position:

“Scottish independence must therefore be stopped to maintain working class unity. In fact SF says they don’t support Scotland exercising that right. This means, in effect, that the right is withdrawn because a right can only exist as a right if it can be exercised.”

There are very serious logical problems with this, in particular the third sentence. Having a right and advising against exercising a right does not negate the right, “in effect” or otherwise. In Ireland, the right to divorce is of recent vintage and it is still extremely limited. But even where there is the most open divorce laws a wise marriage councillor would advise an angry spouse against divorce if he or she judged a transgression to be a one off or not serious enough to warrant the divorce. So an elementary syllogism; all advice is non-compulsory; “Scotland do not exercise your right to self-determination” is a piece of advice therefore this is not compulsion, not the same as prohibition. You would think you would only have to explain that to a small child.

But it gets better, if you get my irony. Having claimed SF does not understand the national question in Scotland you would reasonably think that Bruce would then explain this knotty problem to us so as to set us all on the right road. And he really does need to do that because the Grantite tradition from which he issues has one appalling record on this matter as our introduction indicated. A group that thinks the conflict in the north of Ireland was about “sectarianism”, which could defend the neo-fascist uprising by the Ulster Loyalist Workers Council in 1974 against the Sunningdale Agreement as “the power of the working class” and defended the “right to self-determination” of the Malvinas colonialists in the war of 1982 has some way to go in understanding the national question. Nevertheless he might get it right on Scotland, by a big fluke, if he tried. But he doesn’t. Probably quite sensibly.

Imperialist nations, “can’t be anything on its own politically”, semi colonies and ‘dependent countries’

He then reposts the four guiding principles at the start of the SF article and, after a bit of patronising buffoonery concentrates on point two: “Is Scotland an oppressed nation? We say no, it is an imperialist nation.”

And he delivers what he thinks is the killer blow by highlighting our “baffling illogical guff”; he informs us:

“Thanks a bundle comrades for deciding that we are a nation, we are truly honored (sic), but how have you got the idea that Scotland is an imperialist nation? Given that Scotland is not, at the moment, an independent nation it can’t be anything on its own politically no matter what the position of Salmond and the SNP on NATO or nuclear weapons.”

Well now where to begin? Is Wales an imperialist nation? Is England an imperialist nation? We hope we all agree that “Northern Ireland” is not a nation at all but the British Imperialist-occupied six north eastern counties of the Irish nation? Do we have a British Imperialist nation as distinct from a state? The CPGB/Weekly Worker argue that there is a British nation and I tend to agree but there are, nonetheless, three constituent nations in the larger nation state (FIFA gives them their own football teams) and we must assign them some place in the global state system. No one would care to challenge England as an Imperialist state, either separately or as the leading state in the UK. The problem with Scotland and Wales is that they are about a tenth the size of England; they are very small in comparison. But they are not semi-colonial states and we reject the ridiculous suggestion by Bruce that Scotland “can’t be anything on its own politically” as just too silly for words. It is an imperialist nation similar to Holland or Belgium which is part of a larger imperialist nation. Or as the republics in the former USSR were degenerated workers’ states as part of the bigger degenerated workers’ state.

Others have realised the implication of acknowledging that Scotland is not a semi colony or an oppressed nation. They have suggested that it stands in the same relation to England as Hawaii or Alaska does to the USA or that it belongs to the third category pointed to by Lenin in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, after imperialist countries, colonies and semi-colonies, he suggested that there was a third category called ‘dependent states’ like Portugal and Argentina and it was to this category that Scotland, and presumably Wales, belonged. The list was not extended to Catalonia, the Basque country, etc. but why not?

Hawaii has the tiny beginnings of a national liberation movement, was an independent kingdom and with a population of about 1.5 million may one day seek separation but right now its working class is part of the US working class and no cause would be served by separation for which there is no serious demand. Similarly with Alaska; it was a Russian colony and has a population of about 800,000 and no appreciable stirrings for separation.

What Lenin meant by semi-colonies and dependent states

However there is a misunderstanding on the ‘dependent states’ suggestion in Lenin’s work. When Lenin referred to semi-colonies he did not use the term in the same way that we do today. In fact some groups of Maoist/Marxist Leninist origin and others prefer to use the term ‘neo-colony’ to avoid this confusion but the Trotskyist tradition has always used the term ‘semi-colony’. This is how Lenin referred to semi-colonies in his 1916 work:

“Supan gives figures only for colonies; I think it useful, in order to present a complete picture of the division of the world, to add brief data on non-colonial and semi-colonial countries, in which category I place Persia, China and Turkey: the first of these countries is already almost completely a colony, the second and third are becoming such.” [5]

It is clear from this that he was referring only to Persia, China and Turkey and by semi-colonies he meant these three countries which were in the process of being colonised by Imperialist powers. That is not how we use that term today. We use the term to refer to countries that are nominally independent sovereign nations but are dominated by finance capital and have more or less corrupt leaders doing the bidding of the imperialist hegemon, the USA and/or its allied lesser powers in Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

The first modern semi-colonies were Cuba (1898), South Africa (1903) and Ireland (1922). Most modern semi-colonial states were added in the post WWII revolutionary upsurge which broke up the old colonial empires of UK, France, Holland, Portugal, etc. The US generally covertly supported these movements unless they were too radical; they used the CIA to assassinate the leaders like Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. When the US pulled the plug on the joint British/French/Israel attack on Suez in 1956 they signalled the end of the colonial era and the beginning of the Finance Capital system of rule. After that the US gradually brought the rest of these national struggles to heel by the imposition of brutal structural adjustment programmes via the World Bank and the IMF, particularly after the 1973 oil crisis and the Yom Kippur war and the debt explosion in the African and south Asian because of the huger hike in the price of oil.

Despite gaining formal independence the sovereignty of these semi colonies was such that they could to develop no economic or practical political freedom because of the domination of finance capital and its allied blood-sucking transnationals. Portugal and Argentina are now and were in 1916 semi-colonies, the term Trotskyists use instead of Lenin’s ‘dependent countries’.

Portugal is a British semi-colony and was then despite the fact that it itself held colonies in Africa and south east Asia. Portugal held its colonies on behalf of Britain and the US to a lesser extent; ‘Portugal may have kept the cow but Britain milked it’ as they said. Likewise with Argentina, despite being an advanced semi-colony from the time Lenin wrote it was never able to break free of the foreign banks and monopolies; British first and now the USA, which dominate its economy even today.

So Scotland is an Imperialist nation, not nothing at all as Bruce suggests and not a ‘dependent country’ which in modern terms means a semi-colony.

A cartoon published in Söndags-Nisse on February 12th 1905, representing Norway as an angry cat and Sweden as a stolid dog tied to one another by a bond which is in flames,which Swedish Prime Minister Boström strives unsuccessfully to extinguish.

Isn’t separating Sweden and Norway in 1905 the same as separating England and Scotland today?

No. The union between Sweden and Norway in 1814 was not like the Union of England and Scotland in 1707. In the first place it was never a full union; it was a personal union of the separate kingdoms of Sweden and Norway under the Swedish monarch, such as existed between England and Scotland between 1603 and 1707. In the second place it was a union forced on Norway by the threat of war in the system of European states that were constructed in the 1814 Treaty of Vienna, after the defeat of revolutionary France. Norway retained its own parliament, there were two kingdoms. The union between England and Scotland abolished the two kingdoms and established a single kingdom and a Union of the Parliaments. On the Union, the historian Simon Schama said “What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world … it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history.”

This resulted in a united working class as we explained in tracing the developments of Chartism (1838-48), the Great Unrest (1911-14), the post war class struggles led by the Red Clydesiders and the great miners’ strike of 1984-5. There was not in all that time and there is not now a schism between the Scottish and English/Welsh working class unlike the rapture that took place between the British TUC and the Irish working class organisations in 1913, after more than a century of discrimination and racism against Irish workers. The Swedish and Norwegian working class did not have the degree of unity of the British working class but there was strong mutual collaboration in industrial disputes, such as there are between the working class of sovereign imperialist nations on syndicalist issues (issues that do not involve the material interests of their own ruling class). The question of chauvinism between Scottish and English workers hardly arises and the question of cowardice in not advocating a Yes vote is purest demagoguery.

Bruce’s Popular Frontism (by a Scottish contributor)

This stuff is stock Popular Frontism, one minute defending the SNP, the next pretending it doesn’t. It illustrates how far the “Yes-Left” has gone to the right: Wallace’s childish diatribe is strikingly ignorant. e.g. “the yes campaign is not a party campaign at all but a broad based platform with the basic aim of achieving independence”

A “broad based platform”? Aka collaboration between classes? “Independence”? From whom? The Bank of England? The European Central Bank? The EU? etc etc. Bruce says:

“The Fiscal Commission considered the currency options for an independent Scotland.”

What? Someone who still takes that “Fiscal Commission” guff seriously? Bless. If one is proposing a currency union, it’s a good idea to consult at an early stage with those with whom one proposes to “unite”, especially when the proposed partner has an economy over ten times the size of yours and controls the currency. What took many observers aback was that Salmond seems not to have done that.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney

He says then:

“In February Bank of England Governor Mark Carney spoke of the advantages of a currency union”.

Indeed he did (they’re not hard to work out for oneself) but he also discussed the viability and risks inherent in such a union. His message was, to put it gently, mixed. In the Herald Scotland he warned that mortgage will go up before pay does (10 Sept), that Scotland would need billions more in reserves to ensure stability (10 Sept), his financial warning raised spectre of crisis and he warned again that Scotland couldn’t have currency union without ceding sovereignty (last in Herald Scotland 9 Sept.)

All of the above and more were all over the Scottish press at the time. Salmond may have out-bombasted Darling on some issues in the second telebargy but all agree (except possibly the Yes-Left) that Darling flattened Salmond on the currency issue. You had only to look at the following morning’s front pages, poll results, etc., etc. But Bruce persists:

“They appear to forget that Sterling has been the currency of Scotland as well as Britain for three hundred and seven years!”

It is economically illiterate to view the currency of an “independent” Scotland as a matter of sentiment. Scotland has no reserves bar what it might wrest from the BoE, no central bank and, these days, not even banks in the meaningful sense. If there were to be a currency union, the Bank of England would set interest rates, spending and taxation levels, etc etc. The Puddock [6] can huff and puff as much as he likes but the BoE would, in effect, manage Scotland economically at the macro level. This is schoolboy economics.

Another elephant in the room is the question of EU membership. All agree from the Yes-Left to the “business” right that Scotland just has to be in the EU. Despite Salmond being called on his bluster that membership would be granted automatically, the Yes-Left and the “broader” Yes campaign have yet to explain the consequences of his mendacity. The reality is that, leaving aside the right of e.g. Spain to veto Scotland’s membership, Scotland would have to apply on the same terms as any other new member. It would, long term, almost certainly have to prepare to join the euro, that being the rule. The contradiction between a possible Sterling union and mandatory euro membership has not been discussed. Whatever, similar issues arise in either case – no reserves, no central bank. How might suitable reserves be raised? (Michael Roberts’s blog has useful data.)

I’ve said all this before but then so has everyone else. As conservative commentator Christopher Booker put it on Sunday, “Scotland” is sleepwalking into a nightmare. The Yes-Left has played a role in this that may prove to be decisive – the “Popular Front” is a dangerous tactic.”

In the All that is Solid blog an excellent comment by Robert explained the situation on this referendum very well:

“The Scottish referendum provides slam-dunk evidence, if any were needed, that something has gone seriously wrong with the cognitive abilities of our so-called leaders. There appears to be no-one any longer capable of thinking through the consequences of actions or decisions. This referendum was called on the clear assumption that there would be a sizeable ‘no’ majority – it doesn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s mind that the ‘yes’ campaign could win so there’s no properly thought through Plan B. What would Scottish independence mean for the rest of what I’ll still call the UK? Then there’s the fundamental issue that a ‘yes’ vote creates not one but two new entities – Scotland and the rest – and those of us in the second category (numerically much larger than those in the first) have no say whatsoever in its creation.

Alex Salmond also seems to be as incapable of thinking through decisions as the English elites he’s anxious to escape from – I simply cannot understand how he believes Scotland can retain sterling – who’s the lender of last resort? I get the feeling he thinks that while Scotland becomes ‘technically’ independent, everything will just carry on as it is – which is nonsense, of course. Similarly, the assumption that Scotland can retain EU membership but will somehow be free to follow its own course when the EU mandates what it doesn’t like.

Case in point. Wee Eck (Alex Salmond) has been trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Scots for some time now. His premise is that come independence, England will have to pay as always, and the EU on top of that. Any arguments against were brushed aside as anti-Scottish. One little snippet: University education is free to all Scots, and has to be free to all EU students. English students alone have to pay the full whack. Come independence, he’s got to follow EU rules if he wants to be a member – and that means that English students, now being foreigners from another EU country, won’t have to pay either … or everybody will have to pay, Scottish students included. Law of unintended consequences …

I have doubts myself that the SNP has the public interest in mind in its drive for independence. My feeling is that the SNP confidently assumes that Scotland will be part of a currency union with the rump UK and that full EU membership is assured; also that the nation can rely on North Sea oil resources forever and a day. The reality is more likely to be that an independent Scotland led by the SNP will end up in currency and economic limbo and will be squeezed hard by Westminster and the EU, the latter forcing the country to adopt the same austerity package as other small EU member nations in order to qualify for membership which won’t necessarily be guaranteed. Scotland will also have to compete with the UK for capital to develop its oil resources and this is likely to drive down wages and destroy any dreams the SNP and the Scottish public have of creating a generous social welfare state similar to what the Scandinavian countries have.” [7]


[1] Bruce Wallace, Socialist Broons:

[2] Campaigning Trade Unions say No to Separation,

[3] A recent post in an elist gave this basic British line-up on the Scottish referendum. I have given the full names, added some details on origins and politics and added others as suggested and corected mistakes that others have spotted.

[4] Lenin, Critical Remarks on the National Question (1913),

[5] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,

[6] A Puddock or taid is a craitur seemilar tae a frog that bides on laund an in fresh watter. Growen puddocks can lowp faur wi their lang shanks. Their eggs is cried taid-spew or taid-redd (as we say north of the border).

[7] Comment by Robert in All That Is Solid … blog British Trotskyism and Scottish Independence, by Phil,

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