Paul Sweeney: Labour's vision is battling destructive SNP and Tory nationalism

Writing for The Red Robin, Glasgow North East and Shadow Scotland Minister Paul Sweeney says Britain must avoid extreme politics of simplistic solutions to complex problems. 

We live in an era of extreme measures. Of simplistic solutions to complex problems.

It is a misguided approach to political discourse which has led us to a dangerous precipice in Europe and to the brink of a Boris Johnson premiership. 

Some claim that those significant risks are enough to justify a further leap into the unknown.

But the simplistic solution to the threat of leaving the European Union, with no deal or a bad deal, is not for working people in Scotland to enter a further period of turmoil and make their own exit from the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.

And the extreme awfulness of the prospect of Boris Johnson in No. 10 should not lead us into the trap of another wasted decade of austerity, in pursuit of further constitutional disruption which won’t feed a single child, nor treat a single patient.

While I can see why it might be tempting to think that erecting another border is the obvious solution to what are global economic problems and a crisis of capitalism, this is hardly the moment to hit the big red button marked “don’t press” – it’s the moment to redouble our efforts to deliver social justice through co-operation.

The argument against a separate Scottish state ironically remains the same as the one that many Scottish nationalists unashamedly use against wrenching us out of the EU. 

It’s not that Scotland – or the United Kingdom – is individually too weak to survive alone in the stormy waters of international relations. It’s that the prize of what we can achieve together in the longer term is too great to simply abandon as a hasty answer to the challenges that face all working-class people across Britain.

It’s an approach that lies at the heart of the Labour Party’s mission and purpose. Whatever the challenges our country faces and whoever the rump of the Conservative Party chooses as leader, Labour’s purpose is unbending. So much so that it is printed on every membership card… “by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few.”

Or as our leader Richard Leonard put it succinctly at the weekend: “The answer to Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is not the creation of a separate Scottish state. It is his early removal from office and the election of a progressive Labour Government.”

The Labour Party is now the only political movement that offers a coherent vision that can hold together that sense of solidarity across Britain and Europe. 

Last week in Parliament, I called out the Secretary of State for Scotland for being part of and open to the idea of staying in a Government that is driven by a membership that would now happily see the break-up of the UK in order to see Brexit through. Labour and its positive, hopeful vision of a radical socialist Britain is now battling the destructive and negative forces of two competing nationalisms. 

To paraphrase the late John Smith, there are two forces sawing away at the legs that support the UK. One is obviously the SNP, who quite clearly wish to destroy the unity that is the United Kingdom, but the other is the Conservative Party that have stupidly stimulated a demented chauvinism they cannot contain. The Tory Party is now better described as the 'English Nationalist Party'.

The problems faced by exploitative corporate capitalism, global warming, conflict and the refugees who flee from them know no borders, they are not problems that can be easily solved by simply erecting another border and living in an illusion of splendid isolation, whether at Dover or Gretna. We should care about and address the rights of asylum seekers whether they are in Glasgow or Manchester, we should seek to co-operate across the UK to undertake a mission to be the first industrial society to de-carbonise. 

The idea that a separate state is the panacea for these problems is a myth, just ask the workers at the Caley railway works in Springburn. Owned by a German corporate asset stripper intent on closing the 160-year-old site down, destroying hundreds of jobs and accumulated skills, the Scottish Government have the power already to intervene and renationalise the former British Rail engineering works, but have pointedly chosen not to do so for ideological reasons. 

As ever, the real struggle is not one between exaggerated national identities, but the struggle between those who create the wealth and those who own the capital and exploit those who create the wealth. Only a radical Labour government across the whole of Britain can advance that struggle in favour of the exploited, and that includes working in co-operation to remain a positive and influential and reformist member state of a more socialist European Union.


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