Scotland Needs a Revolution

The referendum campaign has transformed the political landscape in Scotland. It was a defining moment. This seismic shift has sent shock waves through the British capitalist establishment. Below is a statement which was first published as part of IMT’s Scottish special, Revolution.

“For the full period of my active life I have been a teacher of economics to the working classes, and my contention has always been that capitalism is rotten to its foundations, and must give place to a new society,” explained John Maclean, the celebrated Scottish Marxist, in a speech from Edinburgh High Court in May 1918.

scotland-paperMany would agree with that statement today, as capitalism plunges the world into a new crisis and the referendum opens a new stage in Scotland.

When Paul Mason reported on Scotland for Channel 4 News, he filmed two young 17 year-old girls in George Square on Referendum day, covered with Yes stickers, but feeling depressed after the result. He went back after three weeks to ask the girls about their opinions. They said they had become political and that would never change. When asked where they stood politically, they both looked at one another and answered in unison, “we are on the extreme left.”

revolution fistsThis is not unusual. Many people, especially young people, have not only become political but are drawing revolutionary conclusions. The referendum campaign has transformed the political landscape in Scotland. It was a defining moment. This seismic shift has sent shock waves through the British capitalist establishment.

The Yes vote was not an expression of crude nationalism but a massive rejection of “austerity Britain” and all those who represented it. It has served to draw in hundreds of thousands of workers from the housing schemes into political activity for the first time. The turnout was the largest of any election in British history. Such developments have important revolutionary repercussions and represent a new stage in the class struggle in Scotland and throughout the British Isles. It can be compared to the awakening of a sleeping giant.


The capitalist opponents of separation and their right-wing shadows in the Labour Party represent a lamentable spectacle. The Scottish Labour Party, in an unholy alliance, climbed into bed with the open enemies of the working class. As a result, the party has been largely discredited among wide layers. This shows the complete bankruptcy of reformism, which has embraced capitalism at the very time when millions are turning away from the system in disgust. Working class people correctly feel betrayed, a feeling that exists not only in Scotland but everywhere.

The SNP have pitched themselves on the left in Scotland in recent years, which was not difficult given the shift to the right of the Labour Party. The election of Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP will reinforce this impression. This is the main reason for the explosive growth of the party to an estimated 100,000 members. By contrast, Scottish Labour has only 13,000, mostly older inactive people.

However, the idea that the SNP is fundamentally different from other pro-capitalist parties will be shown to be false by experience. In face of a deepening crisis, the SNP will be forced to introduce austerity measures and inflict deep cuts in living standards. Their view of “independence” is one under capitalism, incorporating a feudal monarch as head of state, the pound sterling, and the domination of the Bank of England.

As James Connelly, the great Irish Marxist, explained, “You can hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, but England will still rule you through her capital.” There is no solution on a capitalist basis.

The political groundswell has also resulted in the Green Party growing to 6,000 members. The Scottish Socialist Party has grown from a small base to some 2–3,000. It claims to have grown by 2,000 members in 72 hours, with branches springing up throughout Scotland. The Radical Independence Campaign has also drawn in thousands of supporters and is now talking about a new Left Project in Scotland.


This growth of socialist and radical politics represents a qualitative change. We regard this as a fundamental breakthrough and represents a historic opportunity to advance the ideas of socialism and Marxism as never before.

We believe that the only solution to society’s problems is for the working class to take power and put an end to capitalism in Scotland and throughout these islands.

We have discussed the new situation and how best to utilize our energies in the next period in order to further the cause of socialism. We believe the Labour Party has been largely discredited in the eyes of most youth and workers. As Marxists, we are not going to stand on the sidelines in the present political realignment in Scotland.

We believe that the best way forward is the building of those forces on the left in Scotland, on a revolutionary and internationalist basis, beginning with the Scottish Socialist Party.

We therefore urge all our supporters in Scotland to join us in this new task.

The struggle for an “independent Socialist Scotland” cannot take place in isolation but must be linked to the spread of socialist revolution throughout these islands and internationally. We have no truck with the Stalinist idea of “socialism in one country.” Socialism is international or it is nothing and is determined by the international character of capitalism.

Our tendency stands for the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and Maclean, which are the most relevant to the tasks of the present epoch.

If the working class comes to power in Scotland, it will be faced immediately with counterrevolution from the British state and international capitalism. The only way it can succeed is through revolutionary unity with the working class of England, Wales, and Ireland, as well as worldwide.

Only in this way can we establish a Socialist Federation of Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland as the first step towards the Socialist United States of Europe and a Socialist World Federation.


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