Editorial from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard
On March 1 voters in Scotland and Wales will be called upon to decide for or against the proposal to set up elected assemblies, with limited powers, in these areas. Some see this as a step towards independence for Scotland and Wales and are calling for a "yes" or "no" vote depending on how they view this prospect. Others (more realistically) see it as an attempt by the Labour government to buy off the nationalist sentiments which have increasingly manifested themselves in recent years. We in the Socialist Party say that both the proposal and the referendum are quite irrelevant from a working-class point of view.
The social problems which face wage and salary earners in such fields as housing, schooling and transport, and the constant struggle to make ends meet from month to month, arise from the fact that the means of wealth production are monopolised by a minority class. They are caused by capitalism and cannot be solved by any amount of tinkering with its political superstructure.
As a mere political or constitutional change the setting up of elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales will contribute nothing towards helping to solve the problems facing wage and salary earners, either there or elsewhere. Since these problems arise from the way in which society is at present organised they can only be solved by a change in the social system: by the social revolution involved in replacing class monopoly and production for profit by the common ownership and production solely for use of socialism. Revolution not devolution, is what is required.
Even if the elected assemblies were to be other than glorified county councils completely dependent, like all other local authorities in Britain, on the central government for funds, or embryo parliaments of an independent Scotland or an Independent Wales, we would still say that whether or not they are to be established is an irrelevant issue.
The basic argument put forward by the SNP and Plaid Cymru is that the problems of wage and salary earners living in Scotland and Wales arise from the fact they they are governed from London rather than from Edinburgh or Cardiff. The absurdity of this claim is matched only by that of the Tory and Labour Parties which attribute these problems to the fact that the rival party is or has been in power.
It makes no difference where the governments which enforce class monopoly have their headquarters—London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Brussels or Timbuctoo. An independent Scotland or Wales would inevitably be a capitalist Scotland or a capitalist Wales where the means of production would continue to be governed by the laws of capitalism. And where the problems facing wage and salary earners would therefore continue to exist, as the eloquent example of Ireland where unemployment and emigration have continued despite nearly sixty years of political independence, clearly shows.
Because we regard Scottish or Welsh independence as an irrelevancy does not mean that we are therefore to be counted among the partisans of the maintenance of the United Kingdom as a single political unit. What we are saying is that, since the problems facing wage and salary earners are not caused by the way in which the political superstructure is arranged, changes in this superstructure—such as separation or union—are irrelevant. Hence our conclusion that workers should avoid taking sides in arguments over such issues.
What we do stand for is neither an independent Scotland or Wales nor a united Britain but a world without frontiers. Socialism cannot be established in a single country for a simple but sufficient reason: capitalism, the system it will replace, is already a world system. It exists in state capitalist Russia and China as well as in the West, and quite clearly dominates all so-called "national economies" through the operation of the world market.
Even the politicians recognise this in a vague, roundabout way. Are they not always telling us that "our" problems arise from the fact that "our" goods are not competitive enough on the world market? When you realise that politicians in America, France, Germany, Japan and all other countries are telling the same story then it becomes clear that there are no national solutions to today's social problems. They cannot be solved within the borders of particular States but only on a world scale, in a world without frontiers based on common ownership and democratic control with production solely for use not sale or profit. Only on this basis can the highly-developed, world-wide productive apparatus turn out the abundance of wealth that it is capable of, so permitting society to implement the long-standing socialist principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".
Recognising the potential class weapon that is the vote socialists in Scotland and Wales will be going to the polling booths and writing "SOCIALISM—SPGB" across their ballot papers. we urge all others who realise that world socialism is the only solution to their problems to do likewise.