Britain on the Brink: Build for Revolution (Issue 32 Editorial)

The ancient Chinese military specialist Sun Tzu once said “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” It is for this reason that Marxists spend many an hour studying the capitalist class. Fortunately for us there exists The Financial Times, a paper which gives a very honest commentary on behalf of this class, often revealing their anxieties, ideas and long term plans. In January, the paper’s senior economics editor at the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, showed his anxiety by drawing attention to “an unholy trinity of slowing productivity growth, soaring inequality and huge financial shocks” that have gripped capitalism in recent decades.

Ross Walker, IMT Edinburgh

“We need a dynamic capitalist economy… What we increasingly seem to have instead is an unstable rentier capitalism, weakened competition, feeble productivity growth, high inequality and, not coincidentally, an increasingly degraded democracy.” On this point we do not agree with Wolf’s solution but we completely agree with his summary.

Capitalism can’t even be relied upon to secure the existence of our species. The effects of global warming became even more undeniable in the last year with fires destroying swathes of forested land in Latin America, Russia, South East Asia and Australia. Last year the climate crisis provoked a mass movement of millions of youth around the world. Individualist solutions that dominated Green politics for decades are of little interest to the new generation who call for “system change not climate change” in order to preserve the earth for their own future.

This has been of little importance to Britain’s leading politicians who’ve spent the last 3 and a half years bickering about the EU. The issue of Brexit, which for many is as tedious as it is worrying, seemed to have ended on the 31st of January when Britain officially exited the EU. However at the route of this debacle is the crisis of British capitalism, a crisis which has only really just begun.

Johnson has until December the 31st to square a deal with the EU. The Brexiteers now run the Tory Party and want to take no orders from Europe. The now ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid said “There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker… We will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union — and we will do this by the end of the year.”

He also said “There will be an impact on business one way or the other; some will benefit, some won’t”. This is of course not what the capitalist class wants to hear, particularly from the Tory Party who used to be a very safe pair of hands. The Brexiteers point towards a closer alignment with the US, but with the country’s current leader this is not a stable option. The more far sighted capitalists see negotiations with the US, and the threat to the NHS they carry, as very dangerous, given the social problems it would exacerbate and the fightback from the working classes that it would likely provoke.


Capitalism in Scotland is no different to elsewhere, and the tourism industry provides a particularly clear example of its exploitative nature. Edinburgh is famous worldwide for its festival and new years’ celebrations, but both have become increasingly unpopular amongst the local working class population. Landlords turf out residents to let out to tourists at extortionate prices, hospitality workers get worked round the clock for minimum wage, often having to put up with abuse from rich tourists and every year, more streets are cordoned off from residents in order to provide attractions to tourists. This year, Events company Underbelly earned notoriety from residents when they forced the usual stall holders out the way, charged for the loony dook and left the city centre in a mess whilst refusing to disclose the the profits they had made. 

In the past it was heavy manufacturing, in particular the shipyards, that were the backbone of the economy in Scotland. The deterioration of this once proud industry was shamefully reflected by the £100m bailout of Ferguson Marine by the Scottish government. This company is owned by Jim McColl who is worth an estimated £1.1bn.

Marxists call for the expropriation of big business whether it be in manufacturing, tourism or any other sector. The wealth owned by the tycoons at the top of Ferguson Marine is not theirs but has come from the unpaid labour of the working class. The investment and re-distribution of the industry’s profits must be democratically controlled by this class, of whom there’d be no tourism without. However, our current leaders in Wesmtinster and Holyrood do not agree with this solution.

The SNP Holyrood government has governed over Scotland since the crisis and compared to other countries have done so with relative political stability and popularity. The SNP leaders speak out against austerity. The austerity they do implement they blame on Wesminster. This tactic has worked very well for them so far, but it does have a time limit.

This year’s budget offered very little to the working classes in Scotland other than some sinister surprise stories about Derek MacKay’s social media use. The SNP are under pressure from the NHS, local authorities, schools and other public services for funding. The strains in each sector are growing and will continue to grow. As well as opposition parties, the government will come under more pressure from the public sector unions and the SNP supporters and members who are overwhelmingly on the left.


Currently the independence debate appears to be stuck on loop. Sturgeon, Blackford and other SNP leaders speak about how Scotland is being dragged out the EU against its will. Tory politicians tell them they had their chance in 2014 and remind them that Salmond said it was a “once a lifetime opportunity”, to which the SNP respond by saying there has been changed circumstances. Anti-independence MPs from the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour then say the SNP must get on with the day job and tackle poverty, unemployment etc., although of course without offering any solutions themselves, of how to do this within the constraints of Westminster imposed austerity.

Despite the efforts of politicians to make the issue of independence as tedious as possible, it is still something which enthuses many in Scotland, as seen by the mass march in Glasgow in January called just after the election results. This movement, fuelled by opposition to the Westminster Tory establishment, has a strong class conscious backbone with many who are reaching anti-capitalist conclusions. The SNP bureaucrats are wary of mobisling this movement but it will likely strengthen and raise its head as Johnson’s premiership continues.

The Johnson government is determined not to allow independence and has refused recent requests. However they are in a predicament. Recent polls from Survation and Yougov show over 50% support for independence. The public sector union Unison voted for the right to self-determination and so have many Labour figures. The longer Westminster refuses a referendum, the more the support will grow and the more likely such a referendum will yield a YES vote.

Some prominent SNP figures like Alex Neil and Jim Sillars have called for a consultative vote on independence. This idea was rejected by Sturgeon who is determined to use legal methods. The idea is to gain independence and then gain membership of the EU and essentially be a safe pair of hands for capitalism in Scotland.

However, in order to gain any independence from Westminster which offers a good future to Scotland’s working class majority, an independent Scotland must also gain independence from the banks, the monetary system and the crown. In order to achieve this it must be a Workers’ Republic where the landowners, banks and corporations that rule over Scotland are expropriated and democratically controlled.

The issue of Scotland being dragged out of the EU whilst the majority of the population voted to remain, no doubt showed the undemocratic nature of the British state. However, in order for the movement to achieve any fundamental change it will sooner or later have to employ revolutionary methods which will of course come into opposition of EU laws.

Rather than looking for allies in the bosses, bankers and bureaucrats of Europe we must link with the workers of Europe and the world over. 2019 saw revolutionary movements throughout Latin America and the Arab countries. 2020 began with the workers of India and France launching strikes which froze their countries. The resurrection of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the US has shown the popularity of socialist ideas in the belly of the beast. The future will see an intensification of class struggle the world over which will provide a large number of powerful natural allies to the independence movement, providing the movement takes on a socialist and internationalist character.


The Johnson government is far from stable and will be pulled in all sorts of directions. In one PM’s Questions, Johnson got questions from 3 seperate newly elected Tory backbenchers demanding investment in their areas in order to save or create jobs. These were all “red wall” MPs having been elected due to workers not trusting Labour and lending their vote to the Tories which they will see as betraying their trust. The promise of a ‘One Nation’ government is not one Johnson has the ability to keep and tensions will increase as time goes on. It’s far from guaranteed that he will last his full term. Labour may not have to wait five years to get another chance at power.

This makes it extra critical that Labour complete the transformation from being a machine for careerist Blairites to being a mass socialist party, a process only partially completed under Corbyn. In the leadership election, Rebecca Long-Bailey is currently standing on the left and Keir Starmer on the right. Despite his left posturing, it is clear that a Keir Starmer victory would be a step back for the mass movement. Alternatively, a Long-Bailey victory would give the movement a much needed boost and maintain a potentially powerful ally for the indy movement.

As we go to press, a new period of strikes at universities has begun. The postal workers, having been defeated by the the high court last year, are rearing their heads for round two. In time, the trade unions will build and become a militant opposition to the Tory government, particularly as the workers in the service sector continue to organise. Links must be built between the the unions, the independence movement and the youth climate strikes. This would create a very powerful and potentially revolutionary movement if armed with a socialist programme.

It cannot be denied that there will be new periods of more intense class struggle and with this. Opportunities to overthrow capitalism and implement a Scottish workers republic and a stepping stone to a world socialist revolution will arise. In order to take full advantage of these opportunities, we must build a Marxist party who can lead the workers to power when our time comes. If you want to become part of this, join the IMT today.