The recent quarrel over the timing and constitutional validity of the proposed independence referendum in Scotland has again pushed the national question to the forefront of British politics. Such developments give us a fresh opportunity to revisit this important issue.
Lenin in his book State and Revolution warned that the national question in Britain, which appeared resolved long ago, could raise its head under certain circumstances. This amazing prediction came true with the world crisis of 1974 and the deepening crisis of British capitalism. The re-emergence of nationalism in Scotland and Wales that Lenin had anticipated, was reflected in the growth of support for Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party throughout the 1970s and 1980s and up to the present.
It is a dialectical contradiction that the national question could arise when the historical justification for nation states has come to an end with the decline of capitalism itself. The creation of nation states was one of the historical achievements of capitalism in the period of its ascent, especially between 1789 and 1848. That the crisis of capitalism has led to a revival of latent nationalism is a reflection of the fact that this is the epoch of decline.