Oct 08 2006

Emancipation & Liberation Index 13

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 11:50 am

Emancipation & Liberation, Issue 13, Autumn 2006

Issue 13 Cover

Issue 13 Cover

The RCN published a special issue of Emancipation & Liberation after the Tommy Sheridan News of the World court case and the consequent split in the SSP. After an extensive enquiry the Crown has now initiated perjury proceedings. The SSP has taken the decision not to jeopardise the position any of its members who may be cited in this case. This means not placing any documents in the public arena, which have been made or written by possible witnesses, that could be relevant to this case.. Therefore the RCN has only selected documents of a general political nature which do not refer to the specifics of the case. When the case has been concluded, the other documents will be placed on our website too.

Now that the case has concluded, the other documents have been placed on our website too.


Oct 06 2006

For the Democratic Renewal of the Scottish Socialist Party

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:54 pm

Letter issued on 7th August 2006 by Tommy Sheridan and his supporters in the so-called SSP Majority

Dear Comrade and Friend,

The SSP has reached a crossroads. The issues raised by Comrade Tommy Sheridan’s titanic victory over the gutter rag News of the World have underscored a number of political differences, outlook and methodologies within the SSP that have been increasingly apparent over the last few years. The collaboration with the scabs of News International during the trial by leading ‘comrades’ of the now declared ‘United Left’ faction, and their camp followers, saw a new and saddening low reached in Scottish socialist politics.

These actions were a shameful and colossal misjudgement from any point of view of socialist solidarity. Let us never forget that the party NC voted overwhelmingly in 2004 to respect Tommy’s right to take his action, to keep his confidentiality and to keep the party out of the trial.

It was the actions of the cabal, in first of all taking and keeping a dodgy minute of the 9th November 2004, and then advertising its existence to the media that saw the party dragged into what should have been, in essence, a private action.

The Executive of the SSP is now a redundant body until we can elect a new leadership in October. The EC ignored both the spirit and the letter of the decision by the Emergency National Council of the party to give Tommy 100 % political support in his fight against the News of the World.

We understand the ULN faction have distributed the illegitimate ‘minute’ of 9th November to party members, together with a sectarian anti-Sheridan rant disguised as official party documentation. We call on genuine socialists to treat this document with the contempt it deserves.

Despite their inevitable protestations to the contrary, the ULN has been a centralising and bureaucratising tendency. It became clear in the course of Tommy’s defamation trial that these individuals met and caucused outwith the party structures prior to Executive Committee [meetings] of the party – including preparing the stage managing of the meeting which saw Tommy Sheridan resign as Convenor of our party.

The time has come to take our party back! SSP Majority arose from hundreds of rank and file activists pledging their full support to Tommy Sheridan in his battle with News International. It is not a platform, a faction, or a network, but exactly what it says on the tin the majority of SSP members who are heartily sick of the antics of this minority grouping and who now want to see the democratic renewal of the Scottish Socialist Party in time to fight as an effective political force for working people and their families at next year’s Scottish Parliamentary and council elections.

The signatories to this Open Letter propose to harness that democratic, renewing spirit and to utilise the SSP Majority blog and e-mail network to build for National Council in August and Party Conference in October. We call on all members and branches to:

  • Take our People not Profits campaign, with its ten key demands out into the streets, workplaces and communities over the next period, campaigning proudly in the best traditions of the SSP
  • Demand the immediate resignation from their positions of all party workers who co-operated and collaborated with the News of the World and their lawyers, thereby ignoring the clear will of the party as expressed at our Emergency National Council of 28th May
  • Ensure all other decisions of that Council are upheld
  • Defend the right of all party members to a private life, without prurient party judgement or interference
  • Offer the hand of friendship and reconciliation to those party members who have been genuinely politically mislead or misinformed by the posturings of the ULN faction (declared and undeclared) and who now want to work with the majority to reunify and build a broad, open party. It is not to late for those who made mistakes for reasons they believed to be genuine to return to the fold
  • Organise Majority supporting delegations both to the National Council on the 27th August, and for Conference in October
  • Campaign for the de-selection from the Executive, and all key party positions, of ULN members and co-travellers, and for the election of SSP Majority signatories and supporters at the first available opportunity. Only by taking vigorous and decisive action now can the SSP be put firmly back on track, and once again become a potential mass pole of attraction for working people and socialist politics in Scotland and internationally.

Signed:

  • Tommy Sheridan MSP
  • Rosemary Byrne MSP
  • Steve Arnott Highlands and Islands
  • Mike Gonzalez SW Platform, EC
  • Penny Howard SW Platform, EC
  • Sinead Daly CWI Platform, EC
  • Philip Stott CWI Platform
  • John Aberdein Author and activist
  • Anne Macleod Highlands and Islands
  • Gill Hubbard SW Platform, EC
  • Jim Walls TGWU Convener, Opencast Miners Scotland
  • Alan Brown NEC PCS, Vice-President DWP (personal capacity)
  • Janice Godrich CWI Platform

Please note this communication was paid for by individual donations from supporters of the SSP Majority (sic).

Tags: ,


Oct 06 2006

The Future of Socialism in Scotland

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 4:23 pm

In a letter to party members, Tommy Sheridan signals his intentions to split the SSP

Comrades and friends,

I’d like to make a short contribution to the debate now raging about the future of organised socialism in Scotland.

We came very far in a short period of time with the SSP, but that party may have reached its historical limits. The ULN faction has come to dominate key positions out of all proportion to its weight in the SSP and has abused our democratic structures. Individuals within that faction have ignored the will of the National Council. They have crossed the class divide in siding with the NOTW against a socialist and, consequently, have turned the party we have built together into a colossal train wreck.

They have tarnished the SSP banner – perhaps beyond all repair. At meetings with comrades individually and collectively over the last few days I have raised the following points for consideration, which I would now like to raise with you – the 360 signatories to the SSP Majority.

I have no doubt we could recapture the party apparatus and leadership at our conference in October – but we must ask ourselves what would be we be recapturing? The ULN will remain a constant thorn in our side, its extreme gender politics, fixation with personalities and infantile ultra leftism dragging the name of the party through the mud. Its obsession with rewriting the verdict of my defamation trial would continue to be a stone weight around our necks.

The policy and press co-ordinator of our party, Alan McCombes, declared in the Herald last week that the EC is now at war with me. I thought the only war we were interested in conducting was the class war against injustice and inequality.

Do we really wish to spend our energies and talents fighting an incessant internal struggle with these people for the next two months and beyond, without an end in sight? Or would it perhaps be better to make a clean break and begin anew, with a fresh, untarnished vehicle for socialist politics in Scotland? Is the best use of our time fighting an internal enemy while thousands of people out there in the real world want to build on the victory over Murdoch?

Would we not perhaps be better to take the best of our number – the trade unionists, members and branches who have stood united around principled socialist politics – and build a new party of the Scottish left that would be the kind of broad, open, campaigning party working people and their families can once again believe in?

I have in mind a new movement that would continue the battle for the vision we all hold dear – of an independent socialist Scotland free from poverty and want, of internationalism, of freedom from environmental destruction, of opposition to Bush and Blair’s imperialist wars – but bigger, bolder and better than anything that has gone before.

I raise these questions with you in the most serious manner and ask that you ponder over them over the next few days and weeks. I hope you will come to the All-Scotland meeting called by Rosemary and myself and have your say on these issues. The meeting will be held at: The Central Station Hotel, Glasgow. 1.00pm on Sunday 3rd September.

We have a historic decision to make. Whatever that decision is to be we must make it and take it together, standing and fighting as one.

Tommy Sheridan.
16 August 2006

Tags:


Oct 04 2006

How Dare they Split the SSP!

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:53 pm

This is the text of a leaflet circulated by Richie Venton SSP national trade union organiser, calling on trade unionists and members to stay in the SSP.

Published on the Scottish Socialist Party website and reproduced here.

Dear comrade,

I write to you as a socialist and trade unionist whom I value, in sorrow and in anger at the wreckage being done to the party I helped to initiate, organise and build. I am not a member of any faction; I am a loyal, committed SSP member who appeals to you to save the SSP as Scotland’s class-struggle socialist party, the vehicle for working class struggle and socialist change, for an independent socialist Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan and a few others are threatening to wreck the party of socialist unity that hundreds of decent, honest socialists have built through years of selfless commitment. The SSP remains the natural home for the cream of Scotland’s trade unionists and working class.

Unrivalled track record

Look at our unrivalled track record of struggle, solidarity and socialist leadership in every major and most localised strikes and struggles for better conditions since the day we were formed.

The fire fighters; nursery nurses; public sector pensions battle; railworkers’ campaigns; NHS workers’ rights; postal workers’ jobs, conditions and privatisation; civil service jobs and pay; BBC jobs, pay and pensions…. to name but some.

Look at the SSP’s policies – £8 minimum wage, shorter working week, abolition of anti-union laws, public ownership, union democracy, MSPs on skilled worker’s wage, etc.

There is no place for two socialist parties in Scotland – no political justification in Tommy or anyone else splitting away to form a new party with policies shamelessly stolen from the SSP’s manifestos. The only winners from such wrecking tactics would be the pro-market parties that abhor trade unionism and socialism.

Tommy’s proposed split-off is an act of utter disloyalty and irresponsibility to the hundreds of thousands of working class people whose hopes have been raised by the Scottish left uniting into the one party – the SSP. It would be aparticularly cruel deceit of those courageous trade unionists who fought for and won affiliation of the RMT and CWU to the SSP.

These workers did not affiliate to Tommy Sheridan – they affiliated to the party whose working class socialist policies and fighting record matches their aims and aspirations. Why should they be dragged off into the wilderness by a split-off from the SSP?

Divisive act of revenge

Hot on the heels of his legal victory against the dirty tabloid rag News of the World, Tommy Sheridan declared he would challenge Colin Fox as SSP convener – a divisive act of revenge towards those decent, honest socialists with the courage to tell the truth.

Tommy was contracted by the anti-SSP, pro-New Labour tabloid Daily Record, paid £30,000, put up in a top hotel, and whilst in bed with these enemies of socialism, launched his front-page diatribe that he intends to ‘destroy the scabs’. This thuggish language has failed to intimidate those of us with the courage and integrity to tell the truth – however unsavoury the truth might be.

Now, because he has no confidence that he would win a democratic election for SSP convener, he wants to split the party built by those whose blood, sweat and tears put him into parliament.

In his statement calling for a split off, he accuses others of a fixation with personalities! Why should the principled socialist unity of the SSP be wrecked for the sake of one man’s career? Since when should one individual’s control and power take precedence over the greater good of the socialist party that has stormed Scotland with our open, honest, democratic socialist vision?

The SSP remains the champion of socialist unity. We remain Scotland’s only trade union party. Our policies and principles remain unchanged, untarnished and as urgently relevant as ever in the class war against poverty, inequality, war and capitalism.

Refuse to rewrite history

It takes courage to be honest, but only an honest, open, campaigning socialist party is capable of winning mass support for the vision we all hold dear – of an independent socialist Scotland.

Far from being ‘scabs’, ‘liars’ or ‘conspirators’ in ‘the mother of all stitch-ups’, I and others have upheld the honesty and integrity of the SSP, refusing to rewrite history. We have refused to add fuel to Tommy’s ‘mother of all inventions’ that the SSP is a party indulging in frame-ups, forged minutes and monstrous methods that Stalin would have envied.

We refused to join him in scorching the very earth the SSP stands on.

Read the real facts of the choices we faced once Tommy defied all friendly advice from me and others and forged ahead with his court case. By doing so he put the party on trial as much as News of the World.

I am a loyal, dedicated socialist who does not have a penny to his name because of working for the socialist cause for decades.

I appeal to you to read on and join us in defending the very integrity and existence of the SSP. No split off! Yours in solidarity, honesty and socialism,

Richie Venton

Tags: , , , , ,


Oct 04 2006

We Salute your Democracy, Equality and Accountability!

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:53 pm

This is a letter of solidarity sent to the SSP from the Irish Socialist Network, first printed in the Scottish Socialist Voice (Issue 280, 29th Sept. 2006)

On behalf of the Irish Socialist Network, I wish to express our solidarity with the SSP at this challenging time. In recent years, the SSP has been a source of encouragement to radical socialists who are working to build new parties of the working class.

Like many, we are dismayed by recent attacks, both personal and political, on SSP members. We are glad to see that the SSP has rebounded from recent setbacks, to continue challenging capitalism in Scotland by building a class struggle party fighting for an independent socialist Scotland.

While closely following the development of the SSP, we have never tried to slavishly follow a particular model, and we know the comrades in the SSP respect the right of socialists in different countries to chart their own road towards liberation. True internationalism is based on an equal cooperation and respect between parties, not dictation from distant ‘centres’ or instructions from all-powerful leaders.

As a participatory, democratic and revolutionary socialist organisation, we share with the SSP an anti-war, anti-imperialist outlook firmly grounded in class politics and a commitment to working class unity.

We salute your firm stand in favour of internal democracy, equality, and accountability. Our mutual commitment to principle is not the same as dogmatism and we know that all of us must learn new ways of organising, including a commitment to participatory educational processes and democratic structures.

We look forward to working with comrades in the SSP, and throughout the world, in building societies controlled from top to bottom by working people.

Paul Moloney, National Secretary,
Irish Socialist Network, Dublin

Tags: , , , ,


Oct 04 2006

Build a New Party for Socialism in Scotland Working Class People Need a Political Voice

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:42 pm

Press release from the CWI Scotland announcing their exit from the SSP

Originally published on the CWI website

The Committee for a Workers International platform of the SSP has agreed to support the building of a new party of socialism in Scotland.

We believe the SSP is now effectively finished as a party that could seek to organise and represent the working class of Scotland. The name of the SSP has been dragged through the mud by the actions of the leadership majority. The CWI believes that the energies and efforts of socialists is now better utilised in building a new force for working class struggle and socialism.

While supporting the idea and building support for a new party the CWI will argue for:

  • Any new party to be expressly socialist in character, including in its name.
  • At least a basic action programme that deals with the central issues of poverty, low pay, war, workers rights, opposition to neo-liberal policies and other issues facing the working class movement in Scotland and internationally. Central to this is the need for a socialist solution to these problems.
  • Democratic structures for the party including an accountable leadership with the right of recall and the right of tendencies and platforms to organise and sell and distribute its material, including publicly.
  • All elected representatives of any new party to live on a skilled workers wage.

We will build for a maximum turnout for the September 3rd meeting called by Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne to discuss launching a new party for socialism.

The CWI platform of the SSP welcomed the victory of Tommy Sheridan over the News of the World. It was a victory for the left and for socialists in Scotland and internationally over one of the biggest media empires on the planet. Its owner Rupert Murdoch is close to both Tony Blair and George Bush. This victory therefore carried important political implications.

None more so than the impact it has had on the Scottish Socialist Party itself. Despite our political differences with Tommy Sheridan, which led to Tommy and other leading members of the SSP leaving the CWI in 2001, we believed it is should have been possible to utilise this sensational defeat of News International to help rebuild the SSP.

Potentially Tommy Sheridan’s victory should have been a victory for the entire SSP. Unfortunately, a majority of the current Executive Committee have, by their actions, made it clear that they will never accept Tommy Sheridan’s victory. And at all costs, no matter what the damage to the SSP, they seem set on a scorched earth policy.

That is the only conclusion to be drawn from their actions which have included a sustained personal campaign against Tommy Sheridan since his court victory. They have abused their control of the EC, the website of the party to pursue their campaign against Tommy Sheridan. All this has done is to increase their political isolation especially amongst workers and trade unionists both inside and outside the party. We expect the overwhelming majority of active trade unionists to now leave the SSP.

There is an urgent need to rebuild the socialist movement in Scotland on a principled basis. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland screaming out for an alternative to the tired establishment parties. All of whom are pursuing variants of the same destructive neo-liberal capitalist agenda.

Despite the political differences we have with him we support Tommy Sheridan playing a central role in that alongside the hundreds of ordinary SSP members and the thousands of trade unionists, young people and anti-war activists who want to build a fighting principled socialist movement. The chaos and carnage in the Lebanon and the burning need to build a movement to end poverty and inequality here in Scotland demands a socialist response. The CWI is committed to helping build that alternative for the working class of Scotland.

Committee for a Workers’ International
21st August 2006

Tags: , , , ,


Oct 04 2006

Solidarity : A Statement from the Socialist Worker Platform

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:41 pm

The Socialist Worker platform justify their decision to walk away from the SSP

There can have been very few times when there was such widespread public revulsion against the government. Lebanon is on everyone’s lips and the world seems an increasingly dangerous place in Bush and Blair’s hands. It seems that the only people who do not see the connection between imperialist war and the growth of terrorism are a few Cabinet time-servers.

In that sense the need for a political formation that can express and organize that anger and frustration was never more urgent. We know the people who are demanding that kind of organization; we have marched with them on anti-war demonstrations and most recently in protest at the destruction of Lebanon by Israel. We mobilised with them for the G8 demonstrations and most importantly for the Alternative Summit that followed the Make Poverty History march.

The potential for a mass organization of the left that can draw together all these people is obvious. Yet it is also very clear that the SSP has completely failed to build it.

The reasons for that are political. Underlying the bitter personal exchanges of recent months is an idea of political organization very different from ours. We joined the SSP to build a mass party that could draw together those opposed to war, those fighting discrimination and oppression, those who had joined an anti-capitalist movement to fight the multinationals and their political servants, those who were shocked at environmental collapse, those Muslims who were now more than ever the object of racism and harassment.

That is still our purpose. Sadly, it is obvious that the SSP is not that party, as we had hoped it would be, and despite the work and effort we put in to try and make it happen. Yet the need as well as the potential support for this broad, democratic and active anti-capitalist organization are greater than ever. And there are many both inside and outside the SSP today who have stated their commitment to the project. That is what we now have to build. And it is important that people have the opportunity to express their support in their activity as well as electorally.

We can build that united activity around the key issues on which there is already broad agreement. We are opposed to the imperialist war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon. We are in solidarity with the Muslim community in Britain who are part of our movement. We are committed to fighting racism in all its forms. We are internationalists who see ourselves as part of a global struggle against the capitalist system. We are implacably opposed to all and any discrimination on grounds of gender whatever form it takes. We are committed to social justice and the proper use of society’s resources for the benefit of all its members. We are for the defence of pension rights. We support trade unionists wherever they struggle to improve and defend their members’ rights and conditions of work. We are for a defence of the environment against the rapacious economic instruments that destroy it in the name of profit.

Today it is clear that war is the central question that unites us all. A new Scottish left can find its focus and its launching point in our common revulsion against Blair and Bush’s war. On September 23rd the whole of the British left will march on the Labour Party Conference in Manchester under the banner Out Now Britain and America out of Iraq, Blair out of power. Let that be the founding moment of a new Scottish left that looks resolutely out at the world and shares the determination to change it.

Mike Gonzalez for SW Platform

Motion passed at SW meeting on 20.08.06

At a members meeting held today in Glasgow, the members of the Socialist Worker Platform of the SSP unanimously agreed the following motion.

This aggregate of the Socialist Worker Platform recognises with some sadness that the SSP is no longer the broad and open mass party of the left we committed ourselves to building when we joined it some five years ago. While the imperialist war intensifies and spreads into Lebanon, and the level of public anger and opposition grows, the SSP has proved unable to respond to that anger or provide any direction for it.

The potential for building a broad and inclusive organization of the Scottish left is as great as ever. It is the duty of socialists to respond to and build on that potential. We welcome the initiative of calling an open public meeting of the Scottish Left on September 3rd in Glasgow and will actively work to build it, in the belief that it could represent the first stage in building new political formation that can answer the needs of the many socialists and activists in Scotland, embracing all strands of the movement including Muslim organizations taking a leading role in the antiwar movement and all those involved in the resistance to G8.

The SW Platform believes that the ‘Time to Go’ demonstration at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on September 23rd can provide a common focus for every section of the movement and a launching point for a new Scottish left that will be open, democratic, internationalist and committed to the building of a new and better world.

Tags: , , , ,


Oct 04 2006

Call for Unity

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:41 pm

The RCN Statement to members in response to Sheridan’s appeal for a split

The Scottish Socialist Party has been held up throughout the UK and beyond as a model for socialist unity. It was built on the firm ground of direct action and working class resistance. It included the vast majority of socialist organisations in Scotland and local branch organisations of British trade unions.

The SSP is now fighting for its very existence. In the wake of his battle in the bourgeois courts, Tommy Sheridan, the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) and the Socialist Workers’ Platform have all called for a split and are attempting to form a new party.

The RCN has argued that by taking his libel case to the courts, Tommy Sheridan has not only been doing battle with the News of the World but has also used the same court room to conduct another battle – against the SSP. He has in fact been carrying out an anti party agenda.

Fiction

Tommy’s initiation of legal action against News of the World, against the unanimous advice of the party’s executive led to the dragging of eleven SSP Executive members (including 3 MSPs) and office bearers to court against their will. They were not prepared to perjure themselves under oath; to say that the party’s official minute was a lie; and that they were part of an anti-Tommy conspiracy. This is what Tommy demanded in order to maintain the fiction of his chosen public image.

Sheridan’s actions since winning the case have confirmed this: He sold his story to the Daily Record, a New Labour tabloid, attacking those comrades who had advised him not to take the case and then were compelled to attend court as scabs. He then announced his intention to take back my {his} party at the next conference by challenging Colin Fox (who he previously supported) for the party convenorship. He said the SSP required a man of steel to see it through the difficult times.

Sheridan has now made a call to split the SSP supported by the CWI & Socialist Worker platforms. We can only assume that he has added up the numbers and is not convinced he can win a conference majority for his return.

Solidarity: an inauspicious beginning

The basis for the proposed new party is not very auspicious. The essential founding principle of the new organisation appears to be unquestioned support for Tommy and Gail as President and (unelected) First Lady. The two other main sponsors, the CWI and SWP can not bear to be in the same organisation in England, Wales or Ireland. In England and Wales they each promote their own front organisations, Respect and the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party. Similarly in Ireland, the CWI’s Socialist party stands separately from the Socialist Workers party. In the ‘Six Counties’, the CWI promotes single issue candidates and trade union officials in elections to the Assembly, whilst the SWP promote the populist Socialist and Environmental Alliance.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Tommy Sheridan, a prominent sponsor of the nationalist ‘Independence First’ campaign, and supporter of mandatory sentencing for knife crime, is allied with these two Left unionist organisations, which also strongly disagree with each other over trade union work and the current anti-war movement. Further splits would appear to be likely.

The RCN opposes the cult of the individual which has led in part to this situation. No one individual is above party democracy. Tommy’s ego has led him to ignore the sound advice of his comrades not to take this case to court. Since the case, he has indulged his celebrity through exposure in the media, even posing in white dressing gowns with his wife and child!

Defend the SSP, defend socialist unity

The RCN has worked as an open platform, firmly committed to the SSP. We promote socialist republicanism and internationalism from below. We continue to defend the gains represented by the SSP.

The split in the SSP is a major setback for the socialist and working class movement particularly in Scotland but also by extension, in England, Wales, Ireland and internationally.

The RCN will continue to fight for socialist unity by taking account of the mistakes that have been made.

Democracy, transparency and accountability are essential in a socialist organisation. We argued that the executive minute should have been made available to the party immediately. It could then have been challenged/corrected/amended or agreed as a correct record. It is worth remembering, that Tommy also asked for the minute to be kept secret.

Socialists should not use the bourgeois courts in this manner – If Tommy had been injured as the result of an article in the gutter press, the political response would have been to mount a mass campaign against the News of the World, involving trade unionists and the working class.

We are for the unity of the SSP, against splits, witch-hunts and expulsions. Disputes between members or groups must be sorted out via party structures – not via the media or courts. The interests of the working class and the fight against imperialism are much more important than a court case about someone’s sex life.

The gains made by the SSP in Scotland have been considerable. As well as six MSPs, we have the respect and support of hundreds of thousands of working class people across the country. If we throw away the hard-won, principled unity of the SSP, we are failing our class. We call upon those determined to split to think again!

27th August 2006

Tags: , , , ,


Oct 04 2006

A message from England

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:41 pm

Leaflet distributed at SSP rally in Glasgow, 2 September 2006

I bring comradely greeting to this meeting from the Socialist Alliance.

The executive of the Socialist Alliance will be meeting shortly to discuss our attitude to the split in the SSP. We have been debating the issue on our discussion list. Whilst we don’t yet have an agreed position, most if not all comrades oppose the split. I am sure the vast majority will continue to support the SSP. As a member of the Executive of the SA, this is a personal contribution which reflects what I intend to argue at the SA Executive.

At the last SSP conference, Nick Rogers and I attended as a delegation from the Socialist Alliance. We had discussions with Frances Curran, and spoke informally to Alan McCombes, Tommy Sheridan and Colin Fox. Our aim was to register our support for the SSP and seek support from the SSP for our effort to rebuild the SA in England and Wales.

We are back again unfortunately this time because the SSP has split. Since there are no strategic or programmatic differences, there is no political basis for two parties. We are opposed to splits, expulsions and witch-hunts.

Of course the main base of support for the SSP is the Scottish working class. How will Scottish workers view the split? They will surely expect an honest accounting of the mistakes that have been made. I don’t mean by that simply to blame the other side. In England comrades have said it was a black mark against the party for trying to hide those minutes from the working class and then the humiliation of having them dragged out by the bourgeois courts. What other mistakes have been made? An honest and self critical debate can only help the party.

Outside Scotland the main ally of the SSP is the working class in England. It is worth saying why the politically active part of the working class in England supports the SSP. First let us set aside a couple of red herrings

  • Don’t make the mistake of equating the English working class with the opportunist manoeuvrings of the SWP and the SP/CWI.
  • Don’t mix up the English working class with ‘London based’ organisations. Only seven million live in London. The rest live in Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool and Manchester, Newcastle etc.

So why do the advanced workers in England respect the SSP?

  • Because the SSP has been the most effective party opposing Blair and New Labour.
  • Because the SSP has been a socialist unity party – the need to unite all socialists into one party is the order of the day. The SSP did it.
  • Because the SSP practised a more open democracy with platforms and publications

Because of the split in the SSP these virtues, admired in England, may come under threat. The SSP must continue to make the fight against Blair the main priority. It must continue to fight for socialist unity. It must keep up the battle for more openness and greater democracy. Otherwise the SSP will be lost.

At the last SSP conference we saw evidence of a debate over strategy in relation to the national question. One side put emphasis on Scottish independence and an alliance with the SNP whilst the other side put more emphasis on a Scottish republic and internationalism from below.

If there are such differences in the SSP, it is not surprising to find workers in England are somewhat more confused about the national question. Of course this is mainly because they have been miseducated by the Labour Party, the SWP and the SP.

If the national question is about democracy, the sovereignty of the people, republicanism and working class internationalism then not only will the English working class support that but will want some of it for themselves.

If the national question is about Scottish capitalists grabbing a bigger share of the cake in a dirty fight with the Anglo-British capitalists, and with the Scottish workers being lined up patriotically behind their own capitalists the SSP will get the thumbs down.

That is what the working class in England want the SSP to explain. In the long run when all the dust of the split has settled, this will be what is really decided.

Winners and losers?

What are the best and worst we can hope for? One story from this split is that the SSP lost Tommy Sheridan but gained the support of the working class in England and Wales. The other story is that the SSP lost Tommy Sheridan, and then lost the support of the working class in England in exchange for a pat on the back from Alex Salmond.

The fight for the SSP must be extended into England. In my view the SA should conduct that struggle with the backing of the SSP. I hope that between now and the next SSP conference we can work out how best to do that.

You can contact the Socialist Alliance, PO Box 4123, Rugby, CV21 9BJ
Published by Steve Freeman
2 September 2006.

Tags:


Oct 04 2006

When Two Tribes go to War

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 6:41 pm

Rae Bridges is an SSP member who is not a member of any platform. Here he casts a perceptive eye over recent events.

As Tommy Sheridan emerged from the Court of Session in Edinburgh on August 4, he compared his victory over the gutter press, right wing, union bashing News of the World to Gretna beating Real Madrid.

Remarkable though the victory was (in strictly legal terms) if I were to use a football analogy, it would instead be to compare the current situation for socialism in Scotland with the Munich air crash, when another team in red, the brightest hope of its generation (albeit in football, not politics) perished in the ice and fire of a dark German runway.

Compare the two protagonists in the court case, which one do you think is in most turmoil, the cause of socialist unity in Scotland or Rupert Murdoch’s News International? Rupert must be laughing his head off, he’s destroyed the most united far left party in Scotland for generations, and the cost to him has been what would pass as loose change from his grossly overstuffed pockets.

Theatre of the Absurd

Even by the exacting standards of the Theatre of the Absurd, socialism in Scotland has proved that when it comes to grand farce no one does it better. The only thing missing so far has been the ghost of Brian Rix running into a meeting somewhere and dropping his trousers.

And the play is not over, only the first act. But, so far, it has had audiences spellbound and Sold Out notices there have been aplenty. Depending on whose truth you believe:

  • Socialist ‘Sold Out’ fellow socialist.
  • Tommy ‘Sold Out’ to the Daily Record.
  • And the News of the World and the Sun? Well, they just sold out at the newsagents.

Round about the time of the trial the Sun overtook the Daily Record as the best-selling daily paper in Scotland, quite probably on the back of its reporting of the trial. Bear that in mind if anyone ever tries to tell you that socialists don’t do irony.

A change of tune

Following the trial, Tommy and his supporters swore to win back the SSP, but again depending on whose truth you believe, the tune has changed and Tommy is off to set up another party, Solidarity.

So, now we are to have two socialist parties in Scotland. As a long-time admirer of satire and aficionado of the absurd (there’s that word again) I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Consider this scenario.

Some time in the not-too-distant future the firefighters/nursery nurses/civil servants/whoever are on strike. On the cold, wet midwinter picket lines (why don’t they ever strike in the summer?) they are approached in the early morning gloom by two individuals, who each introduce themselves to the shivering pickets thus.

I come as a representative of the SSP/Solidarity (delete as applicable), urging you to stand together. I warn you that the bosses will try to divide you. But, remember this, the workers, united, will never be defeated.

Shop Steward:

Hmm, didn’t you lot used to all be in the same party?

SSP/Solidarity member (together):

Yeah, we did, but we split.

Shop Steward:

Well, in that case, clear off and don’t come around here preaching unity and solidarity. Go and get your own house in order!’

Surreal? Bizarre? Ludicrous?

(Again, delete as applicable, but if you want to use all three, do feel free.)

But, anyway, back from the future to the time of the trial.

What were we doing while Lebanon burned?

What were we doing while Lebanon burned?

At this time, when Lebanon and Gaza were in flames and pundits pronounced the ‘start of world war three’; at this time, while the attack on pensions was still bubbling away in the background, with the prospect of future generations having to work longer for having the sheer audacity to live longer; at this time, as the country we lived in became a place where going to the wrong place of worship or having the wrong colour of skin, or wearing the wrong clothes could get you harassed, attacked in the street, or even killed; at this time, what was the priority of many socialists in Scotland?

Look outward

On both sides of the divide they were busy indulging in an orgy of effigy burning, mud slinging, name calling and generally behaving in a most decidedly uncomradely fashion towards each other. If ever there was a time when unity on the left and looking outward was needed, this was it.

Someone should have phoned Nero to see if he was finished with the fiddle. Though what to play on it might have proved a trifle problematic.

While The Internationale may indeed unite the human race, finding a song to unite the warring socialists of Scotland was proving a tad more difficult as the SSP descended into civil war. However, that for those who were not involved with either of the factions It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To) was probably as good as you could have hoped to find. But, with the split, farce darkens into tragedy.

Autumn is now with us and a familiar noise fills the skies. Looking up we see skeins of geese flying in familiar V formation, heading for their winter feeding grounds.

They never fly in a perfect V, there’s a certain raggedness about it, one leg of the V is usually longer than the other, and there’s sometimes a straggler or two slightly detached from the rest.

Which is actually a pretty good description of what the SSP was like before the split, with all its platforms, factions, networks, individuals flying in some kind of formation.

It never was a perfect V, but it had direction, a kind of unity and a destination.

But now the skein that was the SSP has hit some turbulence, and where before there was one skein, now there are two, still heading in the same direction, still with a final destination, and, by the sound of it, making the same noises, but with unity shattered.

Which side are you on?

In my years in the SSP I took a conscious decision to remain independent of all platforms, factions, networks, etc. Now that the split has finally happened I’m reminded of a few lines from the old Bob Dylan song, Desolation Row.

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune,
The Titanic sails at dawn,
Everybody is shouting,
Which side are you on?

Which side, indeed! And there’s the tragedy, for, surely, when you cut away all the debates, all the arguments and all the differences, aye, even all the bitterness, what you should find at the heart of anyone who wishes to call themselves a socialist is a dream — the dream of a better world, a world where the socialist ideals of harmony, justice, peace and fairness for all have replaced the system of exploitation, enslavement, division and waste which we call capitalism. This dream remains a fundamental truth which links all socialists, wherever they may be, whoever they may be.

A few paragraphs back, I quoted from Bob Dylan, and now I’m going to end with another quote.

We cannot think of uniting with others until we have first learned to unite amongst ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.

—Malcolm X.

I remain comradely yours, till the end, In the sure and certain knowledge of the revolution,

Rae Bridges

Tags: , , , , ,


Next Page »