Oct 03 2006

The Rising Phoenix

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 7:35 pm

The rising phoenix

Learn the lessons and defend the SSP

The last two years have been a turbulent and destructive time for the SSP. Starting with the Emergency Executive meeting in November 2004, which led to Tommy Sheridan’s resignation as convenor, through to the ordeal of the libel court case he brought in the full glare of the media, concluding with the split and the launch of Solidarity.

Most members, including many who have joined Solidarity, will have gone through emotional turmoil and will have kept asking the question – when will this all end so we can get back to fighting imperialism and rallying the working class to the cause of socialism?

As the dust settles over the chaos of the court battle and the impact of the split becomes clearer, it is time to attempt to make some assessment and ask some searching questions about where the SSP stands now, what its immediate tasks are and what are the lessons to be learnt?

In this edition of Emancipation & Liberation we attempt to bring together the central events and their political significance, supported by some of the key documents and articles produced to explain them.

It will be quite clear to the reader that we have not only reproduced those that support our position to stay in the SSP. We need to understand why others have walked away from the SSP. A drawing up of a balance sheet is vital, for socialists to learn the lessons of these regrettable events. The SSP conference in October will be significant in dealing with these and moving on.

Why did the RCN decide to stay with the SSP and not join Solidarity?

We are clear. The decision of Tommy Sheridan to pursue his court case against the unanimous advice of the SSP Executive Committee represented a rejection of inner party democracy and the accountability of party officials to the membership – an anti-party action, which has had dire consequences for the SSP. It was a gross political mistake.

The subsequent decision to form a new organisation, Solidarity, on little other political basis than personal support for Tommy Sheridan, represents a continuation of this anti-party action and heralds one of the most serious mistakes made by socialists in post war Scottish politics. It places personality and individual egos before principled politics. It weakens the working class in the face of the current ruling class offensive.

Sectarian agendas

The decision of the SWP and CWI to back this split, further demonstrates their own sectarian agendas. These organisations’ lack of commitment to principled socialist unity has already been clearly shown by their separate ‘unity’ initiatives in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland (Six Counties); whilst in Ireland (26 Counties) the SWP and CWI just promote their own organisations.

From the birth of the Scottish Socialist Alliance through to its transformation into the SSP and beyond, the RCN and its members have been partisan and dependable SSP activists. The political and organisational development of the SSPhas been at the core of our work. We continue to recognise that a united socialist party is essential if there is going to be any chance of socialism being established. In that sense unity is strength. To this end, the RCN has put the building of the SSP above the recruitment to our own platform. Unlike the SWP/CWI we have never seen ourselves as an alternative ‘leadership in waiting’ focussed on toppling the incumbents but rather concerned ourselves with promoting the major lessons of the international class struggle. First and foremost amongst these is the necessity of promoting and defending a comradely and democratic culture within a united socialist party, the SSP. A key strategy of the SSP was to unite the Left

However, while doing this we have also been fierce and vocal critics of some of the directions and policies that the SSP has pursued. We have not been afraid to voice our opposition to proposals that we feel would have a negative effect on the socialist movement in Scotland.

Socialist morality not bourgeois morality

One of the key lessons that must be learnt is that a socialist party must have a socialist morality at its core, informing its politics and practice. This should not be confused with bourgeois morality. This socialist morality has to be built on honesty, transparency, democracy, accountability and an absence of the hypocritical double standards displayed by bourgeois politicians. To establish genuine and lasting roots within the working class and to be worthy of the name Socialist, a socialist party must be honest with our class. Honesty has to extend from policies to organisational matters, such as membership figures and the numbers who attend demonstrations or meetings that we organise. The SWP is notorious amongst the left and the organised workers’ movement for deliberately inflating attendances at its events.

Do they not trust their readers and members with reality? How can the working class movement, and socialists within it, be expected to make informed decisions on deliberately distorted information? If you are fast and loose with the truth, why should workers trust you? To paraphrase Trotsky, one small cut can lead to gangrene!

Democracy, transparency and accountability must go hand in hand. These combine to act as a guard to ensure that the party leadership is in touch with the membership, reflecting and representing its collective view and acting as a check on the rise of the cult of a particular personality or leader.

For open and principled platforms

From its founding the SSP has, almost uniquely, allowed open platforms/factions to exist in our party. This is a healthy tradition that must continue. Some blame our current predicament on this tolerance of platforms. While the behaviour of some platform members has been unacceptable, this is also true for some SSP members who are not in platforms.

Furthermore, Tommy was himself a member of the International Socialist Movement, the dominant platform in the SSP, along with Alan McCombes and Keith Baldassara. A strong argument could be made that it was the weakening and decline of the ISM platform which removed much of the discipline that had reined in Tommy’s destructive ego, and permitted Tommy’s strengths as a communicator to be used for the benefit of the SSP. Principled and open platforms can be one way to increase accountability. The alternative can be the formation of an undeclared ‘leadership faction’, which tries to avoid accountability and hides the truth from the members.

The socialist transformation of society requires the widening and deepening of democracy within society including the democratic control over all the resources of society. This commitment to democracy must be reflected within any socialist organisation otherwise it is just another political cul-de-sac which working class activists and their allies should rightly shun.

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Oct 03 2006

The Republican Communist Network Welcomes the Formation of the SSP United Left

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

This statement was issued in the wake of the founding of the UL platform

Shared values and concerns

The RCN welcomes the formation of the new SSPUL platform. The SSP United Left Statement (June 11th, 2006) makes a number of important points with which we are in agreement. The SSP, since its inception, has been a beacon of hope to the workers’ movement in Scotland and internationally. We also very much agree that uniting the left into a working, fighting political party has been a major achievement of the SSP.

The RCN also shares the SSP United Left’s concerns that the party’s community activism, socialist education and internal unity have failed to match our electoral success and that representatives may not be sufficiently accountable and note that in recent month, internal debate has been conducted via the mainstream media rather than through the democratic structures of the party.

The SSP United Left’s specific proposals on Building the SSP, Accountability and Participation, Self-organisation and Education share much of our own thinking on these matters. We particularly value the methods of working outlined in Our Network, and would want to work together to ensure these are entrenched in the practice of the whole SSP. This need is particularly evident after the marked departure from such methods displayed at the May 28th 2006 Emergency National Council meeting.

Why platforms are important

Some SSP members have attacked the declaration of the SSP United Left platform. We think that, even where SSP members oppose (some of) its principles, they should support the right to form particular platforms. Of course, it is incumbent on all platforms to conduct themselves in a principled, democratic and comradely manner towards others who do not necessarily share all their views. There clearly are political reasons for the formation of the SSP United Left. However, this decision was not taken lightly, partly due to many of the new platform members being former members of the former ISM platform, which had ceased to be viable due to growing political differences amongst its members.

It is quite clear that the unanimous agreement, originally shared by all members attending the SSP Emergency EC of November 9th 2004, over the handling of Tommy Sheridan’s standing down as SSP Convenor, has long broken down. When the EC maintained a bureaucratic united front against the membership, at the November 27th 2004, NC, the RCN opposed this. It would have been far better for both sides, in this particular dispute, to have brought their grievances to that NC meeting, so they could have been resolved then. Instead these differences have been allowed to fester. As a result some relatively small political differences have become considerably greater, whilst growing personal animosities have not been fully disentangled from political differences.

When Tommy Sheridan launched his Open Letter at the May 28th 2006 National Council meeting, it could be construed as a platform declaration, around which Tommy has asked SSP members to rally. The SW Platform, and quite a number of other SSP members, have answered his call. Therefore, like it or not, the major division in the party at present is over the issue of Tommy’s resignation. The formation of the SSP United Left, like Tommy’s Open Letter, represents a particular political response to this situation. The formation of particular platforms is the correct response to major differences in politically mature organisations.

Current SSP leadership weaknesses over our party’s relationship to the state and media

The RCN also believes that the current crisis has highlighted a particular political weakness, shared by all sections our current leadership. We believe that the EC was correct on November 9th to advise Tommy not to resort to the state’s courts to seek redress from the scabby News of the World. The RCN is opposed, in principle, to any resort to the state’s courts, when attempting to seek redress and judgement over our internal party matters (and those of other working class organisations), including the conduct of any office bearer.

We should only seek the opinion and judgement of the working class. Alternative working class methods of seeking justice include:- the use of our own press and website, open letters to the offending media, followed by direct appeals to the trade union members working in these bodies and, if necessary, boycott actions. The state’s courts are not our natural arena. We should never initiate actions which seek the state’s judgement over the conduct of our own affairs. We might, of course, be forced to attend courts to defend ourselves, as best we can, against the attacks of others. However, we do not do this in the belief that they will deliver real justice. Furthermore, resort to the bourgeois courts for justice is a rich man’s game.

Therefore, the compromise public agreement, whereby the November 9th Emergency EC did not give its backing to Tommy’s misguided course of action, but supported Tommy’s individual right to pursue court action, caused problems for the party. The state eagerly seized the opportunity provided by Tommy’s court case to intervene in the internal affairs of our party. We have now witnessed the jailing of Alan McCombes, raids on our premises and members’ houses, a major surveillance operation upon our party, followed by punitive fines. Minutes, or no minutes, the state has been given an opening to find legal excuses to attack our party. Tommy’s case could never have been confined to a personal issue. As far as the News of the World is concerned, Tommy’s celebrity status is linked to his political position. Therefore, we welcome those who recently advised Tommy to reconsider and withdraw from his court action, when the damage it was inflicting upon our party became strikingly evident.

Just as our party has to learn lessons over its relationship with the institutions of the state, the RCN is also concerned that lessons are learned about the off-the-record leaks to the press (including the alleged affidavit given to The Herald) made by various parties in the current dispute.

The SSP currently has no principles set down for dealing with the courts or the press, when dealing with internal matters. Given this weakness, the RCN favours the drawing up of a set of party principles, which would form the basis of our representatives’ and members’ future conduct over these matters.

The way forward

Our Annual Conference needs to be brought forward, the position regarding Minutes needs to be clarified, and a wider discussion opened up about the new political situation.

The SSP United Left has taken no position on the issue of dealing with the state’s courts and the bourgeois media. The RCN do not think that this debate can, or should be, avoided. We support the idea of moving the SSP’s Annual Conference forward to this Autumn. Furthermore, there are no longer any excuses for not providing SSP members with the Minutes of the November 9th, 14th and 24th ECs, now that they are in the hands of both the state and the News of the World. We need to stop both those who wish to rewrite history (something with a very bad record on the Left!) and those who have speculated on the content of these minutes with malicious intent.

A Conference, however, which concentrated purely on internal affairs, would represent too obvious a target for the media; and would possibly also discourage many SSP members. The wider political context has also changed considerably since our Conference earlier this year. There is growing evidence that our 2007 electoral campaign for the Scottish Parliament and Local Councils, will take place in a situation where New Labour face the prospect of losing their dominant position. Our Conference needs to address this situation.

Addressing the issue of Women’s Oppression

We also recognise the leading role many SSP United Left members have taken in advancing the party’s understanding of women’s oppression. Gender Equality forms a significant part of the Statement. Much emphasis is placed upon the hard-won, ground-breaking 50:50 policy. However, the current political divisions in the SSP, over the handling of Tommy’s court case, do not reflect the original political divisions in the SSP over the 50:50 decision – the SW Platform then being prominently in favour.

Despite reservations, we accept that the 50:50 rule is now in place. But we also recognise that much more needs to be done to ensure that women play a full and active role in the party at all levels. Furthermore, we would wish to deepen our own understanding of women’s oppression, feminism and the different political approaches and experiences over this matter. The RCN invites SSP United Left members to give a lead at one of our meetings. We would also welcome an invitation to any SSP United Left or wider party educational on this matter.

The RCN will continue its longstanding policy of working with any platform, or individual SSP member/s, where we can find common agreement. We also accept majority decisions taken by our party (compatible with the wider interests of the working class in Scotland and internationally). We hope for a fruitful working relationship with the SSP United Left.

Republican Communist Network
20 June 2006

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Oct 03 2006

Equal Fights

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 4:19 pm

Here we reproduce excerpts from an interview that Carolyn Leckie (SSP MSP) gave to Bridget Morris (published in Sunday Herald on 4 June 2006).

Women’s vital role in the struggle

From an early age, I considered myself a socialist, and spoke out about inequality, class and poverty. For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been assertive about gender issues. I soon learned that for some people on the left, there could be tensions between these two areas.

Seeing the industrial action in which my father was involved during the early 1970s, I became aware that it was usually women who had to deal with the practical repercussions of strikes. They were the ones who had to send the weans out to wait in the bread queues and make sure there was food on the table. There was almost a privileged role for the men in conducting the struggle. But while the women enabled it to happen by keeping the family going, their vital role never seemed to be properly valued, though it’s now recognised that if it hadn’t been for the magnificent work done by women in the miners’ strike, the men wouldn’t have been able to stay out as long as they did.

There are lots of progressive, right-on, feminist-thinking men within the SSP. But a few members still seem to resent the progressive gains we’ve made as women, particularly over the 50:50 issue. I was surprised by Tommy Sheridan’s recent comment that we are a class-based socialist party, not a gender-obsessed discussion group, because I understood he supported 50:50 at the time the policy was agreed, although he wasn’t an active participant in the debate.

You hear a lot of patriarchal, macho language within the Scottish Parliament. That kind of chest-beating appeals to some people. But to me, and other women within the SSP, the important question is: how are we going to change society – by having competing strong leaders, or by empowering every single member of society so they can change it on an equal basis? …

Carolyn Leckie

Carolyn Leckie

It would be unfortunate if comments about gender obsessed discussion groups were seen as representative of the SSP’s views on women’s issues, because that would be inaccurate. Our party has progressive policies on gender.

We have talented, committed women who are upfront and arguing on that terrain, at the same time as they are fighting on the picket lines and in their communities against hospital closures, school closures and privatisation. I don’t accept that you can’t do all of that while also tackling gender inequality, racism and other oppressions. …

White knuckle ride

How can you liberate the working class without liberating the half – or more than half – who are female? Compared with the left in general, the SSP has been phenomenally successful in advancing women’s issues. With progress, however, there is always a competing tension. Right now, the party is under tremendous strain, and those tensions are in unusually stark relief. The next few weeks and months are going to be a white-knuckle ride. But I am confident that we’ll come out the other end intact. …

So we will survive, because there is a demand for a party such as ours. Because all the problems we are trying to tackle within society, are not going to go away. They may be about to get worse.

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Oct 03 2006

A critique and exposure of Tommy Sheridan’s ‘Daily Record’ and the ‘SSP has reached the crossroad ‘manifestoes’’

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 13RCN @ 11:53 am

Allan Armstrong (Republican Communist Network) examines the politics behind the ‘SSP Majority’s’ letter and Sheridan’s contributions to the Daily Record

i)    Tommy’s battle against the News of the World

Tommy Sheridan has won a famous victory over the News of the World. This has been proclaimed by Tommy’s immediate supporters, the SWP and CWI, and by that section of the press and media, which likes to pretend it is morally superior to the News of the World. People from Margo MacDonald to Ian Bell have hailed Tommy’s triumph over the News of the World. When it comes to its effect on the SSP, they either show little concern, or cynically declare that the SSP project was doomed from the start. The Left could never unite. For some, this is no doubt said with regret, as they wistfully remember their lost and youthful radical past. And, in a desperate desire to fill the vacuum, left by the wholesale retreat of working class politics since its 60’s and 70’s heyday, some of these people might claim that only celebrity politics has a chance of getting any progressive changes today. First it was Ken Livingstone, then George Galloway, and now it’s Tommy Sheridan. And, even some of those on the remaining Left seem to agree with them. They just hope for a little slice of the action. Working class heroes are our only saviour – follow the true leader!

ii)   Tommy’s hidden battle against the SSP

What has been hidden from most of the public and many SSP members, throughout the lurid 4 week trial, is the other battle that has been raging. That has been the attempt by Tommy to break the SSP, in order to have an organisation, like putty in his hands. This would be, in effect, a leadership cult – the Tommy Sheridan Party (TSP). In order to achieve this Tommy was prepared to resort to a bourgeois court to promote his campaign of bravado and public denigration of one-time close friends, fellow comrades in the former International Socialist Movement (ISM), and other socialists in the party, including many with a long record of working class struggle. Tommy has been mightily helped in this, by his attempt to portray his stance as a heroic, one-man battle against the scabby News of the World and the right to maintain his family’s privacy.

The sub-text in Tommy’s campaign has been to conjure up a secret organisation, the United Left, which conspired to topple him as SSP leader on November 9th 2004.The purpose behind this has been twofold. First, to whip up hatred within the SSP, directed against those members of the Executive Commitee prepared to stand up to him; secondly, to play to the wider perception of the public (some, of course, who became members of the jury) that the SSP wasn’t worth a toss. It is just another joke organisation – a combination of The Life of Brian and Citizen Smith. Given the Left’s past history it is not surprising that this image is all too prevalent amongst the wider public. However, in appealing to this particular widespread prejudice, Tommy has highlighted his intention to destroy the reality of what the SSP has achieved. Instead he wants it replaced either by the TSP, or left as an empty shell, gutted of any independent-mindedness and democracy.

iii)  Tommy’s anti-party course was a response to being challenged by close friends, on November 9th, 2004

When did Tommy decide to pursue this course of action? Quite clearly he was shocked at the emergency November 9th 2004 Executive meeting when his closest friends and political allies were not prepared to give him unqualified backing. Protecting the leader’s public image, promoted in the media at every opportunity – the squeaky clean President and First Lady – was his primary concern. The real issue, therefore, was not about Tommy’s sex life. This is indeed his and Gail’s affair, but it has been Tommy who seems determined to make it everybody else’s. The problem is Tommy’s image promoted for political purposes maybe very different from reality. The wider issue isn’t a concern over Calvinist morality, but over bourgeois hypocrisy. It was Tommy’s decision to go to the courts, instead of shrugging off the News of the World allegations, which showed his own moralistic uncertainty about sexual conduct. Even John Prescott and Bertie Ahern have handled press allegations about their private lives better – either, It’s none of your concern, or, So what!

And for Tommy, the threat to sue the News of the World, at this stage, was all a bluff! The Executive Committee was faced with the choice – to follow the politics of bluff and short-term tactical expediency, or to follow the politics of truth and long term principled gain. It should have been a ‘no brainer’.

Tommy could even have gone to the following Executive Committee meeting, the next National Council, or to the 2005 Conference, to argue his case in front of the members. That was his right and the proper way to pursue his grievance. Certainly, the membership would have been up for a SSV campaign to expose the scabby News of the World. Direct appeals could have been made to that paper’s unions.

Instead, Tommy, at this stage with the Executive’s support, decided to pursue a private action in the bourgeois courts. However, Tommy was nurturing his hurt, so he also moved behind the scenes in the party. First he broke off personal relationships with his former closest friends. Next year, he backed Colin Fox for SSP leader, hoping that at least Colin could be manipulated into advancing his course. Colin, one of Tommy’s close political allies, was not for being so used. So, in Tommy’s mind, Colin too joined the ‘imaginary’ conspiracy directed against the unchallengeable leader.

Lastly, when it became quite clear that the SSP could not be kept out the courts, due to the state’s stance (something the RCN maintained was inevitable), Tommy wrote his Open Letter, with the help of the CWI and others. From then on he has played a constant game of ‘bluff’, which can, with a skilled poker face like Tommy’s, deliver the wins he craves – but not forever. Tommy’s cards will eventually be called and they will be exposed as knaves, when aces are required.

However, since the date of Tommy’s court case was declared, his battle against the News of the World – the bluff – has taken second fiddle to Tommy’s very real battle against everything the SSP stands for.

iv)    The record of the real SSP

Tommy’s public portrayal of the SSP has been a travesty of reality. The RCN knows better than any other platform that Tommy and his allies’ are twisting and misrepresenting the reality of our party. The SSA, and its successor organisation, the current SSP, was built on the firm grounds of working class resistance – the Anti-Poll Tax campaign, the Save Our Water campaign, the Glaciers’ occupation and many other struggles. In the process, the SSA, then the SSP, pulled in the overwhelming majority of socialist organisations in Scotland (including the local branch organisations of British-based organisations), which had previously only enjoyed a separate sect-like existence.

The RCN is probably the only political organisation, currently in the SSP, which argued for the welcoming of all socialist organisations into the Alliance’s/Party’s ranks. The condition of membership was that they accept the SSA’s/SSPs’ defining principles and constitution. That means we championed the right to affiliation of every organisation, which has subsequently joined, from the CPGB-PCC (now defunct in Scotland!), the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement to the Socialist Workers’ Party. We welcomed people as comrades into the party, only opposing their politics whenever we disagreed. We have always tried to maintain fraternal relations with comrades as individuals.

Furthermore, the RCN, far from supporting the politics of the ISM, or other platforms or individuals in the Executive Committee, has always been prepared to very publicly take on positions we disagreed with. We have opposed both Tommy and Alan McCombes, on their shared slide towards Scottish nationalism. We have opposed both Carolyn Leckie and Richie Venton, when they failed to fully support the extension of the principle, ‘an SSP MSP on a workers’ wage’ to the principle that any ‘SSP TU official should be on the average wage of the workers they represent’. We have opposed the CWI’s and Allan Green’s welcoming of loyalist paramilitary, Billy Hutchinson to ‘Socialism’. We have opposed the SWP’s continued resort to undemocratic front organisations.

However, we have also been been approached by members in all other platforms to speak for, or to support key policies of theirs. We have welcomed support from members of most other Platforms, and non-aligned individuals, when they have supported our politics. We have published articles by members of all Platforms in Emancipation & Liberation, even when this has not been reciprocated. We aren’t scared of real debate.

Political debates and struggles inside the SSA/SSP, have been overwhelmingly conducted in the spirit of brotherly and sisterly comradeship. When there have been occasional lapses, apologies have been made later, and good personal relationships re-established. The RCN, which is the smallest of the active affiliated Platforms, and frequently in the minority in the final votes, is proud to stand up and state that, despite any remaining weaknesses and shortcomings, the SSP has been the most democratic and comradely wider organisation our members have been involved with during in their political lives (and that includes the Labour Party, the IS/SWP, CPGB-PCC and the SNP!).

I don’t think it is ‘blowing our own (RCN) trumpet’ to state that we have moved from being perceived as a marginal, somewhat bizarre, republican-supporting sect, to being respected as a hard-working, SSP supporting Platform, which has ‘punched above its weight’. We have been seen as champions of SSP internal democracy and have pushed the debate on republicanism from the margins of the SSP to its centre.

Therefore, I repeat that Tommy’s portrayal of the internal life of the SSP is both dishonest and sickening. If the democratic and comradely tradition established in the SSA/SSP was to be finally broken, in favour of the type of hatred-promoting bile displayed in Tommy’s latest contributions to the scabby Daily Record, it would represent a major set-back for our class.

v)       The political situation after Tommy’s court victory

The RCN has issued several statements, giving our view of events, since November 9th 2004. Our most recent statement, published on August 4th was drafted before the results of the trial were known. Beforehand, we were sometimes asked what we thought would be the best verdict. We said that politically it didn’t matter – that Tommy was pursuing an anti-Party battle regardless. Win or lose, he would try to rally party members around him to purge, what he or his close ally, Hugh Kerr, have shamefully characterised as either scabs or supergrasses.

We also said that there could only be two official results to this court case:- either News of the World – 1, Tommy – 0; or Tommy – 1, News of the World – 1. The real result, however, would be – the State 5, the SSP 0. In the end the official verdict was Tommy – 1, News of the World – 1. Why do we not agree with the current wider opinion that Tommy has trounced the News of the World? First, the £700,000 they had to pay out (penalties and costs) was small beer, compared to the four week’s of unparalleled publicity they received. Furthermore, on top of the persuasive direct evidence offered particularly by Katrine Troll, her flatmates, and from the mobile phone calls, the News of the World was able to ladle on much more completely unsubstantiated salacious material, to get their money’s worth.

Yes, the News of the World would have preferred to claim the scalp of another prominent politician, but it was always a win-win situation for them. Far from feeling defeated and browbeaten, the News of the World went on to print another story, in their very next issue (August 6th) attacking Tommy’s friend, former policeman and SSP member, Dennis Reilly. He was accused of getting a gangster, John Lynn, to intimidate one of the witnesses. Now that Tommy is at least £230,000 the richer, will he spend a little of this money trying to clear the name of his good friend in the courts? These accusations are far more serious than any stories about Tommy’s alleged sex life.

The one thing the News of the World can not of be accused of, is having a party political agenda – it would print the same sort of attacks, whether it was directed against Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem, SNP or SSP politicians. Certainly, its owners and editors would not be averse to handling and promoting information fed to them by the state’s security services, but the state has its assets in all the major media – from the serious liberal and conservative press, through to the populist gutter press. In the meantime, the News of the World has moved on unimpeded, with its usual diet of salacious stories and scandal.

Furthermore, the state probably knows the content of all those phone calls and e-mails mentioned in the trial. It probably knows a lot more about the private lives of all our MSPs and other leading officials. The state has the choice of leaking this information in the future, either directly or indirectly, through its various assets in the media and elsewhere; or it can blackmail individuals, who don’t want some aspects of their private life revealed to the public. The case of Denis Donaldson in Sinn Fein, a much more security conscious and intelligence service-savvy organisation than the SSP, is a warning of how they operate.

When renegade ex-Trotskyist, George Kerevan, saw the success of the SSP in the May 2003 elections, he cynically, but accurately, said to Alan McCombes, When you had one {colourful, and impassioned} MSP you were an ongoing media story; now you have 6 you are a threat to the state (or words to that effect). In other words the media likes and revels in celebrity politics (of whatever political persuasion, or of none), but it cannot tolerate a real socialist opposition. Tommy wistfully wants to take us back to this days of celebrity politics, with him self as President, and Gail as First Lady of the SSP.

vi)   Tommy’s ignores some of his supporters’ advice

Tommy’s court win has had a material affect to the way he is now running his anti-Party campaign now. If Tommy had lost, his allies in the SW and CWI Platforms would have had to conduct their present anti-Party campaign in a different manner (although I’m sure they would have continued anyhow – sectarianism seems to be hard-wired into their very being).

When asked what their attitude was to members initiating such actions, which involved attacking other members in the bourgeois courts, they adopted a Blair-type apologist stance, ‘We are opposed to the use of courts (war), but now we are there, we have to support Tommy (our boy/s).

Others, such as John Aberdein and John Dennis (both of whom I would consider good friends) have called either for magnanimity, or burying past differences, after Tommy’s triumph, and for uniting all the party around a campaign for its policies, particularly in the run-up to the May 2007 Holyrood elections. Tommy’s highly paid Daily Record ‘manifesto’/rant on August 7th doesn’t quite seem to fit with this political advice!

vii)   Tommy’s attack on the SSP shifts from the bourgeois courts to the bourgeois press

So what is the political essence of the new political situation? Tommy has moved his anti-Party campaign from the bourgeois courts (previously disguised as defence against the News of the World) to the bourgeois press. He is now being paid by New Labour-supporting (and politically much more dangerous) Daily Record to conduct this anti-Party campaign.

Now, you can have two views on this. Either, by so publicly and generously providing Tommy with the means to conduct his own campaign (it was given priority on their front page, as well as on several other pages on August 8th, 9th and 10th) the Daily Record, has joined the principled battle for socialism in Scotland. Or, you can take the view that the Daily Record has been presented with a golden opportunity to attack socialism, the SSP, and is proceeding with great relish.

Any serious person examining August 7th and 8th Daily Records, can see its editors and journalists are taking the piss. They just can’t believe how far Tommy is prepared to go to further his celebrity status and bid for Leader of the SSP. They even conned Tommy and Gail, on page 7, to pose for a ‘royal photograph’, with King Tommy, Queen Gail and the wider family! On August 8th, we had former Royal Marine, James Moncur, lauding Tommy’s fitness, in testosterone-fuelled prose (page 4). In passing, Tommy mentions his old pal, Ally McCoist – Coisty has been on the phone and texted me a couple times. (No, you couldn’t make this up). Sadly, we are seeing a macho-man wallowing in the world of his celebrity friends!

So whilst Tommy thinks he is working jointly with the Daily Record to destroy the SSP as it is presently constituted, he can not see that he is also being set-up for a great fall. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Daily Record’s response to Tommy sacking his lawyers – was Tommy Drops His Briefs (Daily Record, 15th July) – ho, ho, ho!

Tommy is falling over himself to help the Daily Record, to break the socialist opposition in parliament before next year’s Holyrood elections. He apparently cannot even see that he is being used. The Daily Record is far more politically conscious than the News of the World. It props up New Labour in Scotland. Jack McConnell and Gordon Brown’s political careers are more important to the Daily Record than the ‘tits and bums’ used to sell the News of the World.

Four days after Tommy’s court triumph, even one sympathetic journalist, Ruth Wishart, was beginning to send him warning signals, after his post-victory behaviour (Daily Herald, 8th August). You might have thought that Tommy’s supposedly politically astute advisers in the SWP and the CWI would have warned him too about the political designs of the Daily Record. Tommy’s outrageous calls for the ‘destruction’ of members and for ‘purges’ have an ominous Stalinist ring about them. Time, you would have thought, for Trotskyists to call time, and to try and rein this unacceptable behaviour.

But then Trotsky supported the clampdown on internal party democracy, after crushing the Kronstadt sailors and workers. Trotsky helped to suppress Lenin’s Last Testament. Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Trotsky later became a victim of his own political manoeuvrings. Tommy may have a more immediate political target in the United Left, but he holds no love for either the SWP and CWIFactions, factions, let me be rid of factions! – the United Left today, and then the SWP and CWI tomorrow.

viii)  The Daily Record, the new Socialist Worker in Scotland!

Colin Fox, our party’s convenor (voted in 2005, by the majority of delegates, in an election where he received Tommy’s backing) has appealed to SSP members to protest against Tommy’s scurrilous anti-Party attack, on four of our MSPs, in the Daily Record So far, some SWP members have declined to sign this appeal. They appear to approve of Tommy/Daily Record’s methods. So these SWP members must approve of the Daily Record’s campaign too.

But, then of course, the Daily Record is able to reach those parts which Socialist Worker can not reach. What, with Tommy’s five page ‘socialist salvo’ and the page 2 war coverage, hey, we have a new ‘Socialist Worker’ for the masses!

And, I suppose that, given all the Daily Record’s pages of publicity, given over to Tommy, the paper at least managed to cover the war in Lebanon on page 2. They even managed to relegate their own salacious material to page 9 – beyond the five pages of Tommy and Gail coverage. As yet, Tommy himself appears to be oblivious of this wider world situation, devoting not one word to it, in all the extensive space he has received.

But wait a moment, let’s look again at that page 2 Daily Record headline, ROCKETS RAIN DOWN AS TRUCE BID FAILS, Dozens hit in Hezbollah attack on Haifa. Ah, so it’s all Hezbollah’s fault! And SWP members joined the anti-war march in London on July 22nd, chanting the slogan, We are all Hezbollah. I hope the SWP’s London offices are well secured against uranium-tipped, bunker-busting bombs – cheered on by the Daily Record!

ix)   The SSP – the Sycophants and Sectarians Party?

However, Tommy isn’t going to get his TSP in one bold leap. First of all the letters of the SSP have to be changed to mean the ‘Sycophants and Sectarians Party’. This sadly is the political intention behind the political statement, The SSP has reached a crossroads (see this issue), issued on August 7th. Pre-conference delegate meetings are to be packed by SWP and CWI supporters. The October Conference is to be converted to a rally and coronation. Yes, we could all join Respect if we like this sort of behaviour.

Apparently, the SSP’s arrival at the crossroads has underscored a number of political differences, outlook and methodologies that have been increasingly apparent over the year. Funnily enough, I can agree with this so far. So let us examine some of the differences which have indeed emerged.

x)    The political differences not mentioned by the Crossroads Group

One bone of contention in the party has been the drift towards Scottish nationalism. This has been contested by the socialist republican wing of the SSP, (led by the RCN) on one hand, and the Left British unionist wing (led by the CWI, SWP and Workers’ Unity) on the other. It was the CWI which coined the highly ambiguous, but definitive SSP policy – an ‘independent socialist Scotland’. They have never dropped this as a paper political position, but have grown increasingly uncomfortable at the way this is interpreted by sections of the leadership (especially Alan McCombes). Yes, and so are we in the RCN. We have consistently opposed this Scottish nationalist drift, and its mirror image, Left British Unionism, by advocating a republican and Scottish internationalist strategy of ‘internationalism from below’. But, the most public advocate of the Scottish nationalist road is none other than Tommy. He also was amongst the first to sign up to the overtly Scottish nationalist ‘Independence First’ grouping! Tommy joined Alan at this year’s Conference to help to overthrow the SSP’s independent republican and Scottish internationalist strategy (proposed by the RCN and won at the 2005 Conference and enshrined in the Calton Hill Declaration) by a course of action that paves the way for tail-ending the SNP, in the Scottish nationalist strategy advocated by Hugh Kerr and ‘Independence First’. The Crossroads Group’s ‘manifesto’ evades all this.

Differences have also emerged over the anti-G8 campaign. Rosemary Byrne and film-maker, Peter Mullen, publicly attacked the parliamentary protest made by four of our MSPs (I suspect that Peter Mullen was articulating Tommy’s stance on this). When the RCN moved a motion at the subsequent National Council, strongly approving the protest action, Phil Stott for the CWI, and a couple of other delegates, opposed it. Apparently this protest wasn’t understood by your average Daily Record reader! (This may help us understand why Tommy has chosen the Daily Record to issue his own ‘manifesto’.) In reply, the RCN said that may indeed be the case, but the protest was taken on behalf of more politically conscious workers, and the large international socialist contingent, which had been prepared to take far stronger measures to defend anti-G8 protests in their own countries.

The SWP delegates appeared to agree with us, and were part of the overwhelming majority who voted for our motion. Since then, in contrast to Peter Mullen’s mean-spirited attacks in the press (but Peter, please keep producing the films which you are good at) Benjamin Zephaniah, has shown real solidarity with the SSP, by producing the excellent fine-raiser, the Fight the Power CD. Benjamin has put ‘internationalism from below’ into practice

xi)   The SWP and the CWI – the two faces of sectarianism in the SSP

On the day of the July 2005 ‘Make Poverty History’ demonstration in Edinburgh, the two faces of sectarianism, represented by the SWP and CWI, were on public display. The CWI insisted on forming a separate red T-shirt wearing contingent on the march, despite having no major differences with the slogans of the considerably larger official SSP-organised, and also red T-shirt wearing contingent! If the CWI had joined the main socialist forces, with its own contingent and banners, they would have been most welcome and helped to maximise the public face of socialism.

In the meantime, most SWP members donned white T-shirts, as called for by the official organisers of the ‘Make Poverty History’ march, whose politics had been colonised by Gordon Brown and New Labour. In effect, ‘Make Poverty History’ was calling upon the G8 leaders to be generous to the Third World – a utopian campaign for a nicer, fairer imperialism! But tail-ending liberal pacifist sentiment has been one consistent thread of SWP’s politics in recent years. A sub-text of the weekend’s events was SWP’s attempt to marginalise the official SSP presence on the following day of meetings and debates, by ensuring that most of the prime spots in the Usher Hall were filled by SWP front organisations, and the official SSP stand, relegated to Chambers Street!

xii)   More political “differences” unacknowledged by the Crossroads Group

The SWP also has claimed there have been significant political differences, justifying a new leadership bid, but they are mostly the opposite of those held by the CWI! The SWP feels that the SSP leadership wasn’t/isn’t fully committed to either the anti-G8 or anti-war campaigns. In as far as it did need a little outside pressure to push our MSPs into a stronger stance over the anti-G8 protest at Gleneagles, it certainly wasn’t the CWI who came to the SWP’s help to defend the right to demonstrate at Gleneagles. Pressure, when holding official office (particularly parliamentary or trade union), will always take its toll. We only need to remind the SWP of the stance taken by its own PCSU trade union official over the recent pensions ‘climbdown’ – oops, sorry ‘victory’, in the CWI version of events – to highlight this. The key point is that our MSPs (well four of them at least) were indeed successfully pressured into raising their game in Holyrood.

When the draconian penalties were imposed by Blair’s New Labour mouthpieces in the Scottish Executive, in response to the Holyrood protest, our MSPs publicly exposed the panoply of forces that US/UK imperialism would bring to bear to break any opposition to their designs. They also exposed the spinelessness of the SNP and Greens, in particular, when it came to defending the autonomy of the Scottish Parliament. No, for them it’s not ‘independence first’, but doing down the socialist opposition!

And, as for the ongoing permanent war situation, the SWP is particularly upset at the Scottish Socialist Voice’s stance over Hezbollah. So are we, as indeed are some United Left supporters. However, the RCN also believes you can give wholehearted support to the struggles of the Lebanese and Palestinian people, without tail-ending Islamicist forces. This contrasts with the SWP’s slogan We are all Hezbollah. Soon, no doubt, we will be asked to shout out We are all Taliban, as US and British imperialism steps up its attacks on Afghanistan!

Almost exactly a century ago, socialists lived in a world of ongoing, vicious, anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish asylum seekers, fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. They faced the first racist immigration legislation in the UK, with the Aliens Act of 1905. Whilst being prominent in the many protests to defend the Jewish community, socialists of the day were always clear in their opposition to Zionist politics. The Islamicists of 2006 are the political equivalents of the Zionists of 1906.

So, exactly where did the politics behind this particular SSV article come from? Well, straight from the old Militant tradition, as currently upheld by the CWI. I have seen no evidence yet, in this particular respect, that Tommy has fully broken from this tradition either. The continued debates over Ireland, at successive SSP Conferences and branches, have shown the hold of old Militant-type politics, when dealing with anti-imperialist struggles, even amongst many ex-members. Tommy has only publicly broken with this stance over Cuba, but not over the less popular, non-state led, anti-imperial resistance found elsewhere, especially in Ireland.

In as far as ex-Militant members have begun to break from this particular tradition (some United Left members) I think that they would admit that the RCN’s campaigning on republicanism and consistent support for the anti-imperial struggle in Ireland has influenced their thinking. We welcomed their participation in Edinburgh’s annual James Connolly march this year. We didn’t expect any CWI supporters, who publicly declared their opposition at Conference, but oh, where were the SWP, who voted for support, even if they were rather shy in speaking up at Conference!

xiii)  The Crossroads Group’s proposals would lead to purges then splits and splits again

So the August 7th Crossroads Group’s document claims there have been differences – indeed there have. But so far, it is the signatories themselves who have been the most divided over these differences! So, failing to outline exactly what these differences may be, the Crossroads Group, quickly moves on to their practical proposals. Tommy and his supporters want a purge of the SSP’s ULN faction (declared and undeclared) – presumably the ducking stool will expose the latter!

If the SSP ‘Crossroads’ Group was to get its way, the long-standing political differences would be posed even more starkly, on an even more polarised Executive. They are at a 3-way ‘crossroads’, with Tommy, the SWP and CWI pulling in different directions. It is only the fact that there have been other forces, carrying some political weight, and many non-aligned and anti-sectarian members inside the SSP, that has prevented these two particular sects’ mutual loathing from leading to a split. You, only have to look south of the border to see the likely future – with the separate SWP promoted-Respect versus the CWI-promoted Campaign for a New Workers’ Party. Or, is it possible that Tommy’s undoubted charisma, and his desire to be the sole public voice and leader of the SSP, can force both the SWP and CWI to bury their hatchets? But then we would have a Scottish-type Respect, only with Tommy Sheridan as unchallenged leader, instead of George Galloway. This may be acceptable to the SWP – but to the CWI?!

And, apart from Tommy’s Scottish nationalist politics, in which political direction would he be heading off in, from the ‘crossroads’? Tommy’s support for ‘mandatory jailing for knife crime’ gives you some indication of the Rightwards populist drift (gallop?) that he would adopt. It’s not surprising that the SSP’s Scottish Socialist Youth (SSY), who successfully opposed this at Conference, is not signing up to be run over at the ‘crossroads’!

xiv)  The Crossroads Group – witch-hunting and finding scapegoats

Having failed to explain the substance of the political differences that have emerged, because the co-signatories could not possibly agree on them, the Crossroads Group has gone on to find a scapegoat for the SSP’s problems instead. What is the Crossroads Group explanation?

For a long-time, Tommy seemed to put it all down to the influence of ‘a coven of witches’! When Tommy turned to others to for political assistance in drawing up his Open Letter for the May 28th National Council, the blame was laid at those he claimed opposed the real essence of the SSP. We are a class based socialist party. Not a gender obsessed discussion group. A little evasive, but all party members understood who was the target of the emerging ‘SSP Majority’ (supporters of the Open Letter and The SSP has reached the crossroads manifestos). They were attacking the party’s socialist feminists, particularly in the Womens’ Network and in Holyrood.

Like socialist republicanism, Left nationalism, Left unionism and Green socialism, socialist feminist politics will form part of any large socialist party in Scotland today. However, the attack on our party’s socialist feminists as being a gender obsessed discussion group is completely inaccurate and insulting. Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie and Frances Curran have been at the centre of working class resistance, whether it be very publicly defending asylum seekers (Rosie), at the forefront of the nursery nurses’ strike (Carolyn) or occupations of threatened council facilities in Dumbarton (Frances).

Carolyn wrote a devastating reply to Tommy’s Open Letter, which was published in the Sunday Herald (and really forms the ‘manifesto’ of socialist feminists in the current party dispute). It was scrupulously honest, outlining her working class upbringing in a loyalist family (so, no diplomatic courting of the RCN there!) It showed the link between capitalist exploitation and women’s oppression, and showed how working class women in particular are doubly oppressed. In the process, she clearly demonstrated the shallow thinking of the writers of Tommy’s Open Letter. We would like to print her contribution in Emancipation & Liberation. The editors would even make our first ever payment for an article – an enamelled James Connolly badge! And the RCN didn’t support 50:50!

They showed their capability in organising and publicly debating the 50:50 proposals at the SSP’s 2002 Conference. They persuaded the SWP to wade in behind them! They even silenced Tommy on this issue! (But as in the ‘mandatory sentencing’ proposal and opposition to the G8 parliamentary protests, maybe others were speaking on behalf of Tommy!)

xv)   The attack on the United Left

However, the ‘Crossroads’ Group now have another scapegoat – the United Left Network – declared and undeclared. Funnily enough, this group, only formed on June 9th (and therefore, unsurprisingly, not mentioned in the Open Letter) seems to have been secretly plotting Tommy’s downfall from the beginning. It is guilty of a bureaucratic and centralising tendency! This is standard Stalinist/Trotskyist gobbledegook – inventing impressive sounding names to label the enemy, but which are devoid of any content. (I don’t know who was responsible for this particular ‘gem’, but it has the hallmarks of the CWI!)

On November 9th 2004, the United Left did not exist and Tommy was in the same Platform as Alan McCombes, Keith Baldassara and Frances Curran – the ISM! The ISM was undoubtedly facing a period of internal crisis, and meetings went on to discuss its future, Over a year later, Tommy actually attended one of these. The ISM invited others to participate in the discussions. The RCN attended some meetings. The main problems in the party (creeping parliamentarianism at Holyrood and dull routinism in the branches) were seen as stemming from poor political education in the party. However, those who took a lead in this discussion thought we needed participatory education of a completely different type in the SSP to that traditionally found on the Left.

However, overshadowing this interesting debate was another. Should the ISM be wound up and what should replace it? The debate was between an emerging anti-Platform tendency (an anarchistic and decentralising tendency?!) and those who wanted to form a new, more open Marxist Platform in the SSP.

Eventually the ISM was closed down, but the nature of the organisation to replace it was not resolved. It was only the shock experience of this year’s May 28th National Council meeting which eventually precipitated a new organisation, the United Left. Its reluctance to form an open Platform reflects the earlier debate about the very need for Platforms. The RCN has called for them to form an official SSP Platform. However, there are other limbo-land, semi-platforms in the SSP, like Socialist Resistance (Fourth International) supporters. The latter has given its support to Tommy’s campaign. So, the uncertain Platform status of the United Left cannot be put down by Tommy’s supporters to the sin of ‘factionalism’.xv)   Operating outside official party structures

There can be little doubt that people have caucused outside official party structures. But then Tommy’s closest supporters, and the SWP and CWI, are also ‘guilty’ of this all the time too. The branches (and even the Highland Region) where Tommy’s supporters in the ‘SSP Majority’ are in control, seem to have the ability to conjure up ‘emergency’ motions on a Sunday, within a couple of hours, after reading the Sunday papers! How many regional members participated in that decision, or were even told about the ‘meeting’ in advance? As it turned out, the emergency motion dealt with no real emergency, but was merely a panic response to a newspaper report, which turned out to have no substance. The most likely explanation for its appearance was a well-timed state leak designed to cause the maximum disruption within the Party.

As for those in the Crossroads Group who are looking to expose the state agent in the oppositional camp, they don’t seem to appreciate how such agents work. They try to cause maximum dissension by trying to play one side off against the other, whilst also undoubtedly trying to groom assets in any significant grouping. Democracy and a politically well-educated membership is the best way to counter such activities in an open organisation like the SSP.

There can be no doubt too that members on both sides of this current dispute have leaked compromising material and personalised attacks on other members to the media. The RCN condemns these methods from whatever source and will have a motion to Conference, which addresses the use of bourgeois courts and media and what alternative options are open to support members under attack from the state or media. Several prominent United Left members seem set upon copying Tommy’s flawed method and want to initiate actions in the courts, or leak documents to the police and press. We oppose these courses of action too.

When it comes to upholding democracy and best practice, the RCN is not partisan. We defend these principles for everybody in the SSP. The Crossroads Group, however, is quite hypocritical in this respect. They have shown no principled opposition to the use of the state’s courts when dealing with internal party matters, nor of resort to a very hostile press. They cannot credibly attack others who have done the same.

xvi)   Tommy in the bourgeois courts

But, of course, the ostensible concern of the Crossroads Group are scabs and Supergrasses. These terms of abuse aren’t being correctly used to describe real political actions, but are being invoked to suppress debate and call for purges. The resort to these terms can not be distinguished from the methods of agent provocateurs. But that is where bad politics leads you – wide open to the activities of hostile forces.

The Executive Committee tried very hard to forget the impending trial and to maintain Tommy’s confidentiality. Witness the good recovery made by this year’s Conference and the improvement in the SSP’s polling ratings. Witness Alan McCombe’s jailing and defence of the right to confidentiality in the courts.

When it became clear that Alan was about to be jailed, Tommy was presented with the golden opportunity to abandon his court case. He had already won the whole-hearted backing of Gail (the only person he really had to persuade), and he could have demonstrated his pro-party stance, by withdrawing from his case and preventing Alan from being jailed. This action would have won Tommy the widest support in the party. But it meant that Tommy couldn’t satisfy his desire for revenge. Even if the party was destroyed in the process, well there would still be ‘The Tommy and Gail Show’ and the world of celebrity politics! For this he doesn’t necessarily need an SSP, just the attention of other celebrities and the media. However, having an organised ‘fan-club’ (the TSP?) does give celebrities a certain edge!

If that seems a cruel verdict, what are we to make of Tommy’s revelation in August 7th Daily Record, Tommy admitted his initial threat to sue the {News of the World} was just bravado! His case would never have come to court if he had not been offered legal representation on a no-win, no fee basis. How many workers, subject to hostile media attacks, can conjure up such backing. You need to be moving in a celebrity world to get this sort of support. It wasn’t available to Alan when he faced jail.

When the lemming leader calls on all the others to jump over the cliff, the sensible ones don’t follow (they form the more intelligent breeding pool for the next generation!) But when the head lemming tells all the others to jump over the cliff, but has his own bungee-rope protection (‘no-win, no-fee’, newspaper contracts), it is incumbent on the sensible lemmings to warn all the others too. This was attempted, but unfortunately it was not completely successful. A small minority of the Executive Committee decided to follow Tommy. They have no bungee rope, when the final crash into the rocks below occurs!

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Sep 13 2006

SSP United Left Statement

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

In response to Tommy Sheridan’s Open Letter (above) and the events at National Council 28th May, the SSP United Left platform was formed. This is their founding statement.

This is not a time to rage, but a time to reason. Not to fight within ourselves, but to unite behind the fight for a better world. A time to keep our heads, and hold fast to our principles.

We are a substantial group of Scottish Socialist Party activists from across Scotland and across the party, who have a number of concerns with the current direction of our party.

The SSP, since its inception, has been a beacon of hope to the workers movement in Scotland and internationally. In establishing the SSP, we achieved the impossible – uniting the left into a working, fighting political party with a radical agenda and strong, innovative ideas for campaigning and recruiting.

Working together in this unprecedented way, we made real gains, not just electorally, but at a grass roots level. We can, if we unite as a strong socialist party, create a generational change in society, putting socialist ideas back on the mainstream agenda, and engendering further, deep-rooted change. This is no small matter, given the domination of free market ideology and the pessimism and disillusionment this has bred in two, even three generations. We must always remember that the enemy is without, not within.

But we are deeply concerned that the party’s community activism, socialist education and internal unity have failed to match our electoral success. We are concerned that individuals, branches and even regions are susceptible to external interpretations of the SSP’s internal politics, created via the media. We want our elected representatives to be wholly accountable to the party, putting the collective interests of the party before individual concerns. We are concerned by a growing culture of indifference, even hostility, to our commitment to gender equality. Finally, we are committed to a united and non-sectarian Left, and in favour of a transitional approach to socialism, where no struggle, whether based in a community, workplace, or around a gender or race issue, can be ignored. We actively support and participate in all such work.

It is with all this in mind that we feel now is the time to launch an open, democratic, pro-SSP network, open to SSP members and informed by the following points:

Building the SSP

Our network is for activists whose aim is to support, promote and build the SSP as a broad, outward looking socialist party, working within communities and workplaces, trades unions and colleges, in the streets and on the march, as the party that fights for peace, justice and socialism.

We seek the transformation of society through workers’ democratic control of the means of production. We understand that the dismantling of the UK state, and the creation of a Scottish, socialist republic, is an essential part of this process.

Accountability and Participation

Our network aims to build a grass roots leadership of the SSP. We believe in participative democracy, where activity and engagement are encouraged and supported, and where democratic decisions are made by active participants.

Instrumental to this is the SSP’s constitution, which we recognise and whose sovereignty we defend. We will campaign within the SSP for full accountability of all elected representatives and bodies, including the commitment to take the average wage of a skilled worker.

Gender Equality

Our network is committed to the principles of equal representation and gender equality at all levels of the party and remain dedicated to the hard-won, ground-breaking policy of 50:50, which facilitates the participation in socialist politics of women who might otherwise, through poverty and shouldering the burden of family care, notably working-class and ethnic minority women, be excluded.

Self-organisation

Our network values and encourages self-organisation amongst oppressed and marginalised groups, and recognises and celebrates these groups’ contribution to the political development of our movement. Self-organisation is essential to raising the consciousness and confidence of those whose voices may not otherwise be heard.

Education

Our network will promote socialist education within the network itself and in the SSP, using progressive and inclusive educational techniques, to encourage critical thought and thinkers throughout the party.

Our Network

Our network is built on the principles of openness, inclusiveness, equality and respect, where all contributions are valued and comradely debate is welcomed. We are a grass roots, bottom-up organisation and as such, promote participatory meeting techniques, where all members are encouragedto speak up and have their say, without fear of being ridiculed, intimidated or shouted down.

We, the undersigned, invite comrades who share our principles and ethos to join us and raise an SSP standard for all socialists to rally round.

11th June 2006

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Sep 13 2006

SSP Crisis: Rebuild on Socialist Principle

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

A statement from the Workers’ Unity platform in the SSP

The split in the Scottish Socialist Party is a tragedy. The Workers’ Unity platform has made strong criticisms of important aspects of the SSP policy and strategy. We were specifically formed to oppose the SSP’s turn to nationalism. And to oppose its determination to split the forces of socialism north and south of the border by building as a matter of principle a separate socialist party in Scotland.

However, by uniting the majority of organised socialists in Scotland and by establishing significant support in working class communities, the SSP demonstrated that a socialist unity project was feasible.

The collapse of that project can only lead to the disillusion of many activists and supporters. We must all maximise our efforts to ensure that the setback is as short-lived as possible.

Unfortunately, neither of the current organisations that have emerged from the crisis that followed Tommy Sheridan’s victory in his libel action is acting in a principled manner.

No to personality-cult politics

Solidarity, the organisation to be launched by Tommy Sheridan, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International, is founded on the principle that the executive committee of the SSP had no right to hold its convenor to account. And on the preposterous lie that the majority of the EC and the SSP’s parliamentary group have engaged in a conspiracy to concoct evidence about Tommy Sheridan’s private life.

Already Solidarity is demonstrating that it will exploit the celebrity of Tommy Sheridan and others to the full. What price internal democracy and accountability in the new organisation? What price socialist principles?

Workers’ Unity believes that the SSP’s executive behaved correctly in refusing to support Tommy Sheridan’s ill-conceived libel action and in insisting that he resign as convenor when he rejected the options they laid before him.

However, it was a calamitous mistake to try and hide from the working class why the SSP’s leader had been sacked. It was an even bigger mistake – one that exposes flaws at the heart of the SSP project -to allow a new socialist force to become so dependent on one charismatic figure. Yet there are few signs that the leadership of what remains of the SSP is prepared to learn lessons about the party’s internal culture that could provide the basis of a revitalised socialist party.

No to nationalism

Instead, in a desperate bid to mark out a distinctive political space, the leadership of the SSP is resorting to petty-nationalist abuse. Even while the SWP and CWI continue to give credence to the illusion of an independent socialist Scotland, the attacks become shriller. By asserting that a socialist initiative involving London-based organisations is in some sense unacceptable, the leadership rejects the inclusive basis on which their own organisation was built.

It is true that the SWP and CWI have been outrageously opportunist in manipulating the SSP’s crisis. This reflects the sectarian nature of much of the left, rather than the national basis on which it is organised. If the leadership of the SSP has abandoned the objective of socialist unity, they will themselves be condemned to building a sect – and one that is more nationalist than socialist.

Workers’ Unity supports Scotland’s right to self-determination, campaigning against independence, but supporting the right of the Scottish people to choose it. But we have always argued that an effective socialist challenge to the British state was only possible by organising in an all-British socialist party. What the SSP’s crisis demonstrates is that neither can there be a resolution of the wider crisis of the British left exclusively in Scotland.

There are no short cuts to building the socialist organisation required by the working class. We can only begin with an honest evaluation of past mistakes.

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Sep 13 2006

Meetings and Documents, November 2004

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

Background Information Paper, Allan Green, SSP National Secretary

This document was produced by the SSP National Secretary in the run up to the National Council meeting on 28th May 2006. He details, in chronological order, the meetings and decisions taken by SSP bodies in November 2004 and corrects some of the distortions that had become common currency over the intervening months.

Introduction

It is 18 months since the Executive Committee meetings and the National Council meeting in November, 2004. The minutes have been kept confidential since then. Can I take this opportunity to remind members of the situation at the time, based on the formal minutes, the hand written notes and my memory. Unlike anyone else, until very recently, I have had the advantage of frequent access to the minutes and notes over the past 18 months to remind me of the twists and turns of these frequent meetings that quickly came one on top of the other.

We should remember that the media were aware of the EC meeting on 9th November 2004 within hours of Tommy’s Sheridan’s resignation as convener being reported in the Record on Thursday 11th November. The fact that the EC met on 9th November was covered in almost all Scottish newspapers by the weekend, along with false and damaging speculation about infighting and power struggles being the ‘real reason’ for Tommy’s resignation as convener.

The EC meeting of 9th November 2004 quickly became the most publicly known EC meeting in the party’s short history and generated by far the most speculation, much of which is inaccurate.

EC Meetings, November 2004 – the status of the meetings and documents

As National Secretary, in conjunction with the two co-chairpersons at the time, I called the 3 EC meetings. I was responsible for the safe-keeping of all the minutes and hand-written notes taken of these meeting.

The Executive met on 9th November, 14th November and 24th November 2004. Each time the meetings were clearly called as Executive meetings. At no time did anyone at these meetings argue that they were not EC meetings. The Executive Committee meetings were reported to the National Council on 27th November as EC meetings and again no one objected to them being described as Executive Committee meetings.

At the Executive meeting on 24th November, all present were given a set of papers and asked to sign for them. The signature was under the heading Papers for Special EC – 24 Nov 04. Each set of these papers contained 2 sets of minutes that were headed SSP Executive Committee – Draft Minutes, Emergency Meeting -Tuesday 9th November 2004, Glasgow and SSP Executive Committee Meeting – Sunday 14th November 2004, Glasgow. This procedure (for numbering and returning papers) was proposed by myself at the start of the meeting, was agreed and was followed to ensure all minutes passed out were returned to me.

For the entire week in the build up to the meeting on the 24th, there had been considerable speculation in the media as to why Tommy resigned, including many false and damaging reports. The minutes, which do document why Tommy resigned as convener, were obviously important. I put to the meeting on the 24th a number of points about dealing with the minutes – past, present and future. There was no dissent to any of my proposals. My proposals came towards the end of the meeting.

It was recorded that the draft minutes of 9th November were challenged by one comrade during the meeting. It was pointed out that she was not at that meeting and the challenge was dropped.

There were no other challenges to the minutes and the minutes were agreed as part of my package of proposals later in the meeting. The EC minutes of 9th November (probably the most crucial ones) were subsequently amended to minutes (‘draft’ being removed). It is normal practice, as per the constitution, for all EC minutes to be circulated to the NC and the wider party. I proposed that all the November minutes were kept but, in the exceptional circumstances, with the future agreement of the forthcoming NC, should be kept confidential. The NC subsequently, as part of accepting my report, accepted that the minutes should be kept confidential -there was some debate on this at the NC (not everyone agreed).

I then proposed that the written notes of the meeting of the 24th and the forthcoming National Council should not be typed up into minute form and not be routinely presented to the next meeting(s) as is normal practice. I stated that I would keep these written notes with a proviso that they would be typed up if necessary and, if so, I would do this. I argued that this would help us get out of the cycle of confidential minutes.

So, in short, there are formal agreed minutes for the EC meetings of 9th and 14th November but, in order to get us out of the cycle of confidential minutes, only hand written notes of the EC meeting on 24th November (which agreed the minutes and their confidentiality) and the NC of 27th November (which agreed that they could be kept confidential).

Scottish Socialist Party: doing what it does best

Scottish Socialist Party: doing what it does best

Style and contents of the EC Minutes of 9th November 2004

The style of the minutes is the same as the standard practice for the minutes of EC meetings – the introductory contributions for each section are summarised and subsequent contributors are listed as having participated. The introductory contributions of Tommy and Alan McCombes were summarised and included in the minutes in order for there to be a record of the issue under consideration.

The minutes refer to what efforts were first taken, including suggestions of informal meetings that were not taken up, before having to call an Emergency EC. The minutes contain no intimate details of Tommy’s personal life nor any moral judgments decided, positive or negative, about Tommy’s personal behaviour. There were no moral judgments made regarding Tommy’s personal life.

The minutes were kept as a record of the reason why the Executive Committee unanimously asked Tommy Sheridan, National Convener, to resign from this post. A verbal explanation was/is to be given to party members.

Wed 10th November – Duncan Rowan spoke to News International

Duncan Rowan (at the time SSP North East regional organiser) went to the News International offices and spoke to the NoTW, including about the previous night’s EC. It is quite possible that Duncan was victim of an elaborate ‘sting’ (we understand that Duncan is now out of the country).

From this day on it was highly probably that the NoTW would, at some point, be seeking our minutes and other documents of the 9th November EC meeting in the court action that Tommy would take out later.

Wed 10th November – Record Newspaper learns of Tommy’s resignation as convener

By late afternoon/early evening, the Record were phoning Alan McCombes and Tommy Sheridan saying they had learned that Tommy was resigning as National Convener, that their source was reliable and that they would print the story.

Tommy and Alan consulted by phone. Without time for wider consultation they agreed that Tommy would say he was resigning as convener for personal reasons. Alan, on behalf of the party, would confirm that Tommy has resigned and leave Tommy to outline the personal reasons. As is known, Tommy told the Record that he had resigned to spend more time with his wife who was pregnant.

We do not know how the Record got this information. The Evening Times, Thursday 11 November, falsely and damagingly speculated that Colin Fox had leaked the information.

One possibility is that someone in the NoTW (where they had taped and photographed Duncan that day after he had walked around the corner from the party to the NoTW offices) passed the story to the Record – either a Record ‘plant’ in the NoTW (apparently the tabloids can work this way towards each other) or someone in the NoTW offices saw an opportunity to make a quick buck if they sold the story to a daily before the NoTW printed it on Sunday.

At the time we did not consider Duncan’s tape recorded outpourings to the NoTW as being a possibility as we did not yet know of the existence of these tapes (it would be Sunday before that would be revealed).

We could further speculate on this and other possibilities but, in truth, we just don’t know.

Thursday 11th November — Record front page — Tommy Sheridan resigns as convener

The Record story quoted Tommy saying he was stepping down to spend more time with his wife who was pregnant. This was feverishly followed up by media everywhere.

Press and other speculation on the ‘real reason’ for Tommy’s resignation as Convener

By Sunday 14th November there were a whole range of newspaper stories speculating on the ‘real reason’ that Tommy had resigned as convener. This speculation was at fever pitch for at least another week in the media and has sporadically reappeared, with greater or lesser intensity, from time to time over the past 18 months.

Much of this was downright nonsense but damaging nonsense. For example here is a reminder of just a few of the false and damaging reports from the time. There was a report that it was the personal ambition of Colin Fox to become leader of the SSP that was really behind manoeuvres leading to the EC asking for Tommy’s resignation. The Mirror had a front page story that there was a plot involving Carolyn Leckie and Alan McCombes. Some reports claimed there was a group of feminists who were out to get Tommy due to his lifestyle as a young man.

Other reports vaguely speculated that personal jealousy and/or a power struggle for the SSP leadership was the real motive for the EC asking for Tommy’s resignation as convener.

EC Meets on Sunday 14th November

The EC was set for the Saturday but, with Record already having broken the news of Tommy’s resignation as convener, the date was changed to the Sunday.

The NoTW had printed a story about an alleged affair involving Tommy. This was the first time that the EC heard about this allegation. A photo of Duncan Rowan beside extracts from the tape of him speaking to the NoTW was also published.

The EC were particularly anxious to counter the false impressions being created as to why Tommy resigned as these were clearly very damaging to the party.

The following press release was unanimously agreed at the EC:-

Statement from Scottish Socialist Party Executive Committee

14/11/04

The SSP Executive confirms its acceptance of the resignation of Tommy Sheridan MSP from the post of National Convenor.

Tommy remains a valued member of the most dynamic team of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. The Executive completely dismisses the rumours that have circulated in the press that Tommy’s resignation was provoked by a leadership challenge, a factional power struggle or any other form of internal in-fighting.

The party remains united in its support for an independent socialist Scotland, its opposition to war and racism, and the other policies detailed in our previous election manifestos. We understand that recent allegations in a Murdoch newspaper may be the subject of a future libel action by Tommy Sheridan and consequently the Scottish Socialist Party does not wish to comment on matters concerning the allegation. The party will now look at a number of options on the question of the convenorship in full consultation with party branches and members around the country.

There will be a press conference of the party’s MSPs and key members of the Executive on Tuesday at the Parliament to outline our internal and external priorities.

This statement was agreed unanimously by the Executive of the SSP on Sunday 14 November at 6.30pm.

EC meeting 24th November

By the EC meeting on the 24th, there had been widespread further speculation in the media, including parts of the left press, on why Tommy Sheridan resigned as convener. False and damaging impressions of the reasons for Tommy Sheridan resignation as convener were now widely promoted. Infighting, power struggles, moral Puritanism were typical false reasons given as to why Tommy had resigned.

The Guardian, unbelievably, falsely stated that Tommy’s resignation as convener was really down to political differences – that the SSP leadership were against the troops out of Iraq campaign that Tommy Sheridan backed!

Some of the left press in England were even wrongly reporting that the SSP EC had forced Tommy to resign because we had made a moral judgment over his personal life. One written report even positively quoted the slander in the Guardian about the SSP being against the troops out of Iraq campaign.

This was the meeting that agreed the minutes of the 9th and 14th but agreed that they should be kept confidential.

The EC unanimously agreed to a number of proposals from Allan Green about the forthcoming National Council meeting.

  • For a verbal report on the reasons for Tommy’s resignation as convener
  • to report that there are minutes of the 9th November meeting but that they should remain confidential
  • to put a motion to the NC in 2 parts – to accept Tommy’s resignation and to endorse the EC’s handling of the situation
  • to ask for no other motions to be taken at this NC

The EC, including Tommy, agreed to work together to ensure that an accurate and unified approach would be taken in future.

Build up to the National Council meeting

There was much press speculation as to whether or not the NC would back the EC’s stance in relation to the resignation of Tommy as convener.

With differing public accounts of why Tommy Sheridan had resigned as convener appearing in the press, the party was under constant pressure to clarify what happened. Journalists asked if there were minutes and were told that there were minutes but that they were confidential.

This situation was commented on in a range of newspapers. For example, on Saturday 27 November 2004, the day before the National Council, the Herald ran an article titled SSP leaders to face the party without crucial meeting’s minute. The article stated that the minutes existed but that the EC were proposing to the NC that they remain confidential.

Already, 18 months ago, the EC minutes of 9 November 2004 had become the most publicised minutes that the party had ever produced.

National Council, 28th November 2004

I introduced the meeting, along the lines agreed by the EC. My report was endorsed by Tommy Sheridan.

There was a widespread debate before the following EC motion was voted on in 2 parts. It was pointed out that, in effect, the EC asking for an endorsement to continue with the strategy as explained verbally

Part One

National Council recognises the difficult decisions faced by the Executive Committee at the November 9th special Executive Committee meeting. This NC supports the unanimous decisions made at that meeting concerning the convenor’s position.

For – 85; Against – 20; Abstentions – nil

Part Two

The SSP National Council confirms its acceptance of the resignation of Tommy Sheridan MSP from the post of National Convenor.

Tommy remains a valued member of the most dynamic team of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. The National Council completely dismisses the rumours that have circulated in the press that Tommy’s resignation was provoked by a leadership challenge, a factional power struggle or any other form of internal infighting.

The party remains united in its support for an independent socialist Scotland, its opposition to war and racism, and the other policies detailed in our previous election manifestos.

We understand that recent allegations in a Murdoch newspaper may be the subject of a future libel action by Tommy Sheridan and consequently the Scottish Socialist Party does not wish to comment on matters concerning the allegation.

The party will now look at a number of options on the question of the convenorship in full consultation with party branches and members around the country.

For – 93; Against – 10; Abstentions – 2

The following press statements were then issued

From the SSP Executive – a rework of the press statement of 14th November 2004 (see above) along with the resolutions agreed by the National Council.

From Tommy Sheridan

/ wholeheartedly support the SSP Executive Committee statement agreed at today’s meeting. The Scottish Socialist Party has today showed great maturity in reaching a unified position on the way forward. I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that my resignation as party convenor has nothing at all to do with internal power struggles. There is not and never has been any internal squabbles or back-biting about a leadership challenge. We are a party of principle and action.

We have drawn a line under these internal deliberations. I will now work alongside the other party MSPs and the wider party membership to campaign for justice, equality, peace and socialism.

Extracts from the resolutions and Tommy’s statement were reported in several newspapers and the TV.

Allan Green
National Secretary
24th May, 2006

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Sep 13 2006

Open Letter to SSP members

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

YES to class solidarity and socialist unity;
NO to political witch-hunts and personal character assassinations

Tommy Sheridan and his supporters distributed this letter to the media and delegates at the SSP‘s National Council meeting on 28th May 2006.

Comrades I write this letter with a very heavy heart. The Party I have invested so much time and energy to build from scratch has displayed serious signs of internal decay over the last 18 months. Alongside many other comrades we sought to build a class based socialist party, able to appeal to the broad masses of Scotland around the political principles of struggle, solidarity and socialism. Today there exists an unsavoury cabal of comrades at the core of the leadership, their hands on the apparatus, who are more interested in pursuing personal vendettas, through vile lies and slander, than conducting the class struggle.

Over the last two weeks I have resisted any public comment, despite the clear and consistent strategy of politically isolating me in the press, and attempting to implicate me as the culprit for the current News of the World and bourgeois court led attempts to destroy us. Yet who is responsible for the mess we are in?

Who decided that our party should examine and discuss the private lives of comrades at meetings? Who decided that any such confidential discussions should be recorded? Who decided to keep secret copies of such private and confidential discussions? Who decided to deliberately leak to the press and media that such a document existed? Who decided to appear in court and admit to the existence of such a secret document? The section of our EC who promoted and executed this strategy are clearly to blame for the political crisis we now find ourselves in. It has been a strategy alien to the socialist and trade union movement and more akin to the dark days of Stalinism. Apparently the secret document contains personal information about myself.

Imagine an employer held such a document about an employee. The employee would have the basic human right to see such a document, challenge the content of such a document and demand a copy of such a document. Up until two weeks ago I had never seen the document. I have still never read it and I am denied the right to challenge it or hold a copy. We have acted like a bad employer and breeched basic human rights and trade union principles.

Let me state clearly. There should never have been a meeting convened to discuss a member’s private life, which was then secretly recorded and documented without the knowledge of the individual, their cooperation or their right to challenge the accuracy of such a document being denied. It is simply an outrageous practice, outwith the spirit and principles on which we were founded. However, now that such a disputable document has been constructed, concealed from the individual concerned, constantly leaked to the media and admitted to in court, I believe it should be handed to the court to trigger the release of Alan McCombes. I believe that Alan and a core group of 7 or 8 other leading comrades have misled the party into their current quandary, but I salute his courage and determination to resist the undemocratic power of unelected judges to interfere in the internal affairs of democratic political parties. The problem is that we cooperated with the courts in the first place. It is none of their business whether we possess recordings of meetings or not.

They should have been properly defied in the first place and the party removed from a personal libel action against the most reactionary scab outfit in the world. Instead we have been dragged into that case because of the mis-leadership and the desperate attempts of the scum of the world to salvage a case which had all but disintegrated due to their downright lies. Now a comrade is in jail and our resistance to the disgraceful and undemocratic interference of unelected judges has been displayed. He must languish in jail no longer. The document in question should be handed to the court under protest, submitted to the court in a sealed envelope and debated over under protest or handed to the court via my legal team under protest. Further resistance at the expense of a comrade’s personal freedom is not acceptable.

Make no mistake, The Scum of the World’s attack on me and our party is an extension of the class struggle. They are our mortal enemy. They want to destroy me, the party, and more importantly, what we stand for. They are bullies of the gigantic type. They seek to destroy trade unions, socialist ideas, class solidarity and individuals through callous lies and distortion. I refuse to bend the knee to their assault on me. They have spread cruel lies knowingly and in a fashion calculated to discredit me as an individual and as a socialist. The four year affair they have accused me of is a complete fabrication. I expect such slander from these organs of the state because they are the scum of the planet. But what about the political witch-hunt conducted via vile personal lies promoted by leading SSP members?

Over the last 18 months I have been accused of heinous crimes in a coordinated fashion by a group of comrades so blinded by their personal hatred and spite towards me that they have failed to see the enormous damage to the party. In the Brel(?) Bar in Ashton Lane just over 12 months ago one of the three female MSP comrades who have consistently sought to undermine me and discredit me, accused me of being involved in woman trafficking. Eastern European women to be precise. Her devastating lies were witnessed by three individuals, one of whom is a journalist in a Sunday newspaper.

At a youth event last year, several members spread poison to the effect that I regularly used prostitutes. According to comrades picking up stories on the pub/club and party circuit I regularly go to lap-dancing bars. I am also apparently involved in drug dealing. All of these stories have been checked by me through several sources, not all friends or supporters of mine. My name, political credibility and status within our party has been consciously attacked. Talk of how to get rid of me, arrange my deselection and isolate him completely is commonplace and coordinated.

Alan McCombes is imprisoned for refusing to hand over EC minutes

Alan McCombes is imprisoned for refusing to hand over EC minutes

Over the last 18 months I have sought to build unity in our party, internally and externally. Others have sought to destroy me and build their own empires. Those with their hands on communications within and outside the party have acted as an undeclared faction. Certain individuals are promoted while others are ignored or discredited. I am not the only one. Comrade Hugh Kerr was guilty of giving up six years of his time to build our party, 4 years as my unpaid press officer, his face didn’t fit. He was rounded on and removed. Comrade Rosemary Byrne thought her election in 2003 would herald a new dawn for socialist politics. She was not on message. She didn’t support the 50:50 campaign. She believes class politics and identity are more of a priority than gender politics. She was ignored, cold shouldered and isolated for months. She was forced to consider quitting. Now she’s fighting back!

Comrade Mick Daly, the West of Scotland organiser, was guilty of inexperience, and not being part of the Stanley St. grouping. He was isolated and undermined, his face didn’t fit. His resignation was sought after and keenly encouraged. I should have done more to defend all these comrades. I let them down. I myself was faced with a stark ultimatum 18 months ago. Accept and support the EC position that I should step down or be responsible for an internal civil war. I chose the unity option. I was wrong. Sections of the EC saw it as a sign of weakness and have sought to undermine me ever since. From the day a group of socialists were asked if they backed me in my court battle with the reactionary, rabid and anti-trade union Scum of the World, and publicly declined, to the recent public undermining of my case through issuing a public call for me to drop my case, this party has shamefully failed a basic socialist test. Whose side are you on when a socialist takes on the Murdoch empire? Sections of the EC are clearly batting for the wrong side. That is unforgivable in the eyes of large sections of our class and the left across the world.

Recently things have got even worse. Comrades, yes comrades have been phoning around Cardonald branch members to gather information about who attended the recent meetings, who spoke on the recent motion that was passed, who voted in the meeting? WHY? For who is such information being gathered? It is to assist the State in an action against the branch for daring to suggest that no records of private and confidential discussions should exist. Who told the Herald newspaper that Alice Sheridan was a member of the Cardonald branch. She has only recently moved to Cardonald in the last three months. She has only been well enough to attend meetings recently after 10 days in hospital with a blood clot. Most comrades would recall her as a Pollock branch member from recent conferences. So who stuck her in? Members of this party are effectively acting for the state. That is a disgrace.

Despite the motivations of those in the undeclared faction who want me out of the SSP and deselected as a Glasgow MSP, I refuse to leave. The SSP is my party. It’s internal regime should be warm, friendly and trusting. Not revolve around personal spite, secret documents and personal character assassinations.

Its outward appearance should be to the broad mass seeking solutions to the horrible insecurities, grotesque inequalities, grinding poverty and bloody wars of capitalism. We are a class based socialist party. Not a gender obsessed discussion group. Our socialist principles and class identity defines us first. Not our gender or sexual orientation. Engaging with the broad mass of Scotland around real issues of concern has to be our strategy. From council tax abolition to free school meals. Scrapping prescription charges to promoting public ownership. Anti-war and defending asylum seeker campaigns to solidarity with all workers in struggle and independence. This is the future strategy and orientation of the real SSP. Not the McCarthyite obsession with members’ private lives and circles of friends. Let’s build a united SSP, yes. But on solid foundations, not the bile and decay around those who promote personal dislikes before politics. The battle to reclaim the SSP to class politics begins today.

Tommy Sheridan
28th May 2006

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Sep 13 2006

After the Verdict

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

Following the announcement of the trial verdict, Alan McCombes, the SSP‘s policy and press coordinator wrote an assessment entitled The fight for the truth, which was reproduced in an SSP Members’ Bulletin. We did not have enough space to reprint it in the magazine, so present the extract we published

SSP United-Left statement in response to Tommy Sheridan’s defamation case

Hollow victory

This summer has seen slaughter in the Middle East, Blair lurch from crisis to crisis, the world economy hover over the precipice as oil prices rocket and the ruling Labour administration in Scotland admit it may be in decline at the 2007 Scottish elections. Yet, against this backdrop, the Scottish Socialist Party has been incapacitated and distracted by a grotesque circus, watching in horror as our former convener and Glasgow MSP Tommy Sheridan pursued his bogus defamation action in the Court of Session in Edinburgh. His victory today in obtaining £200,000 damages from News International is a hollow one, because of the despicable things he did, in order to achieve this.

For five long weeks the party has been splashed over the front pages of the tabloid press – for all the wrong reasons. Even those initially empathetic to Tommy Sheridan’s fight with the Murdoch press will have been stunned by the events of this case. But this is not a sex scandal, no matter how the tabloid papers sell it. It is an absolute political scandal.

On 31st October 2004 the News of the World printed a story about an unnamed MSP who had an affair with Anvar Khan, a journalist and visited a sex club in Manchester with her and others. This story was based on a chapter of Ms Khan’s book Pretty Wild.

Members of the EC were aware that Tommy Sheridan had frequented this sex club in the past, Tommy Sheridan was confronted that he was the unnamed MSP. Comrades attempted to meet with Tommy Sheridan in the days after the News of the World article however he refused to meet with them. Some members of the EC met together informally to discuss what action should be taken as there were concerns that there may be follow up stories. There was disappointment at Tommy Sheridan’s reckless behaviour. The National Secretary, Allan Green, and the Co-Chairs – Carolyn Leckie and Catriona Grant – convened an EC meeting for the 9th November 2004. It was made clear to all EC members that this was an emergency EC to deal with a specific crisis in the SSP before attending. Tommy Sheridan attended this meeting and made a statement about visiting Cupid’s sex club on two occasions in 1996 and 2002. He admitted his behaviour was reckless, asked for support but wanted to deal with the events “in his own way” which included denying the visits to the club, and that he would sue the News of the World on the basis that they “could not prove” their allegations.

Recklessness

It was not moral outrage, but his preparedness to pursue a reckless action by lying in court that was the principal factor behind the Executive’s unanimous decision to force Sheridan to resign. The Executive took the view that the consequences of such an action would be disastrous for both Tommy Sheridan and the party. This meeting was minuted as it was an EC meeting, as per the constitution of the party. Barbara Scott, Minute Secretary, was visibly taking notes at the meeting. At no time was there a request for the meeting not to be minuted by anyone in attendance at the meeting (including Tommy Sheridan).

It was agreed that this decision was to be reported, verbally, to a series of aggregate meetings of SSP members in November 2004 by the Regional Organisers and those present at the EC.

The minutes were prepared by Barbara Scott and they were agreed and ratified unanimously at the EC of the 24th November 2004. Tommy Sheridan asked that the minutes of the 9th November 2004 be kept confidential, this was agreed and an emergency motion to keep the minutes confidential was put to the National Council on 27th November 2004. This emergency motion was accepted by the National Council.

Tommy Sheridan resigned on the 10th November 2004. On the 12th November 2004 he disclosed publicly that he had had a relationship with Anvar Khan in 1992 in an article in the Scottish Mirror (this fact had NOT been discussed at the EC). He denied that he was the unnamed politician of the 31st October 2004 story and denied having any affairs since being married in 2000.

On 14th November 2004, there was a follow-up story in the News of the World regarding Fiona Maguire, and another story about Duncan Rowan, North East Regional Organiser, who had gone to the News of the World in the belief he was protecting Fiona Maguire, and he named another comrade to the News of the World, without that comrade’s permission. At the EC, Steve Arnott reported that Duncan Rowan had resigned and apologised. Fiona Maguire had not been discussed at any length at the 9th November 2004 meeting except by being alluded to (though not named) by Duncan Rowan, who was in an upset and agitated state.

There was an attempt to move on after the November 2004 events, however the Scottish media were used by Tommy Sheridan to launch attacks on the party and comrades in the party, using terms such as plotters, dark arts etc.

Rewriting history

Despite these attacks, no-one could have imagined the lengths that Tommy Sheridan and some of his supporters would go to to rewrite the party’s history.

In the intervening 18 months Tommy Sheridan launched an incredible campaign of disinformation, inside and outside the party, alleging that he was ‘done in’ by those supposedly jealous of his status, or driven by personal and political ambition.

This is complete fantasy and nonsense.

In fact, it was Tommy Sheridan’s closest friends and comrades who advised him of the inherent dangers of the kamikaze path that he was preparing to embark on. Their advice has been proven to be 100% correct. Tommy Sheridan would have been wise to have listened. Instead he has used smears, innuendo and outright lies to attack those same comrades and friends – in a vain attempt to save his own vanity and political career.

The Scottish Socialist Party has been tortured and tormented by the court case brought by Sheridan. The state has been able to intervene in the internal affairs of the SSP, the party has been heavily fined in the run-up to the court proceedings and comrades called on to testify in the case have been placed in the position where they have been offered a choice of being either scabs or liars, to cite one saying making the rounds in the SSP during the case.

Wounded vanity

The case has been an unmitigated disaster for the SSP, brought about by the wounded vanity of one man, Mr. Sheridan.

The strategy to defy the courts’ pursuit of our minute of the 9th November was agreed at the EC of 21st May 2006 as it was congruent to the democratic decision of 27th November 2004.

The minutes of the 9th November 2004 meeting were handed over to the courts after a heated debate at the SSP National Council on May 28, 2006 – a position supported at the time by Tommy Sheridan – and against the wishes of the Executive. At the National Council, Tommy Sheridan appealed to hand the minutes over and at no time suggested that these minutes were fabricated in an elaborate attempt to frame him. At the time of the National Council, the News of the World and their legal team had been handed a set a false minutes that had not been seen, agreed or ratified by the EC at an time. Where these minutes came from remain a mystery, yet Tommy Sheridan during his court case referred to them as correct minutes until the judge, Lord Turnbull, ruled them out of order.

Subsequently, leading members of the SSP have been dragged through the highest civil court in Scotland and had their honesty, integrity and socialist commitment questioned – not by the News of the World, but by one of the party’s own members – Tommy Sheridan.

Once the minutes were in the hands of the court and the defiance strategy defeated, the choice facing SSP members was to tell the truth about the meeting or state that the minutes were fabricated, thus lending support to Tommy Sheridan’s bizarre allegation that he had been framed by the very members he had brought to court.

Only viable option

Some comrades have suggested that those forced into court should have lied to protect Tommy, or at the very least, say that they could not remember what happened at the meeting. That is just not a serious or credible position. How would this have applied to the Minute Secretary, Barbara Scott?

Do comrades really think that Barbara Scott should have stood in the witness box and said that she could not remember taking the minutes or that she fabricated them as she was delusional at the time or part of a political plot to undermine Tommy Sheridan? Telling the truth was the only viable option.

Colin Fox, SSP convenor is accused of a frame-up by Sheridan, by Myra Armstrong

Colin Fox, SSP convenor is accused of a frame-up by Sheridan, by Myra Armstrong

SSP members have watched with shock and disgust as their former Convenor and Glasgow MSP accused 11 members of the SSP, including Colin Fox, of framing him. The SSP United Left defends absolutely those members who, under protest, were forced to attend court and tell the truth about the party’s history and to defend their socialist integrity.

To call these people grasses, traitors or scabs, as some of Sheridan’s leading supporters have done is both laughable and outrageous- yet their choice of language gives the game away about who is telling the truth in this sordid affair. If the 11 comrades were lying, then why are they not just called plain liars?

The United Left launched on 11th June 2006 condemns the misguided efforts of those who failed to uphold the truth about our party’s history, our minutes, our democratic decisions and the actions of our elected office bearers. They may have done this from a misguided sense of loyalty, but they helped fuel the myth that Tommy Sheridan had been framed – a myth that they knew not to be the case. They were prepared to shore up one man’s reputation, thereby assisting in the savaging of the reputation of eleven others.

Insult to socialist integrity

Tommy Sheridan’s supporters have stated that this court case is part of the wider struggle of the labour movement. To suggest that a bogus campaign to defend a secret life is, in any way whatsoever, part of the class struggle is complete rubbish. Moreover, it is an insult to the integrity of socialist struggle.

This court action had nothing to do with the struggle against capitalism. There is nothing in the history of the socialist movement which permits you to put a woman that you have had sex with and members of the elected EC (of 2004) in the witness box and castigate them as liars and plotters when they tell the truth – all in a grotesque attempt to preserve the family man facade that have been presented to the public.

Moreover, for these women (the comrade and the women who allegedly witnessed him in an hotel with a footballer and a prostitute) to be cross-examined by Tommy Sheridan himself raises serious legal and moral questions which need to be addressed in the socialist and wider movement.

Sadly, many, many people will have seen Tommy Sheridan exposed in the eyes of the public in the last few weeks. He has abused the trust placed in him by tens if not hundreds of thousands of working class women and men who believed him when he said that he was different from all the other politicians, that he deplored dishonesty and hypocrisy, that he was a politician who dared to be different.

From being seen as a principled socialist fighter, he has been rebranded as man desperate to do anything to preserve a false image and prepared to trash his former comrades and friends in the process.

Over the last 20 years Tommy Sheridan gained widespread support for being seen as a man of integrity. That has turned out not to be the case. It is an uncomfortable truth, but not one that can be turned away from. The truth is not what is politically useful.

The SSP must decide now how to
hold Tommy Sheridan to account
for his destructive acts and his appalling approach to fellow socialists. We call on Tommy Sheridan to begin by giving an uncompromising apology to the party as a whole for putting them through this tortuous process, and to the individual members that he has slandered, castigated and cross-examined in a hostile fashion. It is time he started taking responsibility for his own actions.

The SSP became a model for the left in Europe because it combined a pluralistic, open structure with a pro-active vision for fighting for socialist change at a grass roots level. Never again can the left allow one individual to wreak such mayhem and destruction within a pluralistic socialist party.

All SSP members are equal

The SSP United Left believes we need to re-establish the SSP on this basis. There needs to be an assessment of accountability within party structures through strengthening democracy.

Moreover, there needs to be the development of a grass roots leadership across the whole of the country with an emphasis on political education – carried out in a fresh, egalitarian way.

The SSP is NOT the property of any one individual. All members ARE equal and NO-ONE is more equal than others.

4th August 2006

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Sep 13 2006

A Critique and Exposure of Tommy Sheridan’s ‘Daily Record’ and ‘The SSP has reached the Crossroads Manifesto’

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

Allan Armstrong (Republican Communist Network) examines the politics behind the SSP Majority’s’ letter and Sheridan’s contributions to the Daily Record

Tommy’s battle against the News of the World

Tommy Sheridan has won a famous victory over the News of the World. This has been proclaimed by Tommy’s immediate supporters, the SWP and CWI, and by that section of the press and media, which likes to pretend it is morally superior to the News of the World. People from Margo MacDonald to Ian Bell have hailed Tommy’s triumph over the News of the World. When it comes to its effect on the SSP, they either show little concern, or cynically declare that the SSP project was doomed from the start. The Left could never unite. For some, this is no doubt said with regret, as they wistfully remember their lost and youthful radical past. And, in a desperate desire to fill the vacuum, left by the wholesale retreat of working class politics since its 60s and 70s heyday, some of these people might claim that only celebrity politics has a chance of getting any progressive changes today. First it was Ken Livingstone, then George Galloway, and now it’s Tommy Sheridan. And, even some of those on the remaining Left seem to agree with them. They just hope for a little slice of the action. Working class heroes are our only saviour – follow the true leader!

Tommy’s hidden battle against the SSP

What has been hidden from most of the public and many SSP members, throughout the lurid 4 week trial, is the other battle that has been raging. That has been the attempt by Tommy to break the SSP, in order to have an organisation, like putty in his hands. This would be, in effect, a leadership cult – the Tommy Sheridan Party (TSP). In order to achieve this Tommy was prepared to resort to a bourgeois court to promote his campaign of bravado and public denigration of one-time close friends, fellow comrades in the former ISM, and other socialists in the party, including many with a long record of working class struggle. Tommy has been mightily helped in this, by his attempt to portray his stance as a heroic, one-man battle against the scabby News of the World and the right to maintain his family’s privacy.

The sub-text in Tommy’s campaign has been to conjure up a secret organisation, the United Left, which conspired to topple him as SSP leader on November 9th 2004.The purpose behind this has been twofold. First, to whip up hatred within the SSP, directed against those members of the National Executive prepared to stand up to him; secondly, to play to the wider perception of the public (some, of course, who became members of the jury) that the SSP wasn’t worth a toss. It is just another joke organisation – a combination of The Life of Brian and Citizen Smith. Given the Left’s past history it is not surprising that this image is all too prevalent amongst the wider public. However, in appealing to this particular widespread prejudice, Tommy has highlighted his intention to destroy the reality of what the SSP has achieved. Instead he wants it replaced either by the TSP, or left as an empty shell, gutted of any independent mindedness and democracy.

Tommy’s anti-party course was a response to being challenged by close friends, on November 9th, 2004

When did Tommy decide to pursue this course of action? Quite clearly he was shocked at the emergency November 9th 2004 Executive meeting when his closest friends and political allies were not prepared to give him unqualified backing. Protecting the leader’s public image, promoted in the media at every opportunity – the squeaky clean President and First Lady – was his primary concern.

The real issue, therefore, was not about Tommy’s sex life. This is indeed his and Gail’s affair, but it has been Tommy who seems determined to make it everybody else’s. The problem is Tommy’s image promoted for political purposes maybe very different from reality. The wider issue isn’t a concern over Calvinist morality, but over bourgeois hypocrisy. It was Tommy’s decision to go to the courts, instead of shrugging off the News of the World allegations, which showed his own moralistic uncertainty about sexual conduct. Even John Prescott and Bertie Ahern have handled press allegations about their private lives better – either, It’s none of your concern, or, So what!

In order to sustain this public image, his closest friends and comrades were asked to sacrifice their own personal integrity. Our MSPs, all public figures, were also asked to compromise their integrity. The very name of the SSP, as the only principled and honest party in Scottish politics, was to be threatened, by building a tower of lies. And for Tommy, the threat to sue the News of the World, at this stage, was all a bluff! The National Executive was faced with the choice – to follow the politics of bluff and short-term tactical expediency, or to follow the politics of truth and long term principled gain. It should have been a ‘no brainer’.

Tommy could even have gone to the following National Executive meeting, the next National Council, or to the 2005 Conference, to argue his case in front of the members. That was his right and the proper way to pursue his grievance. Certainly, the membership would have been up for a SSV campaign to expose the scabby News of the World. Direct appeals could have been made to that paper’s unions.

Instead, Tommy, at this stage with the Executive’s support, decided to pursue a private action in the bourgeois courts. However, Tommy was nurturing his hurt, so he also moved behind the scenes in the party. First he broke off personal relationships with his former closest friends. Next year, he backed Colin Fox for SSP leader, hoping that at least Colin could be manipulated into advancing his course. Colin, one of Tommy’s close political allies, was not for being so used. So, in Tommy’s mind, Colin too joined the ‘imaginary’ conspiracy directed against the unchallengeable leader.

Lastly, when it became quite clear that the SSP could not be kept out the courts, due to the state’s stance (something the RCN maintained was inevitable), Tommy wrote his Open Letter, with the help of the CWI and others. From then on he has played a constant game of ‘bluff’, which can, with a skilled poker face like Tommy’s, deliver the wins he craves – but not forever. Tommy’s cards will eventually be called and they will be exposed as knaves, when aces are required.

However, since the date of Tommy’s court case was declared, his battle against the News of the World – the bluff – has taken second fiddle to Tommy’s very real battle against everything the SSP stands for.

The record of the real SSP

Tommy’s public portrayal of the SSP has been a travesty of reality.

The RCN knows better than any other platform that Tommy and his allies’ are twisting and misrepresenting the reality of our party. The SSA, and its successor organisation, the current SSP, was built on the firm grounds of working class resistance – the Anti-Poll Tax campaign, the Save Our Water campaign, the Glaciers’ occupation and many other struggles. In the process, the SSA, then the SSP, pulled in the overwhelming majority of socialist organisations in Scotland (including the local branch organisations of British-based organisations), which had previously only enjoyed a separate sect-like existence.

The RCN is probably the only political organisation, currently in the SSP, which argued for the welcoming of all socialist organisations into the Alliance’s/Party’s ranks. The condition of membership was that they accept the SSA’s/SSPs’ defining principles and constitution. That means we championed the right to affiliation of every organisation, which has subsequently joined, from the CPGB-PCC (now defunct in Scotland), the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement to the Socialist Workers’ Party. We welcomed people as comrades into the party, only opposing their politics whenever we disagreed. We have always tried to maintain fraternal relations with comrades as individuals.

Furthermore, the RCN, far from supporting the politics of the ISM, or other platforms or individuals in the National Executive, has always been prepared to very publicly take on positions we disagreed with. We have opposed both Tommy and Alan McCombes, on their shared slide towards Scottish nationalism. We have opposed both Carolyn Leckie and Richie Venton, when they failed to fully support the extension of the principle, “an SSP MSP on a workers’ wage”. to the principle that an ‘SSP TU official should be on the average wage of the workers they represent”.  We have opposed the CWI’s and Allan Green’s welcoming of loyalist paramilitary, Billy Hutchinson to ‘Socialism’. We have opposed the SWP’s continued resort to undemocratic front organisations. However, we have also been been approached by members in all other platforms to speak for, or to support key policies of theirs. We have welcomed support from members of most other Platforms, and non-aligned individuals, when they have supported our politics. We have published articles by members of all Platforms in Emancipation & Liberation, even when this has not been reciprocated. We aren’t scared of real debate.

Political debates and struggles inside the SSA/SSP have been overwhelmingly conducted in the spirit of brotherly and sisterly comradeship. When there have been occasional lapses, apologies have been made later, and good personal relationships re-established. The RCN, which is the smallest of the active affiliated Platforms, and frequently in the minority in the final votes, is proud to stand up and state that, despite any remaining weaknesses and shortcomings, the SSP has been the most democratic and comradely wider organisation our members have been involved with during in their political lives (and that includes the Labour Party, the IS/SWP, CPGB-PCC and the SNP!). I don’t think it is ‘blowing our own (RCN) trumpet’ to state that we have moved from being perceived as a marginal, somewhat bizarre, republican-supporting sect, to being respected as a hard-working, SSP supporting Platform, which has ‘punched above its weight’.

We have been seen as champions of SSP internal democracy and have pushed the debate on republicanism from the margins of the SSP to its centre.

Therefore, I repeat that Tommy’s portrayal of the internal life of the SSP is both dishonest and sickening. If the democratic and comradely tradition established in the SSA/SSP was to be finally broken, in favour of the type of hatred-promoting bile displayed in Tommy’s latest contributions to the scabby Daily Record, it would represent a major set-back for our class.

The political situation after Tommy’s court victory

The RCN has issued several statements, giving our view of events, since November 9th 2004. Our most recent statement, published on August 4th was drafted before the results of the trial were known. Beforehand, we were sometimes asked what we thought would be the best verdict. We said that politically it didn’t matter – that Tommy was pursuing an anti-Party battle regardless. Win or lose, he would try to rally party members around him to purge, what he or his close ally, Hugh Kerr, have shamefully characterised as either scabs or supergrasses.

We also said that there could only be two official results to this court case:- either News of the World – 1, Tommy – 0; or Tommy – 1, News of the World – 1. The real result, however, would be – the State 5, the SSP 0. In the end the official verdict was Tommy – 1, News of the World – 1. Why do we not agree with the current wider opinion that Tommy has trounced the News of the World?

First, the £700,000 they had to pay out (penalties and costs) was small beer, compared to the four week’s of unparalleled publicity they received. Furthermore, on top of the persuasive direct evidence offered particularly by Katrine Troll, her flatmates, and from the mobile phone calls, the News of the World was able to ladle out much more completely unsubstantiated salacious material, to get their money’s worth.

Yes, the News of the World would have preferred to claim the scalp of another prominent politician, but it was always a win-win situation for them. Far from feeling defeated and browbeaten, the News of the World went on to print another story, in their very next issue (August 6th) attacking Tommy’s friend, former policeman and SSP member, Dennis Reilly. He was accused of getting a gangster, John Lynn, to intimidate one of the witnesses. Now that Tommy is at least £230,000 the richer, will he spend a little of this money trying to clear the name of his good friend in the courts? These accusations are far more serious than any stories about Tommy’s alleged sex life.

The one thing the News of the World can not be accused of, is having a party political agenda – it would print the same sort of attacks, whether it was directed against Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem, SNP or SSP politicians. Certainly, its owners and editors would not be averse to handling and promoting information fed to them by the state’s security services, but the state has its assets in all the major media – from the serious liberal and conservative press, through to the populist gutter press. In the meantime, the News of the World has moved on unimpeded, with its usual diet of salacious stories and scandal.

Furthermore, the state probably knows the content of all those phone calls and e-mails mentioned in the trial. It probably knows a lot more about the private lives of all our MSPs and other leading officials. The state has the choice of leaking this information in the future, either directly or indirectly, through its various assets in the media and elsewhere; or it can blackmail individuals, who don’t want some aspects of their private life revealed to the public. The case of Denis Donaldson in Sinn Fein, a much more security conscious and intelligence service-savvy organisation than the SSP, is a warning of how they operate.

When renegade ex-Trotskyist, George Kerevan, saw the success of the SSP in the May 2003 elections, he cynically, but accurately, said to Alan McCombes,

“When you had one {colourful, and impassioned} MSP you were an ongoing media story; now you have 6 you are a threat to the state”

(or words to that effect). In other words the media likes and revels in celebrity politics (of whatever political persuasion, or of none), but it cannot tolerate a real socialist opposition. Tommy wistfully wants to take us back to this days of celebrity politics, with himself as President, and Gail as First Lady of the SSP.

Tommy’s ignores some of his supporters’ advice

Tommy’s court win has had a material affect upon the way he is now running his anti-Party campaign now. If Tommy had lost, his allies in the SW and CWI Platforms would have had to conduct their present anti-Party campaign in a different manner (although I’m sure they would have continued anyhow – sectarianism seems to be hard-wired into their very being). For, whilst the case was ongoing, the SWP, in particular, was careful to try and rally support inside the party around the slogan, ‘Better a Perjurer than a Scab’! The fact that it is not usual for struggling workers to want to conduct their campaign against scabs in the bosses’ main office (the courts), seems to have escaped them!

When asked what their attitude was to members initiating such actions, which involved attacking other members in the bourgeois courts, they adopted a Blair-type apologist stance, We are opposed to the use of courts (war), but now we are there, we have to support Tommy (our boy/s).

Others, such as John Aberdein and John Dennis (both of whom I would consider good friends) have called either for magnanimity, or burying past differences, after Tommy’s triumph, and for uniting all the party around a campaign for its policies, particularly in the run-up to the May 2007 Holyrood elections. Tommy’s highly paid Daily Record ‘manifesto’/rant on August 7th doesn’t quite seem to fit with this political advice!

Tommy’s attack on the SSP shifts from the bourgeois courts to the bourgeois press

So what is the political essence of the new political situation?

Tommy has moved his anti-Party campaign from the bourgeois courts (previously disguised as defence against the News of the World) to the bourgeois press. He is now being paid by New Labour supporting (and politically much more dangerous) Daily Record to conduct this anti-Party campaign.

Now, you can have two views on this. Either, by so publicly and generously providing Tommy with the means to conduct his own campaign (it was given priority on their front page, as well as on several other pages on August 8th, 9th and 10th) the Daily Record, has joined the principled battle for socialism in Scotland. Or, you can take the view that the Daily Record has been presented with a golden opportunity to attack socialism, the SSP, and is proceeding with great relish.

Any serious person examining August 7th and 8th Daily Records, can see its editors and journalists are taking the piss. They just can’t believe how far Tommy is prepared to go to further his celebrity status and bid for Leader of the SSP. They even conned Tommy and Gail, on page 7, to pose for a ‘royal photograph’, with King Tommy, Queen Gail and the wider family! On August 8th, we had former Royal Marine, James Moncur, lauding Tommy’s fitness, in testosterone-fuelled prose (page 4). In passing, Tommy mentions his old pal, Ally McCoist – Coisty has been on the phone and texted me a couple times. (No, you couldn’t make this up). Sadly, we are seeing a macho-man wallowing in the world of his celebrity friends!

So whilst Tommy thinks he is working jointly with the Daily Record to destroy the SSP as it is presently constituted, he can not see that he is also being set-up for a great fall. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Daily Record’s response to Tommy sacking his lawyers – was Tommy Drops His Briefs (Daily Record, 15th July) – ho, ho, ho! Tommy is falling over himself to help the Daily Record, to break the socialist opposition in parliament before next year’s Holyrood elections. He apparently cannot even see that he is being used. The Daily Record is far more politically conscious than the News of the World. It props up New Labour in Scotland. Jack McConnell and Gordon Brown’s political careers are more important to the Daily Record than the ‘tits and bums’ used to sell the News of the World.

Four days after Tommy’s court triumph, even one sympathetic journalist, Ruth Wishart, was beginning to send him warning signals, after his post-victory behaviour (Daily Herald, 8th August). You might have thought that Tommy’s supposedly politically astute advisers in the SWP and the CWI would have warned him too about the political designs of the Daily Record.

Tommy’s outrageous calls for the ‘destruction’ of members and for ‘purges’ have an ominous Stalinist ring about them. Time, you would have thought, for Trotskyists to call time, and to try and rein this unacceptable behaviour. But then Trotsky supported the clampdown on internal party democracy, after crushing the Kronstadt sailors and workers.

Trotsky also helped to suppress Lenin’s Last Testamemt . Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Trotsky later became a victim of his own political manoeuvrings. Tommy may have a more immediate political target in the UL, but he holds no love for either the SWP and CWIFactions, factions, let me be rid of factions! – the UL today, and then the SWP and CWI tomorrow.

The Daily Record, the new Socialist Worker in Scotland!

Colin Fox, our party’s convenor (voted in 2005, by the majority of delegates, in an election where he received Tommy’s backing) has appealed to SSP members to protest against Tommy’s scurrilous anti-Party attack on four of our MSPs in the Daily Record. So far, some SWP members have declined to sign this appeal. They appear to approve of Tommy/Daily Record’s methods. So these SWP members must approve of the Daily Record’s campaign too.

But, then of course, the Daily Record. is able to reach those parts which Socialist Worker can not reach. What, with Tommy’s five page ‘socialist salvo’ and the page 2 war coverage, hey, we have a new ‘Socialist Worker’ for the masses!

And, I suppose that, given all the Daily Record’s pages of publicity, given over to Tommy, the paper at least managed to cover the war in Lebanon on page 2. They even managed to relegate their own salacious material to page 9 – beyond the five pages of Tommy and Gail coverage. As yet, Tommy himself appears to be oblivious of this wider world situation, devoting not one word to it, in all the extensive space he has received.

But wait a moment, let’s look again at that page 2 Daily Record headline, ROCKETS RAIN DOWN AS TRUCE BID FAILS, Dozens hit in Hezbollah attack on Haifa. Ah, so it’s all Hezbollah’s fault! And SWP members joined the anti-war march in London on July 22nd, chanting the slogan, We are all Hezbollah. I hope the SWP’s London offices are well secured against uranium-tipped, bunker busting bombs – cheered on by the Daily Record!

SWP & CWI: two faces of sectarianism. Can they bury the hatchet?

SWP & CWI: two faces of sectarianism. Can they bury the hatchet?

The SSP – the Sycophants and Sectarians Party?

However, Tommy isn’t going to get his TSP in one bold leap. First of all the letters of the SSP have to be changed to mean the ‘Sycophants and Sectarians Party’. This sadly is the political intention behind the political statement, The SSP has reached a crossroads, issued on August 7th. Pre-conference delegate meetings are to be packed by SWP and CWI supporters. The October Conference is to be converted to a rally and coronation. Yes, we could all join Respect if we like this sort of behaviour.

Apparently, the SSP’s arrival at the crossroads has underscored a number of political differences, outlook and methodologies that have been increasingly apparent over the year. Funnily enough, I can agree with this so far. So let us examine some of the differences which have indeed emerged.

The political differences not mentioned by the ‘Crossroads’ Group

One bone of contention in the party has been the drift towards Scottish nationalism. This has been contested by the socialist republican wing of the SSP, (led by the RCN) on one hand, and the Left British unionist wing (led by the CWI, SWP and Workers’ Unity) on the other. It was the CWI which coined the highly ambiguous, but definitive SSP policy – an ‘independent socialist Scotland’. They have never dropped this as a paper political position, but have grown increasingly uncomfortable at the way this is interpreted by sections of the leadership (especially Alan McCombes). Yes, and so are we in the RCN. We have consistently opposed this Scottish nationalist drift, and its mirror image, Left British Unionism, by advocating a republican and Scottish internationalist strategy of ‘internationalism from below’.

But, the most public advocate of the Scottish nationalist road is none other than Tommy. He also was amongst the first to sign up to the overtly Scottish nationalist ‘Independence First’ grouping! Tommy joined Alan at this year’s Conference to help to overthrow the SSP’s independent republican and Scottish internationalist strategy (proposed by the RCN and won at the 2005 Conference and enshrined in the Calton Hill Declaration) by a course of action that paves the way for tail-ending the SNP, in the Scottish nationalist strategy advocated by Hugh Kerr and ‘Independence First’. The ‘Crossroads’ Group’s ‘manifesto’ evades all this.

Differences have also emerged over the anti-G8 campaign. Rosemary Byrne and film-maker, Peter Mullen, publicly attacked the parliamentary protest made by four of our MSPs (I suspect that Peter Mullen was articulating Tommy’s stance on this). When the RCN moved a motion at the subsequent National Council, strongly approving the protest action, Phil Stott for the CWI, and a couple of other delegates, opposed it. Apparently this protest wasn’t understood by your average Daily Record reader! (This may help us understand why Tommy has chosen the Daily Record to issue his own ‘manifesto’.) In reply, the RCN said that may indeed be the case, but the protest was taken on behalf of more politically conscious workers, and the large international socialist contingent, which had been prepared to take far stronger measures to defend anti-G8 protests in their own countries.

The SWP delegates appeared to agree with us, and were part of the overwhelming majority who voted for our motion. Since then, in contrast to Peter Mullen’s mean spirited attacks in the press (but Peter, please keep producing the films which you are good at) Benjamin Zephaniah, has shown real solidarity with the SSP, by producing the excellent fine-raiser, the Fight the Power CD. Benjamin has put ‘internationalism from below’ into practice. Now, perhaps the SWP weren’t really paying attention and just raised their hands without realising what they were doing – something that appears to have happened on other occasions, according to Mike Gonzalez, in court!

Four SSP MSPs show how socialists should use the Scottish parliament to defend democratic rights

Four SSP MSPs show how socialists should use the Scottish parliament to defend democratic rights

The SWP and the CWI – the two faces of sectarianism in the SSP

On the day of the July 2005 ‘Make Poverty History’ demonstration in Edinburgh, the two faces of sectarianism, represented by the SWP and CWI, were on public display. The CWI insisted on forming a separate red T-shirt wearing contingent on the march, despite having no major differences with the slogans of the considerably larger official SSP organised, and also red T-shirt wearing contingent! If the CWI had joined the main socialist forces, with its own contingent and banners, they would have been most welcome and helped to maximise the public face of socialism.

In the meantime, most SWP members donned white T-shirts, as called for by the official organisers of the ‘Make Poverty History’ march, whose politics had been colonised by Gordon Brown and New Labour. In effect, ‘Make Poverty History’ was calling upon the G8 leaders to be generous to the Third World – a utopian campaign for a nicer, fairer imperialism! But tail-ending liberal pacifist sentiment has been one consistent thread of SWP’s politics in recent years. A sub-text of the weekend’s events was SWP’s attempt to marginalise the official SSP presence on the following day of meetings and debates, by ensuring that most of the prime spots in the Usher Hall were filled by SWP front organisations, and the official SSP stand, relegated to Chambers Street!

More political differences unacknowledged by the Crossroads Group

The SWP also has claimed there have been significant political differences, justifying a new leadership bid, but they are mostly the opposite of those held by the CWI! The SWP feels that the SSP leadership wasn’t/isn’t fully committed to either the anti-G8 or anti-war campaigns. In as far as it did need a little outside pressure to push our MSPs into a stronger stance over the anti-G8 protest at Gleneagles, it certainly wasn’t the CWI who came to the SWP’s help to defend the right to demonstrate at Gleneagles. Pressure, when holding official office (particularly parliamentary or trade union), will always take its toll. We only need to remind the SWP of the stance taken by its own CPSA trade union official over the recent pensions ‘climbdown’ – oops, sorry ‘victory’, in the CWI version of events – to highlight this. The key point is that our MSPs (well four of them at least) were indeed successfully pressured into raising their game in Holyrood, although not Tommy, nor his current supporter Rosemary Byrne!

When the draconian penalties were imposed by Blair’s New Labour mouthpieces in the Scottish Executive, in response to the Holyrood protest, our MSPs publicly exposed the panoply of forces that US/UK imperialism would bring to bear to break any opposition to their designs. They also exposed the spinelessness of the SNP and Greens, in particular, when it came to defending the autonomy of the Scottish Parliament. No, for them it’s not ‘independence first’, but doing down the socialist opposition!

And, as for the ongoing permanent war situation, the SWP is particularly upset at the Scottish Socialist Voice’s stance over Hezbollah. So are we, as indeed are some UL supporters. However, the RCN also believes you can give wholehearted support to the struggles of the Lebanese and Palestinian people, without tail-ending Islamicist forces. This contrasts with the SWP’s slogan “We are all Hezbollah”. Soon, no doubt, we will be asked to shout out We are all Taliban, as US and British imperialism steps up its attacks on Afghanistan!

Almost exactly a century ago, socialists lived in a world of ongoing, vicious, anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish asylum seekers, fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. They faced the first racist immigration legislation in the UK, with the Aliens Act of 1905. Whilst being prominent in the many protests to defend the Jewish community, socialists of the day were always clear in their opposition to Zionist politics. The Islamicists of 2006 are the political equivalents of the Zionists of 1906. So, exactly where did the politics behind this particular SSV article come from? Well, straight from the old Militant tradition, as currently upheld by the CWI. I have seen no evidence yet, in this particular respect, that Tommy has fully broken from this tradition either. The continued debates over Ireland, at successive SSP Conferences and branches, have shown the hold of old Militant-type politics, when dealing with anti-imperialist struggles, even amongst many ex-members. Tommy has only publicly broken with this stance over Cuba, but not over the less popular, non-state led, anti-imperial resistance found elsewhere, especially in Ireland.

In as far as ex-Militant members have begun to break from this particular tradition (some UL members) I think that they would admit that the RCN’s campaigning on republicanism and consistent support for the anti-imperial struggle in Ireland has influenced their thinking. We welcomed their participation in Edinburgh’s annual James Connolly march this year. We didn’t expect any CWI supporters, who publicly declared their opposition at Conference, but oh, where were the SWP, who voted for support, even if they were rather shy in speaking up at Conference!

The Crossroads proposals would lead to purges then splits and splits again

So the August 7th ‘Crossroads’ document claims there have been differences – indeed there have been. But so far, it is the signatories themselves who have been the most divided over these differences! So, failing to outline exactly what these differences may be, the ‘Crossroads’ Group, quickly moves on to their practical proposals. Tommy and his supporters want a purge of the SSP’s ULN faction (declared and undeclared) – presumably the ducking stool will expose the latter!

If the SSP ‘Crossroads’ Group was to get its way, the long-standing political differences would be posed even more starkly, on an even more polarised Executive. They are at a 3-way ‘crossroads’, with Tommy, the SWP and CWI pulling in different directions. It is only the fact that there have been other forces, carrying some political weight, and many nonaligned and anti-sectarian members inside the SSP, that has prevented these two particular sects’ mutual loathing from leading to a split. You, only have to look south of the border to see the likely future – with the separate SWP promoted-Respect versus the CWI-promoted Campaign for a New Workers’ Party. Or, is it possible that Tommy’s undoubted charisma, and his desire to be the sole public voice and leader of the SSP, can force both the SWP and CWI to bury their hatchets? But then we would have a Scottish type Respect, only with Tommy Sheridan as unchallenged leader, instead of George Galloway. This may be acceptable to the SWP – but to the CWI?!

And, apart from Tommy’s Scottish nationalist politics, in which political direction would he be heading off in, from the ‘crossroads’? Tommy’s support for ‘mandatory jailing for knife crime’ gives you some indication of the Rightwards populist drift (gallop?) that he would adopt. It’s not surprising that the SSP’s SSY, who successfully opposed this at Conference, is not signing up to be run over at the ‘crossroads’!

The ‘Crossroads’ Group – witch-hunting and finding scapegoats

Having failed to explain the substance of the political differences that have emerged, because the co-signatories could not possibly agree on them, the ‘Crossroads’ Group has gone on to find a scapegoat for the SSP’s problems instead. What is the ‘Crossroads’ Group explanation?

For a long-time, Tommy seemed to put it all down to the influence of ‘a coven of witches’! When Tommy turned to others to for political assistance in drawing up his Open Letter for the May 28th National Council, the blame was laid at those he claimed opposed the real essence of the SSP. We are a class based socialist party. Not a gender obsessed discussion group. A little evasive, but all party members understood who was the target of the emerging ‘SSP Majority’ (supporters of the Open Letter and The SSP has reached the crossroads manifestoes). They were attacking the party’s socialist feminists, particularly in the Womens’ Network and in Holyrood.

Like socialist republicanism, Left nationalism, Left unionism and Green socialism, socialist feminist politics will form part of any large socialist party in Scotland today. However, the attack on our party’s socialist feminists as being a gender obsessed discussion group is completely inaccurate and insulting. Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie and Frances Curran have been at the centre of working class resistance, whether it be very publicly defending asylum seekers (Rosie), at the forefront of the nursery nurses’ strike (Carolyn) or occupations of threatened council facilities in Dumbarton (Frances). Carolyn wrote a devastating reply to Tommy’s Open Letter, which was published in the Sunday Herald (and really forms the ‘manifesto’ of socialist feminists in the current party dispute). It was scrupulously honest, outlining her working class upbringing in a loyalist family (so, no diplomatic courting of the RCN there!) It showed the link between capitalist exploitation and women’s oppression, and showed how working class women in particular are doubly oppressed. In the process, she clearly demonstrated the shallow thinking of the writers of Tommy’s Open Letter. We would like to print her contribution in Emancipation & Liberation. The editors would even make our first ever payment for an article – an enamelled James Connolly badge! And the RCN didn’t support 50:50!

The idea that such a self-confident group as the socialist feminists in the SSP would have to resort to setting up a fictitious sex scandal to achieve their ends is ludicrous. They showed their capability in organising and publicly debating the 50:50 proposals at the SSP’s 2002 Conference. They persuaded the SWP to wade in behind them! They even silenced Tommy on this issue! (But as in the ‘mandatory sentencing’ proposal and opposition to the G8 parliamentary protests, maybe others were speaking on behalf of Tommy!)

The attack on the United Left

However, the ‘Crossroads’ Group now have another scapegoat – the United Left Network – declared and undeclared. Funnily enough,this group, only formed on June 9th (and therefore, unsurprisingly, is not mentioned in the Open Letter) seems to have been secretly plotting Tommy’s downfall from the beginning. It is guilty of a bureaucratic and centralising tendency! This is standard stalinist/trotskyist gobbledegook – inventing impressive sounding names to label the enemy, but which are devoid of any content. I don’t know who was responsible for this particular ‘gem’, but it has the hallmarks of the CWI.

On November 9th 2004, the UL did not exist and Tommy was in the same Platform as Alan McCombes, Keith Baldassara and Frances Curran – the ISM! The ISM was undoubtedly facing a period of internal crisis, and meetings went on to discuss its future, Over a year later, Tommy actually attended one of these. The ISM invited others to participate in the discussions. The RCN attended some meetings. The main problems in the party (creeping parliamentarianism at Holyrood and dull routinism in the branches) were seen as stemming from poor political education in the party. However, those who took a lead in this discussion thought we needed participatory education of a completely different type in the SSP to that traditionally found on the Left.

However, overshadowing this interesting debate was another. Should the ISM be wound up and what should replace it? The debate was between an emerging anti-Platform tendency (an anarchistic and decentralising tendency?!) and those who wanted to form a new, more open Marxist Platform in the SSP.

Eventually the ISM was closed down, but the nature of the organisation to replace it was not resolved. It was only the shock experience of this year’s May 28th National Council meeting which eventually precipitated a new organisation, the United Left. Its reluctance to form an open Platform reflects the earlier debate about the very need for Platforms. The RCN has called for them to form an official SSP Platform.

However, there are other limboland, semi-platforms in the SSP, like Socialist Resistance (Fourth International) supporters. Gordon Morgan of SR latter has given his  support to Tommy’s campaign. So, the uncertain Platform status of the United Left cannot be put down by Tommy’s supporters to the sin of ‘factionalism’.

The Tommy & Gail show

The Tommy & Gail show

Operating outside official party structures

There can be little doubt that people have caucused outside official party structures. But then Tommy’s closest supporters, and the SWP and CWI, are also ‘guilty’ of this all the time too. The branches (and even the Highland Region) where Tommy’s supporters in the ‘SSP Majority’ are in control, seem to have the ability to conjure up ‘emergency’ motions on a Sunday, within a couple of hours, after reading the Sunday papers! How many regional members participated in that decision, or were even told about the ‘meeting’ in advance? As it turned out, the emergency motion dealt with no real emergency, but was merely a panic response to a newspaper report, which turned out to have no substance. The most likely explanation for its appearance was a well-timed state leak designed to cause the maximum disruption within the Party.

As for those in the ‘Crossroads’ Group who are looking to expose the state agent in the oppositional camp, they don’t seem to appreciate how such agents work. They try to cause maximum dissension by trying to play one side off against the other, whilst also undoubtedly trying to groom assets in any significant grouping. Democracy and a politically well-educated membership is the best way to counter such activities in an open organisation like the SSP.

There can be no doubt too that members on both sides of this current dispute have leaked compromising material and personalised attacks on other members to the media. The RCN condemns these methods from whatever source and will have a motion to Conference, which addresses the use of bourgeois courts and media and what alternative options are open to support members under attack from the state or media. Several prominent UL members seem set upon copying Tommy’s flawed method and want to initiate actions in the courts, or leak documents to the police and press. We oppose these courses of action too.

When it comes to upholding democracy and best practice, the RCN is not partisan. We defend these principles for everybody in the SSP. The ‘Crossroad’ Group, however, is quite hypocritical in this respect. They have shown no principled opposition to the use of the state’s courts when dealing with internal party matters, nor of resort to a very hostile press. They cannot credibly attack others who have done the same.

Tommy in the bourgeois courts

But, of course, the ostensible concern of the ‘Crossroads’ Group are scabs and Supergrasses. These terms of abuse aren’t being correctly used to describe real political actions, but are being invoked to suppress debate and call for purges. The resort to these terms can not be distinguished from the methods of agent provocateurs. But that is where bad politics leads you – wide open to the activities of hostile forces.

The ‘Crossroads’ document rightly maintains that the party NC voted overwhelmingly in 2004 to respect Tommy’s right to take action, to keep his confidentiality and to keep the party out of the trial. The RCN, however, thought that the minutes and debate should have been opened up to the members then. You can’t treat members as children.

However, there was never any chance of Tommy being able to resort to the courts without involving the party. The state was always going to take whatever chance it had to move in – minutes or no minutes. As it turned out it was the panic decision of the Cardonald branch, calling for the destruction of the minutes, which probably led to the raids on members’ houses and our party’s offices. The Cardonald branch action, along with the other laughable attempt to anonymously send an alternative bogus set of minutes to the courts, highlights one thing though. Tommy’s supporters knew about both the existence and contents of the official party minutes, they have tried so hard to denigrate and deny ever since.

The National Executive tried very hard to forget the impending trial and to maintain Tommy’s confidentiality. Witness the good recovery made by this year’s Conference and the improvement in the SSP’s polling ratings. Witness Alan McCombe’s jailing and defence of the right to confidentiality in the courts. It was  Tommy who withheld information at the time, which could at least have forewarned the party of the forthcoming state attacks on our party!

When it became clear that Alan was about to be jailed, Tommy was presented with the golden opportunity to abandon his court case. He had already won the whole-hearted backing of Gail (the only person he really had to persuade), and he could have demonstrated his pro-party stance, by withdrawing from his case and preventing Alan from being jailed. This action would have won Tommy the widest support in the party. But it meant that Tommy couldn’t satisfy his desire for revenge. Even if the party was destroyed in the process, well there would still be ‘The Tommy and Gail Show’ and the world of celebrity politics! For this he doesn’t necessarily need an SSP, just the attention of other celebrities and the media. However, having an organised ‘fan-club’ (the TSP?) does give celebrities a certain edge!

If that seems a cruel verdict, what are we to make of Tommy’s revelation in August 7th Daily Record, Tommy admitted his initial threat to sue the {News of the World} was just bravado! His case would never have come to court if he had not been offered legal representation on a no-win, no fee basis. How many workers, subject to hostile media attacks, can conjure up such backing. You need to be moving in a celebrity world to get this sort of support. It wasn’t available to Alan when he faced jail.

Ironically, SSP Executive members’ evidence could never have lost Tommy his case. Direct material evidence was required. In the end, our Executive members were still being asked by Tommy and his supporters to lie for him, and to completely undermine their own integrity. This could also have meant the end of the sterling work our MSPs do. In Rosie’s case it would jeopardise asylum seekers placed in an already very difficult position.

When the lemming leader calls on all the others to jump over the cliff, the sensible ones don’t follow (they form the more intelligent breeding pool for the next generation!) But when the head lemming tells all the others to jump over the cliff, but has his own bungee-rope protection (‘no-win, no-fee’, newspaper contracts), it is incumbent on the sensible lemmings to warn all the others too. This was attempted, but unfortunately it was not completely successful. A small minority of the National Executive decided to follow Tommy. They have no bungee rope, when the final crash into the rocks below occurs!

Defend our 4 MSPs and National Executive members against the state and the Daily Record

Four of our MSPs, and many other comrades and witnesses, now face possible perjury charges. These appear to have been initiated by a Tory MSP. The RCN certainly doesn’t believe our office bearers and MSPs under attack were lying. We certainly believe others have been either ‘economical with the truth’ or have very short memories. However, now that we have members facing attacks, not just by from the scabby News of the World, but from the state, the Tories, and the equally scabby Daily Record will the SWP and CWI rally to their defence. It should be a ‘no-brainer’!

Allan Armstrong
12 August 2006

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