Oct 06 2006

For the Democratic Renewal of the Scottish Socialist Party

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

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

Dear Comrade and Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signed:

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

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

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Oct 06 2006

The Future of Socialism in Scotland

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

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

Comrades and friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan.
16 August 2006

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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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