Jun 29 2017

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!

Emancipation & Liberation has been chronicling the rise of reactionary unionism for some time. Following the shift further Right in UK politics after the Brexit vote , this has culminated Theresa May’s deal with the DUP after the June 8th Westminster general election. we are posting this article form Socialist Democracy (Ireland) which examines some of the implications in Ireland. This was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentDUPConservativePartyDeal.html

 

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!


A Conservative minister remarked quietly after the election that there would be many roads and hospitals built in Northern Ireland as a result of a DUP confidence and supply arrangement with his party. The assumption was that a large bribe would be paid and that it would benefit everyone in the North. Certainly there will be a bribe and it will contain some populist flourishes, but overall benefit will be slight. After all, this is a party that has just blown £500 million of public money in a corrupt “green heating” scheme. The main economic goal of this far-right party is to obtain funding for a public-private investment fund – a honey pot for failing businesses that would be open to the usual unrestrained corruption and leave the poor where they were before. The delay seems to be around the conflicting right-wing positions on Brexit and on the insistence by the DUP on sectarian concessions that are difficult for the British to openly concede on. Continue reading “THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!”

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Jun 17 2015

THE MINT WITH A HOLE – A review of ‘A Nation not a Rabble – The Irish Revolution 1913-23’

D.R.O’Connor Lysaght of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) reviews Diarmid Ferriter’s A Nation and not a Rabble, The Irish Revolution 1913-1923. This was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentReviewDiarmaidFerriterANationAndNotARabble.html

THE MINT WITH A HOLE

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Diarmaid Ferriter’s new book is good on two counts; it is well written and very well researched. The author has trawled very thoroughly the primary sources recently expanded with the freeing of the various archives in Ireland and Britain, over and above an enormous range of secondary material. This is a book that can be read with ease and should be read by anyone with an interest in Ireland’s history of a century ago. It is a mint of historical material.
Continue reading “THE MINT WITH A HOLE – A review of ‘A Nation not a Rabble – The Irish Revolution 1913-23’”

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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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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

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 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!

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. 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’!

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!)

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’.

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 ‘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 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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