Sep 24 2014

LETTER TO THE MOMENTARILY DISHEARTENED

Murdo Ritchie (RCN) gives his take on the situation we face immediately after the referendum. This was first posted on Murdo’s blog at http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2014/09/23/letter-to-the-momentarily-disheartened-19453755/

 

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It IS a wonderful campaign. David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown are deluding themselves if they really believe the Prime Minister’s press statement that, “now the debate has been settled for a generation or as Alex Salmond has said for a lifetime.”

I’ve met a number of people from the Yes campaign who appear depressed, but I doubt this will last. I never believed it would come near fifty per cent, so I’ve never been disappointed. Indeed I’m amazed that forty-five per cent of a high turnout were prepared to abandon their primary legal national identity to create a fairer Scotland. That’s a big number; that’s a big 1.6 million strong army.

Continue reading “LETTER TO THE MOMENTARILY DISHEARTENED”

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May 19 2011

A Reply to James Turley’s ‘Who’s Afraid of George Galloway’?

 

In Weekly Worker, no. 865, James Turley has attacked those who wrote an Open Letter urging no vote for George Galloway in the Holyrood elections on May 5th. The Open Letter was originally published on the Manchester-based blog, Infantile and disorderly (The Editorial Board of Emancipation & Liberation added its members’ names after the initial publication). So Turley’s response was not made with the Republican Communist Network in mind. However, since his letter addresses the situation in Scotland, and seems singularly misinformed about the situation, here is a reply.

Turley begins well enough, agreeing with many of the criticisms of Galloway already made by others. However, he soon reveals his ignorance of the situation in Scotland. He claims that Solidarity certainly did better under {Galloway’s} tutelage than Sheridan’s. In the recent 2011 Holyrood election, the Left unionist Galloway-fronted, Solidarity-backed slate received 6972 votes. However, in the 2007 election, the Left nationalist Sheridan-fronted, Solidarity slate received 8574 votes. On neither occasion were Galloway or Sheridan elected. Sheridan only managed to achieve this as part of the united socialist SSA and SSP slates in 1999 and 2003. Under their auspices he received 18,581 and 31,116 votes respectively. However, it is easy to see how Turley makes such an elementary mistake. As a member of the CPGB he believes that being a Left British unionist wins more support from the Scottish working class. Since Galloway is one of Scotland’s foremost Left British Unionists he must, by definition, have done better than Left nationalist, Sheridan. Reality mustn’t be allowed to cloud ideology!

Turley goes on to claim that the Open Letter signatories are misguided in basing their judgement on Galloway over Iran, because he is not standing for election in TehranOne can find all manner of Labour Left or Morning Star-type candidates with extremely dodgy record of supporting dictatorial regimes abroad, but the CPGB’s intervention is about drawing a class line on the cuts issue.

This represents a fairly rapid retreat to a narrow British and economistic focus, especially in the context of the major ongoing democratic struggles being waged throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Galloway appears to have greater internationalist pretensions than the CPGB. He has very publicly extended his support to a Muslim revolution… because a very significant number of the population of Egypt support the Islamic Movement of Egypt and that Movement has no need to hide itself under a bushel. (Stop the War Coalition meeting in London on 2nd February). In the Guardian of the 12th March, Galloway wrote that, I welcome the imminent victory of the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunisia, which I think will provide very good government on the Turkish model.

With the collapse of Mubarak, the US and UK states are looking to the Muslim Brotherhood to buttress their slipping imperial control in the area. The Erdogan regime in Turkey is an ardent promoter of global corporate interests including privatisation. It continues to oppress the Kurds. Faced with ongoing democratic revolutions, in which the most advanced participants currently desire not Muslim but secular republics, and oppose ‘their’ state’s wholesale handing over of resources to the global corporations, Galloway’s genuine anti-imperialist credentials begin to look rather thin.

However, the crux of Turley’s argument focuses on Scotland and the CPGB’s  class line on the cuts issue {which} involves  a vote for a) candidates of the workers’ movement who b) oppose, and (at least say they) will vote against all cuts to public services. We also argue that voters should prefer Labour candidates who meet the conditions to non-Labour, though this is irrelevant in the Galloway case.

Funnily enough, Weekly Worker has not been able to name a single Labour MSP candidate in Scotland who meets their anti-cuts criteria, despite their own turn to the Labour Party. Furthermore, this is not so irrelevant in the Galloway case. Anybody reading his Daily Record column over the last few years would soon realise that, not only is Galloway pro-Labour, but he has been selling himself as, in effect, another possible future Labour MSP. This was based on his (misguided) assumption that Labour would gain most of the FPTP seats in Glasgow in the 2011 Holyrood election, leaving less space for further Labour MSPs on the top-up List seats. So he pointed out that a vote for Galloway was, in effect, a vote for an extra Labour MSP.

It looks very like Galloway was trying to work his way back into the Labour Party in a similar manner to Ken Livingstone. First, however, he would have to show that he enjoyed enough electoral support. However, when  Galloway was expelled by Blair from the Labour Party in 2003, he took very few people with him, unlike Livingstone. This is why he has had to seek the backing of those Trotskyist groups – in turn, the SWP, Socialist Resistance (they later abandoned him) and now the CWI and the SWP again (!) along with their Scottish breakaway, the International Socialist Group – all of whom he despises. Their role is to act as his unquestioning footsoldiers on the ground.

However, if we look to Galloway’s own stance over fighting the cuts he has no principled record in this regard either. He may verbally claim to be against all cuts to win the support of the gullible CWI and SWP. However Galloway is a member of Respect, which in East London is now little more than an Islamic communalist organisation. Respect councillors have voted through cuts in Tower Hamlets without a word of public criticism from Galloway.

Perhaps realising that a call to support Galloway as a principled anti-cuts candidate lacks a certain credibility, Turley points instead to his support from the Sheridan splinter group Solidarity {with} its two main activist bases, and later to the fact that Galloway remains reliant on support from willing left groups  – he means the SWP and CWI. Here Turley is retreating to another dubious aspect of CPGB politics – its belief that a principled Marxist Party can be built by uniting all the self-declared Marxist organisations in Great Britain into a single party. The ignominious break-up of the CPGB-backed Campaign for a New Marxist Party highlights the futility of this approach. This collapse was more rapid than that of any other recent socialist unity initiative (the SLP, SSA/SSP, SA, Respect, CNWP), despite the much more limited range of Marxists involved.

If you are serious in opposing the cuts, you certainly have to confront Labour complicity in their implementation, along with their MPs’, MSPs’, councillors’, Party officials’ and Labour-supporting trade union officials’ opposition to any effective independent class action. But you also have to confront those Marxist sects, such as the SWP and CWI, which act as outriders for the Labour Party and trade union bureaucracy when it comes to demobilising independent class action. They promote their own front organisations to derail and split any independent movement. This is strikingly obvious in the fight against the cuts. Here we have to confront the wrecking tactics of the SP-controlled National Shop Stewards Movement and the SWP-controlled Right to Work Campaign (whose very names demonstrate they were both created with a different Party-recruiting project in mind than fighting the cuts).

Turley’s resort to the SWP’s and CWI’s declared support for Galloway only demonstrates the dead-end nature of this particular course of action. With the impending demise of Solidarity, the parting of the SWP and CWI in Scotland can not be far away. Look to Ireland, where despite their coming together in the United Left Alliance (essentially an electoral non-aggression pact), south of the border, they still managed to stand candidates against each other north of the border in the Stormont election on May 5th. And we are often lectured by the CPGB about the superiority of all-Britain or all-UK organisations because of their ability to unite socialists and the working class!

However, Galloway has gone one step further in his attempts to promote disunity. Much of his campaigning has been on his own terms, with little regard to his CWI and SWP allies of convenience. Publicly he has placed a lot of emphasis on cultivating the sectional support of Catholics and Muslims. However, where Galloway has attended joint meetings he has played to the CWI and SWP gallery in his thinly disguised attempts to whip up verbal and physical abuse directed against prominent SSP members in the aftermath of the Sheridan debacle. Sadly, given the number of emotionally damaged, attention-seeking individuals to be found in our society, there are some people who have stooped to such attacks. However, the prime purpose, of resorting to the misplaced use of ‘scab’ accusations to encourage such behaviour, is to deflect attention from the CWI’s and SWP’s own roles in promoting socialist disunity.

They seem to forget that Sheridan was once prepared to hand over the names of Trafalgar Square anti-poll tax protesters to the Metropolitan Police. The CWI didn’t raise any criticisms then. Meanwhile some SWP members in Scotland had started to pay the poll tax, because they argued that once the STUC and Scottish Labour Party had withdrawn their backing from a campaign of defiance the struggle was over! They both have short memories!

So, if you claim that you support candidates of the workers’ movement who oppose and vote against all cuts to public services, who should you have been supporting in Scotland?

Turley mentions the fact that Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Party has regularly out stripped the SSP which has even less reason to exist than the SLP. Now certainly, the SLP did win considerably more votes in this Holyrood election than either the SSP or Solidarity. However, the mere accumulation of passive votes at an election count is of little more significance than the vote for similarly 9th placed Georgia in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The number of new active SLP members resulting from their vote in Scotland, will probably be outstripped by the sales here of Georgia’s Eurovision entry, One More Day!

In addressing the anti-cuts struggle we have to look to the roles of Solidarity and the SSP, which Turley grudgingly concedes still has activists. In the last Local Council elections, held in Scotland in May 2007, both Solidarity and the SSP gained a councillor each. Solidarity managed to get Ruth Black elected in Glasgow. So how has she performed in relation to the anti-cuts struggle? Well first she defected to the Labour Party and soon became embroiled in accusations of financial irregularity – a prominent anti-cuts spokesperson on the Glasgow Council she certainly is not.

In contrast, Jim Bollan was elected SSP councillor in West Dunbartonshire on the same day. Here he has been to the forefront of the struggle against the cuts, putting forward a ‘No Cuts’ budget, opposed by all the controlling SNP and the ‘opposition’ Labour councillors. Jim has backed trade unionists and supported direct action by council service users. As a result of his staunch opposition to cuts, the SNP ruling group suspended him for six months in 2009. In the person of Jim, we have somebody who has gone considerably beyond Turley’s second voting criterion for giving electoral support – i.e. saying they oppose the cuts. If you add Turley’s first criterion –  support for someone from the Labour movement – Jim had the support of Clydebank Trades Council in the face of his earlier suspension from office.  Jim headed the SSP slate for the West of Scotland on May 5th.

In Glasgow, the most significant anti-cuts struggle at present is the continued Free Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University.  Once again the SSP has been prominent in this, particularly Scottish Socialist Youth.

Now, of course, it is easy for Turley to make a smug dismissal of the current voting support for the SSP. There is much that the SSP can be criticised for in this and other regards. However, when it comes to assessing the anti-cuts opposition on Turley’s criteria, then it is Galloway and his backers, not the SSP, that is found wanting.

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Feb 03 2011

RCN statement following the Tommy Sheridan Perjury Trial.

The RCN welcomes the vindication of those SSP comrades who refused to go along with Sheridan’s attempt to use his public and celebrity position to extract money for personal gain. Whilst fully recognising the political damage and personal hurt to SSP members resulting from this debacle, the RCN opposes the jailing of our former SSP comrade Tommy Sheridan and looks forward to the day when such issues will be dealt with within the organisations of our class not those of the bourgeoisie.  Lessons, however, must be learnt.

The rise of the Scottish Socialist Party to a position of influence and respect within the working class of Scotland, owes a great deal to the hard work and dedication of many comrades. No one can underplay the contribution made to this by Tommy Sheridan. He became the public face of the socialist movement in Scotland and inspired many people to become involved in class based activity. However, Tommy is a human being and is flawed like the rest of us. He grew to believe his own rhetoric; he courted the press on personal and family matters and set himself up to be the epitome of the clean-cut family man. He grew to believe that he was the SSP.

As we said at the time of the split within the SSP: The decision of Tommy Sheridan to pursue his court case against the unanimous advice of the SSP National Executive 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, represented a continuation of this anti-party action and heralded one of the most serious mistakes made by socialists in post war Scottish politics. It placed personality and individual egos above principled politics. It weakened the working class in the face of the current ruling class offensive.

The decision of the SWP and CWI to back this split, further demonstrated their own sectarian agendas. These organisations’ lack of commitment to principled socialist unity has already been clearly shown by their recent separate ‘unity’ initiatives in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland. The most immediate lesson for socialists is the incompatibility of trying to build a socialist organisation through promoting a celebrity leader. Furthermore, this has been highlighted, in the UK, not only by the example of Tommy Sheridan, but also of Derek Hatton (CWI/Militant), Arthur Scargill (Socialist Labour Party) Ken Livingstone (one-time Left independent) and George Galloway (Respect).

The consequences of the internecine warfare for the SSP and the working class movement have been catastrophic. Our credibility as an organisation, which can lead the struggles that face us and unite the left in Scotland, is severely diminished. However, we have survived and in pockets around Scotland have continued to work democratically and been leading fighters in various struggles. Now is the time to learn the lessons of this tragedy. If we do so, then we can possibly rebuild as an organisation and once more play our part in forging socialist unity and taking forward the fight for a progressive and equal society.

Although we hold Tommy Sheridan responsible for the initial damage to the SSP, we also recognise the potential for subsequent and continuing damage caused by the misguided actions of a number of our own comrades, some of these actions in direct contradiction to Party policy. To avoid this, we must:-

  • Encourage debates where political differences and attempts to make SSP office bearers accountable for their actions are addressed without acrimony and personalised attacks, either by those criticising or those criticised, and with understanding.
  • Apply our constitution equally to all members.
  • Insist that all officers of the Party adhere to Party policy.
  • Not elevate any individual or group to the position of Great Leader/s. The party has democratic structures to ensure this does not happen and these must be adhered to.
  • The membership of the party must be trusted. Some of the fallout from the court case could have been mitigated if the minutes of the EC had been dealt with in the normal manner and been made public to the membership. Only the RCN argued for the minutes to be open. This was a case of the party still treating Tommy Sheridan as more important than any other member and as such above the democratic scrutiny of the party.
  • No resort to the bourgeois courts to decide political issues as per conference decisions at the October conference post the split.

Socialists should not go to the bourgeois courts for rulings on how we conduct ourselves. Such appeals should only be made to the democratic institutions of our class. What chance have socialists got of bringing about socialism in the face of capitalist economic and state power, if we have to run to their courts to sort out our problems in the here and now? Therefore, we need to re-emphasise the SSP Conference policy passed on October 20th, 2006.

  • SSP members should avoid resort to the state’s courts when seeking redress for politically motivated attacks on their behaviour
  • When SSP members are subjected to politically motivated attacks by the state or media, they should be able to call upon the support of the SSP National Executive to conduct a party campaign including the following tactics as deemed appropriate:-
    • articles in the party’s press
    • direct appeals to the trade union members in the state bodies and/or media responsible
    • calls for boycott actions
  • SSP members should not resort to the non-party media when making allegations against other SSP members. Such allegations should be brought initially before the appropriate party body at the level concerned with the right to appeal to a higher level, the ultimate appeal being the SSP Conference.
  • The elected press officer should be responsible for day-to-day responses to the outside media, when members are under attack. The press officer is directly responsible, initially to the National Executive, then to the National Council, and finally to the National Conference.

We accept that individuals found themselves in exceptional circumstances. However, in line with the above decision, the George McNeilage tape should have been seen to be dealt with by the party. This has been damaging for the SSP amongst the broader labour and trade union movement. The end does not justify the means. Frances Curran’s use of the courts for a ruling being called a scab by the Daily Record was also a political mistake and against Party policy. Party members who handed minutes to police or who gave affidavits to newspapers must now see that however well intentioned, their actions were not helpful and once more were against party policy.

Once again, it is our contention that we must bring the continuing self inflicted damage to an end. The mistakes we made must be acknowledged, breaches of policy on the part of office bearers should be addressed and we must show ourselves to be a democratically accountable party. Also, the Party must now seek to carry through the decision of the post-split 2006 SSP Conference which welcomes back former members without recriminations, especially now that they can clearly see the tragic implications of the misguided actions of Sheridan, Solidarity, SWP and CWI leaderships.

Principled unity is our strength. We have a duty to the working class and the cause of socialism to maintain socialist unity and to conduct ourselves in a combative, determined, confident, but friendly manner aimed at convincing thousands that the SSP’s principles and policies coincide with their interests. The future is ours, provided we collectively seize it.(Passed overwhelmingly 20th October 2006)

We must also try to win back the largest group of all – those former members who left the SSP and did not join Solidarity. They have raised criticisms, not only about egotism of Sheridan and the unattractive sectarianism and splitting tactics of the SWP and CWI, but also of some of the badly misjudged actions of the SSP in attempting to deal with these problems. This group currently forms an important bridge to those wider sections of the working class whom we need to win over once more to principled, socialist unity.

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Nov 16 2010

RCN Statement on the decision of George Galloway to stand in next year’s Holyrood elections

George Galloway has decided, with the backing of Respect in England and Wales, to stand as an MSP in Glasgow in next year’s Holyrood elections. This decision would apparently have been taken with or without Respect’s support. It amounts to little more than an attempt at carpet-bagging, following his removal from the celebrity spotlight, when he failed to retain a Westminster seat last year.

Galloway’s articles in the Daily Record show his likely political trajectory. He hopes to follow Ken Livingstone and be re-accepted into the Labour Party. He is selling himself to Labour voters in Glasgow as somebody with a high personal profile in contrast with existing Labour MSPs. Galloway’s most likely obstacle is probable jealousy over his celebrity status amongst the existing lacklustre leaders of the party in Scotland.

The attempt to promote socialist projects around celebrity candidates, whether Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill, Tommy Sheridan or George Galloway, has done nothing to advance principled and deep-rooted socialist organisation in these islands. Galloway’s particular claim to fame on the Left has been his spirited opposition to US imperialism. However, he has a record, not of being a consistent anti-imperialist, but of holding an ambivalent relationship to various regimes (e.g. Saddam’s Baathist Iraq and Ahmadinejad’s Islamic Republic of Iran), which are not opposed to imperialism in principle, but only to their lowly position in the current global order of things.

Domestically, Galloway has placed far more importance upon cultivating links with Islamic communal leaders, than with being held accountable either to socialist or working class organisations. Notoriously, he rejects the idea of  ‘a worker’s MP on a worker’s wage’ and believes that MPs should be paid twice as much.

Politically Galloway is opposed to ‘a woman’s right to choose over abortion’. Through his deeply entrenched Left British unionism, Galloway opposes any meaningful self-determination for Scotland. He still nostalgically hankers over the fate of another unionist and imperial state – the USSR – which still, in many ways, provides his ideal model.

Galloway has every right to stand in the Holyrood election next year. Genuine socialists have every reason to oppose him.

Socialist Resistance

The RCN has criticised Socialist Resistance in the past for its failure to address George Galloway’s articles in the Daily Record supporting the Labour Party in the Glasgow East by-election in 2008. Therefore, we welcome the stance Socialist Resistance has now taken over Galloway’s decision to stand in Glasgow in next year’s Holyrood elections.

Republican Communist Network, 15.11.10

Socialist Resistance on the issue
:

Why we are against Respect organizing in Scotland

After a week in which George Galloway said he was under pressure to stand in next year’s elections for the Scottish Parliament, Respect’s annual conference on November 13 voted, 59 to 15, to organise in Scotland. That resolution, published below, makes Socialist Resistance’s position inside Respect untenable. Resistance supported the establishment of Respect in England and has been central to the party’s leadership and work since then. As we explained in the leaflet distributed to the conference, because Resistance supports the Scottish Socialist Party the decision to organise in Scotland in competition to the SSP is a deep error by Respect, one which weakens Respect’s democracy and neglects the importance of Scotland’s struggle for self-determination.

The following amendment was passed by a large majority at Respect’s annual conference on November 13.

Conference notes that:

1. There will be elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011
2. These elections will be conducted under a form of proportional representation in which some MSPs are elected from a list
3. Respect has not organized in or contested elections in Scotland in the past because of the hegemony of other parties to the left of Labour
4. This hegemony no longer exists
. In the context of unprecedented cuts by the Condem Coalition and disappointment with the Labour and SNP, there is now an opportunity for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish parliament with a realistic prospect of success

Conference therefore believes

1. National officers should start preparations for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish Parliament
. Preparations should include immediately registering Scottish Respect as a description that can be used in Scottish elections and seeking to recruit residents in Scotland to Respect.

This is the text of a leaflet distributed by supporters of Socialist Resistance in Respect who now feel that our situation in the organisation is now untenable.

We are strongly opposed to the proposition that Respect organise in Scotland, as proposed in amendment E to Motion 1

Socialist Resistance has supported Respect since its inception in 2004 and previously supported the Socialist Alliance. We supported George Galloway’s letter which sought to democratize the leadership of Respect and backed the majority in the ensuing split in the organisation in 2007. We put the resources of our newspaper at the disposal of Respect. We understood that George and Salma, given their role in the anti-war movement had a vital contribution to make in building a political alternative to New Labour.

But were a resolution to organise Respect in Scotland to be passed at this Respect Conference this would make our situation in the organisation untenable. We are against such a resolution being adopted on a number of grounds:

1) A controversial change of a long-held policy that Respect does not organise in Scotland should not be introduced a week before the conference and with no discussion at the National Council or in the branches.

2) The only purpose in organising in Scotland would be for Respect to stand candidates in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections and in subsequent parliamentary and local elections. Respect has no policy positions on the specific situation in Scotland, particularly the issue of devolution and self-determination an issue around which there would be several different positions. To go into a Scottish election with no debate on key political issues would be fundamentally wrong.

3) There are already two left parties in Scotland standing in elections and they intend to continue doing so, namely the SSP and Solidarity. The SLP also stands in elections in Scotland. The last thing the Scottish left needs is another left party standing in those same elections and dividing the left vote still further.

4) In Respect there have always been different views on which party to support in Scotland. We support the SSP. If this conference were to adopt a position on organising in Scotland and to fight elections SR members would be in an impossible situation. For a party to have members who advocate voting for a different party would be untenable – both for Respect and for SR.

5) Underlying this issue is an important political question; namely the right of the Scottish people to self-determination, including the right to independence. Therefore we reject the idea of English based parties organizing in Scotland.

6) We still haven’t managed to build Respect on an England-wide basis – a decision to stand for election in Glasgow will inevitably lead to the de-prioritisation of Tower Hamlets.

We therefore urge the leadership and membership of Respect to avoid this course of action and to reject the proposal to organise in Scotland, avoiding both the undemocratic nature of such a decision and its consequences for the unity of the organisation.

Socialist Resistance, 13.11.10

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Mar 20 2009

Well, the Crisis of Capitalism has arrived – So, what do we do now!

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 1:39 pm

Not just a ‘Credit Crunch’ – but a ‘Crisis of Capitalism’

This year’s SSP Conference takes place against the background of an unprecedented crisis for capitalism. Every day it becomes clearer that the problems in the economy are not just confined to the over-inflated world of finance, but are having a major impact on the productive sector, as factories face closure or short-time working. Furthermore, the large drop in government revenues, due to the big decline in economic activity, threatens huge cuts in social expenditure and provision too. Brown and Darling officially concede that we are living in an economic recession. Other analysts and commentators openly talk of a new depression, perhaps even deeper than that of the 1930’s.

Marxists have long talked of the crisis of capitalism, albeit often only amongst themselves. What is new today is that so many economic commentators agree.The difference now lies in their proposed solutions to deal with the current economic situation. For the mainstream economists, in the various corporate funded think-tanks and university economics departments, the debate is confined to what is the best way to get the capitalist system fully up and running again. In other words how can capitalist accumulation and profitability be restored?

What has changed, in the thinking of business executives and politicians, is the sharp decline in their earlier belief that everything could be left to the market. When the global economy was ‘booming’, millions of workers could have their real wages and social benefits cut, whilst being offered seemingly ‘limitless’ credit as an alternative. Many more millions of peasants, throughout the world, could be uprooted and forced to seek a ‘better life’ as transient migrant labourers. However, whenever workers and peasants made any calls for government funding to address their immediate problems, they were brusquely told by neo-liberals that this would only stall the engines of economic growth. Now, in the face of the economic crisis, which threatens the rich and powerful too, recent advocates of neo-liberalism are on the defensive, as they shamefacedly look to governments to bail out their system.

Neo-liberalism and neo-Keynesianism – the two faces of capitalism

This helps to explain the rapid rise of neo-Keynesianism, with its calls for greater government spending and state regulation of the economy. Keynesianism originally developed in the 1930’s as the ideology of the capitalist system in crisis. It became economic orthodoxy after the experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War. In 1971, the then Republican US President, Richard Nixon, could say We are all Keynesians now.

By then, the majority of capitalists were in agreement over the economic mechanisms needed to keep any economic crisis at bay. However, just as an earlier Gold Standard, free market, economic orthodoxy was dealt a fatal blow by the Stock Market Crash of 1929; and just as the recent global corporate, neo-liberalism has faced its nemesis in the 2008 Credit Crunch; so too, capitalist confidence in Keynesian panaceas came to an end in the mid-1970’s.

It had then become obvious that the maintenance of profit rates was incompatible with steadily rising wages and an expanding welfare state. Furthermore, after 1968, workers’ rising expectations led to large numbers taking strike action, and even to some workers occupying their factories, to defend and advance their interests. Squeezed between declining profits and rising class struggle, capitalism was once more under threat.

This is why big business turned to the previously marginalised, ‘free market’ economists, such as von Hayek and Friedman, to help them overcome their latest problems. These neo-liberals opposed government intervention in the economy and believed that it could be left to ‘the invisible hand’ of the market. However, it was only with the backing of the very visible hand of the state, that the ‘full freedoms’ of the market were restored. Thousands of Chilean socialists and workers were killed after Pinochet’s military coup in 1973, whilst in 1980’s UK and USA, the Thatcher and Reagan led governments promoted mass unemployment and union-busting offensives to discipline the working class.

The Libertarian Right’s dream of a stateless society under the free market proved to be a utopian illusion built on the false notion that capitalism can thrive best without government interference. The application of neo-liberal policies certainly led to the cutting of government spending in the field of direct social expenditure. However, indirect taxes were increased and spending was diverted to the coercive arms of the state – the armed forces, police and judiciary – to undermine the power of the working class; or given directly to the corporations through military spending and other government contracts.

Imperialist interventions were stepped up once more, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East. Some of these had direct economic intent – to ensure corporate control over such vital assets as oil; others were demonstrations of raw ruling class power, to remind people just who was boss, and to promote favoured clients in the ‘Third World’. Eventhe elimination of the USSR-led ‘state socialist’ competition, after 1989, failed to reverse the rise in state expenditure in the West. ‘Free markets’ now depend on massive and continually increased government intervention and spending.

Thus, throughout the prolonged period of neo-liberal ascendancy, from 1979 to 2008, global corporations were benefiting from government promoted wars, and by military, police and security operations designed to break-up ‘communities of resistance’, thus creating pools of cheap flexible labour. Private capital also gained from the huge rip-offs of the tax-payer associated with PFI/PPP schemes; and from the state’s resort to the use of costly private agencies and overpaid consultants.

Far from renewing a ‘free market’ economy, with a much-reduced ‘night-watchman state’, the big corporations and their neo-liberal supporting politicians presided over the continued expansion of, and their dependency upon state power. ‘State capitalism’ was not confined to, nor did it end with the demise of the Soviet Union between 1989-91. It morphed into a new single global order with the definitive victory of the corporate executives over theparty bureaucrats. On a world scale, the global corporations were now the prime beneficiaries of state power.

Furthermore, the demise of the Soviet Union meant that, for a certain period, the US state, which fronted the largest collection of global corporations and had the most powerful armed forces in the world, could either pressure the ‘international’ UN to sanction wars in its interests (retrospectively, if necessary, as in Iraq), or just go it alone. After ‘9/11’, the US state also took upon itself the role of handing out ‘anti-terror licenses’ to supportive governments so they could crush their own troublesome oppositions, e.g. Israel and the Palestinians, Sri Lanka and the Tamils. Meanwhile the arms corporations in the USA, UK, Europe and Israel made billions.

Despite all their support from the state, super-confident and arrogant corporate executives opposed any public scrutiny of their activities. They pushed for the ending of all government regulation of the economy. They demanded the protection of private companies’ ‘commercial confidentiality’, even when undertaking publicly funded projects.

The net result of all this direct and indirect state assistance, combined with the lack of any meaningful public scrutiny and accountability, has been a massive switch of wealth to the ‘masters of the universe’. It also led to greatly increased incomes and perks for their supporters in the media, those they fund in various ‘educational’ institutions, and of course, for their apologists in government. So, by the 1990’s, Clinton’s Democrats and Blair’s New Labour Party could easily have said, We are all neo-liberals now.

However, the current economic crisis has shown that, even in the private, privatised and deregulated sectors of the economy, over which the corporate executives declared their complete competency, they have failed spectacularly. So now they openly demand, on top of all their earlier massive, if largely publicly unacknowledged, state support, mind-boggling financial government subventions – at our expense. This is not to be done for the wider benefit of the public, who have never figured in corporate executive concerns, but to ensure that their current staggering losses are socialised, and to restore their private profits in the future.

(Neo)-Keynesianism, national protectionism and the drive to inter-imperialist wars

As the current economic crisis deepens, even those publicly unaccountable transnational institutions, which corporate capital and its political backers have created or moulded to further their global interests – e.g. G8, IMF, World Bank, WTO, GATT, NATO and the EU – are being subjected to increased internal strains. An overstretched and badly bruised USA can no longer command automatic support for its imperial ventures – especially when they are unsuccessful. China and Russia, and possibly even the EU, or its bigger constituent states in the future, are pulling in different directions, opening up the even more dangerous prospect of inter-imperialist wars.

Faced with falling profits and the devaluation of their assets, competing national ruling classes are beginning to move away from their recent international capitalist cooperation and opt instead for ‘me first and devil take the hindmost’ policies. National neo-Keynesianism is linked to new protectionist drives, designed to uphold particular national capitalist interests, to set worker against worker, and to make future shooting wars between major imperialist powers more likely.

Furthermore, there is the chilling reality that, although several national governments pursued Keynesian policies in the 1930’s, these failed to end the Great Depression. Just prior to the First World War, Rosa Luxemburg had anticipated the choice facing humanity – Socialism or Barbarism. However, it took two world wars, with millions dead and the massive destruction of accumulated capital, to eventually give capitalism a new lease of life after 1945. Any future world war, however, brings the very real prospect of human annihilation, whilst the increased capitalist degradation of the environment adds another twist to Luxemburg’s warning. As the marxist philosopher, Istvan Mezsaros has said, the choice now lies between Socialism or Barbarism if we are lucky!

One worrying early example of the future likelihood of inter-imperialist wars has occurred since the last SSP Conference. The nasty little conflict, which emerged in South Ossetia, last August, highlighted the growing US/Russian antagonism. In this particular case, the US client government in Georgia, led by President Saakashvili, was unable to provoke the direct US intervention it sought on its behalf, despite the rapid Russian reaction to his bloody invasion of South Ossetia. The USA was too bogged down elsewhere to open up a new military front against such a dangerous adversary as Russia.

Saakashvili had to eat humble pie, as the Russian military took control of and guaranteed the ‘independence’ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The notion that Medvedev and Putin did this for the benefit of two of the many oppressed peoples of the Caucasus would not impress many Chechenyans. Successive US governments, though, have had more success in promoting their imperial aims in the one-time Warsaw Pact countries, and even in the former Soviet Baltic states. These have been drawn into NATO.

US and Russian inter-imperial competition continues, and is now focused upon Ukraine. Its shaky coalition government has recently faced threats to Russian-supplied oil and gas deliveries. This represents a warning from the Russian state not to get any closer to the West. Yet, the lengthy Russian borderlands represent just one potential shatter zone, which could become the focus of a rapid escalation of inter-imperialist wars in the future.

Israel represents another US client state, only too eager to provoke wider wars, to provide cover for its leaders’ desire to ethnically cleanse the remaining Palestinians. During the dog days of the outgoing Bush administration, Barak Obama was keen to be seen to take initiatives to deal with the crisis-ridden American economy, but he remained silent over the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The likely formation of an even further Right Zionist government in Israel, under Netanyahu, seems only to have prompted the US government to attempt to further cripple the elected Hamas government in Gaza, under the guise of foreign aid, channelled through the US/EU/Israeli Palestinian Authority stooges.

President Obama’s new administration includes nobody even remotely connected to those misguided radicals so important to the success of his election campaign. This is because they were not so crucial to his future project – the re-branding of US imperialism – as those big business backers, who now determine the real direction of US state policy. Obama’s Cabinet now includes Republicans, Clintonites and avowed supporters of any Israel – no matter how belligerent and oppressive the government in power. He has, in effect, formed a national coalition. Obama wants to get wider international imperial assistance, after the disastrous gung-ho, go-it-alone record of Bush and his neo-liberal advisors.

After facing unforeseen resistance, Iraq is largely being given-up as bad job. Nevertheless, it has been left in a much weakened and balkanised state, unable any longer to play a role as a regional power. Where outright victory can not be achieved, then a legacy of massive destruction and dislocation has become the preferred US policy option. Israeli operations in Lebanon and Gaza follow the same pattern. This may still provide openings for non-state terrorist organisations to operate; but if they become troublesome, then massive all-out bombing offensives can be launched, with total disregard for the wider human consequences. Increased numbers of US troops are now being sent to a disunited Afghanistan to cause even more havoc and misery. Meanwhile preparations are being made for more draconian sanctions against Iran.

Thus, just as neo-liberalism was not merely an economic strategy, but was accompanied by massive US imperial interventions throughout the world; neither is neo-Keynesianism confined to purely economic measures. It can only lead to further imperialist wars and to increased inter-imperialist competition, with dire consequences for humanity.

Looking at the world through different SSP lenses

Our annual Conference is the time to take a close look at these latest developments, and to debate the policies needed to address the situation we face. The SSP is a broad-based socialist party, which includes different organised platforms as well as less clearly formed tendencies. Conference resolutions are a reflection of these different approaches. The fact that self-declared revolutionary socialists may often find themselves in a minority can easily be understood in today’s non-revolutionary conditions. However, as long as there is genuine democracy in the SSP, the possibility of winning members (and others) to consistent republican and communist politics remains open, in the changed circumstances of the future.

So, what are the political tendencies to be found in the SSP? After the split, overt Left nationalists have become a weaker force, with the departure of the SRSM and several former SNP members. Similarly, Left unionists are a diminished presence, with thedeparture of the CWI,/IS, SWP, and the apparent demise of the Left Unity Platform (although one of their constituents, the Left unionist and social imperialist AWL, still has members in the SSP).

The once dominant International Socialist Movement (ISM) has fragmented, leading to the rise of a variety of Left nationalist, Old Labourist, Green Left, socialist feminist, and pro-social movement, spontaneist ideas. Former ISM platform members still form the majority of the SSP leadership, but are less politically cohesive than they once were. This has allowed other politics, including republican socialist, to make headway in our party.

Although Frontline no longer considers itself to be organised platform of the SSP, in some respects this journal represents a kind of ‘Continuity ISM’, where debates between and beyond former ISM members continue. The former ISM’s international contacts were less extensive than those of the CWI, which they originally broke from, but are still valued by Frontline contributors. Perhaps the closest of these are to be found in the Australian Democratic Socialist Party/Green Left and those Fourth International members, some in the French LCR, and others grouped around the magazine Socialist Resistance in England and Wales. Socialist Resistance has replaced the SWP as the main organised grouping in the post-split Respect Renewal. Unfortunately, Respect’s leader, George Galloway, is a Left unionist. He used his Daily Record column to give support to New Labour in the Glasgow East and Glenrothes byelections. Worryingly, neither Frontline nor Socialist Resistance has publicly commented on this.

Orthodox Trotskyism claimed that nationalisation = socialism

Since the old ISM came out of the Trotskyist and CWI,/Militant traditions, it will be interesting to see how their view of the economic crisis develops. ‘Nationalisation of the top 200 companies’ was always a particular Militant shibboleth. There has been much loose talk in the media, following the effective nationalisation of several major banks by the US and UK governments. Some have even declared that, We are all socialists now.

This equation of ‘nationalisation’ with ‘socialism’ has been the hallmark, not only of neo-liberal economists, but also of official and dissident communists (or socialists as Trotskyists prefer to call themselves in the British Isles). The last vestiges of effective workers’ control of the Soviet economy had been eliminated in 1921, after the crushing of the Kronstadt Rising. After that, official and dissident communist claims that the USSR was still moving towards ‘socialism’, rested either upon the continuation of Communist Party rule, or the extension of nationalised property relations. The idea of socialism became separated from that of genuine democracy or effective workers’ control.

In the USSR, the reality was that the working class had no effective control over the economy, only the ability to passively resist top-down directives – They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. Indeed, in the West, during the highpoint of class struggle between 1968-75, workers exerted more effective influence over the private companies they worked for, than did those workers in the East over ‘their own’ so-called ‘Workers’ States’. This was because of the relative strength of workers’ organisations in the West, at that time, compared to the situation workers faced in the East, where they had no independent class organisations of their own.

We have to be on guard against any notion of ‘socialism’ that separates state control from effective workers’ and popular democratic control. Any nationalisation or large-scale government funding measures under New Labour can only be aimed at meeting the needs of Brown, Darling and Mandelson’s real class backers – the global corporations.

Therefore, all those parties, which just voted for the government bail out of the banks, behaved in the same manner as those First World War Social Democrats who voted to provide war credits for their governments. For the decision to give trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to corporate capital amounts to a declaration of war upon the working class. We are going to be called on to pay for this through a massive austerity drive and further wars.

What is socialism and communism? – The need for a widened debate in the SSP

Nick McKerrall (Frontline) has been arguing for some time, that the SSP has not yet really developed a programme, which can address the situation we face. The RCN disagrees with Nick’s advocacy of a temporary retreat from public politics, in favour of a period of internal education. We believe, not only that you can do both, but that theoretical and programmatic development stems from political practice as well as from internal party education. However, we do agree with Nick that a new SSP programme is required. To do this though, the SSP needs to undertake a serious analysis of exactly what we mean by socialism (and/or communism) and, in particular, what role we see for the state, both today and in any revolutionary transition to a new society.

This is why, following on from our well-received pamphlet, Republicanism, Socialism and Democracy, we intend to produce another later this year, which addresses the issue of Communism and Socialism. Istvan Mezsaros’ challenging new book, with its essay, Socialism in the Twenty First Century, makes a major contribution to the wider ongoing international debate on this largely abandoned area of theory. The RCN has also been following the interesting ideas put forward in The Commune, a new website magazine, which is also beginning to re-examine earlier ideas about what constitutes socialism/communism.

There have always been some in the SSP who hanker after the days of ‘Old Labour’ (albeit within a Scottish national framework). This is not surprising, given the historical strength of Labourism in Scotland, and the spectacular betrayals of New Labour. The sudden revival of officially sponsored Keynesianism could give some sustenance to those who claim that state ownership is inherently better than private ownership, regardless of who controls the state.

However, the renewed debate between neo-liberals and (neo)-Keynesians should be used as an opportunity to put forward a distinctive socialist challenge to both these variants of capitalist thought. If all we do is become Left Keynesians, championing the role of the capitalist state over the capitalist corporation, then this can only contribute to the rebuilding of the discredited Labour Left, and to the possible demise of the SSP. Over a decade’s hard work to create an independent socialist organisation will have gone to waste.

The political dangers of national protectionism – ‘British jobs for British workers’

If the war in South Ossetia heralded possible new inter-imperialist wars, then the politically ambiguous legacy left by the recent strike at the Lindsey oil refinery, highlights the dangers of the shift to the politics of national protectionism. The defence of hard-won national contracts for all workers, whatever their nationality, is vitally important, especially since Lord Mandelson is the main promoter of ‘drive to the bottom’ in the EU. However, the reactionary demand of ‘British jobs for British workers’ can not be glibly dismissed. The BNP may have been seen off the picket lines, but you can bet it will be their support that grows in the forthcoming EU elections, and not those of some socialist parties hailing a great victory. Furthermore, the claim that such specifically ‘British’ appeals have little purchase in Scotland, are also worrying, given the undercurrent of unionism and loyalism, which can still be found here. Union Jack caps were to be seen amongst the Grangemouth strikers.

At present, the main danger to workers in Scotland is not the BNP, but the revived credibility of such Labour Party trade union leaders as UNITE’s Derek Simpson. He jumped on to the ‘British jobs for British workers’ bandwagon to cover up his opposition to any rank and file control in the union, and to smother the recent exposes of his privileged fat-cat lifestyle, paid for by union members. It was the Broad Left leaders of UNITE who undermined earlier militant strike action by Heathrow cleaners – but they were largely Asian women workers.

There has also been the attempt by Bob Crow of the Broad Left led RMT to play the ‘British workers’ card. He is trying to form a ‘No2EU’ electoral challenge in the forthcoming Euro-elections, with a platform defending ‘British democracy’ and opposing ‘social dumping’, i.e. migrant workers. Much of this could be accepted by the anti-EU UKIP.

The only significant strike in the last year in Scotland was that conducted by Grangemouth refinery workers to defend their pensions. Their success was linked to their key role in the economy, and has not been repeated by other workers whose pensions are under attack. Although there have been other strikes, involving civil servants and post office workers, these have been the token one day strikes used by trade union bureaucrats to let off steam. This perhaps explains the lack of motions this year to Conference addressing industrial struggle.

Broad Left versus Rank and File

Broad Leftism, however, remains the dominant industrial strategy pushed by the SSP leadership. In this there has been little movement from the old Militant tradition. Broad Leftism sees the main job of socialists in the unions as being to try and replace Rightwing leaders with Left wing leaders, through winning leading posts within the union bureaucracy. The underlying problem with this strategy is highlighted by the appearance of new Broad Left campaigns to replace old Broad Left leaders who have themselves become the new Right.

The alternative Rank and File approach, advocated by the RCN, represents an industrial republican approach. We see union sovereignty lying not in the union HQs, but in the collective memberships in their workplaces. Socialists should not accept the union bureaucrats’ right to dismiss workers’ own actions as ‘unofficial’. When such activity occurs, this amounts to independent workers’ action. When action is extended by means of mass picketing, it should still remain under the effective control of the workers involved. Elected officials, on the average pay of the members they represent, should service not control rank and file union members.

Furthermore, there are now large swathes of non-unionised workers in the country. A debate needs to be opened up in the SSP about the possibility of building additional, new, independent rank and file controlled unions. Too often, socialists can become mere recruiting sergeants for the existing cynical dues-pocketing bureaucrats, who offer no real support to their new members. Here, the experience of the Independent Workers Union in Ireland could be valuable. Ireland is a country where trade unionists have been hamstrung, since 1987, by the bureaucrats’ support for social partnerships with the government and employers.

As with Derek Simpson’s posturing, we should also be on the look-out for other moves to hoodwink workers, who are increasingly questioning union leaders’ near total commitment to New Labour and ‘social partnership’. We could well be told that, We are all in this crisis together, and that ‘our’ union leaders intend to push for more widely-based ‘worker participation schemes’, so that our concerns can be aired. Remember, the irregular conjugation of the verb ‘to participate’ in government/corporate speak – I participate; you participate; he and she participates; we participate; you participate, but – They decide.

The real importance of trade unions is that they are a key part of working class self-organisation – well, when they are not the playthings of privileged officials, or instruments in the hands of the governments and employers, that is. We can exert no meaningful control over the wider economy and society if we have no effective control over our own organisations. So the strengthening of independent working class organisations is the most pressing task of all in the current crisis. It will be necessary to return to the Broad Left versus Rank and File debate in the SSP.

Socialist unity can not be divorced from ‘internationalism from below’ in these islands

If motions addressing industrial struggle are absent from the Conference agenda, a call for socialist unity has come from Renfrewshire branch. This, however, is largely confined to Scotland, with a nod and a wink to certain developments in England and Wales – such as the Convention of the Left and the RMT initiative. However, the geographical scope of this motion doesn’t cover the full extent of the UK state, which also includes the ‘Six Counties’. Nor does it address the problem of the shared British and Irish governments’ promotion of the ‘Peace Process’ and ‘Devolution-all-round’. Together these policies are designed to maintain the best political framework for the corporations’ profitable operations in these islands. This common ruling class strategy has the backing of the British, Scottish and Welsh TUCs, and the Irish CTU. They are all locked into the ‘social partnerships’, which have turned union leaders into a free personnel management service for the employers.

Since 1992, the ‘Peace Process’, originally pioneered under Major’s government, has enjoyed shared Tory/Labour support. This reflects the widespread British (and Irish) ruling class agreement, in the face of their pressing need to pacify and reassert control over the republican ‘communities of resistance’ in the ‘Six Counties’. The disillusionment with the lack of any real ‘peace dividend’ has contributed to the re-emergence of physical force republicanism, with the killing of two British soldiers and a local PSNI officer by dissident republicans. In the absence of a wider political and social movement, such actions can only lead to further demoralisation and increased state repression.

It had already become clear that ‘British normality’had not been established in the ‘Six Counties’. Nevertheless, the UK government is now sufficiently in control that current Labour/Tory bipartisan support is fraying, as both parties develop their own strategies to preserve the Union in the face of the wider challenges.

Significantly, the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists have decided to form their own alliance to contest the next UK General Election. This represents the emergence of a new distinct and potentially dangerous Rightist strategy. The UUP is still heavily coloured by Protestant sectarianism, with many members active in the Orange Order. As yet, even after 87 years of the ‘Six County’ statelet and the UUP’s existence, it has not fielded even a single ‘Castle Catholic’ parliamentary candidate. This should be a wake-up call to the SSP, when Conservatives look for support in Scotland for their alliance with the UUP.

In the past, sections of the SSP, still influenced by the Militant’s old Left unionist traditions, were unable to make the distinction between the Irish republican struggle to end political and religious sectarianism, breaking the link with the UK, and the Ulster loyalists’ defence of Protestant privilege and the British Union. This was all dismissed as a ‘war between two tribes’. Gordon Brown’s call for ‘British jobs for British workers’ has been widely condemned for playing into the BNP’s hands. Now that the Conservatives want to give new life to Right Unionism in Scotland, it won’t only be the BNP who are given succour, but those supporters of the even more dangerous loyalist death squads, currently lying low over here.

Real headway has been made in the SSP over adopting a republican socialist strategy to break-up the UK and to end Irish partition, as opposed to a Left nationalist strategy for Scotland only. Nevertheless, the latter notion still enjoys some influential support in our party. The SSP initiated Calton Hill Declaration of October 9th, 2004, and the Republican Socialist Convention held last November 29th, were significant landmarks in the development of socialist republicanism. However, in the face of new reactionary pressures, we will need to stand firm in our commitment to democratic republicanism and to an ‘internationalism from below’ alliance with socialists in Ireland, Wales and England.

Such a strategy will be needed, not only to confront Unionism in all its forms, but to make any meaningful moves towards socialism in these islands. The failure of the ‘Peace Process’ to create ‘British normality’ in the ‘Six Counties’, along with the spectacular demise of the Irish ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic model, now offer socialists a real opportunity to put forward our alternative to both the unionists and the nationalists, if we can clearly see what is at stake.

The SNP retreats – the Republican Socialist Convention shows the way forward

The Republican Socialist Convention also drew the attention of visiting socialist republicans in England, Ireland and Wales to the political significance of the centrepiece policy of the SNP-led Scottish Executive – a referendum on Scotland’s independence. Although the various unionist parties have been quick to see the possible dangers this represents to the future of the UK, there has hardly been any discussion about this amongst the British Left. Their supporters in Scotland have probably put the issue to the very back of their minds, now that the economic crisis has taken the wind out of the SNP’s sails.

The SNP’s ‘independence’ project was based on the backing of key sectors of the Scottish business community, and tied to continued capitalist economic growth, led by a lightly-regulated Scottish-based finance sector. Indeed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s document, Wealth Creation in Scotland, provided the economic underpinning for the SNP’s proposed mild social democratic measures.

Alex Salmond, once keen to be seen in the company of the likes of Sir George Mathewson, now keeps his distance – at least in public. Whether all Donald Trump’s proposed new business venture in Aberdeenshire survives the crisis remains to be seen. However, other SNP big business backers such as Brian Souter, Sir Tom Farmer and Donald Macdonald recently demanded to meet Salmond. Soon afterwards, the SNP’s other flagship policy, the abolition of the council tax, was dropped. It probably won’t be long before the independence referendum is abandoned too, in favour of the more ‘realistic’ ‘Devolution-max’ proposals emanating from the British unionists’ Calman Commission, which the SNP once scorned.

The RCN has long predicted that the SNP would fall fully into line with other constitutional nationalist parties, such as the Parti Quebecois, Catalan Convergence, the Basque National Party (PNV) and now ‘New’ Sinn Fein too (after taking ministerial office in her majesty’s Stormont government and voting in the Dail for government bailout of the Irish banks). An SNP, now holding office, will follow these constitutional nationalist parties in opting for gradual political reforms acceptable to the major imperial powers, the global corporations, and in particular, to their respective national business communities. The SNP’s recent, openly declared support for the British monarchy is a clear indicator of the very cautious road they have adopted. It also shows us exactly whose support they are courting.

If the SSP is to make its policy of the break-up of the imperial and unionist UK a reality, this means an end to tail-ending the SNP in such organisations as Independence First and the Scottish Constitutional Convention. These organisations are completely tied to the SNP leadership’s rate of movement – which could very soon be in a reverse direction. The precedent of the successful Calton Hill Declaration, and the new links to Ireland, Wales and England, made through the Republican Socialist Convention, offer the best basis for a campaign of radical constitutional and social change.

There has been general agreement within the SSP that any intervention in an ‘independence referendum’ campaign would be accompanied by clearly articulated economic and social measures, which would point to the type of society that we would want to help create. The fact that a Scottish Executive launched referendum is looking more unlikely does not lessen our need to develop a programme with such policies. Indeed the current crisis of capitalism makes it even more imperative, since it will increase the strains upon the Union.

Two things should be clear though – any calls the SSP makes for government intervention should be coupled with the demand for increased democratic control. Indeed, it is the republican demand for greater democracy, and not the nationalist desire to paint more British unionist institutions tartan, that should inform our campaign for political independence. Secondly, we can’t afford to confine such a campaign to Scotland. The various unionist parties are quite capable of whipping up British chauvinist feeling within the various countries constituting the UK, whilst warning an Irish government, which will be only too keen to comply, to keep its nose out.

The need for wider international contacts and campaigns

The ongoing economic crisis has created divisions amongst the leaders of the EU. We can take some cheer from the massive students and workers’ struggles, which emerged in Greece, and the mass strike action in France. The ‘unofficial’/independentworkers’ occupation at Waterford Glass has also given the trade union bureaucrats such a nasty jolt, that it has even prodded the Irish CTU into action. They called the massive 120,000 strong, Dublin demonstration on February 21st. Significantly, the wildcat actions of those fighting for ‘British jobs for British workers’, has not been seen by the TUC torepresent a similar threat. The TUC and STUC remain bogged down in complacent inertia, pleased to hear a few sympathetic remarks from such government ministers as Alan Johnson and Peter Hain.

However, mounting resistance elsewhere will not stop European capitalists from trying to offload the cost of the current crisis on to workers’ shoulders. They are still trying to revive the neo-liberal Lisbon Treaty. Their attempt to browbeat the Irish into overturning their clear ‘No’ vote last year, should be met by an international campaign to back rejection once again. We hope that our Irish comrades in the Irish Socialist Network and Fourthwrite will consider seeking such support.

Unfortunately, the still divided European (and worldwide) Left is a long way from creating the new International we need to properly meet current challenges. This is one reason why the SSP must participate more fully in those wider international initiatives that do exist. To this end, the RCN has brought the formation of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, along with the European Anti-Capitalist Alliance (EACA), to the attention of Conference. We also offer a suggestion on how to improve their election platform for the forthcoming Euro-election.

Hopefully, the South Edinburgh SSP motion, which also advocates being part of the joint EACA campaign in the forthcoming Euro-elections, will also be adopted by Conference. Support for such policies would highlight the SSP’s active participation, alongside other European socialists, in promoting international solutions to counter the austerity and war-mongering drives being promoted by European capitalists, and by the Union Jack chauvinists of the BNP, UKIP, the Tories and sections of the Labour Party, as well as showing those SNP supporters committed to genuine independence that this can not be achieved on the coat-tails of the likes of Matthewson, Souter, et al. The purpose of the SSP is not to represent the interests solely of Scottish workers, but to act as an organisation representing all workers living and working in Scotland, whatever their nationality. This can only be achieved successfully in an active international alliance with others.

Despite the depth of the current crisis, capitalism could still yet be given new life, in a more barbaric form, and at the expense of the vast majority of working people. However, we shouldn’t underestimate its capacity, though, to bring about our complete extinction through nuclear war or man-made environmental catastrophe. Only socialists can offer an alternative future for humanity and the Earth. This is the bold challenge the SSP has to face up to at its 2009 Annual Conference.

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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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