The gap between the Scottish Socialist Party’s success in the Scottish Parliament election of May 2003 and the poor showing in the 2005 General Election, have led to a number of discussions and suggestions within the party. The Republican Communist Network has made its own proposals in the last two issues of Emancipation & Liberation
We have also responded to the ISM platform’s initiative. Our contribution, ‘SSP at the Crossroads’, has been published in the current issue of Frontline. We hope to publish a reply from ISM in the next issue of Emancipation & Liberation and welcome other contributions to the debate.
We are publishing an independent initiative from Joe Eyre and a letter, in reply to The Role of Platforms in the SSP’ (Emancipation & Liberation 8) from Peter Burton of the Workers Unity platform.
For a Marxist Education Forum
No one can be happy with the party’s political education work over the last few years: it has been under-resourced and sporadic (comprising, in the main, day schools organised at regional level). There has been little overall planning of a consistent education strategy to involve politically experienced members or new comrades who have joined the party with little political experience or education.
Considering the present financial and organisational difficulties, it would be unrealistic to expect any significant improvement to the provision of political education by the party in the near future.
Yet a programme of Marxist education is essential. We need to develop an analysis of capitalist society from a materialist perspective as a guide to the tasks we need to accomplish. A clearer understanding of our tasks will lead, necessarily, to a deeper understanding of the kind of party we need to achieve them, and the kind of culture and internal democratic structures the party requires. A many sided materialist analysis of capitalism will also inform our thinking about the kind of programme the party needs to adopt.
With the party’s finances and staffing already stretched to the limit, I would argue that it is the responsibility of Marxists within the party (platforms and individuals alike) to organise a coherent programme of Marxist education open to all members.
There is much that the party has achieved that we should all take satisfaction from. The work we have done in and around the trade union movement in recent years has been remarkable and gives the lie to criticisms that were made, at the time of the launch of the Make the Break campaign, that it was ultra-left and way beyond the demands of the class. The affiliation of a major trade union (and the prospect of more affiliations) to the party are real achievements. Our recent input into the campaign to defend pension rights in the public sector has found a wide response among trade unionists.
Our work, too, around particular disputes (the fire fighters, the nursery nurses) has demonstrated in practice our commitment to building solidarity within the working class.
Our campaigning work in communities and our political campaigning to ditch the council tax, introduce free school meals and scrap prescription charges has given a more focused direction to these movements and mobilised workers in a way that no other party can.
Too often, however, we seem to stop half way – to concentrate on particular struggles and not go on to make clear that each of them contains within it the contradictions – or the germs of the contradictions – of capitalism as a whole. We all need to deepen our understanding of Marxist theory.
We need continually to struggle to understand, at a general level, the changes that are taking place in world economy. Only on that basis can we begin to comprehend clearly the nature of developments in the international situation: the role of the international monopolies; the rigged system of international trade; the burden of debt on developing countries; the so-called war on terrorism; war in Iraq; the threat of war in Iran; the erosion of political rights and the drive towards the security state, and so on.
A materialist analysis of these developments will allow us to put in perspective developments at a national level: the privatisation of the public services; attacks on the pay, conditions and pensions of public sector workers; the role of the anti-union laws; the deregulation of labour markets and the increased exploitation of women workers and part-time workers generally; the growing wealth gap and health gap; racism; attacks on the democratic rights of young people, asylum seekers and immigrants; the politics of fear and control, etc.
I would propose the following:
- That we call a meeting open to all individuals and platforms within the party who consider themselves Marxist to consider how best to take forward political education within the party
- That we seek to find agreement on a planned programme of education open to all party members and sympathisers; that such a programme should take account of the needs of experienced comrades and new members. Above all, an essential part of our educational debates should be the discussion of a Marxist programme for the party
- In my opinion, the study of some of the basic texts of Marxism is essential – the Communist Manifesto, Socialism Utopian and Scientific, The Origin of the Family Private Property and the State, State and Revolution, etc. We should also have discussions on historical materialism and dialectical materialism.
- Some in the party feel that these are just dry old texts or that they are too hard. Our challenge, therefore, at least, is two-fold: to encourage members to study them and discover for themselves the riches they contain, and to present them in our discussions in a way that brings out their relevance to current issues and problems, such as what we understand by Socialism, Socialism and Nationalism, Workers’ Control v Nationalisation, Feminism, Gay Liberation, the nature of the regimes in countries like Cuba and Venezuela, etc.
- We need to study the history of the movement – specifically the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals.
- There is an urgent need, too, to deepen our understanding of Marxist economics. The writings of Marx himself on questions like the Labour Theory of Value, Surplus Value, the Commodity, etc, need to be studied and discussed. We also need to take up the study of more recent writings and theories relating, for example, to Late Capitalism and Globalisation, Transformation Economics (how we can move from capitalism to a more advanced form of world economics), Marxist v environmentalist economic models, developing alternative economic forms like cooperatives, the relationship between imperialism and war, and so on.
- These should be seen as suggested areas for study and discussion. They are neither exhaustive nor prescriptive. They will no doubt be amended and augmented in discussion.
I feel strongly that if we begin a serious discussion of a Marxist programme for the party it would have an enormous educational impact – potentially drawing in every party branch and regional council, the national council, the executive and the conference.
New members should be encouraged to get involved in all of these discussions and we should make a special effort to involve the SSY in any educational programme that is agreed – by organising introductory discussions on Marxist ideas for young people, for example.