Leaflet distributed at SSP rally in Glasgow, 2 September 2006
I bring comradely greeting to this meeting from the Socialist Alliance.
The executive of the Socialist Alliance will be meeting shortly to discuss our attitude to the split in the SSP. We have been debating the issue on our discussion list. Whilst we don’t yet have an agreed position, most if not all comrades oppose the split. I am sure the vast majority will continue to support the SSP. As a member of the Executive of the SA, this is a personal contribution which reflects what I intend to argue at the SA Executive.
At the last SSP conference, Nick Rogers and I attended as a delegation from the Socialist Alliance. We had discussions with Frances Curran, and spoke informally to Alan McCombes, Tommy Sheridan and Colin Fox. Our aim was to register our support for the SSP and seek support from the SSP for our effort to rebuild the SA in England and Wales.
We are back again unfortunately this time because the SSP has split. Since there are no strategic or programmatic differences, there is no political basis for two parties. We are opposed to splits, expulsions and witch-hunts.
Of course the main base of support for the SSP is the Scottish working class. How will Scottish workers view the split? They will surely expect an honest accounting of the mistakes that have been made. I don’t mean by that simply to blame the other side. In England comrades have said it was a black mark against the party for trying to hide those minutes from the working class and then the humiliation of having them dragged out by the bourgeois courts. What other mistakes have been made? An honest and self critical debate can only help the party.
Outside Scotland the main ally of the SSP is the working class in England. It is worth saying why the politically active part of the working class in England supports the SSP. First let us set aside a couple of red herrings
- Don’t make the mistake of equating the English working class with the opportunist manoeuvrings of the SWP and the SP/CWI.
- Don’t mix up the English working class with ‘London based’ organisations. Only seven million live in London. The rest live in Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool and Manchester, Newcastle etc.
So why do the advanced workers in England respect the SSP?
- Because the SSP has been the most effective party opposing Blair and New Labour.
- Because the SSP has been a socialist unity party – the need to unite all socialists into one party is the order of the day. The SSP did it.
- Because the SSP practised a more open democracy with platforms and publications
Because of the split in the SSP these virtues, admired in England, may come under threat. The SSP must continue to make the fight against Blair the main priority. It must continue to fight for socialist unity. It must keep up the battle for more openness and greater democracy. Otherwise the SSP will be lost.
At the last SSP conference we saw evidence of a debate over strategy in relation to the national question. One side put emphasis on Scottish independence and an alliance with the SNP whilst the other side put more emphasis on a Scottish republic and internationalism from below.
If there are such differences in the SSP, it is not surprising to find workers in England are somewhat more confused about the national question. Of course this is mainly because they have been miseducated by the Labour Party, the SWP and the SP.
If the national question is about democracy, the sovereignty of the people, republicanism and working class internationalism then not only will the English working class support that but will want some of it for themselves.
If the national question is about Scottish capitalists grabbing a bigger share of the cake in a dirty fight with the Anglo-British capitalists, and with the Scottish workers being lined up patriotically behind their own capitalists the SSP will get the thumbs down.
That is what the working class in England want the SSP to explain. In the long run when all the dust of the split has settled, this will be what is really decided.
Winners and losers?
What are the best and worst we can hope for? One story from this split is that the SSP lost Tommy Sheridan but gained the support of the working class in England and Wales. The other story is that the SSP lost Tommy Sheridan, and then lost the support of the working class in England in exchange for a pat on the back from Alex Salmond.
The fight for the SSP must be extended into England. In my view the SA should conduct that struggle with the backing of the SSP. I hope that between now and the next SSP conference we can work out how best to do that.
You can contact the Socialist Alliance, PO Box 4123, Rugby, CV21 9BJ
Published by Steve Freeman
2 September 2006.