On February 5th, 2011, after the ending of the court proceedings arising from ‘Tommygate’See:- RCN statement following the Tommy Sheridan Perjury Trial., the SSP held a special meeting in Glasgow to discuss the lessons to be learned from the whole affair. The SSP annual conference, held in Dunfermline in April, also considered aspects of this.
It became quite clear, that not only was the leadership of the SSP not prepared to examine its own conduct during this period in a critical manner, but that it had also retreated from the decisions made at the party’s post-split Conference in 2006. Then the leadership had advocated a unanimously supported pro-socialist unity strategy. That conference had also pledged the party to oppose any initiation of action in the bourgeois courts, or resort to the bourgeois media, over disputes amongst socialists, a decision that was subsequently breached.
The sometimes highly personalised attacks, either made by, or allowed without any criticism from the leadership, upon comrades who had stuck by the party through the whole of ‘Tommygate’, led to both resignations and the emergence of party dissidents not in any platform.
Attacks were also made upon RCN platform members (which had become, in effect, a ‘dissident’ platform in the SSPThe RCN ceased to be an organised SSP platform in January, 2012. See:- The RCN Platform And The SSP). The RCN had provided one of the most consistent and thoroughgoing political critiques of Sheridan and his political supporters. However, we were not prepared to go along with the demands for uncritical loyalty to leadership figures when they had made mistakes or breached party policy. It was precisely such practice that had led to ‘Tommygate’ in the first place.
Some of the ‘dissidents’ organised two meetings in Glasgow, where a number of very important issues were aired. Members of the RCN were invited. The organisers of these particular meetings asked the RCN to arrange a further meeting in Edinburgh.
This was organised for September 15th in the Out of the Blue Centre in Leith. 25 people attended, with several others giving their apologies. It attracted comrades from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow in almost equal proportions, as well as a comrade from Bradford, who used to be in the commune.
This meeting though, went far beyond ‘Tommygate’For a full RCN account of the SSP experience see Beyond The SSP And Solidarity – ‘Forgive And Forget’ or ‘Listen, Learn And Then Move On’?, or the SSP. It examined the whole culture of the Left, and its inability to provide a meaningful alternative to capitalism, despite the deep-seated crisis (indeed crises) that has engulfed the world since 2008.
Everybody present thought that this was a very successful meeting. Here is an account of the issues addressed by that meeting and its conclusions:-
‘REUNITING THE SCOTTISH LEFT’, Out of the Blue, Leith. 15th September 2012
Main themes from the discussion groups based on the two questions:
- Can we develop a new politics and what will it look like?
- What are the barriers to this and how can we overcome them?
What is the vision?
Possibilities – of an alternative society; a clear articulation of communism rather than a diluted ‘popular’ alternative; shared political aims, despite political differences; built on integrity, an ethical framework and militant democracy; needs to address the issue of power – an enabling power; will it inform our politics and organisation?
Language was a big issue – do we use established ‘left’ lexicon or develop a new one?
Ethos and mode of practice
Comradely, respectful debate; emphasis on democracy and what we mean by it; creativity, critical thinking and self-questioning encouraged; open, honest and transparent participation; development of trust; no ‘great leader’ or unofficial ‘elite groupings’; radical socialist education – based on how to think not what to think; acceptance that people can and will change over time.
Organisation of ‘new’ politics
Creating engaged, democratic and participative forms of organisation; based on principled unity, possibly at three levels – united campaigns on issues, united fronts at elections and a series of meetings on the left; electoral or not; looser structure of groups and individuals coming together for specific purposes; how to create unity with diversity; need local, national and international structures e.g. local campaign work/discussion groups, broad coalitions [but problems if ‘good’ Labour/SNP/TU ‘lefts’ are supported by some], difficulties in establishing truly democratic ‘internationals’; how do we relate to women, ethnic minorities and other sections of people often neglected/ignored by left groups?
Opportunity to engage with others and challenge the SNP’s notion of an independent Scotland; debate about whether to get involved with Radical Independence Convention; what would a Scottish Socialist Republic look like?
Consciousness, socialisation and ‘human nature’
Much of what is considered ‘human nature’ is learned behaviour and so can be challenged and changed; transforming society can be about transforming ourselves too, in the process of class struggle or through an understanding of our own psychology; if there is to be mass participation – and emancipation of the w/c is an act of the w/c – the class needs to regain the idea of individual and group power, at work and in communities; the left needs to regain credibility within our class. It has very little influence at present.
It was agreed to organise further meetings on a geographical basis in a rota to include Glasgow and Dundee. The next of these meetings will be held in Glasgow on December 8th.
(drawn up by Glasgow organisers)
12:30 – Start of meeting and personal introductions
12:40 – Break into groups for general discussion of 1st theme –How can we build a socialist organisation that is truly democratic and non-hierarchical?
13:40 – Group feedback
14:00 – Lunch
14:50 – Group discussion on 2nd theme – What issues would such an organisation find most important to address in the current political situation in Scotland?
15:50 – Group feedback
16:10 – AOCB
16:30 – DONM
Edinburgh RCN, 29th November 2012
The Edinburgh based comrades, who attended the September 15th meeting, have also decided to form a local group. This had its first meeting on November 3rd, where it was agreed to organise further monthly meetings. The contents of the letter, originally sent out to those who could not be contacted directly, also provides additional information about RCN thinking in regards to principled socialist regroupment, and can be found in the comments section below.
|↑1||See:- RCN statement following the Tommy Sheridan Perjury Trial.|
|↑2||The RCN ceased to be an organised SSP platform in January, 2012. See:- The RCN Platform And The SSP|
|↑3||For a full RCN account of the SSP experience see Beyond The SSP And Solidarity – ‘Forgive And Forget’ or ‘Listen, Learn And Then Move On’?|