A tale of two rallies
Last weekend saw the SSP and Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity grouping organising rival rallies to formally signal the completion of the split. Nick Rogers reports from Glasgow
Both the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist
Movement had chosen the same room in the Victorian-era Central Hotel -
the SSP on Saturday September 2; Solidarity (which includes the Socialist
Workers Party and the Committee for a Workers' International) on Sunday
September 3. Since the Solidarity launch rally was announced first, it
would appear that the SSP was attempting to steal a march on its rival.
If the SSP was hoping to overshadow Tommy Sheridan's new venture, however,
the plan backfired in so far as a direct comparison was possible between
the size of the two rallies. Solidarity's was clearly larger - almost
twice as big. But comparing the two mobilisations this weekend may not
be a pointer to future success. What is clear is that the forces of socialism
in Scotland face a fierce - and destructive - struggle for supremacy over
the months leading up to Scottish parliamentary and council elections
in May 2007.
'Worst behind us'
The SSP's rally - with something over 350 present - started on Saturday
with a montage of Scottish heroes of the past and campaigners and activists
of today. Some of the SSP's crop of MSPs featured in this, but Tommy Sheridan
was notable by his absence.
Morag Balfour chaired the first half of the rally. With her first comment
she noted the absence of the SSP's best-known figure: as national co-chair
she declared herself as feeling "a bit more lonely" - Tommy Sheridan had
been elected as the other co-chair. The first of a couple of heckles to
interrupt the evening rang out: "If it wasn't for Tommy, you wouldn't
Richie Venton was the first speaker. He spoke in his capacity as SSP
national trade union organiser rather than that of Glasgow regional organiser.
Rejecting the charges levelled at the SSP's leadership by Tommy Sheridan
and his supporters during the bitter faction fight of the last months,
he announced he was not a liar, not a perjurer, not a conspirator, not
a faction fighter, not a Nazi collaborator. Neither was he an actor who
thinks he is a politician, or a politician who thinks he is an actor.
He was a socialist.
Richie went on to describe his political evolution towards socialism
during a childhood and adolescence in Ireland, continuing with the statistics
of poverty in Scotland. To combat the ills he had described required the
unity of socialists. Tommy Sheridan and his "new-born detractors and deserters"
had no justification in forming a new socialist party.
Richie took issue with the new organisation's name: Solidarity. He listed
the trade union and workers' struggles in which the SSP had played a role.
The Liverpool dockers' strike, when the comrades had apparently earned
praise as the "best support group in Europe". Back then, though, it was
Scottish Militant Labour doing the business. The 1996 Glaziers occupation,
when Richie Venton had been coopted onto the organisation committee. That
was the Scottish Socialist Alliance. To more recent struggles when the
SSP had undoubtedly made a significant contribution: the firefighters,
nursery nurses, RMT and so on. Whether newly recruited civil servants
will look so kindly on the deal negotiated by the CWI and SSP comrades
on the PCS exec to resolve the civil servants' pensions issue is open
to question. Richie Venton's message was that the SSP would take no lessons
in solidarity from the organisation that had adopted that name.
The party had "sweated and toiled" to get their former convenor elected.
They had been repaid with the "mother of all inventions" - referring to
Sheridan's conspiracy allegations. Sheridan had taken £30,000 from the
Daily Record and been put up in a hotel, declaring in the newspaper's
pages that it was "Me or oblivion" for the SSP. But SSP members had minds
of their own. It was "sad and disgraceful" that Sheridan had chosen to
trash the SSP. There was "no time for self before socialism", which was
a collective endeavour or it was not socialism. "Breaking the unity of
the most successful united socialist party" was not "a new dawn".
According to Richie, the vast majority of the party's activists were
staying with the SSP. The new formation was faced with two choices. Either
it would steal the SSP's manifesto and seek to fight with the same policies.
Or it would water down those policies "to suit its biggest faction" and
transform itself into a Respect-like organisation. But then by refusing
to accept the principle of a worker's wage what 'respect' had Galloway
The SSP and its members had been through the "toughest, most horrible
time in the last few months". They had been "hammered" by these events,
but a "hammer tempers steel". Venton concluded by promising that "the
future is ours if we seize it!"
Joanne Kelly spoke on behalf of Scottish Socialist Youth, which is one
of the SSP's genuine success stories of the last few years. The large
number of young people at the party's national conferences is noticeable.
According to Joanne, the SSY has continued to grow even while crisis has
engulfed the parent body.
She saw the split as an opportunity to start afresh. She admitted that
there has been a loss of energy and enthusiasm within the party, as it
focused on internal dissension rather than the campaigning "which we prefer".
She insisted that the party should learn from past mistakes, without really
elaborating on what these were, but suggested that the "new participative
educational methods" that the SSY was pioneering should be spread throughout
the party. A reference that turned out to be something of a mantra in
the course of the evening.
Joanne outlined the recent formation of the SSY's women's group. As far
as the SSY was concerned, feminism was "non-negotiable". Women's liberation
should be central to the party's work.
A 'Fuck Abstinence' campaign was on the verge of being launched as a
response to moralistic sex education in schools that "lets down working
class women". SSY packs containing a leaflet explaining reproductive rights
and a condom are to be distributed among young people. This campaign follows
in the SSY's tradition of taking up cultural/social issues, as well as
the left's traditional economic campaigning. The SSY previously took the
lead in the SSP's campaign to decriminalise drugs.
Joanne discussed the SSY's summer camp, Camp Squirrel, where everyone
was encouraged to speak using the earlier mentioned (but still to be described)
participative techniques. A discussion about the future of the SSP apparently
revealed much enthusiasm among the SSP's young people. However, Joanne
did not mention an incident in which Tommy Sheridan's photograph was burned
on the campfire - reaching the proportions of a 'wicker man' moment in
the Scottish media.
Carolyn Leckie, MSP for Central Scotland, opened by observing that she
had nowhere to park her broomstick - a reference to Tommy Sheridan's attack
on the "witches" in the party in the weeks after his resignation in 2004.
The last few months had been "politically and emotionally traumatic" and,
like other speakers, Carolyn promised to "learn a lot for the future".
Indeed she had been reflecting on the pluralistic, participative party
she had joined, opposed to racism and sexism and committed to challenging
members who displayed these attitudes. But an enormous, selfish ego had
taken the SSP to "the brink of disaster". The party's "biggest asset"
had turned into its "biggest disaster".
Tommy Sheridan had participated in sexual activity where a profit was
made, he had lied, he had cast women as gold-diggers and mentally ill,
he had cross-examined women with whom he had had sexual relations about
their sexual history and then accused them of lying. This behaviour was
Tommy Sheridan had been given succour in his own party by the SWP and
CWI. Carolyn pointed to the supposed hypocrisy of the CWI in leading the
call to stand aside for John McAllion in Dundee when McAllion was in the
Labour Party, but now that he was in the SSP proposing to stand against
him in next year's elections.
Tommy Sheridan might accuse women in the party of opposing him - sexism
and misogyny had sought out targets, such as Carolyn Leckie - but it had
been two courageous men who had stood up to Tommy Sheridan. Carolyn is
referring here to Alan McCombes and Keith Baldassara, who rejected Tommy
Sheridan's private appeals for support in his libel action even before
it came to the November 9 2004 executive meeting.
For the future the SSP must be built on solid foundations that can withstand
egotistical individuals. The party has an open and democratic constitution,
but methods and culture got in the way. The structures would have to be
examined again. Everyone should be valued for their life experience. No
one should be made to feel guilty or stupid. Men should examine their
actions and be aware of their impact on those around them. The SSP must
be a party of equals where no-one is more equal than others.
Carolyn expressed the view that the fight for women's rights in society
generally had been set back 30 years. There should be a fight in which
the SSP should participate to recover the consciousness of former years.
Carolyn concluded by expressing admiration, love and respect for those
who have stood in the firing line.
John McAllion, former Labour MP and the SSP candidate for next year's
Scottish parliamentary election in the North East region, had phoned SSP
headquarters just a few days before the rally to assure the party that
he was sticking with them and offering to speak. John McAllion, quoting
Tony Benn, said that there were "too many socialist parties and not enough
The great tragedy of the left was its splits and divisions. Socialists
talked the language of "solidarity, unity and a broad-based party of workers",
but it was a language that hid a very different reality. John quoted a
number of examples from the history of Scottish socialism, including John
Maclean's dismissal of Willie Gallagher as a "communist clown" - bravely
engaging in something less than hagiography when it comes to the SSP's
iconic hero of yesteryear.
Divisions served no other purpose than to help the enemies of socialism
and "let down the people we represent". This was a criminal dereliction
of duty now that the British electoral system was finally off our (Scottish)
backs, with next year's parliamentary and council elections to be fought
under proportional representation.
The SSP was not the kind of party that was dependent on one person. Socialists
must teach workers to be confident in themselves. As Eugene Debbs, the
American socialist, had said, "I won't lead you to the promised land,
because someone else would lead you out."
Colin Fox, the SSP's current convenor, brought the rally to a close.
He asserted that it was a day of celebration: a celebration of what the
SSP stood for, what it had achieved and that it had survived a grotesque
and brutal experience. The SSP would "not allow anyone to destroy what
so many had built".
Colin observed that a year and a half ago, when he was first elected
convenor, he had optimistically declared that the party's "best days were
ahead of us". He had been wrong: "The worst days had been ahead." But
now the worst was behind and "the nightmare is over". Tommy Sheridan had
won his court case, but he would never defeat the SSP. The project of
one united socialist party went on because to divide on the basis of "the
same political programme" was "grotesque".
Colin was proud of his party. The SSP had done the right thing in court
in defending the party's decision of two years before. Tommy Sheridan
had decided not to stand against Colin for convenor because he knew he
would be defeated and had "took off in a huff and set up another party".
The SSP's tasks in the period ahead were to provide a clear explanation
of the nature of the world and a programme of action ("unity in action
on the campaigns that unite us"). South of the border there are "too many
socialist parties, punching below their weight". Scottish socialist must
avoid the same fate.
Then Colin made the day's only contribution on the SSP's pro-independence
policy (although Carolyn Leckie did observe in her speech that the statement
from the Workers' Unity platform seemed to blame the problems of the SSP
on nationalism - Carolyn was pleased that Workers' Unity figures such
as Sandy McBurney were at the rally and she looked forward to discussing
Sandy's perspective with him "in the pub").
In Colin Fox's view, the rise of David Cameron - making possible the
election of a Tory government (when the Tories struggle to survive in
Scotland) - would return the national question and independence to the
top of the political agenda. The SNP were "chancers" - one moment manoeuvring
to the left of Labour, the next to the right. They saw the SSP as the
prime political threat. In the last Scottish parliamentary elections,
for every vote the SSP took from Labour, it took two from the SNP.
Independence was the most important political issue the SSP faced. The
party was 100% committed to the Independence Convention. It would mobilise
in working class communities, selling the idea that independence was in
the material interests of the working class - offering better health,
better housing, better education. Independence would lead to a "different
type of Scotland".
Colin urged support for the September 23 anti-war lobby of the Labour
Party conference in Manchester - the SWP's current focus for their mobilisation
efforts - before the rally closed with the singing of the Internationale.
Sunday's Solidarity rally had a larger audience - 500 to 600, according
to Tommy Sheridan - and a longer list of speakers (who generally gave
shorter speeches than at the previous day's rally). Slides of demonstrations
and campaigns were projected behind the speakers throughout the afternoon.
At this rally, by contrast with the day before, images of Tommy Sheridan
Rosemary Byrne, MSP for the south of Scotland, and the only other member
of the SSP's parliamentary group to join Tommy Sheridan in splitting from
the SSP, chaired the rally and opened proceedings. She promised an inclusive,
open and democratic organisation: a party built "from the grass-roots
Steve Arnott, regional organiser for the Highlands and Islands (and formerly
of the International Socialist Movement) who has taken his region en
masse into the new formation, was the first designated speaker of
the afternoon. He claimed that there were more people at the rally than
at the last full SSP party conference - not necessarily a valid comparison,
given that conference is delegate-based - and sent a "message of hope
to every corner of Scotland". He predicted between 1,000 and 1,200 members
within a month.
Solidarity would not be "backward looking" or "name-calling". Nor was
it about prominent individuals - it was about "the working class of Scotland".
Responding to Colin Fox's prediction that there was no room for two socialist
parties in Scotland, Steve predicted that come May 2007 Tommy Sheridan
and Rosemary Byrne would be returned in their respective regions and Solidarity
candidates would be elected to council seats all over Scotland.
He argued that those who backed Solidarity were demonstrating the principle
of integrity ('integrity' being part of the motto of the SSP rally, of
course). They had upheld the decision of the tempestuous national council
meeting of May 28 to give 100% backing to Tommy Sheridan's libel action
(overturning in the process the decisions of previous national councils
and executives). It had been an honour to testify for Tommy Sheridan against
the "scab Murdoch press". There was only "one socialist truth" - to stand
on the side of a socialist against the enemies of socialism.
Janice Godrich, president of the PCS union and a member of the CWI, was
up next. Like Steve Arnott she expressed "excitement" and "enthusiasm"
- the SWP's fever pitch of delight must be infectious. She spoke about
the campaigns of the PCS to defend low-paid, often women workers and against
the privatisation of services.
The "preoccupations" of the SSP meant that it could "no longer play a
role". She and her colleagues in the PCS (mainly fellow CWI members in
Scotland) had no hesitation in joining Solidarity and she appealed to
other trade unionists, including those still in the SSP, to join.
Billy Coates of the FBU in Paisley asked, if Solidarity could achieve
such a splendid turnout after two weeks, what could they do in two months
or two years? He referred to the "Scottish Solidarity Party" - might Solidarity,
in addition to members and policies, attempt to steal the SSP's initials?
Trish McLeish, who had been third on the SSP's list in Glasgow in 2003,
spoke primarily about the sell-offs of the Labour city council and the
travails of Glasgow's council housing stock since its transfer out of
council control. Trish had been born and had lived all her life in Shettleston
- the constituency with the worst health statistics in Britain.
Trish had been a socialist for over 20 years and did not want to fight
other socialists. The only way she could remain active was to join Solidarity
to fight for "an independent socialist Scotland" (and the only mention
of that talismanic slogan this observer noted over the whole weekend).
Trish McLeish is one of the few activists in Glasgow who is not a member
of the SWP, the CWI or the Sheridan family to sign up for Solidarity -
and certainly the most prominent. Like the CWI, she voted against the
admittance of the SWP into the SSP back in 2001 (members voted on the
proposal at regional meetings across Scotland). In 2002 she was backed
by the ISM in order to block a member of the SWP taking the third slot
on the Glasgow list for the 2003 Scottish parliamentary elections.
Jim Walls, TGWU convenor for the open cast mining industry (representing
3,500 miners), explained that he could not come to terms with socialists
taking the witness stand against Tommy Sheridan. For him, there were "no
shades of grey" when it came to standing up to Murdoch. He applauded "everyone
who stood true and firm". Solidarity was "a movement built to last".
He concluded by pulling out of his pocket 100 application forms to join
Solidarity from his members. Down from the 500 or so he had promised the
SSP when he joined it earlier this year. And down even from the 300 he
was offering Tommy Sheridan a few weeks ago. Nevertheless potentially
a significant straw in the wind.
Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain came to the rostrum
to add the "experience of his brothers and sisters in England in working
with socialists". In England in the anti-war movement and in Respect the
left had stuck by muslims through "thick and thin". This was a "central
lesson" that could be applied to Scotland.
Angela McCormick, billed as speaking for the Stop the War Coalition and
as the SSP's former candidate in Milton, failed to mention she was also
a member of the SWP. It was noticeable that while none of the SWP speakers
owned up to their affiliation, every single CWI speaker did.
Angela discussed recent anti-war activity and significantly called for
a "no borders policy". Or was that only for refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan?
Angela declared that the doors of Solidarity were open and that the organisation
would provide a home for all. She urged "old friends and new friends"
to travel with her to Manchester. SWP members were furiously selling bus
tickets for the lobby of Labour Party conference. There might be some
lively discussions on those buses if some of Angela's "ex-friends" were
to take up her invite.
Rose Gentle, who lost her son in Iraq, spoke at both meetings on behalf
of Military Families Against the War. She emphasised that she did not
see it as her business to support either group and that, anyway, her organisation
intended to stand in coming elections in its own right. Rose Gentle's
quandary highlighted the difficulties that the SSP split is going to cause
in campaigns and trade union branches across Scotland.
Gary Fraser, a former SSP activist from East Lothian, admitted that he
had shed tears over his decision to leave the SSP. But rather than stay
in the SSP and fight the United Left majority faction, he preferred to
fight new Labour at Westminster and Holyrood - the afternoon's standard
rationale for splitting the SSP.
Sinead Daly, the CWI's former representative on the SSP executive, spoke
about poverty and privatisation, and the need to link these issues up
to socialism and "the nationalisation of the banks and top monopolies"
- no mention at all of any democratic issues. She attacked the SNP's vision
of an independent Scotland rivalling the Irish Celtic tiger.
Gill Hubbard of the SWP, but, for the purposes of the rally, from "G8
Alternatives" (a one-off school organised over a year ago), took up the
question of the relation between leaders and movements or parties. Echoing
Chris Harman's column in last week's issue of Socialist Worker,
Gill argued that any mass movement of resistance must have leaders, but
that it was the mass of supporters who made the real difference. Nasrullah
and Hezbollah, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement, George Galloway
and the anti-war movement were all mentioned - kind of making the counter-argument
that it is how the movement holds the leader to account (and specifically
the structures and culture which makes that possible) that is crucial.
Who knows how Respect would ever hold George Galloway to account? It was
the manoeuvring of the SWP and CWI that allowed Tommy Sheridan to evade
his responsibilities to the SSP.
Gill was not worried what label people attached to themselves - I guess
we are talking about not restricting the new organisation to socialists
- but about what they did. In terms of doing things, Gill was very keen
to see members of Solidarity in Manchester come September 23.
Anne McLeod, of the Highlands and Islands region and a leader of the
former SSP Majority platform, moved the launch statement and was followed
by Graeme McIver, up to last month SSP South of Scotland regional organiser
(like Steve Arnott he has taken his whole region into Solidarity - revealing
in the process the disproportionate influence of regional organisers in
the old SSP). Graeme moved the provisional constitution, which provides
for an interim steering committee composed of the two MSPs, two representatives
from each region and two representatives from each platform.
A number of speakers from the floor did not so much debate the statement
and the constitution as reiterate the themes that other speakers had initiated.
For example, Mike Gonzalez (who introduced himself as an ex-member of
the SSP exec, although he also happens to be one of the leading members
of the SWP in Scotland) stated that the SSP had failed to make a connection
with the mass of voters - to bring them "all into a single political space".
Solidarity could do this by being "broad and diverse" and not imposing
entry requirements. That was the way to build a movement with a "strength
no-one could have imagined until now". It was certainly beginning to sound
as if the SWP was making more than a few nods in the direction of Respect.
Brian Smith of Glasgow Unison - and openly the CWI - also wanted a "wide
movement" that went beyond what the SSP had been. However, Brian was "up
for a debate about socialism with anyone". What was needed was an active
political voice for working people. Something pretty close to the Campaign
for a New Workers' Party then?
The statement and constitution were voted on. The votes were declared
to be "nearly unanimous" (they clearly were overwhelming), but neither
votes against nor abstentions were counted. It would appear that democracy
at public rallies is meant to be by acclamation.
The time had now come for Tommy Sheridan to speak - and he really was
restricted to not much more than the allotted 10 minutes. That is after
the standing ovation he received for uttering the three words, "Brothers
and sisters", had subsided.
Tommy thanked everyone for their solidarity against the reactionary News
International scab outfit, which had enabled him to beat them on their
own turf. A source in the BBC had told Tommy that at a News International
meeting following the verdict, Murdoch had insisted that, no matter how
long it took, Tommy was "to be destroyed" because Murdoch was "not having
some two-bit commie bastard beating" him.
Tommy went on to say that, while we may "collectively as socialists never
realise the dream burning in our hearts of a society of love, cooperation
and solidarity", we will fight with all our energy for that kind of world.
However, it would be "criminal to spend any more time fighting among ourselves".
He wanted to fight the real enemies and he did not regard those in the
SSP as that. They were fellow socialists and the door of Solidarity would
remain open to them. But he went on to declare: "Judge not the man in
time of tranquillity, but in time of adversity" and stated that some in
the SSP had failed that test and taken "the side of the boss class".
Tommy did not want to focus inward any more. It was "baloney" to argue
that there was no room for Solidarity - "What a poverty of ambition."
In 2003 the SSP had won 7% of the electorate - ie, not much more than
3% overall when you take into account the 49% turnout. Tommy was aiming
to turn that 3% into 53%. Millions could be won to the banner of social
justice. Look at the levels of support for the socialist republic of Cuba,
for the Bolivarian republic in Venezuela and for Evo Morales in Bolivia.
For Tommy, it had been a long and uplifting day. 500-600 people had filled
the room. If they all recruited one person, Solidarity could have a membership
of 1,200 in a few days and could look to thousands joining in the near
After Rosemary Byrne signed off as chair by declaring that it was "a
relief to have the shackles taken off", Alice Sheridan, Tommy's mother,
transported those assembled into a realm the SSP had never quite explored.
While gazing at her son, she gave a full-throttle rendition of 'Dream
the impossible dream'. Will it be the SWP or the CWI (or perhaps Jim Walls)
who plays Sancho Panza to Tommy Sheridan's Don Quixote?
Last word went to Tommy himself, who urged a singing of the Internationale,
while apologising to those new to the movement who did not know the words.
It was not only in the singing of the Internationale that the two meetings
covered very similar ground. In none of the weekend's speeches or in their
statements so far released is there a cigarette paper's worth of difference
between the two organisations' policies. This is a split over personalities
and, for the SWP and CWI, for factional advantage.
But there is a principle involved. That is whether socialist leaders
should be held to account by their organisations. The SSP played the Tommy
Sheridan card for all it was worth. Even in the 2003 Scottish parliamentary
elections his name was appended to that of the party on ballot papers.
In November 2004 the party tried to assert the primacy of the collective
over the charismatic individual. It was too late and the outcome is to
be seen in the rival meetings of last weekend.
So what are the prospects for the two organisations? The SWP would clearly
like to take Solidarity in the direction of Respect: a loosely organised
movement designed to maximise support from all corners and in which the
SWP has the greatest room for manoeuvre. It is the largest faction in
Solidarity - boasting, perhaps, 150 members - and clearly had a big influence
on the range of speakers on Sunday.
What the CWI hopes to achieve with at most 30 members is more difficult
to divine. Those I spoke to thought that it would be possible to block
the domination of the SWP by a process of rapid recruitment to the new
organisation. No doubt Tommy Sheridan and the CWI will come to rely on
each other for mutual support. Philip Stott, leader of the CWI in Scotland,
supposedly drafted Tommy Sheridan's inflammatory open letter to the national
council of May 28. Maybe Jim Walls will be able to dispose of something
of a block vote on behalf of Tommy Sheridan.
There was evidence of a last-minute struggle to define the nature of
the new formation in the days before the rally. Posters advertising the
meeting spoke of "a movement of the left" - the same phrase that was used
to launch Respect - while literature distributed on the day labelled Solidarity
"Scotland's socialist movement" (the CWI had argued that Solidarity should
be explicitly socialist).
The SSP split has caused problems for a number of platforms. Gordon Morgan,
formerly the International Socialist Group's leading member in Scotland,
and who has supported the SSP Majority and now Solidarity, told me he
was no longer in the ISG. Both the ISG and Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire
sent messages of support to the SSP rally. Other Scottish members of the
ISG are to decide their position in the coming weeks. A majority clearly
looks to be siding with Solidarity and thereby putting themselves outside
of the ISG. What remains of the nationalist Scottish Republican Socialist
Movement has also taken no collective decision on which of the two groups
The SSP retains the majority of activists in the central belt. Barring
a last-minute withdrawal of Tommy Sheridan from politics (which some members
of the SSP are wishfully anticipating), next year's election in Glasgow
is set to be a direct contest between Tommy Sheridan and his former friends
and comrades. The contest will determine whether the individual or the
collective wins out - or whether they fight themselves to mutual destruction.
SSP members sometimes used to speculate on the consequences for the party
if the proverbial bus hit Tommy Sheridan. Now, not only is Sheridan no
longer fighting by the side of SSP activists: he is fighting in the trenches
The temptation will be for the SSP to accentuate its nationalist credentials.
It was striking that, Colin Fox's economistic version of the SSP's independence
message apart, this issue barely raised its head over the weekend. Solidarity's
statement does express support "for an independent socialist Scotland,
a modern, pluralist republic". Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne have
publicly signed up for the Independence First organisation and Sheridan
in an interview last week stated he would leave an organisation that did
not support independence.
None of the SSP's posters that adorned the meeting room on Saturday so
much as mentioned independence. But Alan McCombes has spoken of "a unionist
plot" to split the party. And prominent SSP member Bill Bonner (formerly
of the Communist Party of Scotland) in a letter to The Herald emphasises
that the SWP is "English-based and London-controlled" and that the CWI's
main aim is apparently "to set up a British Socialist Party". He goes
on: "There is space in Scottish politics for a radical party to the left
of the SNP: the left wing of the independence movement" (September 5).
This is entirely the wrong lesson to draw. What this tragic episode demonstrates
above all is that the SSP is not immune to the faults of the "English-based"
left and that the crisis of socialism in Britain requires a British solution.
Tail-ending the SNP is a recipe for abandoning socialism.