International Socialist Archives

International Socialist was the journal produced by our tendency until January 2001, when we left the Committee for a Workers International. We now produce the journal Frontline.

Editorial from International Socialist, Summer 1999

The election of CWI member and Scottish Socialist Party convener Tommy Sheridan to the Scottish Parliament represents a turning point in the rebuilding of socialist ideas in Scotland and has been widely seen as a victory for socialism across Britain and internationally.

Reports from Ireland for example found widespread media coverage at Tommy's protest at having to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen

As we pointed out in the last issue of the International Socialist Tommy's victory is the first by an independent socialist since Willie Gallacher was elected to Westminster for the Communist Party in the 1950's.

The SSP election campaign was the only one which was able to inspire the workers and young people that it reached. It was no accident that the biggest turnout in Glasgow was in Pollok where Tommy Sheridan and the SSP polled 21% of the vote. In general the continued dominance of the main capitalist parties ensured a low turnout. Four out of every ten Scots did not vote in the elections to the first Scottish Parliament in almost three centuries. None of the big business parties, including the SNP, had a programme that was capable of inspiring working class people. The election results were a massive vote of no confidence in the political establishment.

Labour's vote fell by 7% across Scotland, by 12% in the working class dominated central belt areas, while in Dundee and Aberdeen rock solid safe Labour seats were held by only handfuls of votes. New Labour polled 39% on the first vote and 34% on the second vote their worst result in percentage terms since 1983.

The SNP also suffered losing two of the three councils that they controlled in Perth and Moray. In the rural areas of North East Scotland, the SNP's traditional heartland, the nationalists lost ground. The middle class in Scotland were the first to hesitate when faced with the big anti-SNP campaign in the press and the "penny for Scotland" campaign. Across Scotland as a whole however the SNP were the main beneficiaries of the anti-Labour mood, their vote went up from 22% in the General Election of 1997 to 29% -now slightly below their previous best ever result in 1974 - giving them 35 seats in the parliament due to the PR system.

One of the main features of the election campaign was the ferocious attack by the press against the SNP and the idea of independence.

As we explained in our last editorial the ruling establishment, New Labour and the capitalist interests that they represent are terrified of the consequences of national independence for Scotland. The vitriolic campaign that the SNP were victims of is a clear indication of the determination of the British ruling class to do all they can to prevent the break up of the UK. The SNP leadership attempted initially to duck the issue of independence altogether concentrating instead on their manifesto for Holyrood with the promise of a referendum on independence in four years time.

They were incapable of counteracting the campaign of the press and New Labour about the consequences of independence on jobs and living standards. The SNP are a capitalist party with a vision of a free market Scotland, it would and will take a socialist campaign and a mass movement at that to win national independence for Scotland.

The SNP leadership will prove to be largely incapable of leading the struggle for self-determination in Scotland. Again and again the pro- capitalist SNP leadership will hesitate when faced with the resistance of the British and Scottish ruling class to independence. It is quite likely that they will accept powers for the parliament that will fall short of full independence. The role of the SSP and the CWI will be to attempt to take the leadership of the struggle for self determination and lead in a socialist direction.

The assault on the idea of the break up of the union had an effect in Scotland. It played a role in at least raising serious questions in the minds of workers about the viability of an independent Scotland. The SNP failed to tackle these arguments. While support for independence fell during the election campaign- an ICM/Scotsman poll before the election put support for independence at 36% a significant fall from over 50% at the beginnings of 1999- as a result of the offensive by the ruling class and the SNP's own weakness it would be a mistake to believe there will not be a big resurgence in the months and years ahead.

A New Labour/Liberal coalition in Holyrood allied to the Blair regime in Westminster is manna from heaven to the SNP. There will be huge opposition that will develop against both these administrations which will help lay the basis for a growth in support for the SNP and independence.

The economic recession/slump has far from reached it's height and the issue if independence for Scotland is a permanent and central feature now.

The victories of the Scottish Socialist Party in Glasgow and Dennis Canavan in Falkirk were a real expression of the underlying mood of anger against Blair and the New Labour government. 125,000 (5%) people voted for the SSP the SLP and Canavan on the second vote which shows the potential for the growth of socialist ideas in Scotland. The Scottish Socialist Party has continued to build and sink deeper roots among the working class of Scotland. Hundreds of applications and requests for more information, from all corners of Scotland, followed the SSP's party political broadcast and Tommy's election victory on May 6th. While it is still early days in the development of the SSP it is possible that we are seeing the beginnings of a future new mass workers party emerging in Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan's election gives the SSP a platform to promote socialist ideas and the methods of class struggle to a mass audience. A socialist MP on a workers wage in Holyrood, especially an MP of the stature and national profile of Tommy Sheridan gives the SSP a huge advantage in the period ahead. It can give that battle for the scrapping of tuition fees and the return of a living grant a big boost. Workers fighting dictatorial management and New Labour council cuts, pensioners campaigning for an end to poverty will all find a voice in the parliament through the Scottish Socialist Party. That gives the SSP a huge advantage which we must ensure we take with both hands.

The CWI in Scotland represent a vital component part of the SSP. Through the work carried out by the CWI in the early 1990's- the mass anti-poll tax campaign and the work of Scottish Militant Labour(CWI)) who pioneered mass campaigning through elections- we helped lay the basis for the breakthrough that has now been made for socialism.

The Marxist programme, strategy and tactics of the CWI are vital if the SSP is to develop in to a mass force in the future. At the same time as working closely with socialists from different backgrounds and views, in order to build the biggest and broadest SSP possible, we will continue to promote our distinct, revolutionary identity and appeal to all those now joining the SSP to discuss with the CWI with a view to joining our international organisation.

The programme of Marxism, of revolutionary socialism is as essential for the working class today as we enter a new century as it has ever been. From the carnage in the Balkans to the struggle for a socialist Scotland free from poverty and inequality the world is screaming out for change. The CWI aims to build, in the years ahead, a mass international party of the working class and the poor that can sweep away the capitalist system that breeds war, hunger and misery.

Join with the CWI and help build a socialist world.