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.

The Rise of the SSP

The Scottish Socialist Party has opened the Millennium with some good news for all socialists. The latest system 3 opinion poll shows 6% support in the second vote for Parliament, the equivalent of quarter of a million voters.

In just over a year, the launch of the Scottish Socialist party, has without contradiction, changed the political climate of Scotland. The establishment of the SSP together with it’s rapid growth is the most important political development in socialist politics in Scotland for decades.

The same opinion poll puts the SSP 3 points behind the Tories, the party of the British ruling class. This is the real legacy of Thatcherism in Scotland. This wholesale rejection of the free market agenda is now beginning to be replaced with a clear alternative in the minds of the working class. The 1990’s was a decade of lost confidence in socialism, The launch of the SSP has begun to change that. We have only just taken over the helm but we are beginning to turn the ship in the right direction. Meanwhile every other political party is signing up to the big business agenda.

Labour - New Bosses Party

Tony Blair and the Labour leadership are absolutely clear where they are going. The mission is to modernise British capitalism to make it more effective on an international scale. The intention is to develop a cross party coalition, as the best way to represent the interests of big business. Already the Liberals have been brought in on the constitutional issues at Westminster, Paddy Ashdown’s auto biography reveals the Liberals were offered two cabinet posts, and of course Tories Chris Patten and ex Tory chancellor Ken Clarke have been brought into government projects to deal with the Reform of the RUC and the pro European campaign respectively.

The trudge of the Labour Party towards Thatcherite policies which became a quick sprint under Blair has turned Labour party activists including some who would even call themselves socialists into a chorus line of apologists. Continually apologising to working class people for the Tory policies now being pursued.

What is now clear is that there is no red army amassing behind the lines of the New Labour/ Old Tory Party, ready to break away. The Blair Rich Project has demonstrated with 3 years in office that it represents first and foremost the interests of multi national capitalism and the free market philosophy. A government of the rich. The continued move in this direction by Blair and his acolytes, begs the question ‘where now for the Scottish Labour Party and for that matter the leadership of the Scottish Trade union movement?’

Prominent individual resignations from the Labour Party are mounting ? Irvine head of UNISON’s local government section, Tom Sheppard who was the regional secretary of the Scottish Labour Party and Jimmy Reid who took the megaphone in the campaign to get Labour elected in Govan during the general election amongst others. All have written in the press very public resignation letters attacking Blair and Labour’s pro Tory policies. For them that is where it stops. Activists at local level are drawing different conclusions, whole branches and leading members of the Labour Party have joined the SSP.

Trades Unionists Must Break With Labour

Labour despite taking large sums of money from the trade unions has done nothing but attack the rights of workers and trade unionists. The leadership of the Scottish trade unions have in the end accepted the Private Finance Initiative for hospitals and schools. The Scottish Parliament was quite prepared recently to rip up teachers negotiating rights. The privatisation of council housing will affect the wages and jobs of thousands of council workers. And as they prepare to launch cuts in the fire service, Labour ministers at Westminster have called for the abolition of the right to strike for fire-fighters. This is just the beginning. Ken Cameron leader of the Fire Brigades Union has called for a public debate in the trade unions around the question of whether the unions should still be affiliated to the Labour Party. The answer is obviously no, and over the next few years the SSP will be campaigning for trade unions locally and nationally to support SSP campaigns, SSP policies and also SSP candidates at elections. Only the SSP is prepared to fight back against inequality, injustice and the consequences of the pursuit of super profits at the expense of the lives of ordinary working class people.

Just before we entered the 21st century, another barrel load of statistics was released dealing with the health and by default the poverty of Scotland’s citizens, concluding that not only had the situation not improved in the past 20 years but that it had got worse.

Jimmy Reid writing in the Herald was telling of how an interviewer for Radio 5 asked him why there had been no mass movement amongst the poor of Glasgow against a poverty that was literally killing them. Jimmy replied "leadership" and then posed the question – "how many Labour MP’s or councillors are there in Scotland whose curriculum vitae includes leadership of any kind of mass struggle to defend or advance the cause of the poor?" Not surprisingly the answer is none. He goes onto say "They will do as they are told otherwise the gravy train will stop for them at the next stop". This, remember is the same Jimmy Reid who was asking us to vote for these people 3 years ago!

In contrast the SSP in it’s first year has recruited members across Scotland who have led struggles of working class people against council cuts, attacks in the workplace, environmental protests and many more actions.

Recent surveys have shown that the establishment of a Scottish Parliament has changed the political point of reference in Scotland. Westminster seems more remote and less influential, with most eyes now focused on the Scottish Parliament as a means to tackle all of the issues affecting people’s lives. Despite the fact that Edinburgh does not have all the powers necessary to take decisions on many issues.

Westminster and Holyrood

Already the tensions between Labour in Westminster and the Labour leadership in the Scottish parliament are showing. Tuition fees, first floated by the Tories were introduced by Blair and are now being abolished by the Lib/Lab coalition in the Scottish Parliament. Although in reality students will have to pay later and the final proposals are a complete sell out of the Cubie recommendations nevertheless, it is a huge defeat for the policy introduced by Labour in Westminster. Undoubtedly tuition fees will now be under pressure in England and Wales. The dilemma is clear, a majority of Scots voted for parties in favour of abolition. The Liberals a partner in government staked their reputation on abolition of tuition fees, their credibility was on the line. Support for the Liberals had been draining away, they were humiliatingly beaten into sixth place at the Hamilton by election by the Hamilton Accies candidate, hardly a vote of confidence. Whether they will recover after the disgraceful sell out they agreed on student finance no doubt in order to keep their governmental bums on the seats of office, remains to be seen.

The tension between Labour in Edinburgh and Westminster will continue to become a feature of Scottish politics. This will mean an increase in support for the Scottish National Party, the establishment of a Scottish Parliament far from solving the national question has in fact accelerated it. The most recent opinion polls show the SNP one point behind Labour. Increasing support for the SNP especially if they reach office in the elections in 2003, will only magnify the ideological differences within the party, between the pro big business leadership and those who consider themselves socialists.

SNP will not fight for socialism

Leading parliamentary spokespersons from the SNP attended the recent SSP organised Socialism 2000 weekend, to debate the future for socialism in Scotland. Openly declaring themselves in favour of socialism they then went on to explain that they weren’t clear, especially in the aftermath of the fall of Stalinism,and with the rise of globalisation how it could be achieved. The attitude that was displayed was along the lines of - I want to see socialism, but I don’t know how we can go about convincing people that it can work, therefore in the meantime the best option for those who want to fight back is to join the SNP.

This kind of outlook is actually very widespread especially amongst those who would still consider themselves socialists but are completely disorientated after the fall of the Berlin wall. The leader of the Scottish Trade Unions recently said on an SSP platform that he wanted to conduct a dialogue on the left in Scotland including with the SSP on which way forward for socialism. This is where the SSP has an absolutely decisive roll to play.

The SSP has to establish itself not just as a party which provides the leadership for all those who want to fight attacks on wages and conditions in the workplace; or against council cuts in their communities or to stop environmental destruction. It must take on the ideological challenge of re-establishing confidence in the ideas of socialism and providing coherent arguments, explaining how socialism would transform the lives of millions of people. In the next year the entire membership of the SSP has to go on the offensive politically advancing the case for a socialist Scotland.

Worldwide Backlash Against Capitalism

A month ago 100,000 anti capitalist demonstrators took to the streets of Seattle in protest at the devastation and exploitation of the peoples’ of entire countries at the hands of the multi national companies who control world production. Organised to a large extent on the internet, this huge demonstration faced down the National Guard which looked like something out of robo cop. They succeeded in breaking up the talks of the World Trade Organisation, which is the police force of world capitalism charged with enforcing the law of the market worldwide. Although a brilliant example of how to fight back the aim of the demonstrators in calling on multi national capitalism to stop exploiting people and environments in the pursuit of profit is like calling on the Lions not to eat the Christians. What is clearly needed is a completely different type of economic system. It may take some time for the penny to drop but a socialist economic system is the only alternative.

Throughout the last century the working class of Scotland built ships which have been exported across the world, we have built engineering machines despatched to the four corners of the British Empire, we build turbo engines for aeroplanes which travel the globe and we build computers capable of reaching millions of people worldwide. Yet over a third of our children still live in poverty. As the 21st Century dawns it is time for Scots to build something different which can be extended worldwide, a new type of society, based on equality, justice and the public ownership of the wealth and resources of this country.