Three years ago the leadership of the section which was then called Scottish Militant Labour, put forward a set of proposals. SML proposed that based on our experience within the Scottish Socialist Alliance, we should launch a new political party in Scotland the Scottish Socialist Party and that we should put most of our resources into the launch of this party.
By doing this we would attract a new layer of people into socialist politics and begin to build widespread support for the ideas of socialism. Given that we would be part of the leadership of this party and that we would be an organised platform within it, our view was that over a period of time - given the experience of this party in action and in political debate we could help this party develop into the vehide through which the working class in Scotland could carry through socialism.
This was completely opposed by Peter Taaffe and the leadership of the CWI. The comrades argued against this and demanded that the Scottish Section implement the 1998 World Congress resolution which specifically states in the first sentence."This World Congress of the CWI places on record it's strongest possible opposition to the decision of SML to launch the Scottish Socialist Party". The Scottish section could not accept the resolution and instead implemented the proposal to launch the SSP.
It is clear that in the three years since we launched the SSP, the strategy of the Scottish Section has proved correct. The success of the SSP in this short time has surpassed our expectations. The creation of the party has involved thousands of new comrades in the party and has extended it's ideas to hundreds of thousands of people who consistently say in opinion polls that they will vote SSP. ( 5%-6%)
We have also launched the book " Imagine" through which we begin to go on the ideological offensive against the ideas of Globalisation and provide a vision of an alternative type of society for today's anti globalisation generation. The book was in the top ten of the leading bookshops in both Glasgow and Edinburgh over Christmas.
The SSP has had a huge impact, not only in Scotland but also in England and Wales.
Launching the SSP was a risk. There were no guarantees of success. However three years on, it is possible to say that the political understanding together with the courage to put it into action, proved SML correct.
This experience in Scotland unfortunately has been written off by the CWI leadership as a disaster.
The recent resolutions of both the International Executive Committee of the CWI and the Scottish Minority Faction confirm this. There is not one sentence about the success of the SSP. Instead the Scottish section of the CWI stand charged with the disintegration, liquidation and political degeneration. This is the balance sheet of the CWI leaders and the minority faction.
The last five years in the change in orientation of our work from SML, through the launch of fhe SSP, to the establishment of our organisation as a platform within the SSP, now called the lnternational Socialist Movement, we have not lost any comrades from political activity. On the contrary, the launch of the SSP reactivated a whole number of comrades who had been inactive. And now we have comrades coming back into the SSP and the ISM who were in Militant in the 1980's and after a decade of absence are re joining the struggle. We would pose the question to those still within the CWI, which yardstick is being used to make this judgement. We could equally pose the question, in the last five years how many members of the SP in England and Wales have left, dropped out of activity and are now hostile to the SP? The CWI leadership have failed to provide the evidence for their claim of disintegration.
This charge implies that we have simply merged our ideas and political analysis into the SSP and that we have no distinct policies or analysis. But the fact is that our comrades do defend within the SSP, from branch level up to the National Council and National Conference, clear positions on such questions as Kosova, Serbia, the Middle East, Ireland, the National Question, Nader, Globalisation, the SNP, Europe, etc. Furthermore the positions we defend have won wide support within the party at large. Again the comrades have no evidence for this assertion. It is a myth.
The charge is that we have adapted our ideas and programme to that of reformism.
We reject these claims. The rather threadbare "evidence" cited is our approach to the Scottish Service Tax, phrases in the economy section of the SSP manifesto, and on the issue of how you pose a wealth tax. We have set up a web site (details below) which contains all the statements that we have been attacked on by the CWI and we would invite the comrades to read for themselves the ideas and programme which we are putting forward.
For two years the CWI have conducted the great international heresy hunt. Tommy Sheridan in particular has come under attack. Of the 75 columns he wrote for the Daily Record only one has made intemational headlines in the CWI. The column contains a reference to Cuba which is uncritical. But we do not let our support for the Cuban Revolution prevent us from putting forward criticisms when necessary, as was done by comrades of the ISM majority at the last SSP conference. And we have made the point to the CWI leaders that a discussion is needed on the whole issue of Cuba, particularly in the light of the last ten years' experience, and on perspectives in the current period. Such a discussion is not helped by empty name-calling. Does anyone actually believe that Tommy Shendan is a neo Stalinist? Words supplied by the CWI!
If Tommy has written 75 Record columns he has been quoted thousands of times in the press. As part of the proof of this political degeneration the CWI choose an ambiguous quote from the Observer, which could mistakenly give the impression that Tommy is in favour of a coalition with the SNP. However there is a considerable body of evidence which proves the opposite: our attitude to the SNP has been carried in the manifesto, centre pages in the Voice even Tommy's columns in the Daily Record. Why don't the comrades cite this evidence? Because it doesn't prove their case.
We will make mistakes every revolutionary organisation will. But the method of the CWI leadership is outright distortion of our organisation and it's analysis
After 3 years the CWI leadership are still claiming that they were co~rect in their opposition to the launch of the SSP. It is complete arrogance. The CWI leadership have not been prepared to admit their mistaken analysis. Instead they have sought to attack and undennine the position we have built in Scotland. Accompanying this with a refusal to collaborate with the elected leadership of the section.
The CWI leadership have chosen to work with a small minority faction to the exclusion of the elected leadership. At a meeting in May 2000 Lynn Walsh made it crystal clear that the CWI leaders were not prepared to collaborate with the elected leadership of the section. In using this undemocratic method the CWI leadership we believe was working towards splitting the section. For over 2 years we have effectively been expelled with a new de facto section of the CWI in Scotland being recognised by the international in the form of the minority faction. The minority faction hold secret meetings and have secret finances and members. We have been treated as the enemy within for a number of years.
This has been confinned within two days of our decision to leave. The CWI and faction have distributed to the bourgeois press in Scotland a press statement attacking Tommy Sheridan and the ISM. Part of which was carried in the Daily Record describing Tommy as a "neo Stalinist capitalist"' No doubt the comrades will cry misquote which is a bit rich since they distributed their attacks to the bourgeois press. This merely reinforces the sectarianism of the CWI. Since when have we used the bourgeois press to attack other sections of the left?
The way the CWI leaders have dealt with the Scottish Section is a major mistake. The ISM is leading one of the most developed and programmatically advanced parties of the new socialist formations which have emerged, especially in Europe.
The question of regroupment of the anti capitalist and revolutionary left is one of the most important questions facing us. The ISM in Scotland now has considerable experience under our belt in this development. We are being approached by all sorts of parties and organisations internationally who are hoping to learn from our experience, in order to advance the situation in their country.
Earlier last year we produced a document which is available on our website, outlining our analysis of the period we are in, the role of revolutionaries and the question of orientation and programme. We would direct comrades to that material for a detailed analysis of our approach.
By leaving the CWI we will not cease to be internationalists. We aim to be involved in and support the anti globalisation actions which take place across the world. We will develop solidarity with the struggles of workers and the oppressed peoples in other countries.
Through the SSP we are involved in discussion with other socialist organisations with the aim of launching a European Socialist alliance which could develop wider than just Europe.
Any new international socialist alliance will be politically heterogeneous. Therefore there is an opportunity for the ideas of Trotskyism which the ISM represents to play a decisive role in shaping this international, provided that we can put forward these ideas in a constructive, creative and non sectarian way.
The ISM must be prepared to take initiatives to link up with groups and individuals within this international alliance and outside who consider themselves Trotskyists or Marxists with a view to debate land discuss. The idea that there is only one international which holds ah the answers to the problems facing the workers movement and that a mass revolutionary intemational will only be created if everyone joins that organisation is mistaken. There is a great need for a mass revolutionary international of the working class. But it's creation will be a much more complicated process involving revolutionaries from different backgrounds.
We will work towards the regroupment of those forces still committed to the defence of the interests of the working class and of socialism with the aim of building a pluralist international. Within that international we will work with other groups to strengthen the influence of Marxism within it. We hope that in the future the CWI will abandon its present sectarian course and be part of this process.
ISM majority 17.01.01
The documents spanning three years of the debate with the CWI can be found at http://www.redflag.org.uk