frontline 16.

Editorial – Moving Forward

The events of November last year were certainly a test for the Scottish Socialist Party. The party was brought under the spotlight in an unprecedented way.

The media were quick to talk about the resignation of Tommy Sheridan as convener of the SSP as meaning the end of the SSP. Reporters and our political opponents could barely disguise their glee. Sadly these opponents included George Galloway MP, whose opportunist intervention via the pages of the Daily Mail embarrassed his political allies and gained him few friends in Scotland.

But the SSP has not split or disappeared. Unlike the brittle sectarian groups that used to make up the left in Scotland, the SSP was able to roll with the punches. Our conference in February was widely thought to be the best SSP conference to date. The mood for unity in the party was clear.

The election of Colin Fox as convener drew a line under the events of November. As a party we now have the opportunity to move forward and return to what we do best, campaigning on the streets on issues like poverty, racism and war.

Platforms

However the party also has a responsibility to make an honest assessment of where we are now. This issue of Frontline is dominated by a discussion about the key challenges facing the SSP in the next period and particularly about the role that Marxists should play in the party.

The ISM has opened up a discussion about its own role as a Marxist platform in the SSP. ISM members in a series of national meetings have put forward the view that we need to move beyond being seen as the "ex-Militant" platform, or as the "pro-leadership" platform.

As the party has grown we have seen that SSP members often view platforms suspiciously. They associate platforms with an unthinking repetition of a line handed down from London regardless of its relevance to the Scottish political situation. They resent the power that the platform "block vote" is sometimes seen to wield at conference and in meetings.

The ISM certainly has a 'worldview' and clear aims and principles, particularly on the tasks of the current period and the necessity of building new non-sectarian workers parties. However the ISM has never sought to hand down a "line" or to put the platform ahead of the party. We believe that comrades should be able to make their own minds up on the basis of debates. We believe that we often have things to learn, not just things to teach. As such we tend to escape the criticism handed out to other platforms.

On the other hand, it can sometimes also lead to confusion about exactly where the ISM stands on certain issues. This was underlined by the fact that both contenders for the leadership of the party were ISM supporters.

In this issue we examine the relevancy of platforms and the best way to broaden discussion of Marxist ideas in the party. One option that the ISM has put forward is the creation of a broader platform in the party for all those that consider themselves to be Marxists.

Even if this was agreed in principle, the political basis of this platform and its method of organisation and operation would need to be worked out in greater detail.

Frontline has always sought to include diverse views from within the SSP in its pages. For this issue we have included contributions from other SSP platforms, the Republican Communist Network and the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement. We have also included contributions from individuals who are not currently in any platform.

This is not the end of the discussion but the beginning. We welcome further contributions to the debate and will make them available either here on our website and/or in the next issue of Frontline. We hope that this debate will help to clarify the way forward for the SSP and to make us a stronger party.

Socialist Vision

A number of themes crop up consistently in the various contributions that we have published. Firstly the question of education comes up. The party has already begun to deploy new educational methods in some branches and day schools. But there is clearly a thirst for this to be expanded.

Secondly several writers' say that the SSP has to be clearer about its vision of socialism - what do we mean by the word and how will we achieve a socialist society? We are strong on campaigning skilfully around transitional and agitational demands but weaker on an overall worldview.

One opportunity that will be coming up soon for the party is the visit of the G8 to Scotland. Mobilising the biggest possible turnout for the demos will important. But just as important as taking to the streets is opening up a battle of ideas in society. Socialists have to have a vision in our struggles of the kind of society we want to see. We can use the G8 events to put forward that vision.

We also have the prospect of the Westminster elections. There is clearly a level of disillusionment with New Labour amongst those voters who gave them such a crushing majority last time. The bloody conflict in Iraq has indelibly stained Blair's record. Those layers who live in the worst poverty will be further disillusioned in politics altogether. We face a challenge to reach out to those who see no point in voting.

However the first-past-the-post electoral system will make it difficult for smaller parties like the SSP to make a breakthrough this time although we should get credible results in several seats. The real test for the SSP will be the Scottish Parliamentary elections in two years time. The creation of a pr system (albeit one that favours Labour) for the council elections at same time will open up the prospect of a phalanx of SSP councillors being elected across Scotland.

To achieve that we have to continue to build a vibrant party that is campaigning in the communities on all the issues affecting Scottish workers.

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