frontline volume 2, issue 6. March 2008
A Much Needed Alternative
The Scottish Socialist Party has had a tough year. However the party is in better health than some of its opponents might have hoped. Whilst there are still some challenging times ahead, the party can be proud of the way in which it has held together and weathered the storm. The root of this strength lies in the principles which the party stands for, principles of socialism, equality and integrity.
The need for a party like the SSP has not gone away. There is little doubt that the left in Scotland will bring forth new challenges to the warmongers and neo-liberals both in government and opposition.
The Scottish National Party government has enacted individual populist measures, sometimes watered down versions of bills previously brought forward by the SSP such as free school meals. However the heart of their economic policy is neo-liberal and stands in defence of the free market and international capitalism.
Former Royal Bank of Scotland economist Alex Salmond defends the profits of his former employers and the right of the bloated financial sector in Scotland to make unlimited profits. Despite the worldwide financial crisis caused by the sub-prime mortgages crash, the RBS made profits of £10.3 billion in 2007 and continued to swallow up rival banks worldwide such as the Dutch bank ABN-Amro.
The SNP government has been supportive of the bid by millionaire tycoon Donald Trump to create a golf resort in Aberdeenshire, despite the initial concerns of local councillors and the potential environmental damage that could be caused. SNP councillors in Edinburgh, with only one exception, voted to back the ‘Caltongate’ proposals which would destroy the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town in the Canongate and see local people lose their homes so that hotels and apartments for the rich could be built.
Meanwhile the Labour Party in Scotland seems to be mired in crisis and sleaze. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Wendy Alexander and her dodgy leadership campaign donations, it is clear that the politics of New Labour are certainly corrupt. Not content with war-mongering and enacting privatisation and attack after attack on public services, Gordon Brown made a point of backing the employer’s side in the recent postal workers dispute and posed for pictures with the great enemy of working people, Margaret Thatcher.
Despite the weakness of the left, the need for a force to take on those in power and stand up for working people has not diminished. The SSP can still play a key role in that process both in its own right and also as part of any future anti-capitalist formation. The end of March will see the party beginning a review of some of its structures with a special conference in Glasgow.
One proposal that has come from the SSP commission on party structures deals with the position of Frontline. Frontline has a somewhat unique history. This journal was originally a publication of the International Socialist Movement, who were a platform with in the SSP. The ISM took the decision to disband in 2006 however Frontline carried on. We described ourselves as “an independent Marxist journal produced in support of the SSP”. Frontline has always been supportive of the SSP whilst providing an independent space to debate key issues facing the party.
The commission has asked Frontline to clarify its role within the party. Three options have been put forward. The first option was to become a platform within the party, the second was to become completely independent of the party and remove reference to it in the masthead. The third option was to become an official journal of the party.
These proposals have been discussed by the Frontline editorial board. The option to become a platform was not supported by anyone. Whilst there was some support for becoming an official SSP journal, a substantial majority favoured retaining the independence of Frontline.
This does not reflect any ambivalence amongst the editorial board towards the SSP. Indeed, many of those who supported independence are among the most tireless and dedicated supporters of the party. Rather it was felt that it was important to maintain an independent space out with the party structures where comrades could discuss and debate contentious issues.
Additionally it was recognized that becoming an official party journal would mean that the SSP would also have a responsibility to put resources both physical and financial into producing and selling Frontline. At the current time in all likelihood the party needs to focus on supporting the Scottish Socialist Voice and building up party branches.
Frontline therefore proposes to maintain its independent status. We remain open to all those who want to write for or sell the journal. Our editorial board and editor are elected and will continue to be democratically accountable. Please get in touch if you want to help out.
We also felt that it was important to have a publication with a specifically Marxist perspective. Whilst the SSP has no problem with Marxist ideas it has a broader outlook, which is fitting for a party founded on the principles of socialist unity and regroupment.
We note that there are proposals at the forthcoming conference which would place restrictions on platforms within the party. Clearly this reflects a feeling within the party that platforms which felt no loyalty to the SSP, specifically the ‘CWI Scotland’ and Socialist Workers Platform’s, contributed greatly to the split in the party.
However whilst we need to learn lessons, we also need to make sure that we do not lose the original spirit and ideals which brought the SSP together. The party needs to remain a tolerant and democratic body. The right of individual party members to come together in groups to put forward a particular viewpoint is one which we should defend.Top