frontline vol. 2 issue 2.


The events of the summer of 2007 cannot be regarded as anything other than disastrous not only for the Scottish Socialist Party but for the cause of socialism in Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan’s libel case saw the internal business of the SSP dragged into the bourgeois courts. The party offices were raided and party officials were jailed. And this was before the court case even started. Attempts were made to rewrite or suppress party records and to rewrite party history. The former convener of the party dragged former comrades and friends into court to call them liars and forgers. He accused women he had had relationships with of being liars, they found themselves all over the tabloid press, their lives wrecked.

The reason for this was not a life-or-death battle in the class struggle. It was not a strike or an occupation far less a revolution. It was simply the ego of one man.

A few key groups within the SSP backed him. Firstly there were a group who mistakenly placed their loyalty to Tommy Sheridan before their loyalty to the party or the cause of socialism, among them some honest and principled comrades. It is to be hoped that many of these comrades will return to the SSP in the future.

Secondly there were those who had never been happy in the SSP - the sectarian groups of the Socialist Workers Party and Committee for a Workers International. These groups owed their loyalty to their own ‘mother-ship’ HQ’s in London. They aimed only to build their own miniscule and sectarian ‘revolutionary party’ regardless of the cost and with few attempts to engage in a positive way in the SSP.

We now have two parties in Scotland, both proclaiming themselves to be ‘broad’ socialist parties, both campaigning on issues like poverty, war and injustice. There was absolutely no political basis for the split. In fact ‘Solidarity’ has so far come out with no new policies, instead they have openly copied SSP campaigns down to the exact same slogans. At their Glasgow rally Tommy Sheridan spoke of ‘People not Profit’ - the name of the flagship SSP campaign and our election slogan. Letters to the press from Tommy call for the introduction of a ‘Scottish service tax’ to replace the council tax.

It is likely that the mimicry will not stop there. The run-up to the Scottish elections in May will now be marked not by a campaign by a united socialist party but by two rival parties fighting for the same votes.

The future for Solidarity is likely to be one of further splits and ructions. The SWP and CWI are bitter rivals who will fight tenaciously for influence in the new party. Both groups have political differences with some of the other individuals who have come over from the SSP, particularly on the question of independence.

The SWP and CWI have carried out a long-term campaign of criticising the SSP policy of ‘an independent socialist Scotland’, in particular the strategy of the ‘independence convention’ whilst Rosemary Byrne and Tommy Sheridan made great play of signing up to the Independence First declaration. The difference now is that the sectarian groups have more power in ‘Solidarity’ than they ever had in the SSP.

The editorial board of Frontline want to be clear that we stand fully behind the Scottish Socialist Party. We are an independent journal but one that is produced in support of the SSP. Our board members and contributors in Scotland will remain with the party. There is no room for another socialist party in Scotland and we regard it as a sectarian error.

How can the SSP go forward from here? This is the key question and one that many of the contributors to this issue of Frontline take up.

There are several aspects to this. We need to renew our grassroots democracy and encourage the greatest participation and input by all members of the party. If there is any question of an imbalance between the party inside and outside of parliament then that must be addressed.

Above all the party needs to turn outwards. It needs to turn to campaigning on the streets and in the communities.

Already there is evidence of renewal in the SSP. Members, who had been turned off by the antics of the sectarian groups are returning to the branches. The party is turning out to campaign on the streets with positive campaigning on issues including asylum seekers, free school meals and opposing trident nuclear missiles.

The political climate in Scotland should be positive for the left. The New Labour government have gone through a huge internal crisis. Tony Blair has been forced to give a timeframe for his resignation. Yet this has not helped the prospects of Labour in Scotland either. Blair looks set to hang on until after May 2007 when the Scottish Parliamentary elections take place. In fact he has hinted at sticking around till August. The recent Labour conference has probably aided him in this.

There may be another push against Blair, but if he remains in place it will hit the Labour vote in the Scottish elections, not to mention those in Wales and the English council elections.

The big gains stand to be made by the SNP. There is a real chance of the SNP being the largest party after the Scottish elections. They will be in a position to attempt to put together a pro-independence coalition. A constitutional crisis is on the cards. The SSP, with its message of an independent socialist republic, could play a vital role in this period and there is every chance that we will.

But whatever happens in the elections the SSP will remain as a fighting class-struggle party in the streets and communities of Scotland. The SSP is here to stay.