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SWP in Scotland
Wednesday June 14, 2006 20:16 by eamonn
The manouverings of the SWP in Scotland are a significant factor in the general chaos within the Scottish Socialist Party. The manner in which this party are currently operating in Scotland should act as a warning to those on the Left in Ireland who believe that that party has anything to offer the struggle for socialism here.
The SWP in Ireland have spoke much about the need for new workers' organisations that can challenge reaction north and south and develop the forces of socialism. But the manner in which their comrades in Scotland are doing their best to destroy the Scottish Socialist Party should act as a warning to anyone who believes that this most politically sectarian of organisations can ever play a progressive role in the building of a socialist movement.
The divisions in the SSP relate to the departure from the leadership of Tommy Sheridan, its most visible and well-known figure. His departure in late 2004 came after the rest of the party leadership--including the 2 SWP members who were on the SSP EC--could not support the way in which he proposed to deal with allegations concerning his personal life. Whereas the SSP leaders wanted Sheridan to stay out of the libel courts, feeling that it might be politically ruinous to the party, the ex-leader made it clear that he was determined to take such action.
But although backing this decision, the SWP faction in the SSP soon changed their tune (or had it changed for them by their London-based leadership) recognising that the SSP was divided over the issue, and seeing opportunities for strengthening their position at the expense of SSP leadership, which is dominated by the old Scottish Militant Labour party, the SWP swung to a postion of support for Tommy Sheridan. The grand plan was to take Sheridan and his supporters out of the SSP and into Respect, the London-based coalition dominated by the SWP and headed by egomaniac extraordinaire, George Galloway. This, the SWP figure, would allow them to move to a postion of leadership in the socialist movement in Scotland, something which has never looked remotely possible at any previous point in their history. The only sticking point, however, was Sheridan's refusal to take such a step and leave the SSP
But recent developments in the SSP have changed the situation and boosted the position of the SWP faction. Sheridan's own opportunism and egoism has led him to attack publicly those in the SSP with whom he has been politically active for over 20 years. Re-iterating his determination to go ahead with his libel case against the News of the World--a case that is due to open next month--Sheridan has publicly castigated the SSP leadership and has attempted to lay the blame for his departure as National Convenor of the party at the door of a supposed 'cabal' within the EC, a 'cabal' that allegedly includes MSP's such as Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie and leading party strategists such as Alan McCombes. Also in pursuing his case, Sheridan has dragged the SSP into the courts, a development that resulted recently in the jailing for a few days of McCombes and massive court costs for the party of around £45,000
Throughout recent weeks and months Sheridan has received strong support from the SWP, who, re-writing the history of their own party, now assure all and sundry that they have ALWAYS supported him and ALWAYS argued that his departure from the leadership of the party was a mistake. This from a party who for 2 decades sniped incessantly at Sheridan and the Militant Tendency, and who, as we have seen, supported the initial decision of the SSP EC to recommend that Sheridan resign as leader.
Sheridan's public attacks on the SSP EC have split the party down the middle and resulted in a deluge of bad publicity in the bourgeois press. This has been presented by the SWP in their own journal as a positive development, an analysis that only makes sense if it is recognised that the SWP want the party to implode altogether. This would then clear the way for Respect. Last week, we actually had the sight of George Galloway demanding that the SSP re-install Sheridan at its head and threatening to stand Respect against it should this not happen.
The future of the SSP remains in doubt at this point. There is every likelihhod that the party will formally split, with a section involving Sheridan and the SWP faction hiving off into a Scottish-based Respect. On the other hand, although highly unlikely, Sheridan and his allies could gain control of the party and oust the leadership. Were this to happen, the SWP could end up having what they could never have dreamed of and what they have never deserved--real influence within the Scottish socialist movement. In such a scenario, the SSP constitution would be altered to bring it more into line with the supposed 'united front' nature of Respect. Either of those 2 outcomes would constitute a serious blow to the hopes of building a socialist movement in Scotland.
It is to be hoped that the people who built the SSP into a serious socialist party will be able to resist the attacks of the egoist Sheridan and his opportunist new-found friends in the SWP. Any outcome other than that would be fatal for the prospects of socialism there. Meanwhile, socialists here in Ireland should be warned. The moral of this tale is that no matter how much the SWP talk of building socialist or workers' unity, their only interest is their own party. And if in boosting the position of their own party, they damage and destroy a real and genuine socialist movement, so be it.