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SWP in Scotland

category national | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis author Wednesday June 14, 2006 20:16author by eamonn Report this post to the editors

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.

author by buttonpublication date Wed Jun 14, 2006 21:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As I'm not a member of the SSP and don't know the inside story on the current crisis, I can't really offer much analysis - but would it be fair to say that it's a bit more complex than just laying all the blame at the door of the SWP - self serving though they may be - or Tommy Sheridan? Do the leadership not bear some responsibility for the way they handled the crisis - for example taking detailed minutes at a meeting regarding the private life of Comrade Sheridan - and then leaking the existance of those minutes to the capitalist press, a fact which would serve to undermine his libel case. Suely it is inappropriate, to say the least, to take and keep information or allegations about a person's private life in minute form? Let's hope at any rate that the SSP managses to recover from this crisis and provide an alternative to New Labour's policies of neo-liberalism and warmongering in Scotland.

author by eamonpublication date Wed Jun 14, 2006 22:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

having spoken to several SSP members, I would say that much of the blame of the situation within the SSP lies at the door of Sheridan himself. But given that he is not claiming to be attempting to build a socialist movement in Ireland, and that the SWP are, I feel that it is the SWP's role in the controversy that should be of interest to Irish socialists.

As for the SSP leadership, I feel that they have acted throughout with the best interests of the party in mind. As for the question of the minutes, these are taken at every SSP EC meeting--I would imagine that this would be the case with most democratic organisations. The discussion concerning Sheridan's private life took place at a meeting of the SSP EC, at which he is alleged to have made remarks that basically compelled the SSP leadership to recommend that he resign. Given that this was one of the the most momentous decisions that the SSP has taken, it is right that a full minute was taken. If this hadn't happened, the rank-and-file membership would have been in the dark as to why he had resigned. And it can only be imagined what manner of speculative rubbish would be getting spread around right now concerning the reasons why he did resign, had these minutes not been taken.

It is true, that the minutes should not have been given to the press, but that this happened was not as a result of an officially-sanctioned EC action; in fact most SSP EC members were surprised when they read that the scottish Sunday Herald was claiming to have a copy of an affadavit outlining the details of the minutes. Most EC members simply do not know who it was that leaked them. The fact that leading SSP strategist Alan McCombes went to jail two days before the Sunday Herald article appeared, on the grounds that he wished to to prevent the minutes being given to the courts, surely absolves the leadership from any allegations that they in some way have been responsible for this leak. If McCombes had known that the Herald had such an affadavit, he would have known in advance that his stance was going to be in vain, and that the courts would get the minutes from the Herald in any case. Or do you think that McCombes wanted to go to jail and incur costs to the party of over £40,000?

As for the SWP, they have been willing to tell lies, re-write their own history and offer deliberately misleading and poisonous accounts of these developments within the party in order to boost their own selfish interests. Neither have they distanced themselves from George Galloway's aggressive and quite disgraceful comments, made on the BBC last week. Activists on the Left here should be taking note of all of this and steering well clear of the SWP.

author by SP Member - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Wed Jun 14, 2006 22:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While the SWP behaviour has been far from acceptable the comments on both the SWP and the actions of Tommy Sheridan are far from accurate.

In particular the claim that Sheridan dragged the SSP into the courts is utterly false. Elements within the SSP landed themselves in court as a result of keeping a secret minute of a meeting to discuss Sheridans libel action and then leaking to the media that the minute existed. These elements within the SSP are now being brought to court by the News of the World to give evidence against Sheridan.

For a fuller report see the following:

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has been rocked by the release of an open letter by Tommy Sheridan to SSP members which accuses "an unsavoury cabal of comrades at the core of the leadership who are more interested in pursuing personal vendettas, through vile lies and slander, than conducting the class struggle." This letter has been widely covered by the press in Scotland.

Philip Stott, International Socialists, (CWI Scotland)
Tommy Sheridan's stance comes 18 months after he resigned as the SSP's national convenor following a meeting of the party's Executive Committee (EC) on 9 November 2004.

That meeting discussed issues relating to Tommy Sheridan's private life that, it was thought, might appear in the News of the World the following Sunday. The EC voted to call on him to resign as SSP convenor because they opposed Tommy Sheridan's proposals on how to deal with these allegations.

Following the publication of a story relating to his private life Sheridan took out a libel case against the News of the World which is due to be heard in July.

The International Socialists in Scotland, who were founding members of the SSP, opposed the action taken by the SSP EC in November 2004. We argued then and since that, in seeking to take hasty and unnecessary action against Tommy Sheridan, they had buckled under the pressure of the right-wing tabloid press over potential publicity that they thought would damage the SSP.

Popular
In taking these measures they were seen to have removed someone who was - and still is - widely recognised as the most popular figure in the socialist movement in Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan had been a central leader of the mass anti-poll tax movement in Scotland and throughout Britain in the early late 1980s and early 1990s when he was a member of Militant and the CWI.

He was elected from his prison cell, when he was jailed for his anti-poll tax activities, to Glasgow council in 1992 and then elected to the Scottish parliament in 1999 as the first SSP MSP.

Despite the important and ongoing political differences we have with Tommy Sheridan, who broke with the CWI in 2001, we nevertheless recognised that he had the authority of big sections of the working class in Scotland. His removal as SSP convenor is linked to a marked decline in the SSP's electoral support over the last 18 months. It has also left a bitter legacy inside the SSP over the actions of the EC which have now erupted in the form of the open letter and were evident at the recent SSP National Council.

Catalyst
The catalyst for this was the Court of Sessions' demand, on behalf of the News of the World, to see the minutes and all related documents of the EC meeting of 9 November 2004. It is thought that detailed information of a personal nature relating to Tommy Sheridan was kept as a formal minute of that EC meeting.

The International Socialists and many SSP members have condemned such practices which are completely outside the traditions of the socialist and working-class movement. We passed motions to the SSP National Council condemning these actions.

Furthermore, SSP officials have confirmed to the press that a minute of that meeting existed months ago. Alongside the public refusal of fellow MSPs and leading party members to back the libel action, confirmed by a recent EC motion that was made public, this gave the News of the World the green light to ask to see the documents.

On 28 May, the day of the SSP NC, the Sunday Herald ran a story claiming that they had a signed legal document from a "leading SSP official" given to then in November 2004 which, they claim, details the issues discussed at the 9 November meeting and the reasons for the action taken against Tommy Sheridan.

It is these shocking actions that have led many SSP members to draw the conclusion that there has been a deliberate and conscious attempt by a section of the SSP leadership to keep documented records containing potentially damaging information, whether accurate or not, about Tommy Sheridan.

The main motivation for this seems to have been to keep material that would help justify their actions in calling for Tommy Sheridan's resignation in November 2004.

Alan McCombes jailed
However, when the courts asked to see the minute of 9 November the SSP EC refused to simply immediately hand them over. Alan McCombes, one of those cited to appear in court with the documents, said the party had the right to private meetings which the courts and the News of the World had no right to see.

He said he had the only copy of the minute and in refusing to comply with the courts he was jailed for 12 days on Friday 26 May. This scandalous penalty was followed by costs being awarded against the SSP which is likely to cost the party at least £25,000.

The court also gave instructions for the SSP offices to be searched. SSP members from the Glasgow Cardonald branch who had passed a motion calling on any minutes to be destroyed have been instructed to appear in court.

We condemn the unacceptable action of the court and as the Dundee West motion (drawn up by CWI members) to the SSP NC points out: "This NC rejects the idea that the capitalist press and courts have any right to see the internal discussions of the socialist and working class movement."

Nevertheless, it was clear that the court had effectively unlimited powers to fine the SSP and bankrupt it as well as imposing a jail sentence of up to a year on Alan McCombes for contempt of court.

Under these circumstances, what was only ever a short-term tactic could not be continued and at the SSP NC the meeting voted to oppose the EC strategy of continued defiance and effectively release the minutes to the court. This was supported by Tommy Sheridan.

The main issue, however, as the Dundee West motion pointed out was: "If normal minutes (ie a concise record of the meeting and its decisions) in the keeping of our movement are kept there would be no need to risk SSP members being sanctioned by the courts for refusing to hand them over."

The minutes have been handed to the court and Alan McCombes has been released. Despite his personally courageous stand, Alan McCombes has since claimed that NC members who voted to oppose the EC strategy had caved into pressure from the courts.

This is completely wrong and frankly irresponsible; it may also be an attempt to deflect attention from the increasing questioning among SSP members about why such personal minutes were ever kept in the first place.

In a further defeat for the leadership the SSP NC voted to support Tommy Sheridan's libel case. And there is now a real possibility that leading SSP members may be called by the News of the World to give evidence about the 9 November meeting in a bid to undermine the libel action.

This is a critical time for the SSP. So damaging and potentially fatal for the SSP are these developments that only an immediate end to the unacceptable manoeuvres and personal methods that have been evident recently and the re-establishment of the SSP on a principled basis can allow the SSP to recover.

That also means urgently turning the SSP outwards to fighting on the burning issues facing the working class and young people, alongside advancing a programme that can face up to the challenges of building a mass working-class and socialist alternative in Scotland.

author by Eamonpublication date Wed Jun 14, 2006 22:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Philip Stott's remarks outline the position of the CWI ( Socialist Party in Ireland) platform in the SSP. For reasons best known to themselves, the CWI have adopted a position that places them in the pro-Sheridan camp (even though they must know that this could lead to the SWP emerging as a leading player within the Scottish socialist movement--surely a nightmare scenario for the CWI, given their experiences in the socialist alliance in England)

But Stott is wrong to criticise the taking of a minute at the SSP EC meeting of 9 November 2004. And the member of the SP who posted Stott's comments is also wrong in his description of them as 'secret' minutes and in his unsubstantiated claim that the EC leaked them to the press. In fact, as I have already pointed out, all EC meetings are minuted; why should the one that took place in November 2004 have been any different. Minutes are important in creating accountabliity and democracy in political parties. Or are the CWI now seriously going to argue that there is no need for socialist parties to take minutes at EC meetings? if so, they had better tell Peter Taaffe and the rest of their comrades in London to stop doing this. From what I have been told by ex-members of the Militant, who are now in the SSP, not only were Militant Central Committee meetings minuted, but they were actually tape-recorded!!

Perhaps Philip Stott and the rest of the CWI are now of the view that there is no need for accountability and democracy in socialist orgs. Perhaps they are of the view that all and any parties should be able to re-write their histories whenever they feel like it, depending on which way the political wind is blowing. Because if you go down the road of not keeping records of important party meetings--and the one that led to Sheridan's resignation was surely that--the truth of what actually happened is lost forever, allowing those with the loudest voices to get their versions of events accepted as reality. I would have thought that those belonging to the Stalinist tradition in politics would be ok with that, but not the CWI.

It is also the case that Sheridan's libel case has landed the SSP in the courts. He must have known that this would have been the case and that the NOTW would seek to get from the party all of the records relating to the November 2004 meetings. He must have surely had an idea that this might be resisted by the party. He certainly did know all of this long before Alan McCombes went to jail. But as recent events have shown, Tommy Sheridan has long since given up any concerns about the party or those who are the most involved in it. This is just one reason why those who were closest to him politically and personally for over 2 decades have also been those most appalled at his antics.

author by Patrique - nipsapublication date Wed Jun 14, 2006 23:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

George Galloway was right.

author by John Meehanpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 01:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For more information on the serious divisions within the SSP see details of a new platform here :

http://www.ssp-ul.org/

Related Link: http://www.ssp-ul.org/
author by Dave - SWPpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 09:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Scottish Socialist Party votes to support Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan’s stand against war and New Labour’s right wing policies has inspired thousands of people (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Tommy Sheridan’s stand against war and New Labour’s right wing policies has inspired thousands of people (Pic: Duncan Brown)

An emergency national council meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party last weekend signalled a positive step for the party, writes Iain Ferguson

Members of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) voted at an emergency meeting last Sunday to give full political support to Tommy Sheridan, the party co-chair and member of the Scottish parliament (MSP).

Since Sheridan resigned from his position as party convenor under pressure in November 2004, there has been an internal battle for the future of the SSP.

There have been two competing visions of where the party should be going, with those grouped around Sheridan fighting for an outward looking mass party as against those who want a smaller, narrower “pure” party.

The question of the future of the party has crystallised around Sheridan’s libel action against the News of the World.

This action follows scurrilous allegations about Sheridan’s private life made by the Murdoch press in 2004, at a time when Sheridan was heavily involved in giving support to the newly-formed Military Families Against the War.

The SSP’s national council met last Sunday in an atmosphere of crisis.

This arose from a request by the News of the World two weeks ago for a copy of the minutes of the executive committee meeting in November 2004 at which the issue of the allegations against Sheridan were first discussed.

At that meeting, executive members shamefully refused to publicly back Sheridan and demanded his resignation as party convenor, which he accepted under pressure.

The executive’s grounds for demanding this were not, apparently, the content of the allegations, but unhappiness with the way in which he intended to conduct his defence.

Sheridan’s resignation as convenor disorientated and demoralised many members and supporters of the SSP.

Last Sunday, a front page article in the Sunday Herald revealed that soon after that executive committee meeting in November 2004, an unnamed senior SSP official had given the newspaper full details of what had been discussed.

Furious

National council delegates were understandably furious.

Last Sunday’s meeting passed an emergency motion calling for the resignation of the party official involved and for disciplinary action to be considered against any other leading members who were aware that this information had been leaked.

The Herald article has also left the executive’s strategy of “defiance” of the courts over these minutes in tatters.

Alan McCombes, the SSP’s policy coordinator, was jailed for 12 days last week for refusing to hand the executive’s minutes to the Scottish courts.

There was already dismay and disbelief within the party that a confidential discussion within the executive should have been minuted in such unnecessary and inappropriate detail.

The meeting rejected the leadership’s proposal that the party should persist in keeping the minutes confidential when they were clearly already in the public domain.

The refusal to hand them over could not only result in McCombes remaining in jail indefinitely, but could also bankrupt the party.

Delegates also rejected the executive’s preferred solution to this crisis – that Tommy Sheridan should drop his libel action against the News of the World.

John Milligan from the RMT union delegation made a powerful contribution in which he rightly argued for solidarity with Alan McCombes, who was still in jail at the start of this week.

He also expressed the feelings of many delegates when he voiced full solidarity with Sheridan in his fight against the Murdoch press.

The meeting ended with delegates voting to endorse that position.

The national committee may prove to be a turning point in the fortunes of the SSP.

The election of six SSP MSPs to the Scottish parliament in the elections of May 2003, with 130,000 votes across Scotland, should have marked a major step forward for the SSP.

Instead an over-orientation on the Scottish parliament, followed in November 2004 by the failure of the party leadership to give full support to Tommy Sheridan – an outstanding class fighter – confused many people.

The resulting demoralisation has been compounded over the past 18 months by a whispering campaign against Sheridan by a faction within the party.

The effect has been to prevent the SSP from moving forward and engaging with the real issues facing working class people in Scotland.

Essential

Since November 2004, the Socialist Worker platform within the SSP has fought for support for Sheridan against the News of the World and argued that he was wrong to resign as the party’s convenor.

Now that the air has been cleared and party members have made their views known, it is essential that the SSP focuses on building support for the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2007.

That will mean fighting to regain the support and trust of the tens of thousands of people who voted for the SSP in 2003.

We need to show them that over the issues that concern them – low pay, the worst health in western Europe, the lack of social housing, the ongoing war in Iraq – only the Scottish Socialist Party is capable of presenting a real alternative to New Labour in Scotland.

Iain Ferguson was a delegate to the SSP national council last weeken

Related Link: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=8929
author by John - SWPpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just complete bigoted nonsense from eamonn without a shred of evidence presented for his conspiracy theory. The usual swp-bashing crap from somebody who is too sneaky to be honest about who he is, who he represents, and on whose prompting he is backing a clearly discredited faction who would destroy the SSP before giving up their vice like grip over it.
The majority in the SSP, including the SWP platform, are clearly backing Sheridan, as they are disgusted with the manouvreing of McCombes and the others. No-wonder Mcombes and his cabal are heroes to irish sectarians. They use exactly the same methods of character assasination, rumour spreading, and constantly accusing others of bad intent in order to cover up their own. Good luck to Sheridan and his supporters and fair play to Galloway.

author by SP Member - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The position of the International Socialists (CWI in Scotland) has been consistant throughout this entire episode since it began in 2004. We opposed the decision of the EC to force the resignation of Sheridan initially and are opposed to the strategy of the EC majority at this time as it potnetially lead to the destruction of the SSP.

The fact that the SWP are now, numerically, the largest faction in the SSP is not really relevent. We do not base our strategy on preventing the SWP from doing one thing or another, but on what we consider will be of most benefit to the Scottish working class.

In relation to the 'secret' minute, it must first be stated that the issue of the media article on Sheridan should never have been discussed at the EC of the SSP in the manner that it was. The purpose of the meeting was an attempt by a rival faction within the ISM platform to use the issue to remove Sheridan as leader of the SSP. My understanding is that the minute of this section of the meeting was kept seperate to the normal minute that was kept. When the court case started it was leaked to the media that this minute actually existed. This was designed to embarrass Sheridan into dropping his libal case. McCoombes going to jail was intended to give the anti-Sheridan faction the high moral ground within the SSP, but it backfired when it emerged at the recent NC meeting that not only did the minute exist but the a leading member of the SSP had actually given an affadavit to another newspaper detailing the contents of the minute.

Yes the CWI do minute all meetings, the difference is that we would not have discussed the alledged personal activity of a member of our organisation at an EC meetings.

The accountability that now needs to be established in the SSP relates to the activity of the majority faction on the EC of the SSP. Why was the issue discussed originally, why was a seperate minute kept, who leaked the fact that it existed and why did a senior member of the SSP provide information on the contents of the minute in affadavit form to another newspaper.

The officers SSP would never have been called to give evidence in the case if the issue had never been discussed at the EC meeting in 2004. In my opinion it is the anti-Sheridan faction who have manipulated the current situation in an effort to force Sheridan to drop the case and undermine his position within the SSP.

It is also clear, given the significant defeat suffered by the anti-Sheridan faction at the recent NC meeting that the majority of SSP activists support Sheridan in the faction fight.

The CWI has many disagreements with Sheridan over politics but it is clear that part of the dispute is over the degree and speed at which a certain element within the SSP want the move the party to a left nationalist position. The current turmoil within the SSP is partly resulting from the desire by certain individuals to get ministerial positions in the Scottish assembly as party of a SNP led coalition. It is questionable which of the antagonists are using the SSP for their own ends.

Personally I have been more appalled by the actions of Alan McCoombes, Francis Curran etc. many of who I actually know personally. I shows how far they have travelled from the political position of supporting revolutionary change in society over the past 5 years.

Finally in relation to the SWP. They have clearly vacillated in their position for their own purposes, but is they many on this board surprised by this. In reality the influence of the SWP within the SWP on this issue is minor in comparison o what is actually happening.

Finally Galloway's intervention could at best be described as 'unhelpful'. He is operating to his own agenda and much as they would like to, the SWP have absolutely no control over him.

author by RMT Femme - RMT Scotlandpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Got to agree with Sheridan, Galloway and my comrades from SWP, CWI etc on this one. The actions and behaviour of the McCombies has been beneath contempt and my union is backing Sheridan and those who want to save the party.

author by Curiouspublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Do they support Tommy Sheridan's specifically genderised attacks on female members of the SSP? Has there been a statement disassociating them from these comments?

author by A former SSP memberpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 13:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some of the early posts on this thread display a paranoia about the influence of the Socialist Worker Platform within the Scottish Socialist Party. These fears are quite misplaced. I say that not because I trust or love the SWP, but because the Socialist Worker Platform is tiny and politically isolated within the broader party. It's influence is negligible.

When the SWP merged with the SSP they claimed to have upwards of 500 members in Scotland. It turned out when they joined that they actually had a little over 200. That number has consistently shrunk in the years since and their platform now has no more than 70 activists and probably less. They are the biggest platform in the SSP, but only because the International Socialist Movement (the SSP leadership platform) fell apart and because all of the platforms are small. The Committee for a Worker International Platform is the next biggest, also tiny, with about 50 activists. Although at least they can point out that they started out with 20 members a few years ago, so they are going in a healthier direction! There is zero possibility of the Socialist Worker Platform emerging from this mess as the dominant force in left wing politics in Scotland. Zero. That's why all of the other groupings - left nationalists, the CWI, pro-Sheridan bits of the leadership, anti-Sheridan bits of the leadership - are acting as if that isn't a danger. It simply isn't a danger.

That's not to say that the SWP aren't manouevering for advantage. Of course they are. That's part of what they do and their antics probably damage the pro-Sheridan wing of the SSP more than they help it. But don't try using them as the bogeyman in all of this. That just isn't credible to anyone who knows how peripheral they are in the SSP.

author by Eamonpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 14:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SSP SWP platform member Iain ferguson's comments about the divide in the SSP being between an outward looking faction, who are trying to build a mass party (led by Sheridan and supported by the SWP of course) and an inward, looking faction, determined to build a more 'pure' party is absolute tripe; no SSP member that i know would agree that such a divide exists in the party and most would see it as an example of the SWP wish being the father of their thoughts.

As for the question of the minutes, it is correct that the EC took a full and detailed minute.The notion that a separate minute was taken on the matter concerning Sheridan's resignation is not credible, considering that it was this matter which dominated the meeting of 9 November 2004. One minute was taken and it is believed to have mentioned, in some form or another, the remarks made by Sheridan that compelled the SSP EC to call for his rsignation. This is as it should have been. The crux of the question was not Sheridan;'s personal life, but the manner in which he wished to involve the rest of the party in his libel case, even before the specifics of the allegations were known. With many people in the party--including, allegedly, Sheridan himself, fearing that some of the allegations--which hadn't been published at that point-- might be true, it was decided that the party could not support his position publicly.

It is wrong to see this as a matter relating to Sheridan's personal life; it involved the credibility of the SSP as a whole and the party were right to take the stance they did.

author by Eamonpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 14:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And on the question of the SSP EC members who 'shamefully' demanded Sheridan's resignation, does Iain Ferguson (SWP member) included in this category the 2 SWP members who were on the SSP EC at that point, and who themselves supported the EC 100% (before undertaking, in true SWP style, a 180 degree turnaround.)

its just as well we do have those minutes of SSP EC meetings of November 2004.

Because it allows us to see the lies and hypocrisy of the SWP, in the present, when they claim to have ALWAYS backed Sheridan.

The minutes tell a different story.

author by SP Member - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 14:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I notice you didn't address the issue of the leaking of information to the media or the fact that a leading member of the anti-Sheridan faction provided an affadavit to another newspaper detailing the minute.

You also do not address the fact that the EC of the SSP suffered a serious defeat at the recent NC meeting which solidly backed Sheridan.

author by Eamonpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 14:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I do not know who leaked the minutes to the press, but I doubt very much if it was Alan McCombes (who went to jail on a point of principle that the SSPhas the right to keep its records in its own hands) or anyone else in the SSP leadership associated with him. Could it have been Duncan Rowan, who left under a cloud 18 months ago? As for breifing the media: Tommy Sheridan is an old hand at this type of behaviour and has been doing it incessantly over the last 18 months, most recently seen with his so-called 'open letter' to the SSP (which most SSP members only read courtesy of the press!!) But do the CWI ever condemn him for this type of behaviour? And yes, the SSP EC did suffer a defeat recently, but it was reasonably close (82 votes to 67).

Sheridan has a considerable degree of personal support within the SSP, but whether this will hold true after his libel case remains to be seen.

author by D_Dpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 14:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eamonn says, “The manoeuvrings 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”.
As Davy Carlin’s comment (a reproduction of a British ‘Socialist Worker’ article) shows, the disgraceful behaviour of the (British) SWP goes as far as elaborating a new theory on different ‘visions’ of the SSP to justify their opportunistic backing for one of the SSP sides.
But, there is a problem with Eamonn’s remark that “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 problem is that the Socialist Party (IS/CWI) in Scotland has also backed the ‘Sheridan side’! And before the SWP! So, does this mean that the manner in which the Socialist 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? Because this is the logic of this kind of sectarianism: that Kieran Allen or Joe Higgins (Joe Higgins!!!!) have NOTHING to offer the struggle for socialism here? Nothing?
Is Eamonn’s remark aimed at the ATGWU conference on Saturday to discuss the possibility of an anti-coalition left alternative? Those who feel that the SWP and the SP, and everyone else invited, have SOMETHING to offer the struggle for socialism should go to the conference and work for a new left.

author by Problemopublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 15:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Since the SP wont be participating in the ATGWU conference, the question of Joe Higgins simply doesnt arise. As for the SWP and their role in the SSP, Im sure many SSP members rue the day they let them in. Let it be a warning for those who think the leopard has changed its spots.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 15:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

DD -Quotes-

' As Davy Carlin’s comment (a reproduction of a British ‘Socialist Worker’ article) shows, the disgraceful behaviour of the (British) SWP goes as far as elaborating a new theory on different ‘visions’ of the SSP to justify their opportunistic backing for one of the SSP sides'

I am only starting to read this thread, with this my first post - so - WHAT comment?.

author by Jimpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 17:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The fact of the matter is that the EC asked Sheridan not to fight the thing out in the courts. It voted unanimously to tell him to fight using other, political, methods. The issues in this case have nothing to do with Tommy's private life, it was the fact that Tommy was prepared to use the SSP to fight a fight that should not be fought. A majority might have voted to support Tommy but that only goes to show that there is an unhealthy cult of personality where Tommy is concerned. An unhealthiness that the CWI would ridicule in any other group.
And still no statement on the disgraceful misogynist attacks by Sheridan. Perhaps they think gender equality shouldn't be a shibboleth.

author by Saoirsepublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 20:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As someone who used to live in Scotland and was a member of the SSP for a while, I have been following this debate closely and would like to make a couple of points. First, at no time have I come across ANY misogynistic statements from Sheridan. People can judge this for themselves by reading his open letter which is available on the link below. He does counterpose the 50:50 selection rule to a more general class politics approach, but I don't think you can say any of this is misogynist. A lot of feminists (me included) would agree with him that the reasons women don't stand for election are far broader than just not being picked - it's the choices that women with children sometimes WANT to make, i.e. not stand for election because it would mean too much time away from our kids.

The other thing is that the original EC meeting that asked Sheridan to stand down and not take News of World to court did NOT come to a unanimous agreement. The two SWP people DID disagree with the decision but there is this ridiculous 'cabinet responsibility' rule that means that ALL decisions of the EC are promulgated as if they were unanimous and it's only if you're in the pub after them that you get to hear what the debates actually are.

Also, I've been over in Glasgow quite a bit over the last six months and I've NEVER heard any of the SWP people argue that the SSP should become or join or whatever Respect. THey have said that the two parties should combine to develop policies etc. but that's more networking and using Galloway's popularity in Glasgow to help SSP, not to turn SSP into Respect.

Related Link: http://davespartblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/tommy-sheridan-open-let....html
author by SP Member - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 21:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Duncan Rowan is a convenient red herring thrown out by the anti-Sheridan faction to deflect criticism from their activities. Rowan has been out of the SSP for 18 months yet the Sunday Hearld indicated that 'party sources' told them the minute existed in Jan. 2006. The Hearld would have left themselves open for legal action if this was inaccurate.

I agree Alan McCoombes did not leak this information. It is now well known who the particular individual is that provided the affadavit to the Sunday Hearld. He is a prominent leading figure of the SSP and very much part of the anti-Sheridan wing. He has now threatened numerous people and left wing websites with legal action if his name is published.

With regards the vote at the NC meeting. Yes the leadership was defeated by 82-67. You forget to metion that a motion from Inverness committing the SSP to support Sheridan was passed by 81-60. You also forget to mention that in 2004 the EC position of forcing Sheridan's resignation was supported by 85-20. This is a major turn around. Can you please indicate where Sheridan has leaked information to the press over the past 18 months. There is a difference in leaking information and issuing a press statement.

Does the fact that you suggest that Sheridan's popularity within the SSP will suffer as a result of the libal action indicate that you are privvy to information that others are not or are you merely speculating.

IT was inevitable that the ISM platform would degenerate into a squabble (in fact the CWI outlined that this was a possibility at the time of the establishment of the SSP). But there is most certainly a political dimension to this struggle related to the attempt by certain elements to position themselves for cabinet positions in an SNP led coalition.

The CWI has significant political differences with Tommy Sheridan but the politics and carry-on of the leadership of the SSP has done and continues to do serious damage to the SSP.

author by Brian of Nazarethpublication date Fri Jun 16, 2006 09:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Or maybe pathetic?

Look over there - it's the Judaean People's fr....Socialist workers party!

author by Eamonpublication date Fri Jun 16, 2006 14:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On the subject of the NC in November 2004, which you raised. At that gathering, a vote was passed by 93 to 10, accepting Tommy Sherdian's resignation. Where were all of those who are now claiming to back him? At the same NC, Sheridan himself endorsed a report by SSP secretary, Allan Green, which noted that a minute had been taken of the 9 November EC, but that the EC felt it should remain confidential. The NC accepted this. Again, during this, where were all of those who are now condemning the fact that such a minute was taken, or that it should remain confidential?

As for Tommy leaking material to the press--he has cultivated contacts with the media far more than any other SSP member and even played football for the Scottish Media Group (who own the Herald) team. It is well-known within the SSP that Sheridan has briefed repeatedly against the remainder of the EC throughout the last 18 months. Denials about this would be laughable.

Sheridan remains a popular figure in the SSP, largely as a result of his previous political activity. He has cashed in on this during the last 18 months and has actively undermined those who are currently in positions of leadership. In this, he has been aided and abetted by the SWP--who were completely opposed to the principle of setting up the SSP--for selfish party reasons. This is a factor in him rallying enough votes to defeat the EC 3 weeks ago. But I do believe that the aftermath of his libel case might see this support weaken. I don't have 'inside' information, but even the dogs in the streets seem to know that Tommy Sheridan might not appear too credible when he eventually comes to court on this matter.

As for the CWI analysis that Tommy's opponents want places in a SNP cabinet--what a load of nonsense.It cannot be substantiated with reference to anything that McCombes and co have said or done or written at any point. It is interesting that those loonies in the CPGB grouped around the Weekly Worker have been peddling the same tripe. Is that who the CWI take their political analysis from these days?

author by Topperpublication date Fri Jun 16, 2006 17:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can't say I have any inside knowledge of this whole affair (it's a bloody mess whichever way you look at it). But as a matter of common sense, it seems unlikely that one camp is entirely right and one camp entirely wrong. Things usually don't work that way. It may be that Tommy Sheridan is more to blame than his opponents, or vice versa. It's doubtful that either side is entirely blameless.

Secondly, it doesn't seem like there is a genuine political difference between the two camps - it seems more similar to the division between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which is totally grounded in personality clashes, than (say) the difference between Tony Benn and Denis Healey. Both the SWP and the CWI, in justifying their support for Sheridan, have argued that there is a real political division at stake. But they've given contradictory versions, as we can see above:

"Since Sheridan resigned from his position as party convenor under pressure in November 2004, there has been an internal battle for the future of the SSP.

There have been two competing visions of where the party should be going, with those grouped around Sheridan fighting for an outward looking mass party as against those who want a smaller, narrower “pure” party."

"The CWI has many disagreements with Sheridan over politics but it is clear that part of the dispute is over the degree and speed at which a certain element within the SSP want the move the party to a left nationalist position. The current turmoil within the SSP is partly resulting from the desire by certain individuals to get ministerial positions in the Scottish assembly as party of a SNP led coalition. It is questionable which of the antagonists are using the SSP for their own ends."

So according to the SWP, McCombes and co were too concerned with maintaining ideological purity. According to the CWI, they were so unconcerned about ideological purity that they were aspiring to take ministerial positions in the (largely powerless) Scottish assembly in coalition with the SNP.

So which is it? They can't both be right

author by D_Dpublication date Mon Jun 19, 2006 17:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It wasn't DC at all who posted that SW piece. Tá brón orm.

The SP did participate in the ATGWU conference on Saturday.

author by Mark Tubevpublication date Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The formation of United Left is to be welcomed for what it truly is: a self-initiated purge of the voices of disunity and calumy from the party.

author by Mark Tubevpublication date Wed Jun 21, 2006 14:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

of many that are seen as responsible for both the crisis and the apparent schism

author by ReSect Watchpublication date Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

At a members' meeting held on Sunday in Glasgow, the members of the Socialist Worker Platform of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) unanimously agreed the following motion.

This aggregate of the Socialist Worker Platform recognises with some sadness that the SSP is no longer the broad and open mass party of the left we committed ourselves to building when we joined it some five years ago. While the imperialist war intensifies and spreads into Lebanon, and the level of public anger and opposition grows, the SSP has proved unable to respond to that anger or provide any direction for it.

The potential for building a broad and inclusive organisation of the Scottish left is as great as ever. It is the duty of socialists to respond to and build on that potential. We welcome the initiative of calling an open public meeting of the Scottish left on 3 September in Glasgow and will actively work to build it, in the belief that it could represent the first stage in building new political formation that can answer the needs of the many socialists and activists in Scotland, embracing all strands of the movement including Muslim organisations taking a leading role in the anti-war movement and all those involved in the resistance to G8.

The SW Platform believes that the 'Time to Go' demonstration at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on 23 September can provide a common focus for every section of the movement and a launching point for a new Scottish left that will be open, democratic, internationalist and committed to the building of a new and better world.

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