Scottish news

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at
Tue Feb 13 14:51:45 MST 2001

>The Herald
>Socialist ranks rise by 400 as workers' party joins en masse
>THE Scottish Socialist Party yesterday overwhelmingly approved
>negotiations to allow some 400 members of the Socialist
>Workers' Party to join en masse and build strength in the run-up
>to the general election campaign, which will see it contest all 72
>seats in the country.
>Tommy Sheridan, party convener, said he was delighted at the
>successful outcome to the negotiations which will see the SSP
>membership rise from around 2000 to 2400 at a stroke, coupled
>with a further recruitment campaign.
>The SWP south of the border is merging with the Socialist
>Alliance, but this development is some three years further
>advanced in Scotland, with the alliance having given way to a
>fully-fledged party. Mr Sheridan welcomed the influx of activists,
>saying this would boost the general election campaign.
>He will today join hundreds of other campaigners, including
>other politicians and church representatives, in a mass sit-down
>protest at the Faslane base on the Clyde.
>He linked these events yesterday, citing the growth in the party's
>strength as a sign that support for socialism remains healthy.
>The SSP reckons it needs £100,000 to cover the costs of fighting
>a full-scale general election campaign, including the inevitability
>of many lost deposits at £5000 each, but Mr Sheridan said: "The
>reason why we must stand in every seat is that there are very
>many socialists out there who want to vote for a party that
>believes in redistributing wealth but who feel disenfranchised by
>the changes in the Labour party over the last four to five years.
>"It's incredibly bad that we are talking about a democratic
>election but the question is asking whether you can afford to
>stand. It shows you how weak our democracy is."
>Rejecting the idea that his participation in today's Faslane
>protests was a stunt, he claimed that there were 400 there a year
>ago, when he was arrested and later served five days in prison.
>This year there could be three times that number, proving that
>the argument was being won.
>The Rt Reverend Andrew McLellan, the moderator of the Kirk's
>general assembly, will be among those blockading the Faslane
>Trident submarine base. The demonstration, which aims to
>close the base for the day, has been organised by anti-nuclear
>weapons group Trident Ploughshares and Scottish CND.
>The Scotsman
>Tommy's socialism is a hopeless cause
>Robert McNeil
>ABOUT 250 people gathered in Glasgow at the weekend for a
>political seance. They had gathered to resurrect the spirit of Karl
>Their medium was Tommy Sheridan, who spent some
>considerable time on a platform trying to breathe life into the
>coma-stricken body of socialism.
>He claimed some success and, for the willing believer, there
>may have been signs of twitching in the corpse.
>But, to many objective observers, while these optimistic or
>deluded or dangerous or well-meaning people are not to be
>lightly dismissed or scorned, their cause remains hopeless,
>their language out-dated, their bookish splits and schisms
>Red flags still flap in their heads, and across their imaginations
>march masses of proletarians, abandoning Who Wants To Be A
>Millionaire? to take to the streets for some struggling.
>The Scottish Socialist Party, buoyed by a recent council
>by-election result, was in fighting mood. Still bracketed among
>"others" in opinion polls, its aim is to become the significant
>other of politics.
>Its main weapon is the charismatic Mr Sheridan, whose iconic
>image - fist-raised as he is sworn in as a member of the
>Scottish parliament - decorated the slogan-plastered posters
>around the room at Glasgow Caledonian University.
>Tastefully dressed, with a television light throwing a larger than
>life shadow behind him, he addressed his "comrades"
>(pronounced "komradds" in the American manner).
>"We are not a party of preachers. We are a party of warriors -
>peace warriors," he told them, his eyes ablaze like picket-line
>The chosen battlefield is electoral politics, but only as "a
>complement to the class war". A recent skirmish had proven
>successful: 300 votes at the aforementioned council by-election
>in Irvine.
>It gave them third place, but it could have been second if Arthur
>Scargill's schismatic Socialist Labour Party had not taken 48
>Mr Sheridan plugged the book Imagine, by Alan McCombes and
>himself: "If comrades haven't yet purchased the book, you can
>get it today." Available at all good capitalist bookshops.
>The party, which has only 2,000 members, plans to fight all 72
>Scottish seats in the general election. Though one speaker
>feared they might end up like the Natural Law Party - "subject to
>derision" - a fighting fund of £100,000 was set up.
>A remarkable £14,850 was raised from the conference, ranging
>from £1,000 donated by a well-heeled Edinburgh member to £50
>from an unemployed Glasgow man.
>The SSP, as the treasurer frequently pointed out, has no big
>business backers, unlike the four main "free-market" players,
>among which it includes the Scottish National Party.
>In parliament, Mr Sheridan is probably closer to the SNP than
>any other party. But, while independence for Scotland is the
>SSP's official policy, it does not command unanimous support
>from the ranks.
>A claim that Scottish Nationalists were "socialists at heart"
>brought scornful laughter. The "Celtic tiger" model of Ireland's
>economy was ridiculed. All it had brought was more exploitation
>and a heroin crisis. Still, at least the party was having healthy
>disagreement (or "crisis splits" as they are known in political
>As Mr McCombes put it: "The SSP is not a party of cloned sheep,
>but a vibrant party of intelligent men and women."
>This much is true, but it is also a party of sects and factions.
>Speakers identified themselves as members of affiliated
>groups: the Republican Communist Network; the Campaign for
>a Federal Republic; the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement;
>the Committee for a Workers' International; Workers Unity;
>groups from which voters would instinctively flee.
>These were the guys spouting Edwardian talk of "imperialism"
>and displaying a deep-grained desire to remain a
>holier-than-thou minority.
>One earnest young fellow, steeped in the minutes and footnotes
>of the fourth congress of the Third International (Bognor Regis,
>1952), warned repeatedly of the "slippery slope to populism".
>There is also the prospect of the barricade-obsessed Socialist
>Workers Party signing up. A speaker from the SWP spoke of how
>much they had in common (whereas beforehand, sitting in the
>back row, they had made snide remarks about various speakers
>- "sectarian", "reactionary" - and pointedly declined to applaud).
>These factional tendrils bind the SSP in exclamation-mark
>politics, forever tempting it away from democratic engagement.
>They pickle the collective brain in aspic, leaving it with decayed
>dreams still dominated by the cogs and wheels of old industries,
>by shafts and shunters, by welding sparks and the clank of iron.
>The upshot is that the SSP will forever remain on the margins,
>the political equivalent of the Wee Frees: moralistic, idealistic,
>One speaker said red-blooded socialism was forever being
>pronounced dead. "But, like Tom Jones, it will be making a
>comeback," he added.
>People are always trying to breathe new life into socialism. They
>get so far.
>They get a few twitches from the body. But it never gets up and
>So, they start falling out with each other and forming sects. And
>that's the trouble with revolutionary politics. Nothing changes.
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