Monday, August 21, 2006

Bananas split

It's definately going to happen - the SSP is to split, and before conference.

Friends now disunited - the 6 SSP MSPsT
ommy Sheridan announced last week that he could not work inside of the Scottish Socialist Party and he was to set a new grouping called "Solidarity" apparently saying that there is room in Scotland for two socialists parties. This comes only a few days after announcing that he would be vieing for the leadership of the SSP - I guess he decided he wasn't going to win.

He told his new friends the tabloid press (here) that "It's time to build a new organisation out of comrades, not collaborators. I am confident we can build a new, bigger and better socialist vehicle."

"The new party will be about solidarity, against poverty and inequality, working to help asylum seekers and promoting independent, nuclear-free social independence... The new party will share some of the political ideology of the old SSP and the internal regime will be one of tolerance, friendship and genuine solidarity"

The spirit of Veritas lives on!

Sheridan has taken to using the right wing press like I don't know whatWell, this weekend the SWP and the CWI (ex-Militant), had seperate internal meetings to decide how to respond and both have chosen, in the long tradition of Trotskyism, to split from the SSP and follow their new leader.

The CWI of the new party;

"1. Any new party to be expressly socialist in character, including in its name.
2. At least a basic action programme that deals with the central issues of poverty, low pay, war, workers rights, opposition to neo-liberal policies and other issues facing the working class movementin Scotland and internationally. Central to this is the need for a socialist solution to these problems.
3. Democratic structures for the party including an accountable leadership with the right of recall and the right of tendencies and platforms to organise and sell and distribute its material, including publicly.
4. All elected representatives of any new party to live on a skilled workers wage."

Which is interesting because part of the SWP's (completely wrong) public problem with the old SSP leadership was their supposed failure to put the war at the centre of their activities. Neither the CWI nor Sheridan have even mentioned the war in their descriptions of the kind of party required in Scotland.

This anti-SSP propaganda went so far that even Rose Gentle had to leap to their defence against her friends in Respect. These smears have a long history as you can see because I wrote
this way back in January 2004 responding to the SWP's internal 'Party Notes'.

Meanwhile the SWP's public statements lead with "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."

Sheridan's not a revolutionary hero - he's a very naughty boyBut whilst the CWI claim the new organisation must be expressly socialist the SWP, unexpectedly, talks in terms of "the left", "socialists and activists", and that the new initiative "embrac[e] all strands of the movement including Muslim organisations" It's hard to see how these different positions, united only in their disatisfaction at being minor players in the SSP, can form a coherent political alternative - which is fine by me bloody splitters.

The SSP executive has issued a response to this and rightly points to the advance that the SSP represented "The creation and building of a unified Scottish Socialist Party represents an inspiring break with the petty division and conflict that has for generations weakened the left internationally."

"Tommy is now walking out of the party because he cannot win a majority. His actions are those of an egotistical politician who is contemptuous of democracy. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, the party membership has forfeited the confidence of the greatleader so the great leader will now elect a new membership."

I'll be reprinting all these statements in full
here later today for the leftist trainspotters amongst you.

At the end of the day the new organisation will be formed out of an ego and two relatively small groups that were always luke warm about the SSP's project of uniting the left. The remainder in the SSP may not have the big name leader but hey - if that's not a plus point I'm a revisionist dog.


seren said...

Sheridan has lost it big time... slagging off people who side with the News of the Screws and then selling his story to the Labour-loving Record. He'll go the way of Hatton. He's a talented but vain man who thought he was bigger than his party.
Let's hope the SSP can regroup and maintain its profile as THE socialist organisation in Scotland. After all, it beat off the challenge of Scargill (another egotist) and his little party, so Sheridan's Little Party shouldn't be a problem.

Jim Jay said...

Hi there, Sherdian certainly does have talents that's undeniable - but like many before him he began to believe he was more important than the party itself.

It goes against the grain with me but I really hope his new project sinks without a trace...

Having said that a split now is best for everyone concerned rather than to have a damaging war inside the SSP first.

It meas that October's conference will be an opportunity to regroup and move on without too much infighting (although no doubt there will be some) as all those who are to leave will have announced their decision and so wont be attending, thank christ.

So credit where it's due he's doing the more honest thing by leaving now.

Rupert Mallin said...

I kind of feel you're missing the point: for SSP executive members to testify against Sheridan - for the News of The World - is entirely a class issue. Sheridan has rightly used the term 'scabs' against these members. How could the SSP ever come together in the here and now after this? Impossible.

While not an SWP member now, I still read SW. It is entirely incorrect to say the SW Platform is opportunist in supporting Sheridan. When this story first broke in 2004, Chris Bambery urged Sheridan to hold his office and fight; and the SWP has consistently supported Sheridan and the radical elements within the SSP over the last two years.

Ego and personality don't enter into this - unless one looks through Big Brother eyes.

Jim Jay said...

I haven't said the SWP is being opportunist I said of the different groups "It's hard to see how these different positions... can form a coherent political alternative"
which I stand by.

Sheridan argued that the Notw attack on himself was an attack on the SSP. Fine I accept that.

The SSP took a democratic decision that Sheridan should not pursue a court case arguing correctly it would do massive damage to the organisation. Sheridan went against that decision (which suddenly was a personal issue not a party issue) and dragged everyone through the courts.

The minutes clearly state that Sheridan admitted there was some truth to the notw story, and he felt they could not prove it, and these minutes were approved at the following meeting.

His insistance that SSP members should lie for him leaving themselves open to emprisonment is absolutely disgusting.

Why should any socialist go to jail for someone who is going against the democratic decision of their organisation, and acting against its interests? How is that being a scab? You think they should have all gone to jail for him?

(incidently, Sheridan has publicly apologised for using the term scab)

These people did not testify for the Notw they were forced to appear and told the truth.

The police are conducting an investigation over perjury and witness intimidation in this case. We may see quite soon who has opposed the interests of working class people, and over what - allegations about sexual practices that would have yesterday's chip paper two years ago.

Dave Riley said...

Some interesting thoughts, Jim.

I've been trolling you see --and often check in here.

I'm sure there are some very important lessons to be garnered from all this, but while I've led with my chin -- I find the discourse there in Britain a dogs breakfast of,at times, competing explanations and rationales.

While this drama has been played out with its own customized plot I've been trying to extract some lessons that may be more generally useful.

I think the first one is the problem of the role of the 'star' figure in these broad formations and what that can mean to the consensus you need to foster. Outfits like the SSP need to run with a consensual approach that progresses via a very broad agreement as to its advocated politics and everyday actions.

The second lesson -- if it's not too early to suggest it -- is that the outlook of the groupuscule far left can be very myopic indeed such that there seems no way in hell that such outfits are going to accept regroupment projects like the Scottish one. In fact they may actively try to sabotage it....

But the most striking thing is the truly abysmal level of debate that is currently being practiced within the SWP milieu. I found that a truly shocking fallout from these events.

I hope you can raise the political threshold through the SUN site.

Jim Jay said...

hi dave,

well i can but try - although things have not gone, cough, ideally up north.

i would agree that the 'star' principle is a very unsound one and risks top downism and acts against democratic decision making.

The one thing that the ssp might be able to turn to their advantage out of all this is that they can shrug off the Tortskyist group past as it is the organised factions that are leaving.

The SSP was always mainly made up of unaffiliated people and this could be the making of the SSP - but there are definately no guarentees!

Liz said...

Jim - I have to say that I won't be sorry about the ultimate demise of those hateful puritans in what remains of the SSP. They didn't have to testify for NOTW - they could have said they couldn't remember. That would have been principled. And having had some experience of those people I can say I wouldn't want them running Scotland, even though I don't live there.

Jim Jay said...

I disagree that telling lies is principled. Particularly in an arena that every worker in Scotland is going to have the opportunity to read about.

I don't remember would have been a lie. Let's not get like US Presidents "I have no recollection..." that is not a principled position.

They did have to testify, and there is one man alone who is responsible for putting them in that position - Sheridan, not the NotW

Louisefeminista said...

I totally agree with you Jim. It is pretty poor show and kinda lame to say, "oh, by the way, I can't remember.." when giving evidence. Sheridan created this disaster and dragged the SSP into it.

It aint to do with "puritanical feminists" nor the policy SSP holds on prostitution (the Weekly Worker is talking crap as usual and a cynical and opportunist bunch of operators... who like taking a pop at feminism). I think Sheridan's treatment of women witnesses was downright offensive and sexist.

There is a real problem with the treatment of women in the SSP by the various factions and gender does play a part (however small). Responsiblity rests with Sheridan and his sad bunch of factional mates and no one else.

I think Liam Mac Uaid comment on SUN blog was spot on when he said it is a "dismal kindergarten argument" as to whether you back Tommy or Murdoch. It is really down to the question of whether you "lie to the class". And you don't!

Jim Jay said...

Absolutely - this phrase "you don't lie to the class" always seemed so important to me but people seem to be arguing that its no longer important.

I'm glad this issue of puritanism has come up actually because this is an argument about the SSP supporters which I'd not noticed before a few weeks ago.

Is it new? Is there any basis to it?

It looks to me like part of this attack on "gender obsessed" feminists in the SSP and the smeer campaign over the SSP's supposed failings on the anti-war movement, but I'd like to see the evidence, if there is any.

Louisefeminista said...

The SSP backs 50:50 policy which yes, is a sticking plaster but how do you get women involved in all parts of the organisation? And Sheridan et al seemed to be attacking that with his "gender obsessed" comment.

Well, that obviously makes me "gender obsessed" as I would like to see more women active.

I do think it is a lousy smear by Sheridan and the SW and CWI platforms(and when did either of these groups ever give a toss about women's liberation?)

Oh and I do agree re: not lying to the class has been ditched because old Tommy "class fighter" took on the Murdoch press. Yes, but at what sodding cost?

Tuco said...

Re. the split, I agree with those who say its better for a clean break than for internal fighting to go on for years, which it undoubtably would.
Re. the CWiI think its more a case of disagreeing with SSP leadership on fundamental matters to do with the SSP being (or not being) a Marxist party. Personally, I don't think that its a great move for them because they will still be junior partners in the new party. Junior that is to TS and his faction and the SWP who may end up being the brains behind the outfit. In fact the split makes much more sense for the SW platform because I think they have a concrete idea of how they want to see the new party develop with particular emphasis on building broader left movements. this is something that the SSp has been very poor at preferring to concentrate on nationalism instead.

Jim Jay said...

Hi Tuco - I definately agree that given where we are, regardless of how we got here, a split is better than a drawn out faction fight and Sheridan should be commended for this - although I still find it interesting that he doesn't feel confident that he would have the support of the members.

Tuco said...

TS may well have had the support of the members but the choice of convenor is not based on a membership vote; it is decided by delegates. I think also that even if he had won such a vote there would have been problems since his opponents could still have held power of the party apparatus such as the weekly paper. Also, on a practical note the SSP is heavily in debt.


Nick said...

I would be interested to know what those people here who believe socialists must tell the complete truth to all capitalist institutions all the time would do if arrested by the police and asked about their comrades? Tell all presumably, with a clean conscience... can feigning ignorance never be principled?

It was a political error by the SSP leadership which led to them "needing" to keep detailed minutes, which led to the position they found themselves in at court. If there were no minutes spelling out the details of Sheridan's "confession" there is no way they would have been called to testify.

Jim Jay said...

Well delegates are elected by the members so if you have the members you should have the delegates - but I still think he's making the right decision given where we are now, so I'm not too peturbed about his precise reasoning.

Nick: this court case was monitered by the press in minute detail and all SSP voters would be weatching this with interest and horror. To lie to the court in this case is to lie to the class, this should be done lightly and I've been surprised at how causally Marxists have regarded the truth given M's advocacy of a scientific method.

I believe there have to be very specific circumstances to allow socialists to lie but to make my position clear...

I'd happily go to jail for you if the question was protecting you from political repression. It would make my memoires more interesting and allow me to strut around with an air of moral superiority (more so)

I would not go to jail for you so you could lie to your wife and pursue a disasterous court case that would be politically damaging.

On the minutes Sheridan did not complain about the minutes at the time. SWP exec members did not complain about it. No one complained - if it was so foolish why did they all keep their mouths shut?

If it was a mistake then it was a mistake *they all made* and cannot just be laid at the door of the UL.

Incidently the minutes are not particularly detailed, they state the important facts. Sheridan admitted there was substance to the claims but did not think it could be proved.

There is no lurid or unnescesary info. If there was inappropriate info here it could have been corrected at the two subsequent meetings that the minutes were discussed. But TS, CWI, SWP factions saw nothing troubling in the minutes at the time.

literally years later it is suddenly evidence of an anti-TS plot. Hmmm.

Tuco said...


Delegates are chosen by branch meetings and can vote anyway they want at conference. So those memebers who can't make branch meetings on a regular basis (ie those who work night shifts; yes some of us do! or who are ill or have child care issues) have no say.
Anyhow, the decision has been made. Personally, I hope that there is a diference between the two parties and that the new party spends less time aping the SNP and more time fighting for socialism on a broad front.
Lastly, regarding the minutes the vast majority of members didn't know what was in the minutues and so could hardly complain about them, but what is clear is that their main purpose - whether they were accurate or not - was to keep TS quiet (something that obviously didn't work).

Louisefeminista said...

"I would be interested to know what those people here who believe socialists must tell the complete truth to all capitalist institutions all the time would do if arrested by the police and asked about their comrades?"

Yes but Nick, who decided to take on the News of the Screws? It was Sheridan and him alone. The SSP leadership tried to persuade him not to but instead he chose to ignore them and drag them into it.

What exactly was Sheridan trying to achieve? To fight some major political principle... No, to keep his "family man" image from being tarnished. As socialists should we really care about maintaining this image?

If Sheridan wants to lead a double life then fine but don't drag other people into that lie. Why he couldn't have admitted to it and said, "who cares", "so what" then I'd have more time for the guy but it's the double standards and the fact he pressurised other comrades to maintain this lie that is the real problem.

Jim Jay said...

Kevin Williamson's resignation letter from the SSP is worth reading in full. Though, of course, I disagree with the fact he is leaving I do think he has bent over backwards to be fair and rational - which in itself is a breath of fresh air gven the heightened emotions of the times.

Click here

Tuco said...

Around 6oo people attended the "unveiling" of Solidarity in Glasgow on Sunday. In contrast, and at the same venue, around 300 people attended the United Left anti-Sheridan rally the day before. While Saturday's event was dominated by Tommy Sheridan (he was the main subject of the speeches) Sunday's event focused on the future. It's a hell of a good start; lets hope it succeeds.

Jim Jay said...

Tuco - I'm sorry to say this but you're wrong. I was at both meetings and will be posting about them quite soon.

solidarity's was bigger but the tone of saturday's meetng was really excellent - as was solidarity's on the whole.

Whoever told you that Saturday was dominated by anti-seridan speeces is telling you what they want you to believe - it bears absolutely NO relation to the truth at all.

Had you been there you would ave eard the many exciting new projects and ideas the SSP are invlved in and the very healthy internal debate on the way forward and reassessing the old ways of doing things.

Sherdan was, of course, mentioned but I would ask you to be careful what you believe and how you state it because you sound a little sectarian in this post - and to all the people who were at both meetngs completely unconvincing.

Tuco said...


That is your view and I look forward to your reports. However, I wish you would give the sectarian bit a rest. This is the most common insult passed around the left (and about the left by the left) and also the one with the least substance.

Jim Jay said...


I was pretty careful to avoid name calling but to say that "you sound a little sectarian in this post" and I meant it that way, I was not just being polite.

The reason why I said it is that you'd just made an entire post devoted to how sectarian you think the ssp is based on a factual inaccuracy about their meeting on saturday.

which is why i think it's a little cheeky for you to then tell me to give the sectarian thing a rest.

we might have different views on the events but it is a fact that the vast majority of discussion on saturday was devoted to new ideas, projects and campaigns.

I've recorded all the speeches from the weekend and will be transcribing them as i get time (may not get round to them all as they were both long meetings) and people will be able to see for themselves what was said.

Incidently, although i think both meetings had a positive tone i'm not saying there were not moments at both that i thought let the general atmosphere down. in the circumstances i guess it was inevitable, but still a shame.