Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/512/3461
Debates show need for a clear socialist programme
SOLIDARITY'S NATIONAL conference took place on 10-11 November in Glasgow. Attended by around 120 members on Saturday and 70 on Sunday, the conference debated aspects of policy and the campaigning work and party branch building. This was the first policy conference since the May Scottish elections that saw Solidarity emerge as the main Left party in Scotland winning 31,000 votes across Scotland.
Conference began with speeches from solicitor Aamer Anwar, a socialist who has been a prominent campaigner against racism, war and the anti-terror laws; Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, and Solidarity co-convenor Tommy Sheridan.
A session on Solidarity's work in the trade unions agreed to support the National Shop Stewards Conference in Glasgow on 1 December and passed an amendment committing Solidarity to campaign for the disaffiliation of trade unions from the Labour party.
Members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) asked for the amendment to be remitted 'for a fuller discussion'. In reality the SWP are opposed to calling for outright disaffiliation because, as one SWP member explained at conference, it would "cut us off from those inside the Labour party who we should be working with."
Committee for a Workers' Inter-national members (CWI, the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) Ronnie Stevenson and Brian Smith from Glasgow Unison argued it was vital that Solidarity take a clear position on this issue, otherwise we would be behind the mood of the trade unionists who are fighting New Labour policies on many fronts.
Later on Saturday Gary Clark, a Communications Workers Union member, gave a report on the current ballot among postal workers on the offer from Royal Mail. Tracy Edwards, the PCS union youth organiser brought news of the work of the 330,000 strong union with a fighting socialist leadership.
A Glasgow Day Care worker explained the struggle of the 200 Unison members who are now entering their seventh week of all-out strike action.
Important motions on building the branches of Solidarity, the youth work and the general campaigning work of the party, drawn up by CWI members, were all agreed.
The only significant political differences at the conference took place on the Sunday which saw debates on Iraq, political Islam and a boycott of Israel.
An amendment seeking to qualify Solidarity's support for the Iraqi resistance was debated. The SWP inspired motion sought to give full support to the resistance who, they argued, were seeking to liberate the country from imperialist occupation.
The amendment fully supported the right of the Iraqi people to oppose and organise against the occupation but also pointed out that sections of the resistance were involved in sectarian attacks and anti-working class methods that were leading to a deepening sectarian civil war inside Iraq.
It is the duty of socialists to oppose methods that lead to division and to support a united struggle against the occupation. This needs to be linked to a struggle on jobs, health care and control of the country's resources.
SWP members dismissed these arguments and sought to cover up the reality on the ground. The amendment was defeated by two votes with the SWP voting as a bloc but the rest of conference supporting the amendment.
Conference again only narrowly rejected an amendment on the issue of a boycott of Israel. CWI members had drafted an amendment calling for full support for the Palestinian struggle for a viable state, while opposing a blanket boycott of Israel. Instead, we advocated building direct links with Palestinian and Jewish workers' organisations and for workers' sanctions to try and prevent the arming of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.
SWP members also argued against an amendment that called for the scrapping of the Immigration and Asylum Act and all other racist laws. They preferred to advocate that Solidarity should adopt a slogan of "open borders."
Unfortunately, many of the ideas and methods practised by the SWP set up artificial barriers to working-class people joining the socialist movement. Also, they consciously avoid raising the need for socialism in the anti-war movement and the other campaigns they are involved in, and criticise those socialists who do.
By calling for uncritical support for the Iraqi resistance and refusing to take a clear position in opposition to terror attacks like 9/11 and 7/7, and the ideology that lies behind these attacks, they make it more difficult to turn Solidarity into a home for people looking for a political alternative.
Ironically, while taking an ultra-left position on Iraq, they oppose the British trade unions breaking their link from the Labour party which sent troops into Iraq and enacted so-called 'anti-terrorism' laws.
Nevertheless, there is potential to build Solidarity in the months ahead. If the decisions of conference to prioritise building the branches and strengthening the campaigning work of Solidarity are followed through, we can make big steps forward in the months ahead.
The International Socialists (CWI, Scotland) will work alongside the vast majority of Solidarity's members who want to achieve that task and build a fighting socialist alternative in Scotland.
In The Socialist 29 November 2007:
Environment and socialism
What we think
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Workplace news and analysis