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A merging of forces beneficial to the working class?
ON 1 May the membership of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Scotland wound up its separate organisation and became part of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).
PHILLIP STOTT, of the International Socialists, the Marxist wing of the SSP and the Scottish section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), explains how they argued that such a move, without resolving major political differences between the SWP and SSP, would lead to a weakening rather than a strengthening of the SSP.
THE INTERNATIONAL Socialists would welcome such a development if it represented a genuine change in the past methods and approach of the SWP.
There is, however, no evidence of this. On the contrary, while the signpost under which they are operating may be changing the methods of the SWP show no signs of doing so.
We argued that there should be a period of joint collaboration and discussion between the two parties prior to the SWP joining.
This was rejected by the SSP leadership, some of whom were former members of the CWI and who had played a role in the past in helping to build a serious Marxist force in Scotland, which brought us into collision with the SWP on every decisive question.
The SSP leadership have the attitude that the SWP involvement will automatically strengthen the SSP.
THE ENTRY of the SWP into the SSP comes as part of an abrupt change in the orientation of the SWP after decades of refusing to participate with other Left forces.
We recognise the potential benefits of uniting the Left in a broad socialist party like the SSP.
At the same time the programme, methods and approach of the different forces that make up such a party are of decisive importance.
For years the SWP refused to participate in elections and castigated socialists who did as "electoralist" and "reformist".
This criticism was primarily aimed at the CWI who as Militant, Scottish Militant Labour and Socialist Party in England and Wales and Ireland, have the most successful track record of any party on the Left in election work.
The SWP refused to take part in the Socialist Alliances when they were first established in Scotland, England and Wales.
They executed a U-turn in the run up to the London Assembly elections in 2000. But this was accompanied by an attempt to undemocratically dominate the alliances.
For example, the SWP backed a motion to ban the selling of socialist newspapers on public activities of the London Socialist Alliance (LSA) during the London Assembly elections that the LSA stood in.
In Scotland, the SWP have accepted the "guidelines" drawn up by the SSP executive that insist that no platform should sell its publications in public other than the official SSP paper.
We insist on our right to make our ideas available to the working class and the youth.
The SWP campaigns and front organisations, such as the Anti-Nazi League and the current Globalise Resistance campaign, lack genuine democratic structures.
COMPARE THIS to the approach of the CWI (then Militant) who established the anti-poll tax unions - a model of democratic involvement and policy making decisions by the membership.
The SWP interventions in strikes and workers' struggles has earned them a bad reputation, including in the Timex strike, for "band wagon jumping", ie identifying a popular issue but refusing to see it through to the end.
During the poll tax struggle when 14 million people in Britain were not paying the poll tax the SWP opposed mass non-payment.
The SWP's action programme which demands "tax the rich", without calling for the nationalisation of the major sectors of the economy, is a concession to Left reformism. The SWP's involvement into the SSP can reinforce the reformist programme of the SSP.
The SWP therefore will not automatically strengthen the SSP. The CWI will continue to fight for the SSP to adopt a Marxist programme and approach.
The involvement of the SWP however, will mean we will be counterposing our programme to the SWP, as well as to the current SSP leadership.
This is an edited version of an article which appeared in International Socialist, the paper of the CWI, Scotland.
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Socialists airbrushed out
WRITING IN the 'communist' Morning Star (3 May), Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan said: "We launched the Scottish Socialist Alliance five years ago, which was made up of members and organisations from the Labour Party, the Communist Party, the environmental movement, the socialist movement and individual socialists."
This version of history airbrushes out the pivotal role of Scottish Militant Labour (the former CWI section in Scotland) in establishing the Scottish Socialist Alliance, the precursor of the SSP.
In The Socialist 11 May 2001: