Archive article from The Socialist Issue 453
New socialist party launched in Scotland
SOLIDARITY - SCOTLAND'S Socialist Movement (SSM) was launched at a packed to capacity rally on Sunday 3 September in Glasgow. Every seat was taken and more people crammed into the side entrances to listen and catch a glimpse of the speakers. There must have been well in excess of 500, perhaps nearer 600, including members of the media, both press and television. The meeting voted overwhelmingly to launch a new socialist party in Scotland.
Philip Stott, International Socialists, (CWI Scotland)
What is left of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) held a national rally the day before in the same venue but barely 200 people turned up. The SSP has lost almost all its active members in Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness and the Highlands and the South of Scotland. Three of the SSP's regional organisers have joined the new party, while the SSP has also lost almost its entire trade union base.
In contrast, the launch of the new socialist movement in Scotland attracted a large number of trade unionists, SSP members, anti-war activists and a number of people new to socialism. The RMT in Scotland, who are currently affiliated to the SSP, sent a delegation as observers; they did not attend the SSP rally.
The rally, chaired by MSP Rosemary Byrne, began with Janice Godrich the national president of the PCS union and a member of the International Socialists (CWI) who explained that: "PCS members are facing low pay, redundancies and attacks on conditions. Scotland needs a new socialist alternative to combat this government's attacks on the rights of both workers and claimants."
Janice said that leading PCS members across Scotland, including four NEC members have pledged support to this new party. "This must be seen as a fresh start for socialism in Scotland." There were dozens of PCS members at the rally.
Jim Walls the TGWU organiser for hundreds of opencast miners in Scotland announced that: "Here are the first hundred applications forms from the open-cast miners and their families in Ayrshire."
Tricia McLeish, a low paid UNISON member from Glasgow said: "I am here to fight against poverty and low pay and to do this I must join Solidarity." Billy Coates an FBU branch secretary also spoke.
Sinead Daly speaking on the platform on behalf of the International Socialists (CWI) commented: "The CWI welcomes this chance to rebuild the socialist movement in Scotland on a principled basis. We need to be taking up the day to day fight against low pay, war, privatisation, environmental destruction and for decent housing. But we also need to ensure that we link up these struggles to the need for socialism.
"It's down to every individual in this room to go back into their communities, their workplaces, schools and colleges and encourage others to get involved and join with us in our struggle to build a socialist Scotland and build a world free from poverty, war and inequality - a socialist world."
Tommy Sheridan, to massive applause, said that this new movement would fight for our socialist values and vision to end poverty and inequality. Referring to his victory over the News of the World (NOW), and reports that Rupert Murdoch told News International Executives that no matter how long it took they had to get Tommy Sheridan who was a two-bit commie bastard, he said they will never "break our spirits".
A series of regional rallies to launch the new party are now planned for September and October with a conference in November. The International Socialists welcomes this successful launch of Solidarity - SSM and will work to rebuild the socialist movement in the months ahead.
More than 100 copies of the International Socialist were sold and 250 copies of a special International Socialist bulletin distributed. `
Build a socialist party based on the working class
THE SUCCESSFUL launch meeting of Solidarity - SSM, at which hundreds joined the new movement, is an indication of the potential to rebuild the socialist movement in Scotland.
However, Solidarity - SSM needs to be clearly seen to take up the immediate issues affecting workers and working-class communities in Scotland and then link those issues to the need for public ownership, democratic working-class control and socialism. The founding statement of the new party agreed at the launch is a good start. (see www.solidarityscotland.org)
One of the fundamental reasons for the crisis and now disintegration of the SSP was the leadership's turn away from consistent socialist and working-class policies.
As well as their conduct over Tommy Sheridan's resignation and subsequent court action against the NoW, this was also seen by the SSP leadership's turn to left nationalism. The SSP leadership promoted support for Scottish independence on a capitalist basis. If the Scottish people were in favour of independence socialists would support that as a democratic right, but we would also consistently explain the need to fight to end capitalism, which is the only way out of poverty, low pay and inequality in Scotland.
It was the International Socialists who opposed this move away from the SSP's founding policy which was for an independent socialist Scotland.
This false idea, that independence on its own would offer a route out of continued attacks on working-class people's rights and living standards - which is the norm under capitalism - led the SSP to propose the launch of the cross-party Independence Convention with the pro-capitalist SNP.
It may also lead to the SSP advocating a vote for the SNP at next year's Scottish elections in the seats the SSP does not contest
It is vital that while fighting for the democratic rights of the Scottish people this new movement for socialism maintains its complete political independence from the pro-market establishment and fights to build a mass working-class party on clear socialist principles.
There will be important discussions taking place in the new party over what type of party is needed at this time. The Socialist Workers Party want Solidarity - SSM to adopt the political approach of Respect in England, which because of its orientation has failed to emerge as a genuine left or socialist alternative for working-class people.
At the Solidarity - SSM rally the SWP speakers argued that for the left it should be the war that was "the mothership that needed to be touched regularly for refuelling." In other words it is the war that was the central issue and the new movement should base itself on this.
They argued that Solidarity - SSM should be a new "left" party - most SWP members refused to call for a socialist party - that would base itself on mainly campaigning around the Muslim community, asylum seekers and the anti-war movement. This is not the view of the majority of those forces who have initially launched the new party out of the SSP.
It is clear that opposition to imperialist war, Islamophobia, racism and defence of the right to asylum are vital issues for socialists to fight on. But it would be a serious mistake to restrict Solidarity - SSM to these questions only.
If it is to make an impact as a class-based socialist party, it will need to sink its roots in working class communities by fighting on NHS cuts, poverty, low pay, the effects of privatisation and supporting workers and communities in struggle - as well as war and racism. Otherwise, it will narrow the impact and appeal of the new movement.
The International Socialists will work to build Solidarity as a fighting socialist party relevant to the working class in Scotland. In order to help ensure that is the case a strong Marxist organisation in this new party is essential from the start. To both help build and strengthen the new party and to ensure it maintains a clear working-class and socialist orientation. We would appeal to those joining the new party to open up discussions with the International Socialists to help in that important task.