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16 February 2001

Philip Stott, from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI - the international socialist organisation which the Socialist Party is affiliated to) in Scotland reports on the conference of the Scottish Socialist Party, held in Glasgow.

Scottish Socialists weigh up ambitious plans

THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party (SSP) annual conference took place on 10-11 February. Attending on Saturday were 200 party members, with 100 on Sunday.

The conference began with an introduction from Tommy Sheridan which mainly concentrated on the intention of the SSP to try to stand in all 72 parliamentary seats at the general election and the ambitious target of averaging 1,000 to 1,500 votes per constituency.

The SSP candidate in a council by-election in Irvine won 27.5% of the vote on the previous Thursday.

This result, and the numbers attending the conference, showed the continuing successes of the SSP which is welcomed by the CWI.

The manifesto that the SSP will fight the general election on and election strategy was debated on Saturday morning. A CWI member, Sinead Daly, moved a motion from Kilmarnock SSP branch which committed the SSP to refusing to participate in an SNP administration at Holyrood.

There were three SSP members who argued we should keep our options open but the resolution was overwhelmingly passed.

Amendments from Dundee West which argued for working-class control of industry were passed.

This replaced phrases in the manifesto like "popular decentralised management" when referring to nationalised industries.

Unfortunately former CWI member Alan McCombes, who proposed the manifesto, opposed an amendment from Kirkcaldy committing the SSP to an independent socialist Scotland as a step to a socialist confederation of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.

He argued he was not opposed to it but the manifesto had to be kept short and it was not the same as a programme.

This still leaves the SSP silent on the specific relations a socialist Scotland would have with other countries in the British Isles.

Alan also opposed the amendment from Dundee East on wealth redistribution, which explained that to gurantee a fundamental redistribution of wealth it was necessary to nationalise major sectors of the economy as well as supporting increased taxes on the rich. Both these amendments were lost.

CWI members also called for a widening of the SSP's general election propaganda, particularly not just to campaign amongst young people on the issue of legalising cannabis.


SATURDAY AFTERNOON saw the most heated and contentious debate.

The executive had proposed guidelines for platforms that argued that there should be no "party within a party" and "platforms should not enter party discussions with a predetermined line."

The guidelines also specifically opposed the right of platforms to sell public journals.

Richie Venton moved the resolution for the SSP executive, Philip Stott also from the executive and a CWI member, moved an alternative set of guidelines which maintained the right of platforms to publicly sell and distribute material and act as an organised force with the SSP.

Philip argued that the voluntary unity of the SSP had ensured the growth of the SSP up till now and going down the road of placing specific bans on the selling of journals would repeat the mistakes of other socialist parties like the SLP.

He argued that it was ironic that comrades like Richie Venton, who had been expelled from the Labour Party for association with Militant, could move such a resolution.

He also pointed to the hypocrisy of the current leadership platform, the International Socialist Movement (ISM), who hold nine out of eleven leadership positions on the executive.

The ISM acts as a bloc to pursue their policies, while at the same time moving guidelines that would remove the right of other platforms to do the same.

The executive motion was passed by two to one (around 60 voted against).

Many newer SSP members voted for the guidelines because speakers like Alan McCombes stressed they would be "voluntary".

In the face of opposition and disquiet the SSP Executive also had to retreat from its attempt to downgrade the Annual Conference by requiring that a referendum of all SSP members would be held to finally decide whether any conference decision to change any of the Party's "seven core objectives" would be implemented.

At the end of a debate this Executive motion was remitted, something that does not mean that this proposal could not be proposed again in the future.

The SSP's support and membership have grown over the past year, although the conference was not given any membership figures, and the growing disenchantment with New Labour offers it more possibilities.

In the coming year the SSP needs to consolidate its recent successes, while continuing with campaigning, recruitment and political debate to strengthen its ideas.

Joe Higgins from the Socialist Party (Ireland) and Bob Labi from the CWI gave solidarity greetings to the conference. 25 attended the CWI fringe meeting with two new people expressing an interest in joining.

50 copies of the new CWI journal the International Socialist were sold at the conference, as well as a number of copies of the new CWI pamphlet on the Philippines and the CWI pamphlet on the Socialist alternative to global capitalism.

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