Monday, August 21, 2006

Why walk away?

I don't understand. According to Tommy Sheridan the "overwhelming majority" of SSP members support him. After his court case he told the Daily Record he was going to smash the "scabs" who failed to support his version of events; drive them out of the leadership. The 'SSP Majority' blog talks of "democratic renewal" of the SSP. The conference has been brought forward to October. So why has Tommy decided to walk out of the SSP. Is it not worth 'saving' the party he did so much to help build from the existing leadership?

Without commenting on the issues in dispute (I'll do that elsewhere) it seems extraordinary that the SSP can be abandoned so easily after years of work and success on the electoral terrain. The ostensible reason which Tommy gave was that there would be a long political fight with his opponents, even if he won the convenor election, and this would not be worth the effort. This is barely credible, because at this stage, it was clear that if Tommy won the convenor's position, then probably the majority of those he is in conflict with would have walked out of the party. Even though he has said he regrets using the label "scabs" it is scarcely credible that they could have remained in the same organisation.

The problem with a split such as this is that, given the absence of a party discussion, there is no political clarity on its roots. It was too much to hope that the two platforms, the CWI and Socialist Worker, would say no to Tommy's attempt to bounce them into leaving.

What will the working class make of it? Undoubtedly some people will draw the conclusion that those bloody socialists are falling out with each other again. They will now suffer the cost of the divisions which exist on the British level, with fractious organisations fighting each other rather than concentrating on fighting for the interests of the working class. It's a bloody disaster.

37 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

I don't really understand the issues. It turns my stomach, the courts were involved.

Did someone read Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Factionalism?

Dave Riley said...

The bridge/glue between the CWI and the SWP (ex)platforms is Sheridan as this exercise --despite all the muck raking and accusations --has a one point program: Tommy Sheridan. That's my estimation from afar.

Now that's a real handicap. While I've read as much as I can about this dispute, the politics being projected by these splitters seems shallow indeed. The main arguments, as far as I can work out, seem to be these:

*That the UL is a cancer --McCoombes, Fox. Leckie, et al -- in the SSP that has destroyed democratic discourse in the party such that reforming it isn't worth the effort.

*That the SSP is addicted to Scottish nationalism and that makes it something of a political aberration(read: and this is the fatal flaw in its make up that justifies leaving it to build a real and truly pan British socialist outfit ).

*That because so many members of the UL are former members of Taaffe's Militant they adhere, apparently genetically, to reactionary positions on issues of sex . Their attitude to Sheridan shows this as they have indulged in a moralistic vendetta instead of adhering to class issues.

* That the UL failed to stand by Tommy in his struggle for truth & justice against the diabolical mouthpiece of the ruling class -- NOTW

* That the UL suffers from a partyish fetish in regard to the SSP and the only way that can be overcome is by forming another and competing socialist party in Scotland.

I know I am a very facetious person but is any of the main arguments being canvassed missing from this list?
Below are some references if you want to 'get into' this drama that I have found useful:

dave riley

* Sheridan on Technocrati:
http://www.technorati.com/tags/tommy+sheridan

* The support Tommy blog
http://sspmajority.typepad.com/sspmajority/

* SWP milieu chatter about Sheridan & the SSP
http://leninology.blogspot.com/
http://makeashorterlink.com/?S5C24209D

* Contributions that tries to dissect the underlying politics involved:
http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/ssp_debate01.htm
http://www.socialistresistance.net/sspcrisis.htm

* SSP United Left:
http://www.ssp-ul.org/
and on wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Socialist_Party_United_Left

bon appetit!

Snowball said...

Dave - from your list of the reasons given by the 'splitters', it seems like there are enough worthy reasons to justify trying to form a new party.

Of course it is a blow to 'socialist unity' - but the nice idea of trying to get all socialists into one party is not worth the effort if it comes at the expense of political clarity over questions of imperialism, nationalism and the idea of basic working class solidarity.

Here I think the Respect model has proved to be a better model for real unity which leads to activity (in the anti-war movement etc) than the SSP model. But then as a Respect member I would say that, wouldn't I...

I hope all socialists worthy of the name follow Sheridan out of the SSP and so minimise the damage that will result from the split.

David Broder said...

Funny that Sheridan makes a big deal about defeating the bourgeois press and standing for working-class loyalty, then denounces his own comrades as scabs on the front of the Daily Record!

Derek Wall said...

Dear All,

I am in the Green Party, so I am not going to call for support for another party...however from outside the SSP looked like a succesful and dynamic party, the nearest socialist have got to a succesful party with that label, democratic and pluralist.

It seems that a new party based on a personality is a big step back...I am also sympathetic to political links with Islam (as long as it is an Islam which is tolerent) but I just don't see this working.

RESPECT is not a model that seems democratic, grassroots and open...too much based on one ego.

Think about Tom Sheridan, the SWP, MAB supporters?, etc...does not look sustainable.
yours

Derek

Snowball said...

I can understand why parties that lack many charismatic figures in the leadership (like the Greens) might want to snipe at Galloway and Sheridan on the grounds of 'personality politics' and 'egotism'.

However, the reason why socialists should support Galloway and Sheridan in building parties to the Left of Labour is not simply because they are excellent orators with more support among wider sections of the working class than revolutionary parties can command.

It is because support for such figures goes to the heart of socialist politics - it is about solidarity and defending socialists from the smears of the tabloid press - smears designed to undermine the whole anti-war Left in Britain in general - and those trying to build a socialist alternative to New Labour in particular.

Anonymous said...

Snowball - what do you do if the 'smears' are true?

Derek Wall said...

Caroline Lucas is charismatic! cheap jibe therefore at ecosocialists...I am not convinced that 'leaders' with big personalities are politically sound or practically useful....in fact one of the great things about the diy direct action anti-roads movement was lack of 'leaders'.

We need to be wary of people who want to be leaders I think

Liam Mac Uaid said...

Splitting an organisation on the grounds set out by Mike Gonzalez in this week's SW is understandable. It’s only forgivable if there has been a serious attempt to fight for these positions inside the party. This hasn’t happened. If Sheridan had lost his case the split wouldn’t be happening now. Sheridan’s basis for this service to the SNP and the Labour Party is that a group of socialists refused to stand up and tell lies on his behalf about his sex life. What sort of self respect or credibility would an organisation of liars have?

Ed said...

No, Snowball's right, what the SSP needed was to be run from the top by the SWP leadership like Respect. It's problem always was that it was too diverse, pluralistic and democratic.

And now those scabs refused to help save Sheridan's marriage shore up his respectable family values image (a great vote winner amongst the blue rinsers of Edinburgh) in court they should be ashamed to call themselves socialists.

At least the fragrant Mrs Sheridan has managed to make a mint out of selling her story to the Murdoch press in a pricipled socialist move I suppose.

Snowball said...

Derek - I didn't say that the Green's didn't have any charismatic leaders - I said they didn't have many. And I can understand why members of the Green Party might not be 'convinced that leaders with big personalities are politically sound or practically useful' - after all, whatever did happen to Hugo Charlton? The problem is not with 'leadership' per se - we need more people who can take a lead in fighting war, racism and privatisation.

As for the other comments - where do you end up as a socialist if you are prepared to have your agenda set by the tabloid press? You end up moving right to accomodate to the basest prejudices - ie you end up with New Labour.

As for the implicit comparisons of Tommy Sheridan with the Tory Jeffrey Archer (which are coming from the rump of the SSP) - these are disgusting in themselves, but particularly disgusting coming from those who used to praise Sheridan's socialism (and say things along the lines of 'if only Respect was led by Sheridan rather than Galloway how much better it would be').

As for 'what if the smears are true?' - I would say this. Socialists arguably need to remain focused on what is important - stopping the 'war on terror' and fighting poverty - not waiting around for the News of the World to mount yet another witchunt of Sheridan and then praying for the News of the World to then win that court case. If that means forming another party then so be it.

Martin Wicks said...

You have left some things out Snowball. What do you think about Tommy Sheridan taking big dosh from the Daily Record and using it to launch an attack on SSP members?

Snowball said...

Well, he can't exatly turn to the 'diverse, pluralistic and democratic' SSP paper and website to get his views across can he?

Martin Wicks said...

And the money? What excuse for that?

An anonymous french pabloist said...

Hey, Galloway needs 150.000 pounds a year to live, Sheridan only took 30.000 pounds from the Daily Mirror. This is almost a positive evolution on principled politics for the Socialist Worker Party

Snowball said...

Galloway and Sheridan - unlike other politicians - tend to plough their money earned from the mainstream media back into political campaigning.

Do you think Galloway is wrong to take money from Talk Radio for his show? If so, why?

The same anonymouns pabloist said...

As you said it, Galloway "tend" to plough his money on campaigns. We are far away from the usual "a MSP with a workers wage". And paying a one-year holiday to your wife is part of some unknown political scottish campaign? We are not talking about giving an interview, we are talking about taking money from a bourgeois pro-New Labour paper for a redbaiting campaign. Galloway making a clown of himself in some reality show is just ridiculous. Taking money for that kind of "political" behaviour is just good old class treason (dixit Lenine).

Liam Mac Uaid said...

We've all done squalid things for money (haven't we?). That's not really the point. The issue is that this split looks like it's been some time in the planning, there was nothing resembling a serious political discussion leading up to it and it all depended on cde Sheridan getting lucky in court. The political culture of the SSP was far superior to any of its possible rivals on this side of the border and now it looks like we are going to get another stage army in its place. It's too depressing to think about for more than five minutes at a time.

And what makes it even more dismal is this kindergarten argument "do you back Murdoch or Tommy?" when it's really "is it alright to lie to the class and secretly plan to wreck the most successful organisation of its kind in the British state in our lifetime?"

I need a beer now.

Snowball said...

'the most successful organisation of its kind in the British state in our lifetime' - well possibly, but that is not exactly saying much is it? Drop the hyperbole - the SSP was not perfect and had drifted off into Scottish nationalism of late - putting off many potential members.

As for the idea there was a 'secret plan' to 'wreck' the SSP if Tommy won - that was taking a bit of a gamble wasn't it? Serious planners would not have allowed that kind of risk in their strategy.

No, what changed the situation was the response from the old bureaucratic leadership of the SSP after Tommy won. Instead of congratulating him and trying to discuss moving on, they clearly chose character assassination instead. That decision has ruined the SSP, which is indeed a blow.

Fortunately, it has not stopped Sheridan and others from giving up the fight for socialism.

Snowball said...

And as for the pabloist's argument that Sheridan can be accused of waging a 'redbaiting campaign' against the SSP, it should be remembered that Sheridan is neither Joseph McCarthy nor Jeffrey Archer but an international socialist.

Derek Wall said...

I am in another party but the SSP looked good and democratic, socialism is vital...socialist organisations have generally been dire, sectarian, shallow, authoritarian...I guess arguing for socialism will be more difficult for those of us who are ecosocialists after this split.

Martin Wicks said...

Well deary me Snowball. The 'bureaucratic leadership' chose 'character assasination', whereas all that Tommy did was accuse them of fitting him up by inventing non-existent events and fabricating minutes. They obviously have no sense of proportion. Of course, the SWP, by defending his good character publicly supported the charge that they had fabricated the whole thing against him, even though they knew he was telling porky pies.

And dear old Tommy all he did was to use the Daily Record to call them scabs and to announce that he was going to drive them out of the leadership.

Yesterday's pledge is dumped in the bin. And the SSP after years of work is blithely abandoned. But don't worry, there is a new holy trinity to marshall the forces of the faith - the CWI, the SW platform, and a man who has placed his personal interests above those of the party he helped so much to build.

Salman Shaheen said...

Not knowing the ins and outs of the situation myself (as I suppose many voters who want a genuine socialist party representing them in Scotland would not) it seems to me that if Sheridan can't have his toys, he'll throw them all out of the pram so no one else can have them either. It's a bloody disaster all right. Tommy from the Rugrats would have handled it better than Tommy Sheridan...

Liam Mac Uaid said...

Those of you without a social life, TV or wall to stare at can find the FULL length Socialist Resistance statement at http://macuaid.blogspot.com.

Snowball said...

Such people (and indeed perhaps others) might be also interested in Chris Harman's discussion in this week's Socialist Worker...

Darren said...

So that's what happened to Chris Harman.

Jim Jay said...

People might be interested to know that there is now an extensive SSP resource on the Socialist Uinty site here if you want to suggesat interesting items that are not there as yet (I'm sure there are loads) email me

Keith said...

There is much more to this split than Tommy Sheridan. Over the past three years a group mainly within the National Executive have been centralising power and gradually degrading Party democracy. As well as this, the Executive have been responsible for serious financial incompetence, which they have never admitted to (the mortgage, the Voice etc.).

Policy working groups have been hijacked, membership information denied to 'unfriendly' branches, local accounts sequestered and there have been several efforts by the Executive to subvert and eventually side-line the ruling National Council. Many ordinary active members have grown thouroughly sick of this Executive.

I really wish Tommy had not behaved the way he did, but for me that is not the main issue at all. I joined the SSP majority because the Party had to be freed from the Executive's hegamony.

Unfortunatly, instead of defeating their take-over through the democratic systems of the Party, we have ended up with a choice between the old Executive and a new party. This is because the Executive's last act was a) to confiscate the Party's membership list, b) to lock out all non-United Left from the Party Headquarters by changing the locks, c) sequestering all Pary funds under their exclusive control d) taking control of the Party newspaper (the Voice) and web-site and e) cancelling the National Council because it had the power to dismiss them and would have done so if allowed to go ahead.

That was the last straw for me. Reluctantly I am going with Tommy, but I want him to know that he has to behave to maintain my support.

seren said...

The previous poster claims these centralising tendencies have happened over the past three years - so when Tommy was convenor and latterly when he was a vice convenor. The exec comprises members of all the platforms including CWI and SWP. It's only now this is coming out? Cmon comrade, you'll have to do better than that.
No way was it a choice between the old exec and a new party - Sheridan and his unprincipled Brit allies cut and run before the conference. Why not elect a new exec then?
As for locking Sheridanites out of the office... what else can you do if they've announced a new party is to be set up (having abandoned the principled stance of fighting within the SSP).
I'm so disappointed it's come to this but Sheridan's decision to take on the NoTW is the catalyst for the disaster.
I hope the SSP comes out of this stronger and more committed to building an independent socialist Scotland.

Keith (Aberdeen South) said...

Thanks for your reply, Seren.
I agree with you that it is very disappointing that the SSP Majority did not choose to stand against the old executive at the forthcomming Conference - I have argued for that within the 'Majority' group, but to no avail.

The problems with the Executive (including all those platforms) are only comming out in public now because of the public interest in the party, but they have been grumbled about internally since before the Sheridan affair (sick). Now a lot wish they did something about them rather than just muttering, but it's too late.

This leaves you in an SSP totally dominated by those meglomaniacs (and the debts). I guess that is what Tommy is running away from. Personally I would rather have his flawed leadership than the control-freaked institutional incompetence that the SSP will be left with.
Neither is a good option.

I wish we could sort this out like people who saw the bigger picture and put the defeat of poverty and injustice first. The leadership of neither side has done that this time, I am so sorry to see. I wish the SSP well, but more than that, I look forward to the healing of the Socialist movement in Scotland - sooner rather than later.

Marco said...

Seren you have your chronology wrong. The SSP United Left / Executive changed the locks on the party premises to exclude their factional opponents long before a new party was decided on. In fact that decision, along with other examples of the misuse of SSP resources by the UL/Executive faction which controls the apparatus, was a key factor in triggering the decision to split. The EC had made it very clear that they were not about to allow a democratic debate to take place.

AN said...

In my view a split was inevitable once the SDheridan camp decided to falsely accuse the SSP leadership of a conspiracyt and forgery in court.

By lying in court Sheridan and his supporters have opened the doors of the labour movement to police investigation, by their gross sectarianism of the "open letter", by using the bourgeoise courts and press to promote the utterly untrue "conspiracy", and allegations of forged minutes.

the arguments from the SWP and CWI about the political mistakes of the SSP are just so much cynical smoke, to deflect from their opposition in principle to the type of party the SSP is.

What they have done is use delibertae and systematic faslehood to attempt to destroy the reputations of honest comrades. the worst example is Katrina Trolle - completely unconnected with the UL or SSP leadrership - suffered the humiliation of cross examination about her sexual history in public court by her own former lover who had the cheek to say she was lying. She has been thrown to the wolves for the sake of Sheridan's reputation. (and there can be no doubt given the corroboration of her story by her phone records, her flat mates' testimony, and the fact that she spoke to no-one before she was summoned as a reluctant witness)

There can be no reconciliation without truth, becasue the perjury and the slander against the SSP comrades is a stain that cannot be washed out. The threat of prison hangs over Sheridan and others becasue of their perjury in the court of sessions - so they are trapped in their lie and they have to continue lying forever, to their members, to the working class, to the electorate.

Of course there will be many supporters and members of Solidarity who have been duped by Sheridan and his allies. This means that Solidarity may well have some successes and have some strengths.

But if we tolerate the lies, the perjury, the accusations of forgery, the exposure of comrades to the risk of imprisonment, the dragging of female comrades sexual reputations through the gutter, the sexual hypocracy, the cult of the personality, if we tolerate all that and just say of that was all in the past, we need to look to the future. then we may as well have stuck with Stalin.

Liz said...

Didn't Katrine Troll accept money from NOTW? The sexism is another issue - but surely no socialist would accept money from that rag.

AN said...

Liz

Katrina never asked for and never recived a single penny from NOTW or anyone else.

She only testified in court becasue she was summoned and had no choice.

The woman has suffered enough slander without this myth being promoted. Iit is not fair to comment about her personal life, but Sheridan's disgusting beaviour has had a disastrous impact upon her life.
The only person I know of who took money in this affair was Sheridan, who took £30000 from the Herald (Mirror group) for his interview where he described other socialists as scabs and vowed to drive them out the movement. He has also confrmed that the money will be used for is own personal benefit as income, so that Gail can take a year of work.

Louisefeminista said...

"The only person I know of who took money in this affair was Sheridan, who took £30000 from the Herald (Mirror group)"

Wow! The Perma-tanned One can probably get quite a few sun bed treatments for that money plus a couple of sharp bespoke suits! All from the capitalist press which he so loathes...

AN said...

BTW I am so pleased to see on the back page of this weeks Scottish Socialist Voice,, that Katrine has rejoined the party.

She said: "After the court case I felt i couldn't be a member of anything which he [Sheridan] was associated. So I left the SSP.
"But you don't just stop being a socialist. So when I heard he had left to form his own fan club, I thought, 'Great! i can rejoin'
"It'd upwards and onwrads from here. I thought there was a great atmosphere at the rally last saturday, everybody was talking to each other, the mood was positive, and I just thought. 'This is going to work, this is good'"

Well said Katrine!

It is also brilliant that SSV devotes the full cnetre page to a discussion of "Why women matter, and what metters to women", and a full page article on the Greenham Common anniversary.

Louisefeminista said...

That's good she felt able to rejoin. It is also encouraging re: SSV having articles devoted to women. And bloody good that some group on the Left are remembering Greenham Common! Btw: The Guardian are doing something on it as well