Some people have criticised me and said I was sectarian to welcome the fact that Tommy Sheridan lost his seat in the Scottish parliament. (Although it is worth pointing out that I actually said it would only be a bad thing for Tommy to be reelected if no SSP MSPs were elected along side him)
in the comments of a previous post Daphne from new Zealand wrote: “The Scottish Socialist split reminds me very much in how it panned out as the split in the Alliance, New Zealand's left-reformist formation during the 1990's.
"After their leader split, the rump of the Alliance were knocked down to 1.2% in the election. They were determined that, since they had the proper democratic structures, were attractive to "real militant activists" and now that they'd now got rid of the Bad People Who'd Ruined Everything, they would rebuild.
"At the next election, they got 500 votes nationwide. This has lessons for Andy's unfortunate sectarian stance on the Scotland issue. … . Saying that Solidarity is better wiped out so that a socialist party of the type Andy likes can spring up is just sad.”
With regard to the circumstances of the split. I am not convinced that the comparison with the split in the Alliance in New Zealand is an entriely valid one. Two years ago I interviewed Mike Treen, who had played a leading role in Alliance, you can read his account here .
The origin of the split in the Alliance was an entirely political one, as Mike explained; “September 11 produced a de facto split in the Alliance when a majority of the Alliance MP’s opposed the party majority and supported sending SAS troops to Afghanistan in support of the US-led invasion. The faction fight continued publicly for the next year with Anderton and his supporters used their majority in the Alliance caucus in an attempt to control the party. When that failed they defected to form the Progressive Party just prior to the 2002 election. Alliance MP Laila Harre led the party in the election but both the Progressives and the Alliance got less than 2% of the vote. Anderton won his electorate seat and was able to bring one other MP into parliament on the Party List vote under NZ’s proportional system. Laila ran a close second in her electorate but without an electoral seat the Alliance failed to pass the 5% threshold on the party vote for parliamentary representation. ”
There are indeed constructive lessons to be learned from the subsequent history of the Alliance, and it is worth reading Mike Treen’s interview in full. Daphne does a good service in bring this fairly comparable experience to our attention.
Daphne is correct that the left in Scotland need to regroup, and any narrative that sees Solidarity as entirely bad will be a sectarian obstacle. Many comrades will have joined Solidarity because they misguidedly fell for Sheridan’s lies. There is a political problem with trying to build a party around the electoral charisma of one person, but hey we have to work with the assets we have, and if that was the only problem with Solidarity I would have wanted Sheridan to win, as he is an able exponent of socialism, and a good parliamentary operator.
However, the important thing to understand about the Sheridan affair is that it involved deep political corruption. Sheridan being prepared to destroy the party for his own personal gain, his willingness to enter into a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury that endangered other comrades with being sent to gaol, and opened the party to the possibility of a police investigation. A very good account of the issues was written by Martin Wicks, here .
Sheridan himself, and those comrades who deliberately perjured themselves in Sheridan’s interest acted on the disastrous politics of building a cult of personality around the Great Leader. In so doing they were colluding in creating a fiction to deceive the party, the electorate and the courts. Sheridan was and is a time bomb waiting to explode, and the comrades who lied for him acted with a deeply undemocratic contempt for the membership.
Reconciliation and regroupment in Scotland is now greatly complicated by the fact that Sheridan's supporters can never tell the truth about what happened without endangering their own liberty.