Defend the Socialist Worker platform!

Submitted by martin on 9 January, 2003 - 9:17

From Solidarity 3/21, 11 January 2003
As the Scottish Socialist Party moves towards its conference - Saturday/Sunday 22/23 February at the Mitchell Theatre, Charing Cross, Glasgow - and the Holyrood parliamentary elections this May, exasperated hostilities have broken out between the SSP leadership (mostly former adherents of Militant) and the "Socialist Worker Platform", SWP members in Scotland, who entered the SSP recently.

Some dissidents within the Socialist Alliance in England have seized on the row to exclaim: "It is to be hoped that the SSP will quickly suspend and then expel the SWP from their ranks in order that they can continue with the progress they have made and the SWP will slink back to becoming a propaganda group in Scotland, like elsewhere in Britain. If the SSP can be criticised it is for their naivety in believing the SWP could ever change. As Tony Cliff was fond of saying, the capitalist leopard doesn't change its spots. Neither does the SWP in its ability to act as a parasite upon any body willing to take it on trust".
Whatever excellent reasons we have for denouncing the SWP in other contexts, this attitude should be unequivocally rejected. Democracy is also democracy for those we dislike and clash with, or it is no democracy at all.
In the immediate dispute between the SSP leadership and the SW Platform, the SWP Platform is entirely in the right. The SSP leadership complained about SW Platform members publicly circulating Red Watch, a firefighters' bulletin initiated by the SWP, and said that instead they should have only used SSP material on the FBU dispute.
As it happens the SSP material is thin, and has been used little by non-SW activists in the SSP, and Red Watch is a useful publication. The SSP does not claim to have a firefighters' bulletin, and even if it did have one, it is the narrowest Scottish nationalism to object to activists also circulating bulletins with news and views from England and Wales.
The principle is more fundamental, though. So long as the SW Platform activists are not obstructing the SSP's work, they should have the right to circulate their own bulletins, even if those bulletins are thoroughly shoddy and stupid. Any critical-minded activist who, out of ill-feeling against the SWP, supports the SSP leadership's attempt to clamp down on the SW Platform, cuts his or her own throat.
Where the SSP leadership can be criticised for "softness" towards the SW Platform is on politics. On Israel-Palestine they had a longstanding position, inherited from Militant, which, though in an odd and garbled way, acknowledged the rights to national self-determination of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. At the last SSP conference they abandoned it and let the conference vote through the SWP position that Israel must be conquered and subsumed in a single, putatively "secular democratic", Arab state.
The combination of political softness and organisational officiousness is not a good one for the future of the SSP.

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