Scottish Socialist Party conference - Focus on the class issues

Submitted by Anon on 23 March, 2004 - 8:35

By Peter Burton

The Scottish Socialist Party's conference at Edinburgh University on 27-28 March has three times more motions before it than last year. A warning has been put out that speaking time will be short and there is no time for international speakers to address conference.
The Executive's motion following on from the "historic decision" of the RMT to affiliate branches to the SSP wants all unions to disaffiliate from the Labour party and affiliate to the SSP. There is a qualification about the timing of raising rule book changes in different unions, but little is said about working-class political representation for workers based in England and Wales.

The SWP's launch of the Respect Coalition is almost guaranteed to increase a "Scotland can go it alone" approach.

The Exec motion also calls for RMT and SSP members to address meetings around Scotland, which is a good initiative

There are terrible motions from the SWP on the Respect coalition and the Middle East.

A motion from the Socialist Worker platform on the Respect coalition motion has been amended by the Edinburgh North and Leith branch with only SWP members defending the "Popular Front" approach at a branch level. It will be interesting to see where members of the SSP's biggest internal platform, the ISM, continue to stand firm at conference for this amendment, which makes it clear that the far left in England and Wales must create a united left with a clear socialist identity, principles and policies. The danger is that they will sit on the fence and let the SWP position slip through.

The Socialist Worker motion on the Middle East aims to overturn the two-states position that was passed at last year's conference, but its language and tone deserves to be found counterproductive. Some motions on the war mention the need to identify with and support the reviving Iraqi trade union movement, but there are also SW motions which instead "support the resistance… against the imperialist occupation".

There is also a dreadful motion from the ultra-nationalist Scottish Socialist Republican movement calling for the new "independent Scotland" position to be enshrined in the Party's constitution so that it cannot be overturned or debated at any future conference. This would be a huge mistake.

On the substantive issues, the traditional socialist position of calling for an end to the monarchy and House of Lords, a written constitution, and Parliaments in Scotland and Wales with full powers, etc, points to a "democratic federal republic" position and not independence.

The party goes through an annual ritual of declaring independence the fundamental campaigning principle and priority before going on to campaign on the social issues in the real world which are actually fundamental for the SSP's whole raison d'etre.

Procedurally, even those passionately in favour of the independence should oppose setting a precedent of enshrining this policy in the party constitution of the party.

This year campaigning has been mainly around replacing the council tax with a service tax based on income. The party is building for a council tax demonstration in Glasgow on 24 April.

The leadership knows that there is no popular mood for demonstrating for independence, yet is does not prevent them from promoting an Independence Convention and continually saying that Independence is the most important principle for the party. This anomaly that should come to an end. Nationalism within the party is increasingly tainting everything we do.

A motion by Edinburgh North and Leith calling for support for No Sweat, Labour Behind The Label and the Clean Clothes Campaign has been added to the Executive statement on the ESF and the anti-capitalist movement. The speeches here will used to promote the Ban The Brands From Schools campaign, a broad based campaign aimed at getting the multinationals out of schools in Scotland.

A Workers' Unity Platform amendment calls for the creation of a British Socialist Party and an end to the nationalism within the SSP. Although saying mostly the right things, it lacks any tactical guile.

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