Solidarity: a New Movement for Socialism in Scotland
Gary Fraser (Solidarity member from Edinburgh)
Socialists in Scotland will long remember the summer of 2006 for its high drama. This was the summer that witnessed, against all the odds, the spectacular victory of Tommy Sheridan over Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. It was the summer, which saw the implosion of the Scottish Socialist Party, perhaps the most successful example of left regroupment in Europe. Out of this high drama emerged a new movement for socialism in Scotland, Solidarity. The purpose of this article is to look at the formation of Solidarity, to discuss how it came into being, what it stands for, and what it represents. I also want to explain why Solidarity members decided to leave the SSP.
At a packed rally in Glasgow at
the start of September, Solidarity was launched. A crowd of over 600 people
attended and heard a series of passionate speeches given by activists from
across the left in Scotland. Solidarity’s founding statement makes it
absolutely clear that its ultimate aim is to bring about an independent
Solidarity is in the process of uniting the radical left in Scotland and is fast becoming the home of leading trade unionists. As I write this article the RMT in Scotland has just announced that it is disaffiliating from the SSP. We welcome into our ranks leading members from the anti-war movement. In addition to this are the CWI and the SWP platforms. The bulk of the membership consists of former activists from the SSP who now recognise that Solidarity is the best Scottish vehicle in the fight for socialism. What we are witnessing is a realignment of the left in Scotland.
Solidarity aims to do more that just talk to the movement. We want to become the party of the hundred and twenty thousand people who voted socialist in 2003. Moreover, our aim is to become the party of those who did not vote SSP, yet feel angry and let down by the machine politicians in the Scottish parliament. We also want to engage with the vast swathe of the electorate who did not vote at all last time around. In next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections Solidarity will be fielding candidates in every region of the country. We are provided with a historic opportunity to establish Solidarity on the political map of Scotland, and in the process, to get the ideas of defending our public services and re-distribution of wealth back at the top of the political agenda where they belong.
The one thing that new members to Solidarity mention is how positive our political message has been. The party we left, the SSP, had become a party ravaged by vicious infighting. It has not always been easy to be positive. Murdoch has declared war on Solidarity and Tommy Sheridan. Shamefully, leading members of the SSP have done nothing but attack Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity. Moreover, there is a core within the SSP who would love nothing more than to overturn the verdict of the jury at the High Court in Edinburgh. Other than our website, Solidarity at present has no media outlet. Consequently, it has not always been easy to get our message out to the wider left in Britain. The result of this has been disinformation about the split on the left in Scotland and where that responsibility lies. I would now like to explain why Solidarity members decided to leave the SSP.
Why we left the SSP
In recent years the SSP became
a party where the leadership was increasingly out of touch with the
membership. It became a party whose focus was internal and personal. SSP
policy at the time of Tommy Sheridan’s battle with Murdoch was to give Tommy
full political support. At the SSP’s National Council (NC) in May the
membership voted to overturn the Executive’s disastrous strategy of not
backing Tommy. The eleven SSP members who testified against him were not
acting in defence of the party as they claimed, but were acting against the
democratically agreed policy of the SSP. The NC meeting should have been a
turning point, the drawing of a line in the sand. It should have been the
moment when the socialist movement united to defend one of our own as he
bravely took on the mighty News International. Sadly, the SSP leadership had
other ideas. During and after the court case SSP policy was ignored as leading
members began to call for a perjury investigation, which was nothing more than
a desperate attempt to overturn the jury’s verdict. Despite being defeated at
the NC and despite the verdict of the jury, a core in the SSP wanted to
continue their vicious personal vendetta against Tommy. In so doing they began
a course of events that led to the party imploding.
Throughout this entire debacle the hard won reputation of the SSP as something different in Scottish politics was being irreversibly tarnished. Those who left took a brave decision, which I believe was correct. Even if Tommy had been returned as SSP Convenor and the party apparatus reclaimed for the membership, there would have remained a hardcore whose only interest was fighting Sheridan. Inevitably, they would have organised to continually undermine the new leadership. The consequence would have been a party that was politically paralysed and unable to move on. Our political enemies would have declared open season on us as we prepared for next years elections, bitterly divided and out of focus. I for one did not want to play any part in a political bloodbath with no end in sight. In all of this the real loser would have been socialism. And it is the struggle for socialism, which takes precedence over all else. I think it was Marx who said that out of conflict comes clarity. The summer of 2006 certainly had conflict. Yet out of all of this has emerged something positive, namely Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement.
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