SSP Campsie, my branch, react to the General Election result - HERE
I replied to an article by Tony Greenstein on the Socialist Unity website
Good article. The makeup of the last two cobbled together alliances has shown the inherent sectarianism of the participants holding on to their "wee bit hill and glen". I can only speak about the Scottish situation in this as that is what I witnessed. And lets allow honesty here.
Sheridan, who is desperately holding on to some sort of need to be adored and his past glories, seemed rather than wanting to glorify the "unitary" nature of TUSC (or STUSC- I’ll come back to this), at every opportunity he had on television referred to the "coalition" as "Solidarity STUSC." A minor point? Maybe, but it shows up a few things- that one, the Scottish Left is more pro-independence than a cross border “unionist” alliance can allow; two, that Sheridan is using his past glories to woo the English left and the SWP (and the Scottish SWP are desperately clinging to them. And of course, personal relationships with Crow et al have been given more relevance than political nous) and three, after whatever happens in September, the left in Scotland should look towards the consistently politically unitary SSP which has the mechanisms for a left unitary group and is no longer reliant on “personalities” and heroes.
Let me cover each of those points.
The Scottish Left, as recognised by those in Solidarity and some of the other small groups and individuals who were brought together by the TUSC project, is mainly pro-independence. TUSC was not a good project for the left in Scotland- it did little to emphasise the left’s pro-independence stance beyond adding “Scottish” to the beginning of its name. STUSC, and those who proposed it, relied on three things in Scotland – one, the fame of Sheridan; two, the materials produced by unions and the remnants of the Solidarity project (some of which were appropriated SSP materials – the Southside of Glasgow was covered with SSP signs that had STUSC posters stapled to them!) and three, the SWP. The left in Scotland are aware of the SWP and their STUSC candidate’s real feelings on independence, so at the kick off, there were problems. The London based SWP and CWI are an anomaly in an organisation that Sheridan and his non-sectarian foot-soldiers were trying to stress was a “Scottish” one. Those who follow the machinations of the Scottish and British left would have been in no doubt that this organisation, regardless of the Sheridan stress on “Scottish”, was mainly a unionist one.
Another problem with STUSC in this regard was the fact that it was a hitherto unknown entity for the electorate (and one that most on the left will have know would disappear after the General Election) – and even with larger funds available to it, and the addition of Sheridan as a “personality” it fared no better than the strapped for cash SSP. The percentages between them are so small, they are not really worth comparing as the few votes between them cannot be seen as a real vote of confidence for one or the other.
Regarding Sheridan’s TV appearances in which he called the project “Solidarity/STUSC,” this showed his real feeling – ie. that this was a “convenient” coalition – one that would bankroll another TV/fame adventure – and had limited mileage. He wanted to keep Solidarity in people’s minds – though in the Scottish elections next year, the reality of the “strength” of Solidarity will become apparent. Solidarity have little branch strength beyond a core, and its base – hero worship for “Scotland’s greatest socialist,” have slowly woken up to the fact that he isn’t. Solidarity’s support relies entirely on the Sheridan personality – one that the Scottish Public no longer see as “Scotland’s most trusted politician” – to say the least - as they did back in the early part of the decade.
Taking the Scottish Socialist Party, there are a number of relevant factors to mention about it. It has remained consistent in its political stance and alliances. It has not jumped (or at times it has been overlooked by the mainly unionist organisations) into the cobbled together and undemocratic alliances in the past couple of years. Since the split, it has an almost entirely new EC – with many new and young faces. It has a consistent street presence and branch structure. It has a huge web presence. It has an iron clad international support. It has no or little stresses within its structure regarding independence – or the support of personalities (those well known candidates polled more or less the same as those who were not so well known in the General election).
Now – I am not saying that the future of the left in Scotland is the SSP – though it is the only real, credible, consistent vehicle/core for the Scottish left at the moment (if Sheridan disappears, Solidarity will shatter into its sectarian pieces).
The Left in the UK must rethink – and think beyond the personalities of Crow and in Scotland, Sheridan. It must also take into consideration the differences in the Scottish situation from the rest of the union. Scotland completely rejected the Tories. Scotland, when asked to vote in Scottish elections, votes for pro-independence and Scottish themes. Scotland WILL look for an alternative outside the Liberal Democrats after the current Westminster machinations are over.
And it must think beyond the past glories of discredited alliances and personalities.