Scotland: SSP conference report

The conference discussed the momentous events taking place in Latin America, where a series of struggles has erupted against the policies of neo-liberalism.

Philip Stott of International Socialists (cwi Scotland) continues his report of the 2005 Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) conference which took place on 12 and 13 February. cwi online.

SSP conference report

There was a motion and amendments giving support to the building of the new Party of Socialism and Liberty (P-SOL) in Brazil.

An amendment from Dundee West, supported by the CWI, made a clear call for the building of mass socialist alternative to Lula, the Brazilian President, and his Workers Party (PT). In power Lula has carried out a neo-liberal programme of attacks against workers and the poor who expected real change from the government they elected to represent them.

The motion on Brazil, backed by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), called for those MPs and Senators who were expelled from the PT for opposing Lula and who subsequently helped form P-SOL, to be readmitted into the PT.

This is the equivalent of calling on socialists expelled from New Labour to be allowed to rejoin. Such a demand can only give credence to the idea that the Left could reclaim the PT for socialism and the interests of the working class. All the resolutions and amendments were remitted for more discussion.


In the debate on Venezuela and the Hugo Chavez government the SWP sought to delete from a motion put forward by Dundee Central that the SSP would support:

  • The mass mobilisation of the working class and the poor through popular organisations, like the Bolivarian Committees, to defend the reforms carried out and to prevent the ruling class from overthrowing Chavez.
  • The mass arming of the people, through democratic organisations, to prevent the capitalists from imposing a military dictatorship.
  • The mass movement adopting a socialist programme that aims to break with capitalism and establish a workers and peasants’ Venezuela based on the public ownership and democratic control of the economy.

Leading members of the SWP argued that: "We cannot put forward dogmatic prescriptions for the movement in Venezuela."

"The revolution will develop organically and in its own way. Our role is only to give support to the mass movement."

Learning nothing from history, particularly the history of the workers’ movement in Chile and across Latin America, the SWP rejected the idea of the mass movement having a programme to break with capitalism.

The masses in Venezuela face, at a certain stage, either the overthrow of Chávez and the victory of the counter-revolution backed by imperialism and the reactionary elite in Venezuela or the deepening of the revolution and the overthrow of capitalism and landlordism in Venezuela.

This would need to be linked to the struggle for socialism across Latin America. The CWI has supported every reform that benefits the working class and the poor, carried out by Chavez under the impact of the mass movement. But unless that is linked to the building of a socialist Venezuela the ruling class will seek to reimpose their control over the situation using the most brutal methods, including military dictatorship.

The light-minded attitude of the SWP and others in the SSP who have argued that the SSP should not discuss a programme for the workers’ movement internationally is the opposite of genuine socialist internationalism.

General election

Conference overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Kevin Williamson, the party’s outgoing drugs spokesperson, that the SSP should debate a proposal to boycott the forthcoming Westminster elections.

The SSP is planning to stand in all 59 parliamentary constituencies in Scotland. Members of the CWI have so far been selected to represent the SSP in Dundee West, Dundee East and Glasgow south east.

In recognition of the difficulties that have faced the SSP following Tommy Sheridan’s resignation as convenor, the party has set an initial target of matching the vote achieved in 2001. At that election the SSP polled 72,000 winning 3.1% of the vote across Scotland.

Nevertheless, the potential exists to significantly increase that support. The 2001 election took place before the events of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the attack on public-sector jobs and pensions that is provoking a big mobilisation of trade unionists against New Labour’s assault.

It was also before the election of six SSP MSPs to the Scottish parliament in 2003, when the SSP polled 6.8% of the vote (130,000 votes), albeit in an election partially based on proportional representation.

A vote that equalled that of 2001 would represent a setback for the SSP. By building a fighting alternative to New Labour and the attacks of the bosses, linked to a clear socialist programme, the SSP can move forward in the months ahead.

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February 2005