Scotland: Build a class-based socialist party

New socialist movement must fight on bold socialist policies

The successful launch meeting of ‘Solidarity – SSM’, at which hundreds joined the new movement, is an indication of the potential to rebuild the socialist movement in Scotland.

However, Solidarity – SSM needs to be clearly seen to take up the immediate issues affecting workers and working class communities in Scotland. And then link those issues to the need for public ownership, democratic working class control of the economy and socialism. The founding statement of the new party agreed at the launch is a good start (see

One of the fundamental reasons for the crisis, and now disintegration of the SSP, was the leadership’s turn away from consistent socialist and working class policies.

As well as their conduct over Tommy Sheridan’s resignation and subsequent court action against the NoW, this process was also illustrated by the SSP leadership’s turn to left nationalism.

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leadership promoted support for Scottish independence on a capitalist basis. The International Socialists (CWI) always argued that if the Scottish people were in favour of independence, socialists would support that as a democratic right, but we would also consistently explain the need to fight to end capitalism, which is the only way out of poverty, low pay and inequality, in Scotland.

It was the International Socialists who opposed the move away from the SSP’s founding policy, which was for an independent socialist Scotland.

The false idea, that independence on its own would offer a route out of continued attacks on working class people’s rights and living standards – which is the norm under capitalism – led the SSP to propose the launch of the cross-party ‘Independence Convention’, with the pro- capitalist Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP).

It may also lead to the SSP advocating a vote for the SNP at next year’s Scottish elections, in the seats the SSP does not contest

It is vital that while fighting for the democratic rights of Scottish people, the new movement for socialism maintains its complete political independence from the pro-market establishment, and fights to build a mass working class party, on clear socialist principals.

There will be important discussions taking place in the new party over what type of party is needed at this time. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) want Solidarity – SSM to adopt the political approach of ‘Respect’, in England, which has failed to emerge as a genuine left or socialist alternative for working class people because it has based its appeal on only one section of the population and did not put forward socialist policies.

At the Solidarity – SSM rally, the SWP speakers argued that for the left it should be the war that was "the mothership that needed to be touched regularly for refuelling" In other words, it is the war that was the central issue and the new movement should base itself on this.

They argued that Solidarity – SSM should be a new "left" party – most SWP members refused to call for a socialist party – that would base itself on mainly campaigning around the Muslim community, asylum seekers and the anti-war movement. This is not the view of the majority of those forces who have initially launched the new party out of the SSP.

It is clear that opposition to imperialist war, Islamophobia, racism and defence of the right to asylum, are vital issues for socialists to fight on. But it would be a serious mistake to restrict Solidarity – SSM to these questions only. If it is to make an impact as a class based socialist party, Solidarity – SSM will need to sink its roots in working class communities, by fighting on NHS cuts, poverty, low pay and the effects of privatisation, and supporting workers and communities in struggle – as well as against war and racism. Otherwise, the impact and appeal of the new movement will be narrowed.

The International Socialists (CWI) will work to build Solidarity as a fighting socialist party relevant to the working class in Scotland. To help ensure that is the case, a strong Marxist organisation in this new party is essential, from the start. A strong Marxist current will help build and strengthen Solidarity, and help to ensure it maintains a clear working class and socialist orientation. We would appeal to those joining Solidarity to open up discussions with the International Socialists, to help in that important task.

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September 2006