Tommy Sheridan breaks from CWI -the socialist international
Press release 16.1.2001
Committee for a Workers 'International
New allies the CWI and Tommy Sheridan have a history of acrimony - for interest we have reprinted here a press statement issues in 2001 that denounced Sheridan specifically as a neo-Stalinist, having a nationalist view of socialism, and anti-democratic. It is to be welcomed that those who were previously at loggerheads can over come their differences.
The CWI is the international organisation whose affiliates include The Socialist Party, successor to Militant in Britain. We have MPs and councillors in England, Ireland North and South, Sweden and Kazakhstan among others. The Committee for a Workers ' International organizes in over 30 countries across the world. We are a Marxist international that is fighting to build the ideas of socialism in every corner of the globe. We stand for the establishment of a mass workers international party that can play a leading role in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.
After a long period of debate exposed growing differences, Tommy Sheridan and other leading members of the Scottish Socialist Party have left their International organisation, the Committee for a Workers 'International (CWI). These differences included:
The nature of the Scottish Socialist Party and the need for a Marxist organisation within it.
The character of Cuba, where Tommy Sheridan has defended a neo-Stalinist position.
The need to retain an internationalist view of the struggle for socialism.
Democratic rights in the Scottish Socialist Party.
Scottish Militant Labour (SML) was the Scottish section of the CWI. We were the main component of the Scottish Socialist Party when it was established in 1998.
Tommy Sheridan, alongside many other members of SML, and Militant in England and Wales, played a key role in the defeat of the Poll Tax and the subsequent removal of Margaret Thatcher from power. During the 1990s we have consistently stood for the building of new mass parties to represent working class people after the betrayals of the former "Labour" and "Communist" parties. The SSP can represent an important step in that process.
One of the key principles that SML and the CWI were based on was the Need to maintain and strengthen the forces of Marxism, in its modern expression, Trotskyism. It is this task that Tommy Sheridan and the others who have left the CWI have rejected. They have produced a statement which commented about the CWI: "The model (of building a Trotskyist international) they tried to apply is obsolete, if indeed it was ever a credible project".
The rejection of this concept has led to leading members of the SSP, who were longstanding members of the CWI, to break from long held positions that we have defended. Cuba On Cuba, the CWI has been critical that the SSP and Tommy Sheridan have described Cuba as a socialist country, which we do not accept.
We believe this is putting forward a neo-Stalinist position. We defend the tremendous gains of the Cuban revolution in health care, literacy and education but given the lack of democracy within Cuba, this does not equate with socialism, where democracy and working class involvement in the running of society and the economy is essential.
The CWI is opposed to what we see is a tendency by our former members to seek a national view of how socialism could be achieved rather than an international view. This has led, we believe, to our former members not arguing for a socialist confederation or alliance between an independent socialist Scotland and a socialist England Wales and Ireland.
The CWI believes it is vital that socialists in Scotland make it clear that we would seek to link up on a voluntary basis with a socialist England, which can help to cut across anti-English moods as they develop in Scotland.
We were extremely worried to
read Tommy Sheridan's comments in The Observer (13th August 2000) when he
hinted that SSP MSPs would be prepared to back an SNP administration in the
Scottish Parliament. We believe it would be impermissible for socialists to
either formally enter a SNP-led coalition, or back it from the outside, given
the pro-capitalist and nationalist policies of the SNP.
Democracy in the SSP
We were shocked and dismayed that our, now former, members in the leadership of the SSP have proposed "guidelines" for that party which would preclude the right of organised trends within the SSP to produce public material, sell public journals, etc. These guidelines argue that organised platforms should "not act as a party within a party".
This is exactly the language that our opponents used to justify our expulsion from the Labour Party in the past. Ironically, it is our now ex-members who are proposing these guidelines, when they themselves were expelled and disciplined as members of the Militant, for defending our right to promote our ideas both inside and outside the Labour Party.
Founding members of Scottish
Militant Labour such as Ronnie Stevenson (Glasgow) and Philip Stott (Dundee),
as well as a number of members who are key activists in the EIS, UNISON and
the RMT in Scotland will remain as members and supporters of the CWI. The
general election parliamentary candidates for the SSP in Dundee East (Harvey
Duke), Dundee West (Jim McFarlane), Kirkcaldy (Kenny McLeod), as well as
others to be announced, will remain members of the CWI. Joe Higgins, Socialist
Party of Ireland TD in the Irish Parliament, and Dave Nellist, former Labour
MP and now socialist councillor in Coventry, both CWI members, are implacably
opposed to the course of action that Tommy and the other SSP leaders have
Peter Taaffe, founding member of the CWI, said: "We regret Tommy Sheridan 's and other long standing members' departure from the CWI. Nevertheless, we still have many members in Scotland who have a long track record of building socialist ideas who have remained loyal to the CWI and their own traditions."
Philip Stott, spokesperson for the CWI in Scotland, said: "The CWI in Scotland will be active participants in the work to build the Scottish Socialist Party into what we hope will be a mass force in Scotland. At the same time we will fight to ensure that the party is led with a clearly socialist and internationalist programme and leadership. We believe that the CWI, its ideas, analysis and campaigning record internationally will play a decisive role in that task."
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