Our Party - Our decisions
Scottish Socialist Voice editorial, Issue 268
For a second time George Galloway has chosen, from his position as a London-based MP who has never been a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, to stand on the fringes while the SSP is under attack and hurl in a few extra bricks. Last week on TV and radio, he repeatedly insisted that the SSP must replace Colin Fox with Tommy Sheridan as convenor, and if we failed to do so, the party would "spiral into nothing". Which, he continued, would leave the English-based party he represents, Respect, with no choice but to consider organising in Scotland. There are a few points we must make to put Galloway's outburst into context.
First of all, Colin Fox was re-elected as SSP convenor, unopposed, just three months ago. If there was any strength of feeling that he is not doing a good enough job, any branch could have nominated someone else. No branch did so. The second point is that these last two weeks of trauma for the SSP come on top of a sustained period of growth since Colin was re-elected in March. The most recent opinion poll placed the SSP ahead of the much-touted Scottish Green Party, and with a similar level of support as a year prior to our groundbreaking success of 2003. The SSP has not long since launched our People Not Profit campaign, to a tremendous reception on the streets across Scotland. New members have been joining the SSP and our youth section, SSY, in numbers not seen since 2003. Any wounds from events in 2004had indisputably begun to heal, and the party's National Council at the end of April was hailed by all there as the most positive national meeting in some time.
What's changed in the last few weeks? The SSP has been caught in the crossfire of a battle we didn't start. Our party has come under onslaught from the state - a number of members have been issued citations, we fought in the courts to keep our internal documents private, Alan McCombes was jailed and our offices and his home were raided. This was a time for the left to stand united. Instead, some people have gone to the press with allegations regarding the SSP, which had never been raised, either formally or informally, within the structures of the party. For George Galloway to wade in at this point, and to lay the blame on Colin's tenure as convenor is like blaming the victim for getting mugged. Galloway first publicly lashed into the SSP in the press in 2004, when he used language akin to the Holyrood Tories to denounce the SSP's National Council and Executive as "Trotskyite apparatchiks", yet the SSP still tried to work with him, even inviting him to our flagship Socialism 2005 event. This despite the fact that he has never retracted his tirade, in which he called on Tommy to leave the SSP and join Respect. At the time, Tommy rejected Galloway's overtures as "nonsense".
Since then, Galloway has taken the high road to London to be elected back into Westminster as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow - a victory which the SSP and the Voice applauded. But he is working on very different terrain to the SSP, and is out of touch with socialist politics in Scotland. He's made repeated attacks on independence - including during his performance on the Politics Show on Sunday. But independence is now widely supported across the left in Scotland. The SSP is a full-blooded socialist party which has never flinched from presenting an uncompromising socialist programme, fighting for equality, women's rights, including rights to contraception and abortion, and against homophobia.
The SSP has extended support to Respect, and congratulates the coalition on their recent success in council elections. But they have some way to go before they repeat in England what the SSP has achieved in Scotland. The SSP already gives voters in every nook and cranny of the country the chance to vote for socialism. The SSP has stood in every Holyrood seat in Scotland, and in 2007, we'll again stand in every region and this time present our biggest ever challenge in the council elections. It seems strange, then, for Galloway to talk of Respect standing in Scotland when, so far, only 5 per cent of the electorate in England have had the chance to vote for Respect. There remain swathes of England that the coalition have not yet been able to organise in, where they have neither branches nor members.
It is sheer pompous arrogance that leads George Galloway to believe he can instruct SSP members on who they elect within the ranks of our party. We suggest he halt his imperial march on Scotland from London, and either join the SSP, where he would have to donate half his wages to the party, or shut up.
As Colin Fox told press at the weekend when asked for a response: "We know all about solidarity. The SSP didn't go calling on people to vote for Michael Barrymore when George was in trouble on Big Brother."
If you'd like to donate money to the SSP to help them survive this difficult perios please send a cheque made out to the 'Scottish Socialist Party' to;
Scottish Socialist Party,
FAO Allison Kane,
70 Stanley Street,
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