Letter Of Resignation From The Scottish Socialist Party
“The Celts with all their follies, weakness and savageries
Never fell into that cardinal blunder of mistaken means for ends.
The ends they pursued, often blindly and wildly,
Were the fostering of individual dignity,
And of the spiritual imagination."
25th August 2006
To: Allan Green
Scottish Socialist Party
It is with regret that I write to inform you that I have decided to resign my membership of the Scottish Socialist Party as from today.
As you will know I’ve been a member of the SSP for eight years. I was one of its original founders back in 1998. I have stood twice as a Parliamentary candidate in Edinburgh Central (for Holyrood in 1999 and for Westminster in 2001), and was the party’s national Drugs Spokesperson between 1998 and 2005. I’ve written a regular weekly column in the Scottish Socialist Voice since its first incarnation back in December 1996.
During that time I’ve seen the SSP grow from a small group of enthusiastic activists into a party, covering the length and breadth of the country, which made a national breakthrough in May 2003 when it had six MSPs elected (achieving 7% of the national vote). The SSP had even begun the important process of breaking major trade unions away from the conservative and unionist party that is New Labour. These were significant achievements by any standard.
But here we are in 2006, just three short years after the SSP’s electoral high point, and everything has gone belly up. A party that was once composed of comrades and friends - united in the struggle for peace, socialism and Scottish Independence - has been turned into a party at war with itself. Bitter recriminations and accusations of “scab” have been bandied about. The atmosphere inside the party is ugly and toxic.
This is not the party that I was involved in creating. Nor is it a party that I want to continue to participate in.
HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?
There will be many who now believe that this mess is all the cause of a single individual’s personal follies. While others will believe that this has all been caused by the party’s failure to support a single individual in a defamation action.
I don’t buy into either explanations. They’re too superficial and simplistic. Just as it is foolish to think that the success of the SSP could all be attributed to one man, Tommy Sheridan, it is equally foolish to think that the current split within the SSP could all be attributed to the same individual. That is akin to believing that the current war in the Iraq was started by George W. Bush rather than trying to understand the political forces at work.
It is important that as many socialists as possible – whether members of the SSP or not - try to undertake a calm and rational analysis of what has happened to the SSP, if for no other reason than to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future. A full post mortem is absolutely vital and it’s something I intend to contribute to before rigor mortis sets in.
It would be inaccurate to blame Tommy Sheridan for everything that has gone wrong within the SSP. A rigorous and critical analysis of the party’s internal structures and culture, of key tactical decisions, and of the party’s overall political orientation would suggest that the cracks had appeared long before the News of the World story broke in October 2004. Collective responsibility has to be shouldered for the current state of the SSP.
My decision to resign from the SSP was not entirely a result of the Tommy Sheridan defamation case. Political and personal considerations have come into it, as these things always do. But the shameful scenes that took place during the court case, and especially after the verdict was announced, were the final straw for me.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE TOMMY SHERIDAN DEFAMATION CASE
When it was announced on Friday 4th August that Tommy Sheridan had won his defamation case against the News of the World on a 7-4 jury vote I have to say that my initial reaction was one of surprise.
I didn’t think Tommy had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara. The might of the Murdoch empire has unlimited resources at its disposal. It was indeed Gretna Town versus Real Madrid.
But factors came into play - which should have been glaringly obvious - that ensured Tommy was able to stage a famous upset.
The Murdoch rag was handicapped from the off. Before the jury even set foot in the court room most of them, if not all, would have been aware that the News of the World wouldn’t know the truth if it jumped out the ground and bit them on the arse. This squalid sleazy little newspaper exists solely to titillate its readers with a mixture of soft porn and celebrity gossip. It has no other function. Its reporters and editorial staff have been trained to pervert and mangle the truth at every opportunity, and to make up whatever rubbish that they feel they can get away with.
The two front page stories that Tommy Sheridan sued them over – the story about him having an affair with Anvar Khan, plus the story about him having an affair with Fiona Maguire were so deeply immersed in fiction that the newspaper didn’t even bother claiming they were totally accurate or truthful. Instead they constructed their defence on the notion that their stories were “substantially true”.
“Substantially true”? This is a perverse notion of accuracy, verbatim reporting, and truth. It is tantamount to admitting that the NotW stories about Tommy Sheridan’s sex life contained elements of fiction. It would also indicate that when tabloid newspapers are taken to court it’s no longer about “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
From Tommy Sheridan’s point of view this was a godsend. His innocence or guilt would depend on how much of the newspaper’s evidence the jury would believe. If a significant portion of the evidence presented against him was substantiated then there would still be room to manouvre.
So it turned out. The Fiona Maguire story couldn’t be proven. When she took the stand Ms Maguire contradicted what the News of the World had originally written in the paper. When Anvar Khan took the stand she too contradicted what the News of the World had written at the time. Even if both of these women had sex, or affairs, with Tommy Sheridan, it was clear that the paper had fictionalised the two original stories it was being sued over.
Why did the News of the World invent or embellish the original stories by Ms Khan and Ms Maguire? They did it because that’s the way they always operate. No matter the evidence presented during the case, the jury had already decided that the NotW were a dishonest unscrupulous bunch of liars.
On top of this is the general perception of the Murdoch empire. It should never be under-estimated how much people despise Rupert Murdoch and everything he stands for. This is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He cracks the whip and Prime Minster Blair either rolls over like a wee poodle or jumps through hoops like a performing seal.
Rupert Murdoch is a notorious tax dodger. Every member of the jury will be paying tax on their earnings to support the public services and infrastructure of this country. But Rupert Murdoch employs an army of accountants and lawyers to prevent himself paying tax like ordinary mortals. He’s a tax dodging scrounger of the worst kind.
The Murdoch press are despised as much as their master. The Sun and the News of the World are sleazy right-wing rags who despise Scotland, who despise working class people, and who pedal cheap and tacky soft porn that is an insulting way of depicting half the population of the country. They represent everything that grates on the sensibilities of so many Scottish people.
When a jury of ordinary Scots are picked at random to decide on a defamation case, the rich lawyers of News International didn’t stand a chance. The verdict didn’t go for Tommy Sheridan. It went against the Murdoch empire.
My advice to the likes of David Beckham or John Leslie is that the next time they get caught with their pants down by the Murdoch empire, even if there’s conclusive evidence proving they did it, they should sue them under Scotland’s defamation laws for every penny they can get. No self-respecting Scottish jury would give the result to the Murdoch press. They’re held in about as much esteem as granny-muggers and paedophiles.
Tommy Sheridan spotted this flaw in the legal system and now he’s £200,000 richer as a result, whilst the Murdoch empire are licking their wounds. All’s well that ends well. Except not quite.
DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS?
Herein lies the problem. Whether in court cases, in politics, in the workplace, or in any other facet of life (except Hibs versus Hearts football matches) the idea that the end justifies the means is fundamentally flawed. The means is always incorporated into the end result in one way or another.
If the means is based on deceit then only a deceitful person would take any satisfaction from the result. If the means is based on betrayal, or damage to others, or the sexual humiliation of women, then the end result becomes even more tarnished, and the financial gain becomes more akin to thirty pieces of silver than a righteous settlement.
Tommy Sheridan had decided in advance of this court case that the end would justify the means. He decided from the outset that he would fight dirty. No lie would be deemed unutterable. No betrayal would be deemed too underhand. No humiliation of former sex partners would be deemed unacceptable. Any damage to the party or cause he was elected to represent would be considered collateral. This was a strategy based on win at all costs and to hell with the consequences.
Maybe I was being a bit naïve. I knew Tommy Sheridan would have to defend himself vigorously and to the best of his abilities – as anyone would in his place - but never in my wildest dreams did I have any idea of the methods that he would employ.
The means by which Tommy Sheridan chose to fight his defamation case against the News of the World were not only dishonest but were in fact shameful. Shameful is the only word that can accurately describe the events that took place in Edinburgh’s High Court this summer.
It was shameful the way that Tommy Sheridan sought to discredit his fellow SSP members in that court room. I could scarcely believe he would sink to such depths of moral depravity as to brand eleven senior members of his own party as liars, forgers and perjurers in order to try and make some money out of the News of the World.
These eleven individuals, it should be noted, had tried everything in their power to prevent the truth about Tommy Sheridan’s personal life from becoming public. One of them, Alan McCombes, had even gone to prison to try and prevent a minuted record of an admission by Sheridan (at an SSP EC meeting) from being used against him in court.
It was shameful the way that Tommy Sheridan rubbished the reputations of former friends and political comrades, even going so far as to throw the best man at his own wedding into the deep trench that he had dug between the truth and his own carefully cultivated self-image.
It was also shameful and morally repugnant, the way that Sheridan humiliated and disparaged women he had previously used for casual sex. Maybe there was much fiction concerning the original stories in the News of the World. Maybe there was indeed money changing hands in the cases of both Ms Maguire and Ms Khan. But the testimony given by the eleven EC members ad by Katrine Trolle was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There were eyewitnesses and mobile phone records to corroborate her statement. Katrine Trolle in particular must have walked out of that court room feeling sexually humiliated.
No genuine socialist who cared about truth, justice, or the feelings of other human beings, would have gone down the road that Tommy Sheridan chose to go down. The means by which he fought that court case have brought deep shame on himself and stained the very causes he purports to champion.
AFTER THE VERDICT
On the morning of the verdict Tommy Sheridan told the media scrum outside the court that despite the result he considered himself the luckiest man in the world. The verdict confirmed this.
After the verdict was read out in his favour Sheridan was obviously extremely relieved. He had been looking down the barrel of bankruptcy, redundancy, and being thrown out of political office. A perjury trial carrying a potential prison sentence would probably have followed. A lot was at stake.
After the methods used to win, Tommy Sheridan should have emerged from that court room with some humility, thanked his supporters, and made his way home to count his blessings and to spend time with his close family. The strain on them all would have been colossal.
Any decent person would then have taken some time out to reflect on the full horror of what they had done to achieve such a result. Upon reflection a decent and honest human being would have then apologised profusely to his partner for the betrayals, for the hurt he had caused her, and he would have vowed to treat her, and all the women he is fortunate enough to meet, from that day onwards, with the respect that they deserve.
An honourable human being would also have been man enough to meet with those eleven members of the SSP he slandered so badly in court. And when he met with them he should have had the decency to go down on his hands and knees and beg their forgiveness for what he had said and done.
But no such honesty emerged at the end of that high court fiasco. Faced with his beloved media cameras, Sheridan allowed his own conceits to get the better of him and triumphantly proclaimed the 7-4 jury verdict as some sort of perverse victory for socialism. Then he was escorted away by a rival tabloid to sell his story – as part of a £20,000 deal he had made before the case was even finished.
Then Tommy Sheridan launched himself down the road to political damnation from which he will never return. Sheridan chose to brand those eleven SSP members - who had tried to protect his tarnished public persona, and the reputation of the party they cared for - as “political scabs”.
This was a shameful act of betrayal.
TACTICAL AND POLITICAL MISTAKES WERE MADE
There are those who will say the eleven SSP members should never have taken the stand and made statements that helped the Murdoch rag against a fellow party member. Superficially this would appear to be true. The problem with this is that they weren’t given any choice on whether to appear in court. They were summonsed.
By the time the court case came around they had been dragged into it by a combination of Tommy Sheridan’s determination to sue the News of the World, and by a serious of tactical and political mistakes by the party’s ruling bodies.
If the SSP is to learn from these mistakes it has made it will need to address two difficult questions that many leading members of the SSP have so far chosen to ignore.
Firstly, what made the members of the EC believe they could take such an important decision as asking the National Convenor to resign without first organising a proper credible internal party inquiry or commission to determine whether Tommy Sheridan was acting in a way incompatible with his elected position? Surely Tommy Sheridan was entitled to this much at least after all the work he had done for the party.
Secondly, why was Tommy Sheridan deemed fit to be an SSP MSP and part of the Parliamentary Group but not our National Convenor?
The news stories about Tommy Sheridan’s private life caused immediate panic among the party’s national Executive Committee who then rushed to make a decision before bothering to explain to the ordinary party members why such a decision was deemed necessary. Then this decision – which was centralist and elitist in nature in that it excluded the ordinary party members from the process - was compounded by the anti-democratic idea to keep the EC minutes secret from ordinary party members. When the EC recommended the minutes were to be kept hidden from party members the National Council duly accepted the recommendation and voted accordingly.
Those decisions were disastrous. They implied there was now a two-tier membership of the SSP. There were those who could take such important decisions and those who weren’t even permitted to know why those decisions were made.
This directly led to those SSP members taking part in what should have been a private defamation case. I sincerely hope that those responsible for that decision – on both sides of the divide - will not only accept they made a mistake but understand the elitist and centralist methodology which was behind it.
Openness and transparency could have avoided the whole sorry affair in that court room. But that would have meant consulting with and trusting the ordinary party members before arriving at such an important decision; not being rushed and panicked by fish-and-chip stories in the corporate media; giving Tommy Sheridan natural justice within the party, and putting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before an exercise in damage limitation.
JUST ANOTHER OPPONENT OUT TO GET TOMMY SHERIDAN?
Conspiracy theory loons will see this resignation letter as just another political opponent of Tommy Sheridan trying to have a go at a popular figure in the party. The problem with this is that I’m not a member of any faction or platform that opposes Sheridan, especially not the United Left which I have political differences with. Nor do I have any political axe to grind with Sheridan. I’m just an ordinary party member who values truth above calculation and careerism.
Politically I’ve been pretty close to Tommy Sheridan over the years. He supported me fully and enthusiastically when I was the party’s Drugs Spokesperson between 1998 and 2005. When I was involved in the opening of Scotland’s first cannabis coffee shop (in January 2004) both Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne came down to offer their support on the opening day. This was very much appreciated.
On another big issue that means so much to me personally, that of Scottish Independence, when he was the SSP’s National Convenor Tommy was a prominent and outspoken supporter of Scottish Independence. Again this was in stark contrast to his successor, Colin Fox, who declared in the Sunday Herald magazine in January 2005, just weeks before he was elected as Tommy’s replacement, that he was “lukewarm” on Scottish Independence.
From the point that Tommy Sheridan was replaced as National Convenor by Colin Fox the SSP have (in the realm of practical campaigning work) effectively abandoned the fight for Scottish Independence. This is something that has increasingly alienated and isolated myself from most of the SSP leadership and from the leading lights of the United Left faction.
I am not a supporter or member of the United Left faction, declared or otherwise. I have serious political differences with this grouping. When the UL declared itself an organised platform within the SSP I was one of its critics, attacking it from the outset for its refusing to explicitly embrace the fight for Scottish Independence.
Nor could anyone accuse me of trying to undermine Tommy Sheridan, or of being in league with a group of female MSPs in Parliament who wanted to remove him. In 2004 it was the centralist methods of two of those MSPs within the Parliamentary Group that cost the party its Drugs Spokesperson. (My resignation letter as Drugs Spokesperson was written just days before the first News of the World story broke). I felt at the time that the SSP’s Parliamentary Group did not understand the Drugs Bill I was working on with Rosemary Byrne, and that they used bureaucratic methods to undermine it.
It is also worth reflecting that it was Rosemary Byrne who was the MSP I worked closest with among the six strong Parliamentary Group and even now I have deepest respect for the work Rosemary has done: working to make her local community a better place to live in, fighting for drug rehab facilities, as well as her work on the Drugs Bill, and on the Education Committee.
Similarly I have no antagonism towards many of Sheridan’s most prominent supporters. John Aberdein and Steve Arnott are two individuals I have known and liked over many years. John Aberdein I respect as a writer and as an activist. John is someone I have never clashed with over anything. He’s a fellow Orcadian, a friend of my family, and someone who has been a credit to the SSP over the years. I have no axe to grind with either of them, nor with Rosemary Byrne.
I simply don’t fit into the category of political plotter against Tommy Sheridan. In fact the opposite could be said to be the case.
THE MANUFACTURE OF SEXUAL CONSENT
Tommy Sheridan’s removal as SSP National Convenor wasn’t done because of puritanical sexual morals. What people do in their private sex lives is up to them. If it is fun, consensual and honest then go for it. But the moral dimension to sexual consent and the legal dimension are not necessarily the same.
Without necessarily breaking the law, it is possible to pressurise a person into sexual consent, either through the exchange of money or gifts, through the abuse of power, through lies about your real relationship status, or through setting up a situation that a person can’t get out of very easily. The manufacture of sexual consent along such lines is abusive in nature and is incompatible with holding elected office in any progressive political organisation. The 7-4 jury verdict in Edinburgh’s High Court changes absolutely nothing in that respect.
What Tommy has done in recent weeks has dragged the name of socialism and the reputation of the SSP down into the sewer. I may have political differences with those eleven SSP members who appeared in the high court. But I know this: not one of those eleven SSP members lied on the witness stand about the EC minutes nor about Tommy Sheridan’s sex life.
The harsh and unacceptable reality is that Tommy Sheridan has serious problems regarding his attitude to women, which at some point in his life he will have to face up to. He suffers from the classic Catholic psychological dichotomy that treats the women close to him as saintly Madonnas whilst those he engages with in meaningless sexual encounters are Magdalene-ish whores to be used and then discarded.
Sheridan has failed to realise that the corporate media are simply humoring him at present in order to sell newspapers until the next sex scandal comes along. When it does it will torpedo him out the water and sink those who have nailed their colours to his mast. The sad fact is that Sheridan has lost his reputation for honesty and integrity. He is finished as a progressive political figure of the left. It’s over.
It’s a real shame. Tommy had so much ability and talent but he had one great weakness which has finally brought him down: he couldn’t keep his cock in his trousers and then expected everyone around him to lie and cover up for him.
AN ACCELERATED DEPARTURE
My politics have evolved over the years. I’ve moved a long way from the Brit left sects within the SSP who remain stuck in a Trotskyite cul-de-sac somewhere between Brigadoon and Never-Never-Land. I have growing political differences with the United Left faction, with the Solidarity group around Tommy Sherdian, and with the SSP as it currently stands.
Over time I’ve found myself re-evaluating the accepted Marxist doctrines and basic tenets of socialism - moving further and further away from the centralism and economic determinism of orthodox Marxism.
Socialism for me is primarily about support for the ongoing processes whereby democracy is deepened, strengthened and extended, rather than overthrown, and where all the existing structures of power are decentralised.
The socialistic ideas that appeal to me are based more upon libertarian or co-operative socialism than the centralised form of state socialism that failed so spectacularly in Russia. In this respect I’m at odds with both major factional groupings.
Scottish Independence is a democratic principle for me, it is about the decentralisation of power, about freedom and justice, rather than an opportunist leftist tactic. These are the principles behind my support for a democratic referendum to be held on Scottish Independence and for the break up of the war-mongering British state.
In more recent years I’ve come to embrace the general concept of feminism rather than merely endorsing the fight for women’s economic equality. There’s a difference between the two approaches. A genuinely feminist approach recognises that there are two sex classes, where one exploits and oppresses the other through patriarchal structures of power. This is why I tend to agree with Timothy Leary when he said, “Women who aim for mere equality lack ambition.”
I fully support the concept of women’s self-organisation and the fight against an all pervasive patriarchy that seems to permeate every corner of our culture and society – including the Scottish left.
Feminism may be an untrendy word to use these days but it is a progressive political concept that neither dominant factions of the SSP have embraced. The United Left are moving in that direction, which is a positive step, but Tommy Sheridan has explicitly distanced himself from what he refers to as “extreme feminism”, burbling on instead, Macbeth-style, about “cabals of witches”.
There is also the fundamental question of why the SSP exists. It hasn’t satisfactorily been explained by either side of the current split. The need for a socialist party like the SSP has been unthinkingly internalised without any questioning of why this is so.
The actual role of a political party – its primary raison d’etre - is a serious source of divergence between myself and the two dominant political factions within the SSP. Both major factions still seem to cling to the essentially Leninist idea that a socialist party is indispensable as the primary instrument for political change. The Leninist (and Trotskyist) idea – so deeply ingrained in the SSP – is that such a party is necessary to educate and lead the masses to socialism. This elitist vanguardist approach has become anathema to my own politics.
My concept of libertarian socialism is based at a grassroots level, and engages with communities on their terms not ours. Socialists should try and help build their local community into a better place to live in - through whatever means our energies and imaginations can come up with. This is a far cry from seeking to lead or lecture people, or standing outside existing communities as some sort of separate political entity who only appear on stalls or around the doors looking for votes, money or new members.
In my concept of libertarian socialism political organisations exist not to take power for or by themselves but exist to facilitate a movement for change, working side by side with individuals, community and workplace organisations, and even other political parties. This is a million miles removed from a party that wants to “do things on behalf of other people”.
A PARTY WHICH HAS LOST ITS WAY
The SSP has become increasingly marginalised in recent years. It has built little roots in local communities and has only a passive electoral support outside its ranks. There is little direct communication taking place between the party and its supporters. Instead, the SSP has used its Parliamentary group to try and reach this support through the pages and stations of what is in effect a hostile media.
The problem with this approach is that the SSP has relied on the filter of the corporate media to get its ideas over. This corporate filter has been strategically placed between the party and the people. The dangers inherent in this approach are self-evident. The corporate media have no obligation to be fair to the SSP. They are owned and controlled by multinational corporations hostile to everything the SSP stands for. In 2004, when the corporate media effectively switched off the oxygen of publicity, the party’s communication strategy lay in tatters.
The suffocating culture of centralism and bureaucracy that has permeated the SSP has created a culture which stifles individual initiatives and even localised initiatives. Members tend to wait for instructions from the centre, or for resolutions to be passed nationally, rather than just doing things themselves. It has often been when individual SSP members by-pass the official party structures that interesting initiatives are explored. Especially in the cultural domain.
In many ways the election of the six MSPs in 2003 marked the beginning of a sharp decline of the SSP as a grassroots campaigning organisation. The finances that these MSPs provided were used to create jobs in the centre of the party rather than for localised campaigning initiatives. That these jobs were not rotated regularly through fixed lengths of tenure meant that an entrenched centralised bureaucracy developed and the party stagnated as a result. The resulting cliquishness in the centre of the party was viewed by many as a separation between the grassroots and those now in the centre.
The culture within the SSP was one inherited from the old Marxist groupings who helped form the party. It is a tired and formulaic culture of regular branch meetings, street stalls, paper sales, and occasional public meetings that has its roots in the nineteenth century, and which is alien and off-putting to most people who come into contact with it.
The centralised structure of the party is one where branch delegates are sent to a National Council that meets monthly thereby ensuring that only a small band of between 100 and 150 dedicated activists in the centre of the party are involved in mapping out the political and organisational direction of the party.
It is hardly surprising that much of the party’s grassroots simply drifted off into a passive membership. Or left completely.
The abandonment of the struggle for Scottish Independence since the tokenistic Calton Hill Declaration of 9th October 2004 – which led so many people up a hill and then left them there - has been central to the party’s stagnation and decline over the last two years.
The Holyrood election of 3rd May 2007 is shaping up to be a tactical voting referendum on Scottish Independence. But because the SSP’s pro-Independence majority have been dragged backwards by an unrepresentative minority in the centre of the party who have refused to fight for Independence, the SNP are now poised electorally to reap any upsurge in support for Scottish Independence.
Scottish Independence is the fissure line in Scottish politics now. The British establishment realise this even if the two leading SSP factions don’t. The Blair government is seriously worried about the reality of an SNP-led administration holding a democratic referendum on Scottish Independence.
The British government’s constant war-mongering abroad, their slavish tail-ending of the Bush regime’s so-called War on Terror; the resultant crushing of civil liberties, human rights, and increased surveillance of the population; their desire to inflict a new generation of both nuclear weapons and nuclear powered reactors on resistant Scots – all of these things are fuelling a desire among Scots that it is time we democratically removed ourselves from the British state.
But the SSP is in a state of political paralysis and is playing no part in the process. Those of us in the SSP who are passionate about Scottish freedom no longer even bother trying to take the party with us on. The red, white and blue brakes are on. Like many others I have chosen to participate in the single issue campaign for a referendum that is currently organised by the grassroots Independence First campaign. Working together with activists of other parties has been liberating and effective.
WHERE NOW FOR THE SSP?
The SSP was a bold and brave experiment that ultimately failed. The idea of uniting the left was never going to work. Genuine unity is around principles not upon the vague and liberal idea of getting everyone under the one roof. The SSP may have stood a chance of really breaking the political mould if at the beginning we had attempted to unite the pro-independence left around the progressive ideas of feminism, peace and justice.
At present being a member of the SSP is like being stuck in a sack full of angry wasps. The atmosphere is toxic.
It now seems likely that two parties will emerge moulded around the two biggest factions. Tommy Sheridan plus the the British-leaning opponents of Scottish Independence – such as the SWP and CWI - intend to form a new party called Solidarity, or something similar. To have these groups corralled into a harmless enclave of their own would be a positive thing except that many decent pro-Independence lefts have chosen to go with them. Such a marriage of political convenience will be torn apart on the national question.
Those who remain in the SSP face a hard uphill struggle to make the party credible in the eyes of its own supporters and relevant to the needs of the 21st century. The jury is out on whether the new look SSP will be merely the old one Mark Two. Only time will tell. There are many good pro-independence socialists still within the SSP who have learned from the mistakes of these past eight years. Good luck to them.
THERE IS LIFE OUTSIDE PARTY POLITICS
After all those years of boring meetings in cold and drafty halls I’m looking forward to the freedom that being outside of a political party will finally give me. I might even get involved in some real politics now. It will also mean the freedom to get involved in causes that I chose rather than the lost causes that sections of the left persist in choosing.
But most important of all it will give me the time and space to do what I should have been doing for these last eight years, which is to write books. My last book was published way back in 1997 - the year before I joined the SSP. The SSP has taken up so much of my time, energies and headspace for such a long time. But no more.
Books are important. The language and the culture of resistance is important. It is not political parties – as many on the left mistakenly believe - but a country’s radical writers, musicians and other creative individuals who piece together and preserve the often hidden or censored history of working people. It is these same people who have the intellectual freedom and rigour to come up with radical new ideas. In this respect one Alasdair Gray is worth a hundred Tommy Sheridans.
Politically, I am only now beginning to catch up with the likes of James Kelman, Alison Flett, Tom Leonard, Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh, Duncan McLean, Hector MacMillan, Edwin Morgan, Janice Galloway, James Robertson, Carl McDougall, Liz Lochhead, Angus Calder, Elspeth King, Jim Ferguson, Sandie Craigie, AL Kennedy, Joy Hendrie, Raymond Ross, Thom Nairn, James D Young and so many more in our fine tradition of engaged independence-supporting Scottish writers.
Back in that pivotal year of 1992 – when the Scottish cultural and political resistance to Westminster rule moved up a few gears – these engaged writers were light years ahead of almost all of us who would eventually found the SSP. Scotland owes these writers so much more than any political party for where we’re at and for where we’re going.
I’m leaving with no regrets or bitterness towards anyone. I value the many good friends I’ve made in the SSP over the years– on both sides of the current divide. I’m sure in the future many of us will work together in the fight for Scottish freedom and for the breaking up the old elitist systems of power.
Yours in peace, socialism and independence