Thoughts on The National column 12th November 2018

I do not think it “remains to be seen” that the Scottish Socialist Party is a Yes supporting, explicitly working-class-based party. It is that, in its very bones. But it does struggle with considerable illusions in Corbyn’s Labour and an all-things-to-all-people SNP juggernaut.

But, much of what is said in today’s column by former SSP MSP Carolyn Leckie comes from a distance. It is a piecemeal second-hand report on the conference, laser-focused on our joint national spokesperson, Colin Fox and makes light of the many contributions SSP members make and continues to make in the grassroots of the Yes movement. It also casts some incorrect allusions, which I will attempt to address here.

Firstly, no-one has been disciplined for disagreement – there are many in any political organisation. However, I and the party believe the best place for those disagreements to be aired, considered and put to the test are in the party’s democratic forums. The party leadership, on consideration, then communicated this to members.

I do not appreciate the description of airing our disagreements within the party’s structures as Stalinist. It is a gross over-statement. When complaining about rants and tone, we should always take care to watch our own.

These party structures are far from “non-existent”. They are broad and open to all members.  Any member is welcome to contribute and move resolutions in branches and committees – to be put to the wider party in National Councils and the National Conference. These compel our members and leadership – and to ensure maximum transparency, any member may attend our executive meetings and minutes are then swiftly distributed to branch organisers for consideration and feedback. The first meetings of our newly elected executive will be posted on our website calendar very soon.

And any member can contribute to our paper – the Scottish Socialist Voice – the longest running socialist newspaper edited and printed in Scotland.

Ultimately, the capacity for members to mould, shape and define policy in the SSP is much, much more open and democratic than the standing orders policy-making closed cabal in the SNP. These avenues can all improve and I look forward to working with interested comrades in order to do so. But I won’t do it here in cyberspace.

Secondly, I will defend Colin Fox. We have (let’s put it plainly) differences and disagreements on written and spoken communications and tactical analysis – and will continue to work these out within party forums as friends, comrades and peers.

I wholeheartedly praise his dedication, work ethic, depth of political knowledge and his commitment to socialism and broadening grassroots working class culture in Scotland through his additional work in the Edinburgh People’s Festival charity. I and hundreds of comrades find Colin to be an invaluable organiser, teacher, critic, resource and steward of reinvigorating branches.

The tone of his conference remarks is indeed abrasive, but he was not wrong on the worrying shape and direction of the SNP’s leadership.

And the idea that criticism of the SNP in the party is a closed shop is one that is quite mistaken. The largest areas of such being light-touch taxation leading to passed-on local cuts, the much-criticised Growth Commission and what appears to be an undiluted love-in with the European Union. No socialist worth their salt minces their words here. Many share this critical outlook within the SNP and welcome the SSPs principled and committed position on these affairs. However we go much farther than mere carping, we come to these with serious political open discussion.

We reached our position on the European referendum after three all member meetings considering the full socialist case on the geopolitical and economic case for Remain or Leave. You can disagree with the outcomes, but barriers were explicitly removed from achieving maximum participation and considering all viewpoints.

And as reported in a prior issue of The National – the SSP had an standing-room only open Voice Forum on the appropriate response to the Growth Commission, with eminent economist Margaret Cuthbert, SNP, Green and trade union contributions as part of the panel. Furthermore,  the party seeks collaboration, as part of a wider Left contribution on the economics of independence, one which puts working class people first.

We had a similar, well-attended forum on the best way forward for working class people following Brexit. Both were live-streamed and welcomed contributions from online guests.

In the SSP, we take our politics with plenty of rigor, openness and vision. We are not simply speaking to ourselves, although political education remains abundant in the party. I would strongly encourage all working class people who seek an independent socialist Scotland, discouraged with the SNP’s recent moves to ameliorate the City of London, shackle Scotland’s economic outlook to the mercy of bankers in another country and the folly of putting all its referendum eggs in the EUs basket – to give the SSP a look.

Finally, I believe Carolyn’s criticism about the tone of public contributions is a dose of medicine. As part of my landslide re-elected role in online comms, I care little for thunderous rhetoric – the job is to inspire people, spark their interest and draw people towards our shared interest in demanding class justice. You tell the truth, you don’t sell the jerseys and you do so with words, imagery and propaganda that draws people in.

In this, I yield nothing on criticism of the SNP, Labour and the loathed Conservatives – anyone who is antithetical to working class interests. I also celebrate the party’s achievements, and that of other left groups and organised worker activism. Victories, sparks of resistance, when working people come together to decide they will challenge elite power, is to be amplified and celebrated.

And I will continue to share that outlook in ongoing branch discussions and workshops as I work to develop the party’s digital campaigning tactics and strategy. We consider it to be an essential extension of our regular ongoing community outreach work.

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