Friday, 29 May 2015

A Time to Move Forward

This past Saturday our nation’s capital played host to the Scottish Socialist Party Conference. There was one issue in particular which was eagerly anticipated, that being the discussions regarding the SSP’s potential involvement in the Scottish Left Project. I have made no bones about my position in this regard. I believed, and still do that an electoral alliance in 2016 will not be effective and that time negotiating and building a left project will deplete the time spent on rebuilding the SSP. At conference, members took the decision to support the Executive motion to enter into negotiations with the SLP and while I am disappointed in the result, I fully support the democratic will of the membership and look to move forward and continue to do all I can to progress our party and the principles we hold so dear.

We as a party have grown steadily since the referendum and we look to continue to do so. Having built up 30 branches and have activists in local communities across the country, it is clear that the SSP is very capable of becoming a major force in Scottish politics. I am particularly excited in playing my role with a great many others in writing a new chapter for the party and wider social movement. Despite the conference vote regarding the Left project this does not change.

What is worth remembering is that all that has been agreed is to negotiate, nothing more has been decided at this stage. I place full trust in the Executive Committee, of which I am very proud to have been elected to, to ensure that the values and integrity for which this party stands will not disappear, nor will the very existence of the party be lost. The Scottish Socialist Party will continue to play an important role within working class communities and we will continue to increase our local and national activism which was evident in the very recent demonstrations which defied Tory dictatorship here in Scotland.

Looking forward to the year ahead until the Scottish Elections, I am very excited to work with such a talented and committed Executive Committee. There is so much talent, drive and ideas within this leadership team that we can only continue to progress as a party. More so than that, within the last 8 months I have been fortunate to get to know comrades throughout Scotland, whose ideas and commitment to the cause are exemplary. One of the ways I most look forward to contributing is to provide an avenue for members to put their views and ideas to the Executive,it is these activists who have the truest sense of what is happening in communities across the country and we must find a way to ensure their voice is heard more frequently.

Make no mistake, we as a party are aware of the long, hard work we have ahead of us. We must regain our positions within communities, ensuring we are a place of respite and protection, a party which fights for the rights of those we wish to represent. We must ensure that we not only oppose those who wish to destroy the fabrics of our society, but that we also project an alternative vision for people to support.

We know that to become a political force in Scottish politics is no easy feat. Yet with a Conservative Government determined to destroy all safety nets and protections and instil further austerity and cuts and with a Labour Party no longer reflective of the people they were created to represent and an unopposed SNP Government in Scotland means that our task is more important than ever.

The Chinese Philosopher Laozi said that A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Now more than ever that step must be taken. Join the SSP and make that journey with us.

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Friday, 22 May 2015

The Scottish Left Project - All It's Cracked Up To Be?

The ascension of a Tory majority government, the collapse of Labour and Lib Dems and the hegemony that the Scottish National Party now holds means it is more important than ever to have a strong left with a strong political party to lead the movement forward.

When I joined the Scottish Socialist Party after the referendum I said to conference that I was not joining the SSP to sit on the fringes of the political debate. The SSP’s place is at the heart of Scottish politics. As long as the SSP remain part of the fringes of politics, it will battle other political parties on the fringe who feel that ground is theirs. This is not a battle we should fight nor be interested in, rather a moderate distraction which removes us from our primary goal of becoming the voice for the mass people of Scotland.

The Scottish Left Project arose from the referendum with the aim to create a left coalition, to unite the left parties, organisations and individuals into a collective. It is an exciting thought and has turned heads including within the SSP. I have great respect for many leading this group, such as Jonathon Shafi, Cat Boyd and my LFI co-convenor Debbie Waters, but there are many issues. Despite being removed from the sectarianism of the left, history tells us that there will always be splits and divisions, even the original SLP was plagued by division. The other parties on the left have either shown no interest in joining the Left Project and some probably unwelcome. If this is the case, which it appears to be, then the Left Project will be a small group of individuals and the SSP. Undoubtedly without the SSP the Left Project will not work, but what merit does it bring to the SSP? Further to it, If these individuals want to work with the SSP in the Left Project, why do they not join the SSP?

There has also been doubts about the final destination of the Left Project, will it remain an umbrella group or become a party? If the latter is true, then by joining this coalition the SSP would be effectively signing its own death warrant. The Scottish Left Project while i’m convinced is well intentioned, appears more reactionary, seeking a quick fix that isn’t there. I also have misgivings about the process that the SLP has went about trying to get the SSP to align with it.Rather than appeal to the party, it seems to have tried to pick off members in the hopes of bouncing the party into joining.

These concerns are very real, and worth remembering for SSP members as they attend conference this Saturday. Yet the motion regarding the Scottish Left Project has been simplified as to whether we negotiate as an electoral alliance for 2016 or not. Despite this altering of tone, I will be voting against the motion. I do not do so without given clear and thoughtful consideration to this, nor does this mean that I believe we should not seek alliances as a party. I just do not feel this is the right time or the right alliance for the SSP.

In the event of this motion passing, protracted negotiations between the founders of the Left Project and the SSP executive will no doubt continue over the summer to be approved by National Council in September, This means that for the next 4-5 months at least our leadership will be held up in negotiations at a time of vital importance to the party to solidify our electoral strategy for 2016 and a medium to long term plan to make the Scottish Socialist Party an electable force. Meanwhile the membership which has become fractured over this issue, will continue to discuss the merits of this project than working cohesively to campaign in issues which really matter and effect those who need our support the most during this cruel Tory Government. Only by voting against this motion will the matter be cleared up for the next year, allowing us to write the next chapter of the party.

 Don’t be mistaken by my words here. I am convinced that change is necessary. We in the Party, must acknowledge that a rejection of an alliance with the Left Project is not an acknowledgement that change does not need to occur. But it is change that comes through political party improvements. There is much work to do in terms of policy, marketing, strategy and above all increasing the level of professionalism within our party. There is no easy fix to this. It will take hard work and effort.

Some may argue that the SSP may forever be tainted by the past, I don’t buy that. If I did I would never have joined. The hard work, commitment and dedication during the referendum brought the SSP back into the public eye again, it wiped the slate clean. Now we have to write a new chapter. That is something to be excited about, rebuilding the party as an electable force, working in local communities fighting school and hospital closures, welfare sanctions and cuts to carers allowances. Campaigning for increased social housing, a £10 living wage transforming the energy sector, creating jobs and rebuilding our industries. This is what will make us an electoral force, being there in each community, fighting for causes we believe in. Not joining forces with a group who outside our political bubble, no one has ever heard of.

To my comrades in the party who are in support of the SLP, I respect your opinion, I understand why after seeing the rise of Podemos and Syriza you feel this is the best way forward. But the Left Project isn’t Syriza, It doesn’t have cross support throughout left and green parties. The Greens will not join the Left Project, they value their party and it’s ideals too much. We should feel this way too.

With the decline of the Labour Party in Scotland, the Left have a wonderful opportunity to place ourselves at the forefront of Scottish politics, The SNP need a viable opposition and in order to continue progressive politics that opposition must come from the left. But it also must come from an organised professional political party, not an assortment of bedfellows who will have very different agendas. Work with us to continue to build the SSP and create something incredibly special.

Friday, 8 May 2015

No One Likes the Truth

‘I certainly shall not be happy because I meet with very much hostility. Because I tell you the truth. Who do-- who likes the truth? Nobody likes the truth. The first experience that you will make when you begin to do anything in the world is that people hate the truth.’

-Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy.

Labour for Independence was created on the premise that a yes vote was the last opportunity to save the soul and end the permanent decline of the Labour Party in Scotland. As I sat last night watching the results from all over Scotland come in I couldn’t help but remind myself of the many warnings we as a group gave to the Labour Party who continued to ostracise us in our pursuit to help them.

Yet there is no great pleasure in the vindication of our work. While the defeat of arch Blairites; Murphy, Curran and Alexander was undoubtedly hubris We all awoke up to the realisation of 5 more years of Tory rule, this time with no dithering uncle Lib Dem to slow down their insatiable desire to tear up the very fabric and nature of our society. Already, before feet are back under the table, plans are being formed to cut work schemes for disabled people. No one, from the left, Labour or SNP can take any joy in the future we have in store for us with a majority Conservative Government.

Despite leaving the party, despite being very critical of both the UK and Scottish Labour Party, I wanted Ed Milliband today to be working to form a workable government. The lesser of two evils, Labour would potentially have adopted more socially just policies had they came into minority power, especially if they were under pressure from a strong progressive SNP/Green/P.C alliance. This election campaign offered great hope to those who have campaigned for a better way. Finally alternatives to austerity were being discussed, removing trident, ending this anti immigration rhetoric. Suddenly these all seemed a possibility, if only the cards would fall in the right places and egos were kept in check. With a majority Tory Government all of this talk is now long gone. Trident will be renewed, immigration will still be front and centre of British politics and austerity will be accepted as the only way.

 It is hardly surprising that;

The pound surged instantly as the exit poll suggested a Tory election "win" and investors toasted the prospect of continuity in Britain's current austerity policies.

The era of those that ‘have’ continue, the persecution of those who ‘desperately need’ will live on for at least 5 more years.

In Scotland the decline of the Labour Party has been often debated and discussed. It is not, as many political commentators have suggested something which has been created since September 18th. The removal of Clause iv, the war in Iraq, Tony Blair, PFIs, supporting Trident renewal,the referendum, the attitude displayed towards the 39% of Labour voters who voted yes. We were ‘Nats’ in disguise, traitors to the party, we would be ‘bayoneted’ and left to rot. Then the final nail in the coffin. The appointment of Jim Murphy as leader, the visual and psychological acknowledgement that the Party wanted a Blairite careerist removed of principles, than the pro trade union, working class candidate Neil Findlay. Labour in Scotland in the last 20 years have signed their own death warrant many times. Now in Holyrood and Westminster in this land, they are wiped out.