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.

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