The Scottish Socialist Party has been using its campaign for the 3 May Scottish Parliament and local elections to win back some of the ground lost when Tommy Sheridan split to form his personality-oriented “Solidarity” group last year.
The SSP has used the campaign, through leafleting, stalls and public meetings, to attract a fair number of new members. It has distributed 60,000 freesheets in its main target areas. It has worked hard to build solidarity with the 1 May civil servants’ dispute, gaining support in the PCS as a result, and responded to the SNP’s list of one hundred prominent business supporters by releasing its own list of one hundred trade unionists supporting the party.
There are certainly criticisms to be made, for instance in terms of complaints that internal political life and education have been almost entirely suspended for the duration – to say nothing of the left nationalist political tone of the campaign, with the SSP responding to the SNP’s promise of a referendum on independence within four years by demanding that one happen within twelve months! Nonetheless, the SSP has used the elections to raise the profile of socialist politics, and made gains as a result.
In contrast, Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity group has focussed its activity almost entirely around getting Sheridan re-elected. The front cover of its manifesto bears a picture of Sheridan with his wife and child.
Unlike the SSP, Solidarity is not standing in the local elections, and is concentrating its efforts almost exclusively on Glasgow in a desperate push to re-elect Sheridan. As a result it has collapsed in many areas outside the central belt, and even there it is sustained mainly by the activism of the SWP.
It is not clear yet whether either the SSP or Solidarity will have any members in the new Scottish Parliament (though the SSP will almost certainly have a clutch of new councillors elected for the first time under proportional representation). What is certain is that the populist, personality-driven politics promoted by Sheridan have proved even more of a dead end than the SSP’s romance with Scottish nationalism.
• There will be more detailed coverage in the next issue of Solidarity.