The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), within which Scottish supporters of Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty are active, did very badly on 3 May.
Its vote went down from 128,000 in 2003 to 12,731 this year, and it lost all its seats in the Scottish Parliament.
The SSP Executive’s statement on this debacle is inadequate.
It amounts to 64 paragraphs. 27 of those paragraphs concern Tommy Sheridan, the former SSP leader who split from the SSP last year to form his own personal vehicle, Solidarity-Scotland.
Much, if not everything, that the statement has to say about Sheridan is true. But trying to pin all the blame for the SSP’s electoral debacle on Sheridan only begs questions — such as why the SSP made him into such a cult figure in the first place, and why the SSP had entered a trajectory of electoral decline even before Sheridan split.
Asserting that Sheridan will soon be off the scene (which is in any case far from certain), the SSP Executive then jumps straight from noticing that it has lost nine-tenths of its votes into idiot optimism. “Two or three years down the road the events of the past year will have begun to fade into the mists of history. With the removal of Tommy Sheridan from Holyrood, the ‘Solidarity’ bubble will burst. This will be a massive step forward for the left, allowing Scottish socialism to be rebuilt under the clean banner of the SSP...
“As sure as the sun rises in the morning, the socialist left will be back with a vengeance in the future. And whatever the arithmetical breakdown last Thursday, the only socialist party with the capacity of coming back from this defeat is the SSP.”
This facile optimism seems to be largely based on illusions about the SNP gains on 3 May being gains for the cause of socialism.
“Last Thursday”, the statement exults, “marked the end of Labour’s monolithic stranglehold over Scottish politics at national and local level.”
Ever since the Scottish Parliament was first established — Labour has been in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Not monolithic.
The Labour Party is not monolithic internally, either, as John McDonnell’s campaign shows.
How is the SNP becoming the biggest party an improvement? The SSP Exec enthuses: “It is likely to open up a new turbulent phase in Scottish politics, a time of strife, which could accelerate the ultimate break-up of the United Kingdom and pave the way for the resurgence of socialism.”
The statement refers to Scotland being “polarised” during the elections “into two camps: pro- and anti-union”, to the SNP “(being) up against the much larger bloc of unionist MSPs” and to a minority SNP government being “obstructed by the three unionist parties.”
But to explain away the SSP’s electoral performance by referring to Scotland “polarising” around the issue of independence is a trifle hypocritical. The SSP itself was to the fore in treating the elections as a referendum on the Union: “Next year (2007) is the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Union which set the imperial ball rolling. It provides a key opportunity at the Holyrood poll to begin the process of its liquidation. Now there’s an anti-imperialist act to get excited about!”
• More: www.workersliberty.org/node/8412
SSP statement: www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/pages/