By Angela Paton
The Scottish Socialist Party held its annual conference in Glasgow on 22-23 February, with numbers down to about 250 because of a move to a delegate system rather than "one member one vote".
There were some outrageous moments, including a challenge to an abortion rights motion which called for doctors not to be able to object on moral grounds. This came from a small minority of men who were against a woman's right to choose, full stop. Some of the same men who wanted to vote against us being in favour of secular education. Clearly, there are issues of religion to address in our party, with some of us needing to break the ties with a heavy, oppressive Catholic doctrine.
Supporters of the Republican Communist Network Scotland argued that any MSPs elected should not take the oath of allegiance and then campaign to be allowed to take their seats in the Parliament, but this was heavily defeated.
Constitutional amendments, including one about groups having the right to sell literature openly and to make public their positions on party policy, were also heavily defeated. The Executive Committee did admit that the "guidelines" drawn up between them and the SWP on not selling literature publicly were actually unenforcable. So why have them? The Socialist Worker Platform were completely silent during this debate and voted against the amendments.
There was a lively debate on the anti-war motions, with the motion put forward by the Executive and the CWI Platform adopted. The Socialist Worker Platform were defeated on making it a key theme that: "the violence of the oppressed is not equivalent to the violence of the oppressors". (Saddam Hussein, the oppressed?)
The SSP adopted calls for an end to the sanctions, to the scape-goating of Muslims, and to the crackdown on civil liberties; for "total opposition to the war in Iraq, whether backed by the UN or not", and "co-ordinated, international mobilisations, mass demonstrations, strikes, occupations and protests if a war on Iraq is begun".
Support for Scottish independence was bolstered, with a motion stating "Independence is a key strategic objective of the Scottish Socialist Party and should be at the heart of our campaigning work", with the theory that independence "will provide the basis for taking the fight for a socialist Scotland to a more advanced stage..."
It now appears that we have policy that: "In the tradition of striking at imperialism at its weakest link outlined by McLean, Connolly and Lenin among others we believe that Scottish Socialists not only need to support Scotland's right to self-determination and independence but have an international duty to do so and thus weaken British imperialism".
Trade union strategy was also "nationalised", with the conference accepting the Executive's motion to step up the "Make the Break".
We need to stop the nationalism creeping into all the policies of the SSP, and put forward clear argument on the best way forward for the trade union movement as it exists in the UK, not to call for irresponsible things like separate Scottish trade unions. Whatever happened to "the workers united, will never be defeated"?
The RCN Scotland disappointingly agreed to remit their "socialist unity" motion, which called for more work to be done with the Socialist Alliance.
Israel/Palestine was always going to be the contentious debate at the Conference, and was certainly the most confusing for delegates. The CWI motion calling for "two nations, two states" was heavily defeated, and the Govan motion passed. This is a very slight improvement on the SWP motion passed at last year's conference.
The SSP position is now condemnation of Israeli army occupation of West Bank and Gaza; solidarity with the aims of the second intifada, for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital; the withdrawal of Israeli troops; the right of refugees to return; and the dismantlement of the settlements. The motion also states, "As socialist we would hope to see as a long term solution the establishment of a secular, democratic and socialist state in the territory of Palestine pre-1948. However we understand that this will require the growth of democratic, secular and socialist forces."