'A breath of fresh air'?
At its January 7 meeting, the leadership of our organisation unanimously agreed the following statement:
"The Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain condemns the implied and direct threats of violence issued against Workers Unity tendency/Scottish Socialist Party members by the supporters of the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement. The politics of the Workers Unity tendency must be answered politically by the supporters of Scottish separatism, if indeed they are capable of it."
This statement was prompted by a series of crude threats, primarily against comrade Tom Delargy, a Communist Party supporter and member of the WU tendency, that have been posted on the internet discussion list, the UK Left Network (http://www.egroups.com/group/uk_left_network). Members and sympathisers of the distinctly dodgy SRSM, such as Donald Anderson and Keef Tomkinson, have threatened comrade Delargy with physical violence for his defence of the unity of the working class of Britain (and have even posted his home address on the list).
Threats of violence have been denied by SRSM supporters, but there seems no other way to interpret comments such as this: "If Delargy wants to jump the hospital queue, then he is sending out the right signals. How else does he think this will be resolved? Does he think we'll send him a lawyer's letter?" (Donald Anderson, UK Left Network Digest, January 4). There are plenty of other examples of Anderson and other SRSM supporters and sympathisers making comments that are equally unsavoury.
Of course, on one level it is very easy to get this sort of e-spat out of perspective. Internet discussion lists are useful, but distorting tools. They can encourage some people to view issues through the wrong end of a telescope. Plus, there can be a tendency to substitute keyboard-rage for effectiveness in the real world - some of those who talk like Mike Tyson in cyberspace often turn out to be more like Mickey Mouse face to face.
That said, the movement should take these sorts of threats seriously - both those against individuals and of the sort that have been issued against our organisation during this same period.
On January 2, the CPGB office received over 300 nuisance postings of the same e-message, telling us to "stay out of Scottish politics or you and your members, whose addresses are well known to us, will be receiving our attention in the very near future". This charming little note was unsigned, but an (automatically generated?) message at the bottom of the page recommended that we "click below for our website".
The site belongs to a nasty micro-group passing under the title of the Scottish Separatist Group, the political wing of the Scottish National Liberation Army. Despite its 'paramilitary' links, the SSG is at pains to assure visitors to its site that "the SSG is an open and legal political organisation which gives political support to the SNLA" (see www.angelfire.com/sc2/ssgscotland/index.html).
It would be easy, but wrong to simply dismiss the threat posed by such groups. While the SSG and its 'army' comrades will be primarily composed of personality inadequates, sociopaths and state agents, the experience of David Cope-land, the solo nazi nail-bomber is a salutary one. Any isolated nutter with access to the internet, a kitchen cupboard full of chemicals and a local hardware store could cause fatalities if they are really determined to do so.
The more important political question raised by the e-attacks on comrade Delargy is the broader context of Scottish politics and how this is affecting the left. Probably the most disappointing were the original responses of leading SSP members such as Catriona Grant and the moderator of the SSP discussion list (where most of the exchanges originally took place), Eddie Truman.
Frankly, these leading SSPers expressed more than a degree of sympathy with the SRSM's Donald Anderson. Comrade Grant went so far as to welcome one of his postings as "a breath of fresh air" (cited in UK Left Digest, January 5).
Of course, there is no suggestion that these comrades were solidarising with the crude threats against the WU tendency. They and the rest of the SSP leadership are serious politicians. WU have written to the SSP leadership requesting an urgent meeting to discuss its response to the threats of violence against WU/SSP members and its seems inconceivable that the SSP executive will not condemn Anderson and his cohorts.
There is a school of thought which suggests that the SRSM is actually attempting to provoke the expulsion of its members anyway, in preference to being in the same organisation as the Socialist Workers Party, a group that one SRSMer has referred to as "excrement".
This impression is reinforced by the observation from Donnie Fraser (January 8) that protests against the boorish behaviour of SRSMers was "a deliberate attempt to censure/expel the SRSM "¦ This would pave the way for the unionist SWP to join and eventually allow the WU to achieve their stated goal of destroying the SSP and replacing it with a British Socialist Party."
However, while we should draw no direct link between the likes of Sheridan, Grant or McCombes and the putrid political swamp that creatures such as the SRSM and the SSG inhabit, there is a point of commonality - that of nationalism.
What has attracted the likes of the SRSM to the SSP is not its 'socialism': it is its embrace of Scottish nationalism, codified in the call for an 'independent socialist Scotland'. Not once has the nationalist turn by the SSP majority been justified in terms of principle. Instead, crude opinion poll chasing has been the stock method.
Way back in 1995, leaders of Scottish Militant Labour, which was to become the largest component section of the SSP but was then still a 'loyal' section of Peter Taaffe's Committee for a Workers International, were noting that "the findings of a recent series of in-depth opinion polls underlines the growing attraction of independence for a sizeable section of the Scottish population".
Such opinion polls "provide raw data which give a rough indication of public moods and attitudes. What is now indisputable is that there is a long-term trend in Scotland towards independence, which particularly affects some of the most radical and combative sections of the working class and youth" (Militant Labour Members Bulletin No9, April 1995, p7).
In other words, the adoption of SML's, then the SSP's explicitly nationalist orientation was in response to the growth of sectionalist, backward-looking prejudices amongst a section of the class in Scotland - that the English, including the working class of England, were part of the problem rather than the solution and that workers north of the border would be better off without them.
Naturally many caveats are inserted about the SSP's sterling internationalism. Nevertheless, the logic of a sectional, national approach must be anti-English, anti the majority nationality that are perceived to be a block on the aspirations of the minority.
It is this assumption that links the politics of the leadership of the SSP and the likes of Anderson and his SRSM. Far from a "breath of fresh air", these postings have reeked with a fetid stench of ugly chauvinism and foul anti-working class prejudice.
Honest comrades in the SSP who support its nationalist trajectory may hold their nose over the SRSM, but the rot goes much, much deeper, comrades.