Press statement

Campaign to Defend Democracy

A series of draft constitutional amendments - tabled for discussion at the next meeting of the executive committee of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) - has triggered the launch of a Campaign to Defend Democracy in the SSP. The campaign was launched a fortnight ago, at a meeting in Edinburgh attended by SSP members from Ayrshire, the Lothians, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

"We are not saying that the constitution should never be amended," explained Angela Johnstone on behalf of the campaign, "but we are concerned that the proposed amendments run counter to the SSP's commitment to pluralism and maximum membership participation."

One of the draft amendments proposes that SSP national conferences should be delegate-based rather than open to all members. But, the campaign points out, this proposal was rejected by the last SSP AGM - just seven months ago. A draft amendment that "branches are not entitled to mandate delegates to conference" has been dismissed as "bizarre" by the campaign, on the grounds that a branch delegate should, by definition, be subject to a mandate. Another of the proposed amendments has been condemned by the campaign for creating a two-tier SSP membership: ordinary members (up to a year behind with their dues) and members entitled to be conference delegates (up-to-date with their dues).

"Such proposals reflect a lack of respect for the rights of SSP members.

"We are also concerned that they may be just the first instalment, with worse to come," said Angela.

Examples of other potential threats to the rights of SSP members cited by the Campaign to Defend Democracy include:

  • the decision of the August meeting of the executive committee to reject a motion which sought to maintain the current rights of tendencies and platforms in the SSP;
  • suggestions by members of the executive committee that platforms and tendencies should no longer be permitted to distribute their publications in public, on the grounds that this "confuses the working class";
  • the possibility that the next SSP AGM, due to be held next February, may be postponed until after the general election.

"We don't want to see the SSP ending up as a parody of the Labour Party of the 1980s, with the leadership directing its fire at members' rights instead of at the enemies of the labour movement," explained Angela.

The CDD is calling for the retention of all-member conferences, with the operation of a pooled fare to maximise attendance, and for maintaining the existing balance of rights and duties of tendencies and platforms in the SSP. It also supports the right of all socialists to join the SSP and form an open platform. If the executive committee decides to back the draft constitutional amendments, then the campaign will be seeking to ensure that the SSP special conference in November votes to maintain the status quo.

Any SSP members wanting further information about the Campaign to Defend Democracy in the SSP, or wishing to invite a speaker to their branch meeting, should contact: Angela Johnstone, 36 Cameron Drive, Kilmarnock, KA3 7PP (tel: 078999 00247; email: angie@angelajohnstone.freeserve.co.uk)