Conference cancelled

Last weekend's Scottish Socialist Party executive meeting decided that both the 'Socialism 2000' educational/rally event and, more importantly, the special conference planned for November 19 are to be cancelled.

The special conference had been called primarily to debate the entry of Socialist Workers Party members. The SSP executive has proposed a series of undemocratic changes to the constitution, severely limiting the rights of factions or 'platforms' - in particular the right to distribute or sell literature in public.

The purported reason for the cancellation is that the conference coincides with the Falkirk West by-election caused by Labour left MP Dennis Canavan giving up his Westminster seat to prioritise his work in the Holyrood parliament. This on top of a second imminent by-election, due to the death of Donald Dewar, is supposedly more pressing than uniting the left in Scotland into one party.

The executive's decision to 'postpone' unity with the SWP in favour of chasing electoral goals yet again brings to light the priorities of the SSP leadership. Prior to these two by-elections the executive had been arguing that a special conference in November would allow the annual conference due early next year to be put off until after the general election, which the SSP leadership believed would be held in April/May. Apparently now Tommy Sheridan, Alan McCombes et al think that the general election will probably not be held until November 2001 at the earliest, in which case both the special conference and the annual conference can be condensed into two days in late February 2001.

It might be fair to speculate that there are other factors contributing to the cancellation of the November 19 conference. The leadership faced a wave of opposition from the branches. The fear was that conference would not accept its undemocratic proposals. It is therefore playing for time with complicated electoral speculations.

On October 22 the SSP national council will meet in Falkirk to discuss latest developments. If the proposed constitutional changes are ratified, not only will SWP members be barred from selling Socialist Worker, but all independent voices in our party - all those presently shut out from Scottish Socialist Voice - will be gagged: Weekly Worker, Republican Communist, Action for Solidarity, Workers' Liberty, Socialist Outlook and any publication Peter Taaffe's supporters around Phil Stott's Dundee faction want to sell.

As soon as the executive was told that the SWP wanted to join, and would do so as soon as conference ratified the decision, how did the executive respond? It pressurised our branches to select Westminster candidates by October!

If our executive gets its way, not only will the SWP be banned from publicly selling a weekly paper their members have been loyal to for a generation, but it will be excluded in the general election in Scotland. So much for unity, trust, respect and plurality.

It almost looks as though our executive are trying to provoke the SWP into breaking off negotiations.

Sarah MacDonald



Before the cancellation of the SSP's November 19 special conference, its executive issued these guidelines on how a platform should operate within the SSP. They are clearly designed to curb the influence of the SWP and in so doing severely reduce the existing rights enjoyed by SSP members

The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the fact that the Socialist Workers Party have responded positively to our invitation to open talks on the possibility of the SWP joining the SSP as an organised platform.

In many ways, the parties have often been perceived as 'rivals', and political differences still exist. We can all agree, however, that the worst scenario would be if past rivalries between the SSP and SWP were simply to be replayed in a series of unproductive factional wrangles within the party. Given this background, it is crucial for the continuing success of a united SSP that there is mutual understanding and agreement over how a platform is expected to operate within the SSP.

This is not to put any additional constitutional constraints on the SWP compared to any other platform. We are seeking agreement on guidelines on the nature of the work undertaken by a platform in a genuine attempt to help to create an atmosphere of openness, trust and respect, should the SWP join the SSP.

The SSP national council in August overwhelmingly agreed a statement, 'The general election and developments within the SNP and SWP'. The following guidelines are based on the SSP constitution and the NC statement, but specifically focus on the SWP joining the SSP as an organised platform.

Constitutional position

The following points are all extracted from the SSP constitution:

Guidelines from SSP national council and executive


Should the SWP agree to the constitutional positions and guidelines contained in this paper, the SSP executive would be in a position to formulate a motion for the special conference in November [now delayed till February 2001 - ed.], welcoming the SWP into the Scottish Socialist Party, subject to agreement on the use of finance and resources.

Discussions on these guidelines with the SWP are ongoing.



For working class unity

The following motion was to be moved by the Glasgow Kelvin branch (minority) at the November special conference of the SSP

The SSP is committed to building a united socialist fightback throughout Britain to the pro-capitalist policies of New Labour and the other parties of big business.

We seek to promote a united British working class fightback against New Labour's attacks on the working class, democratic rights and the welfare state. We reject the dead end of Scottish nationalism and any attempt to divide the British working class along national lines.

The SSP supports the creation of a united socialist challenge throughout Britain at the next general election and calls for socialists in Britain to come together in a common slate in order to more effectively challenge New Labour and the other pro-capitalist parties and thus aid the promotion of working class unity, self-activity and the cause of socialism.