Scotland: SWP-SSP unity

Negotiations continue SWP statement

Following the receipt of a letter from the executive committee of the Scottish Socialist Party inviting the Socialist Workers Party to join last June, there have been ongoing discussions about the two organisations joining forces.

The SWP believes that the time is right for this. A strong, united socialist organisation in Scotland can act as a powerful pole of attraction for those many thousands of Labour supporters who feel that their party has been hijacked by the Blairites, for the growing number of people who identify with the developing anti-capitalist movement which is creating widespread radicalisation, and for all those in the workplace, the colleges and the communities who want to build a fightback against the neo-liberal policies of both the Westminster and Edinburgh administrations.

The SWP believes that the SSP is a party which has demonstrated its internationalist principles by opposing Nato's Balkan war, the US-UK bombing of Iraq, through support for the Kurds and other such instances.

We have argued that socialists have no interest in maintaining the unity of the United Kingdom state and, given the historic and contemporary role of British imperialism, would shed no tears over its disintegration. Further we support fully the right of the Scottish people to self-determination.

We would join the SSP in the full knowledge of the party's commitment to an independent socialist Scotland. This creates no fundamental obstacle for us. The SSP is, as mentioned, an internationalist party; it has clearly stated its opposition to the neo-liberal consensus shared by the four major capitalist parties in the Edinburgh parliament and rejects any idea of alliance with any of these parties. Further the SSP has made it clear that in the current circumstances it would not seek to divide the trade unions on a nationalist basis.

In terms of time scale for unity we have also made clear that we want to come to an agreement as soon as possible. Because there has not been a great tradition of common work between the SWP and the comrades formerly in Scottish Militant Labour in particular we have argued that it would be good to go through the experience of common work in the forthcoming Westminster election and then to unite on the basis of that cooperation and comradeship.

This, we believe, would create an organic unity. We are aware that too often left groups have declared unity only for things to fall apart because there is not that experience of comradeship to draw on.

This does not mean that we wish to spin discussions out. We hope that we have already shown our intent through the work that we have contributed to the SSP's election campaign. If the election is on May 3 we are talking of coming to an agreement in short order. In immediate terms we believe it is vital to discuss and agree on immediate financial, technical and journalistic resources to help launch Scottish Socialist Voice as a weekly.

To this end we propose that in the coming weeks we move the discussions on from general points to specific items which need resolving.

The points we would like to schedule for discussion are: anti-capitalism; campaigns; trade union work; the national question; Scottish Socialist Voice: resources, finance and content; full-timers; SSP leadership bodies.

The SSP will no doubt have other items for discussion. In order to facilitate these discussions we would wish to increase the number of SWP representatives from three to five.

The SWP is aware of the 'guidelines' agreed at the recent SSP conference. We would be joining in the knowledge of this and would accept them. We are not joining the SSP as an 'entry operation'. Rather we want to build it into a bigger and even more effective force.

Obviously, there are still questions to be resolved, such as the issue of Socialist Worker and Scottish Socialist Voice. But on this we believe the outlines of an agreement have been achieved.

SSP executive statement

1. The success of the Scottish Socialist Party fully justifies the decision, taken five years ago by the Scottish Socialist Alliance (forerunner of the SSP), to launch a project to build a united force for socialism. With New Labour having transformed itself into a neo-liberal party and the SSP gaining more and more support up and down the country, the SSP is set to grow even further.

2. During the past six months, there have been a series of discussions involving representatives of the SSP and SWP, and the SSP attended the SWP's Scottish aggregate and British conference. It appears that the SWP are motivated by a genuine and healthy desire for socialist unity. They are clearly indicating that they intend to approach the SSP in a spirit of cooperation and fully intend to build the SSP.

3. We welcome the SWP's statement of intent to quickly join the SSP, on the basis of the guidelines agreed at the recent SSP conference. This will potentially strengthen the SSP and assist in our growth and effectiveness over the next period. It is an historic achievement that the vast majority of organised socialists are on the verge of coming together in one party on a principled basis: for an independent socialist Scotland and for socialist internationalism.

4. Whilst working to ensure that the SWP can join the SSP as soon as possible, we agree to having the detailed discussions indicated by the SWP. The executive will report back to future national council meetings.

5. In the meantime, the SWP are keen to support the SSP's election campaign, working with our branches on the ground. Especially in the circumstances of the SWP preparing to join the party, we would urge branches and networks to accept and welcome SWP assistance. We also ask our branches to consider enabling SWP participation in branch meetings during the Westminster election campaign. We ask the SWP membership to donate to the SSP election fund appeal on the same basis as SSP members. Given the busy period in the build-up to the election, this is the most appropriate and effective way for members of both parties to communicate and develop mutual trust.

6. However, we should also be aware that there is a need to consciously work to overcome the negative affects of years of the parties often acting as rivals. We have to recognise that there have been difficulties, even in recent weeks - e.g., over the IWD/GAP events. We ask SWP members, prior to SWP participation in SSP activities and, possibly, branch meetings, to first approach the appropriate SSP branch/network office-bearers. We believe that prior discussion and agreements, at all levels, on the nature and scope of common activity will assist the development of a positive working relationship between SSP and SWP members.

7. With regard to public campaigning activity around the election campaign, we ask the SWP to participate in SSP street stalls and activity. If the SWP still wish separate SWP stalls, to avoid public confusion, we ask for these stalls not to be on the SSP election campaign.