Varied debate

Sessions at Socialism 2002 were organised under the broad headings of 'Events that shook the world', 'Radical Scotland', 'International viewpoints', 'Discrimination and equality', 'Cultural issues' and 'Socialist regroupment'. The weekend began with a rally, addressed by two SSP candidates for the Scottish parliament, Colin Fox and Carolyn Leckie, as well as a representative from the Fire Brigades Union and the ex-Scottish National Party MSP, Dorothy Grace Elder, who thankfully limited her contribution to a speech in support of the firefighters. In the session on 'Labour and the trade unions' the SSP's trade union organiser, Ritchie Venton, argued that we must look tactically at the link between Labour and the unions with the eventual aim of disaffiliation. He argued that we must not allow the unions to become depoliticised and that members should be able to vote for their money to be redirected to pro-trade union parties: ie, the SSP. Comrade Venton also argued that the Labour Party will never again adopt a left face, although he put forward no reason why this was impossible. To take an extreme example, if there was a revolutionary situation, the Labour Party would surely pose left in an attempt to diffuse the situation. The ensuing discussion centred around the nature of the beast: is Labour still a bourgeois workers' party or is it now a purely capitalist party? The session entitled 'Witchcraft and the demonisation of women', introduced by SSP equality coordinator Catriona Grant, saw contributors link the oppression of women to "patriarchal society" and the "hypocrisy, duplicity and malevolence of men", while another on the media held up Scottish Socialist Voice as a beacon of working class journalism - the opinion of Mark Brown of the Socialist Worker platform notwithstanding. The session on 'European left regroupment' was opened by Frances Curran (the Socialist Workers Party's Chris Harman was also supposed to speak, but unfortunately was ill). This proved more interesting than the session on 'Socialism and the ESF', which provided nothing more than an opportunity for the SWP to get excited about the anti-capitalist movement. 'European left regroupment' dealt with the socialist alliance movement across Europe, of which the SSP is a part. This obviously raises the question of what sort of party is needed. Comrades debated whether the SSP should call itself a revolutionary party or not. Comrades argued that the majority of SSP members would define themselves as revolutionaries, although that is not a prerequisite for membership. How the party describes itself or the members regard themselves as really irrelevant. The nature of a party is ultimately determined by its programme and the SSP does not have a revolutionary programme. There were other interesting discussions, such as '9/11 - one year on', led by Phil Hearse, who examined the role of imperialism in the current period. In most sessions the debate was lively and on quite a high level.