Separate and distinct from SWP
A meeting took place between members of the Scottish Socialist Party executive committee and the Socialist Worker platform steering committee on Thursday December 12. According to SSP national secretary Allan Green, EC members "expressed disappointment" that the SW platform "failed to deal with the main questions" in the letter from the executive (see 'Falling out in Scotland' Weekly Worker December 12).
In view of this the SW platform steering committee has written again to Allan Green and the SSP leadership, answering all the questions posed by the EC in the affirmative - with the exception that it noticeably failed to give the requested undertaking not to "launch initiatives in Scotland that have been decided by the SWP in England and Wales" without first discussing such issues within the SSP.
The claim by the SW platform to be "an independent political body" with "a new and separate relationship" from the Socialist Workers Party, and whose "political project is different and distinct from that of the SWP in England and Wales", marks a key moment. Either it must change its method of operation or be open to continual charges of hypocrisy and double-dealing.
This new development is bound to cause tensions within both the SW platform and the SWP itself.
At the end of yesterday's meeting, you said that you felt the questions set out at the end of your original letter to the SW platform had not been answered. Let us confirm our answers in writing, then. Is the SW platform still committed to the long-term building of the SSP as a mass socialist party? The answer is an unequivocal 'yes'. Our continuing and enthusiastic involvement in every aspect of the party's work, in branch-building, in anti-war activity, in solidarity work with groups of workers in struggle, and of course in building for the maximum possible SSP vote in the 2003 elections is the evidence of our commitment to the party. Does the SW platform accept that the SSP is a unified political party and not a united front (even one of a special kind)? If so, does the SW platform accept that there are then obligations on the SW platform to discuss issues through the SSP rather than automatically operating in the same way as the SWP in England does with the Socialist Alliance? In a sense, this is the same question as the first, though asked in a different way. And here again, our answer is simply 'yes'. We are a platform within the SSP; we sell Socialist Voice and recruit to the SSP. We use the same channels of democratic decision-making as other members of the SSP: that is, we discuss with our comrades in the branches ways of developing local strategies for campaigning, and we participate in the national conferences and other bodies of the SSP. Please bear in mind that we operate independently from the SWP; we have fraternal relations, of course, and we share ideas and a common history. The decision to join the SSP, however, was for us the beginning of a new and separate relationship to the SWP. We can be held responsible for our actions in Scotland and within the SSP; we certainly cannot be called to account for the actions, however interpreted, of the SWP. Does the SW platform agree to work to the guidelines agreed by the SWP and the SSP prior to the SW platform joining the party? The answer is still 'yes', of course. And to our knowledge no member of the SW platform has broken any of those guidelines during the firefighters and fire control staff dispute. For example, we did not publicly sell Socialist Worker. Does the SW platform agree that it is vital for the SSP to have a unified and coordinated campaign around issues such as solidarity with the firefighters? Will the SW platform agree to this? Even your own document recognises that that is exactly what the platform has been actively doing. How the campaigns are conducted within those general guidelines will need, of course, to be discussed and debated throughout the party. There may be differences; debating them in an open and inclusive way must be an essential part of the political life of a mass, pluralist and democratic socialist party, but as a part of the activity and not as a substitute for it. The more open and inclusive structures we have, the better and more fluid the dialogue between the party's membership as a whole and its political leadership. We see ourselves as active participants in that discussion, within the framework of an active, interventionist organisation that is constantly discussing how best to carry the struggle forward, and in doing so create an expanding political space in which our ideas about socialism and working class activity are understood and accepted. Will the SW platform give an undertaking to discuss political issues (eg, the use of Red Watch) within the party and not simply launch initiatives in Scotland that have been decided by the SWP in England and Wales? We have to repeat that the SW platform steering committee is an independent political body; our political project is different and distinct from that of the SWP in England and Wales. We have addressed the issue of Red Watch at length in our previous reply to you and it seems unnecessary to repeat what is already there. What we do wish to repeat is our commitment to the project of building the SSP into a mass socialist party. We will continue to give our energies to that common project.
Yours in solidarity
SW platform steering committee