More than its parts

Advances made since the SSP emerged from its Scottish Socialist Alliance womb have been very impressive. We communists certainly applaud the unity of the left which made it all possible. Within the SSP there are still a wide variety of competing factions or platforms. Committee for a Workers' International, the International Socialist Movement, the Socialist Worker platform, Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, Republican Communist Network (Scotland), Alliance for Workers' Liberty, Workers' Unity and the CPGB. The fact that these factions can unite - though not like, let alone love, each other - has encouraged a whole layer of former Labourites and SNPers, as well as many hundreds of people entirely new to politics, to join the SSP. The toleration of factions and allowing them space to present and argue for their views is therefore vital. Significantly the SSP's constitution permits all manner of platforms to publish and sell literature at party events - though there are 'guidelines' which prohibit the public sale of partisan literature. Platforms can also submit by right motions for the annual conference - held this year on schedule in Glasgow despite the threat of war. But the SSP is not only the sum of its parts. It is not a united front of any one group or a united front of the groups. The aim is clear - building a party with a party culture. That is what marks the SSP out in comparison to the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales. The SSP has a leadership and a membership that are committed to its success and not simply to using it for elections or as a field of recruitment. The Scottish Socialist Alliance could never have won six MSPs. However flawed, the commitment made in 1997 to form a party was a crucial step forward. Given the composition and number of platforms, not every SSP member agrees with every aspect of party policy (for example, the national question is raised annually at conference and the nationalist orientation is opposed by a principled minority), but there is agreement nevertheless to accept policy. Rather than leave the party because of differences, the disparate groups have united. The SSP is by no means the perfect model, but such a democratic, disciplined approach has been a contributory factor in the party's success on May 1 and should be noted elsewhere. Sarah McDonald * SSP jumps from one to six * True allegiance * Mark Steele's beacon