SSP jumps from one to six

At the end of an exhausting and frenetic election campaign by thousands of grassroots activists, Scottish Socialist Party comrades are justified in feeling a sense of elation after the tremendous electoral success last Thursday. Opinion polls had suggested that as many as eight new SSP members might be elected. In the event we had to be content with six MSPs. Nevertheless, the four-week hard slog of door-to-door canvassing, leafleting and public meetings had revealed what was confirmed by the result: a tremendous increase in support for our party. Comrades Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Colin Fox, Frances Curran and Rosemary Byrne will now join comrade Sheridan in parliament. It is worth examining some of the statistics behind this success. In the partial proportional representation system in Scotland, two votes are cast. One for the constituency seats (first past the post) and one for the regional lists (single transferable vote). In 1999 the SSP stood in only 19 constituencies and polled around one percent of the total vote across Scotland. In 2003 we contested all but three of the 72 seats, increasing our support to 6.2%. On the regional list, support rose from 2% in 1999 to 7.68% this time. Tommy Sheridan increased his vote in his Glasgow Pollok constituency from 21.5% to 27.9% and we picked up 15.2% on the Glasgow list, winning a second MSP in the city. These are significant and certainly encouraging steps forward, demonstrating an increased trend towards rejection of the bourgeois political parties and a desire to seek out a movement, however embryonic, that will place independent working class interests at the head of the political agenda. The low turnout of 49% also demonstrates that large sections of the class have still to be won over. Widespread voter apathy among the traditional mainstream party supporters, political squabbling and the perceived failure of the Holyrood parliament to deliver shows that all is not well with New Labour's constitutional experiment in devolution. The reformed constitutional monarchy system still suffers from a lack of legitimacy. Something that was particularly highlighted by the war of conquest directed against Iraq. Neither the people of Scotland nor the people in the United Kingdom as a whole had a vote on this vital question of war and peace. Effectively the prime minister decided and pushed his decision to back US superimperialism top down through the cabinet, through the payroll ranks into the House of Commons. The war was a major feature of the elections. Those who firmly opposed the war benefited - the SSP and the Greens. Those who vacillated were punished - the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats. The SSP made sure of this. A casualty for the left was the defeat of John McAllion (Labour) in the Dundee East constituency. He lost out to Shona Robison (SNP) by 90 votes - a blow to the left in the Labour Party and to the SSP which rightly decided not to oppose him in this election. Comrade McAllion supported many SSP policies and has been a useful ally over all manner of causes. On the day after the election the SSP held a press conference at the Glasgow Film Theatre. No longer a lone one-man political band, the party is now viewed as a significant political force, and is better equipped to take forward the struggle for working class interests in Scotland. However, the SSP's socialism is of a national variety and comrade Sheridan stressed that the party would continue to campaign inside and outside the parliament for an independent Scotland. A strategy greatly weakened by the setbacks suffered by the SNP and Labour's unexpected resilience. Alan McCombes - behind the scenes the SSP's guiding thinker - has theorised an almost inexorable and unstoppable rise in Scottish nationalism. His plan was - first the SNP, then capitalist independence, then us. Nevertheless comrade Sheridan doggedly justified separatism. Only through independence could a better society be built. "I believe we live in a very, very wealthy country; a country where it's a crime that we have so much poverty, so much inequality" he said. The comrade concluded by promising to "shake up Scottish politics" over the next four years and "put socialism back on the political agenda." Communists are obliged to caution against the idea that independence can achieve what comrade Sheridan says it can - democracy, prosperity and equality. To those in the SSP, such as the SW platform, who remain diplomatically silent as our leadership advocates breaking up, not smashing, the UK state, and splitting, not uniting, the working class in Britain we shall remind you that socialism cannot simply be "put back on the political agenda" in one small semi-kingdom. Socialism is a worldwide movement of the working class and is international or it is nothing. Socialism can find expression in parliamentary battles, but only as part of a universal movement of the working class. So standing in elections helps to build organisation and gauge support on the ground, and having socialist candidates elected provides an opportunity for agitation. But the main immediate target must be the existing state. In other words the United Kingdom. And in our conditions that must also necessitate uniting comrades throughout the Europe Union. An "independent socialist Scotland" - ie, socialism in one (tiny) country - is an illusion, and the separatist path will take us no nearer than we are now to working class liberation. Ronnie Mejka * True allegiance * More than its parts * Mark Steele's beacon