Nationalists fall out

My article in last week's paper on the undemocratic behaviour of the ultra-nationalists in the Scottish Socialist Party seems to have stirred things up a bit ('The right to say what is', April 7). I reported that Scottish Socialist Voice columnist Kevin Williamson had launched a one-man boycott of the general election - including the SSP's own election campaign. Williamson announced that, far from working to win votes for the party, he would not even be voting himself. To do so, he claimed, would be to legitimise the 'Brit' poll in Scotland. When Tom Delargy, an anti-nationalist comrade, objected on the SSP's internal email discussion list, he was immediately expelled from the 'SSP Debate' forum by Williamson's fellow ultra, Eddie Truman, the list moderator and SSP press secretary. The excuse was that comrade Delargy's language was "not acceptable" - he had, accurately, referred to Williamson as a "scab" who spouted "anti-socialist drivel" and complained that Truman's role as moderator was less than impartial. The response of the ultra-nats to my article was predictable - shoot the messenger. It was not Truman, the man responsible for this disgraceful behaviour, who should be taken to task, but the "leakers" who allowed the episode to be reported to the Weekly Worker! The absurdly arrogant Williamson himself declared: "Now that is an example of someone inside the SSP trying to inflict public damage on our party" (SSP Debate, April 8). So let's get this straight, shall we? When Williamson goes on BBC Radio Scotland as an official SSP spokesperson (Lesley Riddoch show, Friday November 12 2004 - he was supposed to be commenting on the previous day's forced resignation of Tommy Sheridan from the convenorship), and openly states that no-one in Scotland should vote in the forthcoming election, that is beyond reproach. But simply to report in these pages on this behaviour and the reaction to it is "to inflict public damage on our party". But that is not all. Williamson actually went on to claim the right to repeat his public call to scab on the SSP election campaign: "If "¦ I want to explain to anyone why I'm personally - as an individual - not going to legitimise the Brit elections by voting "¦ then I'll do so - where I want, when I want, whether it is in the national media or in my local pub" (April 8). Doing his best to paint himself the persecuted martyr, he launched into a pathetic whine against this paper: "The truth is, I'm sick of all the paranoia, dishonesty, smears and lies that float around the Leninist left. That Weekly Worker article was just another example. It's why I'm not the only one who doesn't consider them to be part of the authentic left. They're impostors. And liars." To be honest, it is something of a relief that Williamson - who did not, of course, consider it necessary to give any details of the 'lies' we are supposed to have put about - does not number us amongst his comrades. His blacklegging does not stop at putting two fingers up to his own party when it comes to its principal political action at this time. He is probably the most vociferous and adamant of all those in the SSP (and there are many) who insist that under no circumstances must there be a united, all-Britain, working class party capable of mobilising as a single fist against the UK state. Much better to join forces with the petty bourgeois Scottish National Party in campaigning for an independent capitalist Scotland. In this aspect of his scabbing he is joined, to a greater or lesser degree, by the SSP leadership itself. Incredibly, Williamson went on to compound his contemptuous dismissal of the SSP election effort by expressing his enthusiastic support for Rose Gentle in East Kilbride: "If, or should I say when, the SSP stands down, I'll be at the front of the queue volunteering to go through to help her campaign" ('SSP Debate', April 7). Apparently, "in that one seat" making this contest "the most important one in Scotland" takes precedence over his "principled boycott". What a buffoon! No wonder even his ultra-nationalist co-thinkers have started to distance themselves from him. For example, James Carroll, a member of the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement platform, whose (overwhelmingly rejected) amendment to the February annual conference would have committed the SSP to a boycott, declares: "I will publicly state that I am not calling for abstention. I take the view that the party is a democratic collective and when the party takes a majority decision on policy then individuals should work with that policy or, if they cannot, should do nothing publicly to disrupt it. Kevin's conception "¦ is that it is a collection of individuals that come together to discuss and decide policy and then do what the hell they like" (ibid). Truman himself (not an SRSM member, as I erroneously stated last week) commented: "You know what, Kev, you have totally lost the plot "¦ You really are making a first-class fool of yourself" (ibid). Rather belatedly, it must be said, the leadership has decided to move against Williamson, spiking his weekly column in Scottish Socialist Voice until after the election. Once again doing his martyr impression, he whinges: "I'm kinda staggered that those who "¦ refuse to legitimise this election by taking part in it [ie, himself] should somehow be gagged for four weeks, refused an opinion on events, and should now be barred "¦ from commenting on what is happening "¦" In reality it is not just Williamson's column that should be spiked (permanently). Moves should be initiated to expel him from the SSP - even ultras like Truman and Carroll can see that someone who openly flouts party discipline must be brought to book. But, of course, he is not "barred "¦ from commenting on what is happening". He will no doubt continue to hold forth to members on 'SSP Debate' - an option that has been denied comrade Delargy, who is not even entitled to read what other comrades have written on the list, thanks to Truman's arbitrary decision to remove him for "trading insults" (calling Williamson "the scab he is"). Ironically, in responding to my article, Truman comments: "Well, if my biggest crime against democracy is chucking Tom Delargy off the list for being an obnoxious idiot, then the world can sleep safely" (my emphasis ibid). Leaving aside the question of Truman's "biggest crime" (that would require another, longer, article), it seems that he cannot even recognise his own hypocrisy. Just three days earlier, following a rather sharply expressed exchange, he had launched into a tirade against comrades with the threat of even more draconian action: "If the list is going to be used as a way of SSP members insulting each other, then the plug will be pulled - simple as that. Get out there and do some fucking work for the party "¦" (April 5). Clearly Truman himself should be "placed under moderation" for such an outburst - not to mention his use of the expression, "obnoxious idiot". In fact Anne McLeod, the ever so nice and liberal SSP general election candidate for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, objected to a rather milder Trumanism: "Perhaps it is cultural, but I find the use of even your language - ie, 'utterly objectionable', 'totally repugnant' - to describe Kevin's position out of order" (April 8). Comrade McLeod's rather extreme version of left political correctness should serve to illustrate our point: once it is accepted that debate must be conducted exclusively in language that is completely mild and inoffensive, who gets to decide what word or phrase is "not acceptable"? In fact such bans on 'unparliamentary language' inevitably play into the hands of rightwing bureaucrats, who are left to interpret the (usually extremely vague) guidelines as they see fit and continually wield them as a weapon against the left. That is why the failure of the anti-nationalist Workers Unity platform to speak out against the barring of comrade Delargy is so shameful. It is not true, as Matthew Jones writes, that WU has "defended Tom Delargy and protested his exclusion from the list" (see Letters). Only one individual WU member, Sandy McBurney, objected to Truman's ruling (and even then hardly in the most forceful of terms). Workers Unity as an organisation has remained silent. Peter Manson