Left unity: the Scottish socialist experience

Issue 

BY PAUL BENEDEK

SYDNEY — "Sometimes the left spends more time fighting other socialists than fighting the establishment", Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader Alister Black told a May 29 public forum at the Gaelic Club, organised by the Socialist Alliance. "The act of coming together as a party, and fighting together as a party, does make a difference."

Black's views on left unity were of particular interest to the 90 people in attendance, given the Socialist Alliance's recent decision to work to become a broad, united socialist party.

"The Scottish Socialist Alliance, which formed seven or eight years ago, aimed to unite the left and put socialism back on the agenda", Black said. It certainly has done that. The SSP's success has been stunning, recently winning six seats in the Scottish parliament. The SSP's Tommy Sheridan is arguably the most respected politician in Scotland.

Black explained that overcoming a history of division was essential to this success. "The SSP now includes 95% of the left united in one party, making the SSP a credible alternative. When people see four or five groups claiming to represent the same thing, they don't take any of them very seriously."

Members of Books Not Bombs and Resistance who were present identified with Black's description of the media's portrayal of student anti-war actions. "Tommy was called the 'pied piper', [the capitalist press] said he led unthinking school students out of school to rallies. The reality was quite the opposite — we found it hard to keep up with the students, who were breaking police lines, jumping into peoples' gardens, storming in front of the rally!"

Black explained that the SSP's success has met with a frenzy of media hostility.

"We're simultaneously called anarchists, trotskyists, and authoritarians", said Black, "so we really have united the left!"

In discussion, Black answered questions about revolution or reform, union links, platforms in the SSP, the British Labour Party, Scottish nationalism and self determination, and the Scottish Socialist Youth, concluding that he hoped the Socialist Alliance and SSP would further develop links and solidarity, learning from each other in the struggle for socialism.

[See pages 12-13 for an interview with Alister Black.]

From Green Left Weekly, June 4, 2003.

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