Socialist Alliance formed in Scotland

February 28, 1996

By Sean Lavis GLASGOW — More than 300 people crammed into City Hall on February 10 for the founding meeting of the Scottish Socialist Alliance, a coalition of left parties, groups and independent activists. Speakers from various left backgrounds stressed the need for unity in the face of attacks from the Tory and Labour parties. Bob Ritchie, one of 500 Liverpool dock workers who have been on strike for the past four months, gave the meeting an update on their struggle. The Mersey Docks & Harbours Company wanted to replace 95 workers with contract labour, and the 500 workers have so far refused to cross the picket lines in support of the sacked workers. "We decided from the early days that this wasn't just an attack on dockers from Liverpool. It was an international attack on the working class", he said. "It's never been about money. It's been about jobs", Ritchie added. "We're sick and tired of attack after attack, taking away wages and conditions, getting laid off, taking compulsory redundancy payments. "We've sent delegates all around the world to ports which deal directly with Liverpool; we've decided to call for a total international blockade of Liverpool." Since the announcement of the international blockade, the company's shares have plummeted 46 points and wiped off &163;38 million from its share value. Rosy Kane, from the Residents Against the M74 motorway protest group, said that she had trusted the Labour Party until Labour councillors ditched the party's opposition to the M74 and M77 motorways. "You go and speak to your MP and local Labour councillors and you've got no chance", Kane said. "They have the police remove you from the building. "They're like the Tories. They're being led around by the nose by industry. And I'm not going to stop at the Labour Party. The Scottish Nationalist Party have the same view. "The Tories don't need to be elected in Scotland, because the Labour Party have sold their souls for the middle-class English vote and we're going to suffer. All the groups involved are feeling disillusioned. They feel they don't have a voice." Bill Bonner from the Communist Party of Scotland told the audience, "People will look back on today and say this was a landmark in Scottish political history. It's probably the most fundamental realignment on the left since 1917. It's a realignment that presents socialists in Scotland and internationally with a historic task to build an effective, organised, popular campaign for socialism. "On most policies there is little difference between Tory and Labour ... The drive against the left has been relentless inside the [Labour] party — expulsion of Militant and others, closing down of constituency parties, interference in selection of MPs, interference in local areas, growing centralisation of power at the top. "Socialists inside and outside Labour have to realise that the transformation from Labour to 'New Labour' is complete. We have to now move on and build an alternative to the Labour Party, which is independent of Labour, to the left of Labour and most importantly in opposition to Labour." Allan Green from the Scottish Socialist Movement observed, "In Scotland Labour are more and more seen as part of the establishment. "The left has, for quite a while, seen the need to work together in campaigns. For example, the Criminal Justice Bill a year ago, when socialists from all sorts of backgrounds, anarchists, single issue campaigners were able to mobilise thousands of youth. "Joint campaigns and growing political consensus are leading to a more pro-active process of unity." He pointed out that the SAA's attitude to Arthur Scargill's newly formed Socialist Labour Party was one of welcoming the initiative, but disappointment at the exclusivity of its constitution (no parties or organisations can affiliate, and everyone has to be a member of a trade union). Scottish Militant Labour member and Glasgow city councillor Tommy Sheridan said that the turnout for the meeting proved there is a burning desire to challenge the system, "to challenge the anarchy of a system that says to get the best out of workers, you pay them less, and to get the best out of bosses, you pay them more. "[It's] a system that condemns the future of young people. 44% of young people 18-25 years old who were registered to vote in 1992 general election didn't vote. Why didn't they vote? Because young people think [the parties] are all the same." He said that unity has to be about tackling the free market that is attacking the young, workers and pensioners. "Socialism isn't dead, as the members of the press and the professors in the castles will have us believe. Socialism is made relevant and necessary today to provide an answer to the problems which confront our class."

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