Sunday, March 26, 2006

Newsflash: ISM dissolves

The International Socialist Movement - politically the hegemonic grouping in the Scottish Socialist Party - has dissolved after five years of existence. The move wasn't entirely unexpected.

A statement issued to explain why is unusually self-critical for a tendency rooted in the broad Trotskyist tradition. In effect, the ISM puts its hands up and explicitly admits to having lost its way.

'Electing six MSPs in 2003, all accepting the average wage of a skilled worker and on a socialist programme was a brilliantachievement. Yet this correct orientation had a price, namely the neglect of thestructures and identity of the ISM as a discrete platform withinthe Scottish Socialist Party ... The diminution of the ISM's coherence though meant that no clear political direction was given on a number of issues.'

It also freely concedes 'the absence of a successful campaign to unite the parliamentary work and grassroots campaigning like the abolition of warrant sales achieved between 1999 and 2001.'

Factors behind the dissolution are cited as a low level of class struggle, the launch of the Independence Convention and the anti-war and Make Poverty History movements.

'This contradictory combination of processes is a clear reason for some of the disorientation in the ranks of the SSP – the absence of a focussed campaign where socialists have a clear leading position coupled with the growth of amorphous "anti" movements: anti-war,anti-poverty.

'This contrasts with the earlier period of the SSP in the run-up to the electoral success of 2003 where a positive proactive vision of socialism was combined with full involvement in a multitude of campaigns. But the ISM's paralysis and absence from the SSP has also exacerbated the "log-jam" within the structures.

'One thing that has not been created is a grassroots leadership across the entire country despite this being one of the stated aims ofthe ISM in its formative documents of 2001. All of these factors have meant that Marxist forces in Scotland are less organised than they have been for a decade.'

Then follows some criticisms of the two other major Marxist groupings in the SSP, which strike me as pretty much on the money:

'Other left platforms notably the CWI and SWP who are part of external internationals with their own uniform "line" and support mechanisms - have to some extent been inured from the fluctuations within the party and even to some extent broader society.

'Significantly, in response to this current period of society the SW platform have actually moved quite considerably to the right sincejoining the party in 2001 – in line with the development of the SWP in England. Whereas the CWI have become very static with their programme which means they have not really engaged with the problems facing Marxists today.'

The conclusion from all this is that it is now 'game over' for the ISM as a distinct current:

'We are of the view that the ISM has fulfilled its historical role within the Scottish Socialist Party and now is no longer of any utility with its current structure, in truth this conclusion is probably about a year overdue.

'The role of Marxists within the SSP will best beserved by exploring new options. These will need to take stock of developments within the party over the last two years.'

The new game plan is to work with 'progressive' members of the SSP, particularly those informed by feminism and environmentalism. That, the ISM believes, necessitates new forms of organisation.

'The ISM needs to wind up and dissolve as an organisation to allow people to take these processes forward with other comrades.This critical egalitarian method which has been the lifeblood of the party will help to regenerate and reinvigorate the SSP in the next few years.'

I have always regarded the ISM as one of the most forward-thinking far left tendencies anywhere in the world, so I'm disappointed it has decided to wind itself up like this. Obviously, living in London, I'm not close enough to know whether or not there is any backstory.

But the move reopens the debate over the appropriate form of socialist organisation for the twenty-first century. Personally, I'm as liquidationist as the next libertarian Marxist. I no longer favour of the Leninist democratic centralist model. However, I do think that socialists should maintain a core cadre organisation at all times and fear the ISM might have taken an unnecessary step backwards.

Interestingly, I can't find this statement - which, before you ask, I got in an email from an SSP comrade without attribution - anywhere online yet. It doesn't seem to be on the ISM website, for instance. If I get any more info, I'll update later.

UPDATE: The CWI platform is quick off the mark in offering its analysis of where things all went wrong here.

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