Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sheridan's new party: Solidarity conference reports

Tommy Sheridan’s new party - logo on the left - held its first national conference last Saturday. Put together conflicting reports from rival supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International and the Socialist Workers’ Party, and it is clear that the formation is already saddled with deep divisions.

The CWI’s Phil Stott headlines his account ‘SWP argue against socialism’. I reproduce this extract from the UK Left Network discussion list:

‘Saturday's conference was called to primarily agree a constitution and finalise the name of the new party. However, it was clear in the run-up to conference there was going to be a very important debate on the character and type of organisation that Solidarity should be.

‘The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) used the conference to strongly argue against Solidarity being a socialist party. Instead, they advocated that Solidarity should be a “movement of the movements”, a home for those fighting Islamophobia, for the anti-war movement and for those opposing climate change.

‘During the debate on the name of the party, one SWP member said, “socialism should not be in the name, if we remove it people will join us“. The SWP voted for the name to be "Solidarity", dropping the reference to "Scotland's Socialist Movement".

‘One SWP speaker, after another, emphasised that if Solidarity was socialist it would put off people joining. They argued that Islamophobia was the “main political issue” in society, today, and that Solidarity has to prioritise winning more Muslims into its ranks.’

You'd almost think the SWP are ashamed of openly identifying as socialists, wouldn't you? If Stott’s account is correct, then the John Rees crew were clearly calling for a Scottish version of Respect. But in the end, the CWI’s preferred title won the day.

However - in the grand tradition of distorted and dishonest reporting that continues to dominate the British left, Stott leaves out any mention of just how close the vote was.

For that, you need to turn to this week’s Socialist Worker. And surprise, surprise. SW does not present the debate in anything like the same light:

‘A lively debate (love the euphemism! - DO) took place in the discussion on the constitution. This was between those who favour a party model not dissimilar to the SSPand those (including members of the SWP) who feel that a coalition model, similar to Respect, would be a more effective way of engaging both with the Muslim community and with those involved in other campaigns …

‘The conference voted by 119 to 111 to call the new organisation Solidarity: Scotland's Socialist Movement.’

No mention at all of the fact that the SWP was against that step. Mind you, doesn't that almost 50/50 split look like a recipe for division right from the outset?

The thing is, I bet the SWP could have mobilised nine more members if they had tried hard enough. I guess that pained sound you hear emanating from North of the Border is the sound of its Scottish organisers getting their arses roundly kicked.

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