Monday, May 29, 2006

Tommy Sheridan: open letter to SSP members

If I lived in Scotland, I would be a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. I don't, so I'm not.

And although I try to keep up with SSP developments, I simply do not know enough to take a position on its factional disputes.

I'm posting this document from MSP Tommy Sheridan - pictured left - for the information of the left outside Scotland. SSP members and other Scottish activists in particular are invited to comment and explain to the rest of us what the hell is going on.

But I should add that reading the document makes me rather sad. For years I have regarded the SSP as one of the few silver linings in the seemingly permanent black cloud that constitutes the left in the UK state, and a model for what we should be doing south of the border.

Now it seems to be a party in crisis, possible terminal. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, really. As the old adage goes, never underestimate the capacity of the left to shoot itself in the foot.


YES to class solidarity and socialist unity; NO to political witch-hunts and personal character assassinations:


'I write this letter with a very heavy heart. The Party I have invested so much time and energy to build from scratch has displayed serious signs of internal decay over the last 18 months.

'Alongside many other comrades we sought to build a class-based socialist party, able to appeal to the broad masses of Scotland around the political principals of struggle, solidarity and socialism.

'Today there exists an unsavoury cabal of comrades at the core of the leadership, their hands on the apparatus, who are more interested in pursuing personal vendettas, through vile lies and slander, than conducting the class struggle.

'Over the last two weeks I have resisted any public comment, despite the clear and consistent strategy of politically isolating me in the press, and attempting to implicate me as the culprit for the current News Of The World and bourgeois court-led attempts to destroy us.

'Yet who is responsible for the mess we are in? Who decided that our party should examine and discuss the private lives of comrades at meetings? Who decided that any such confidential discussions should be recorded? Who decided to keep secret copies of such private and confidential discussions? Who decided to deliberately leak to the press and media that such a document existed? Who decided to appear in court and admit to the existence of such a secret document?

'The section of our EC who promoted and executed this strategy are clearly to blame for the political crisis we now find ourselves in. It has been a strategy alien to the socialist and trade union movement and more akin to the dark days of Stalinism.

'Apparently the secret document contains personal information about myself. Imagine an employer held such a document about an employee. The employee would have the basic human right to see such a document, challenge the content of such a document and demand a copy of such a document.

'Up until two weeks ago I had never seen the document. I have still never read it and I am denied the right to challenge it or hold a copy. We have acted like a bad employer and breeched basic human rights and trade union principals.

'Let me state clearly. There should never have been a meeting convened to discuss a members private life, which was the secretly recorded and documented without the knowledge of the individual, their cooperation or their right to challenge the accuracy of such a document being denied. It is simply an outrageous practice, outwith the spirit and principals on which we were founded.

'However, now that such a disputable document has been constructed, concealed from the individual concerned, constantly leaked to the media and admitted to in court, I believe it should be handed to the court to trigger the release of Alan McCoombes.

'I believe that Alan and a core group of seven or eight other leading comrades have misled the party into their current quandary, but I salute his courage and determination to resist the undemocratic power of unelected judges to interfere in the internal affairs of democratic political parties.

'The problem is that we cooperated with the courts in the first place. It is none of their business whether we possess recordings of meetings or not. They should have been properly defied in the first place and the party removed from a personal libel action against the most reactionary scab outfit in the world.

'Instead we have been dragged into that case because of the misleadership and the
desperate attempts of the Scum of the World to salvage a case which had all but disintegrated due to their downright lies.

'Now a comrade is in jail and our resistance to the disgraceful and undemocratic interference of unelected judges has been displayed. He must languish in jail no longer.

'The document in question should be handed to the court under protest, submitted
to the court in a sealed envelope and debated over under protest or handed to the court via my legal team under protest. Further resistance at the expense of a comrade's personal freedom is not acceptable.

'Make No mistake, the Scum of the World's attack on me and our party is an extension of the class struggle. They are our mortal enemy. They want to destroy me, the party, and more importantly, what we stand for. They are bullies of the gigantic type. They seek to destroy trade unions,socialist ideas, class solidarity and individuals through callous lies and distortion.

'I refuse to bend the knee to their assault on me. They have spread cruel lies knowingly and in a fashion calculated to discredit me as an individual and as a socialist. The four year affair they have accused me of is a complete fabrication. I expect such slander from these organs of the state because they are the scum of the planet. But what about the political witch-hunt conducted via vile personal lies promoted by leading SSP members?

'Over The last 18 months I have been accused of heinous crimes in a co-ordinated fashion by a group of comrades so blinded by their personal hatred and spite towards me that they have failed to see the enormous damage to the party.

'In the Brel(?) Bar in Ashton Lane just over 12 months ago one of the three female MSP
comrades who have consistently sought to undermine me and discredit me, accused me of "being involved in woman trafficking". "Eastern European women" to be precise. Here devastating lies were witnessed by three individuals, one of whom is a journalist in a Sunday newspaper.

'At a youth event last year, several members spread poison to the effect that I "regularly used prostitutes". According to comrades picking up stories on the pub/club and party circuit I "regularly go to lap-dancing bars". I am also apparently involved in "drug dealing".

'All of these stories have been checked by me through several sources, not all friends or supporters of mine. My name, political credibility and status within our party has been consciously attacked. Talk of how to "get rid of me", "arrange my deselection" and "isolate him completely" is commonplace and coordinated.

'Over The last 18 months I have sought to build unity in our party, internally and externally. Others have sought to destroy me and build their own empires. Those with their hands on communications within and outside the party have acted as an undeclared faction.

'Certain individuals are promoted while others are ignored or discredited. I am not the only one. Comrade Hugh Kerr was guilty of giving up six years of his time to build our party, four years as my unpaid press officer, his face didn't fit. He was rounded on and removed.

'Comrade Rosemary Byrne thought her election in 2003 would herald a new dawn for
socialist politics. She was not "on message". She didn't support the 50:50 campaign. She believes class politics and identity are more of a priority than gender politics. She was ignored, cold shouldered and isolated for months. She was forced to consider quitting. Now she's fighting back!

'Comrade Mick Daly, the West of Scotland organiser, was guilty of inexperience, and not being part of the "Stanley St grouping". He was isolated and undermined, his face didn't fit. His resignation was sought after and keenly encouraged.

'I should have done more to defend all these comrades. I let them down. I myself was faced with a stark ultimatum 18 months ago. Accept and support the EC position that I should step down or be responsible for an internal civil war.

'I chose the unity option. I was wrong. Sections of the EC saw it as a sign of weakness and have sought to undermine me ever since. From the day a group of socialists were asked if they backed me in my court battle with the reactionary, rabid and anti-trade union Scum of the World, and publicly declined, to the recent public undermining of my case through issuing a public call for me to drop my case, this party has shamefully failed a basic socialist test.

'Whose side are you on when a socialist takes on the Murdoch empire? Sections of the EC are clearly batting for the wrong side. That is unforgivable in the eyes of large sections of our class and the left across the world.

'Recently things have got even worse. Comrades, yes comrades have been phoning around Cardonald branch members to gather information about who attended the recent meetings, who spoke on the recent motion that was passed, who voted in the meeting?

'Why? For who is such information being gathered? It is to assist the state in any action against the branch for daring to suggest that no records of private and confidential discussions should exist?

'Who told the Herald newspaper that Alice Sheridan was a "member of the Cardonald branch." She has only recently moved to Cardonald in the last three months. She has only been well enough to attend meetings recently after 10 days in hospital with a blood clot. Most comrades would recall her as a Pollock branch member from recent conferences. So who "stuck her in'"?

'Members of this party are effectively acting for the state. That is a disgrace. Despite The motivations of those in the undeclared faction who want me out of the SSP and deselected as a Glasgow MSP, I refuse to leave.

'The SSP is my party. It's internal regime should be warm, friendly and trusting. Not revolve around personal spite, secret documents and personal character assassinations.

'Its outward appearance should be to the broad mass seeking solutions to the horrible insecurities, grotesque inequalities, grinding poverty and bloody wars of capitalism. We are a class-based socialist party. Not a gender-obsessed discussion group.

'Our socialist principals and class identity defines us first. Not our gender or sexual orientation. Engaging with the broad mass of Scotland around real issues of concern has to be our strategy.

'From council tax abolition to free school meals. Scrapping prescription charges to promoting public ownership. Anti-war and defending asylum seeker campaigns to solidarity with all workers in struggle and independence. This is the future strategy and orientation of the real SSP.

'Not the McCarthyite obsession with members private lives and circles of friends. Let's build a united SSP, yes. But on solid foundations, not the bile and decay around those who promote personal dislikes before politics. The battle to reclaim the SSP to class politics begins today.'

Tommy Sheridan: 28th May 2006

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