Last weekend, the Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) left Solidarity, a party we co-founded in 2006, following long-running political differences with party leader Tommy Sheridan.
Tommy Sheridan has been calling for a vote for the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the Westminster elections since the days following the independence referendum in September last year. This has been done at the same time as the SNP-run Scottish government and local councils have been carrying out brutal Tory austerity.
Solidarity conference last Saturday voted in favour of urging those who Yes supporters during last year’s independence referendum “across Scotland to consider lending their vote to SNP candidates on the basis of continued support for independence, nuclear disarmament and in opposition to unacceptable and unnecessary austerity cuts to public services and jobs.”
Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity’s decision marks a significant move away from a principled socialist position and is a step to the right politically. Under these circumstances, and despite being founding members of Solidarity in 2006, we can no longer be associated with the approach that Tommy and a majority of Solidarity members are currently taking.
As we approach the Westminster elections we now have the ridiculous situation of Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity calling for a vote for SNP candidates, even where genuine anti-austerity, trade union and socialist candidates are standing under the banner of the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
As the most prominent socialist in Scotland, Tommy Sheridan’s voice, and now that of a majority of Solidarity members, will be increasingly associated with support for the SNP, a pro-business party that is carrying out cuts. This can only damage the reputation of Solidarity as increasing numbers of working class people over time see through the hollow words of the “anti-austerity” SNP leadership and move into opposition to their cuts policies.
Socialist Party Scotland put forward a resolution to the conference calling for continued support by Solidarity for the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and its candidates. Scottish TUSC stands for public ownership, opposition to all cuts, taxing the rich and big business and a living wage of £10 an hour.
In contrast, the SNP leadership has been demanding tax cuts for the oil corporations, is imposing below inflation pay caps for public sector workers and support ‘austerity-lite’ policies that will do nothing to ease the burden of savage cuts. In addition, the SNP leaders also oppose public ownership of even the privatised gas and electricity companies and are hostile to demands for tax increases on the rich and big business.
Socialist Party Scotland will be playing a key role in building the election campaign of Scottish TUSC – a coalition involving the RMT trade union, socialist organisations and leading trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners. We see TUSC as an important interim step towards the building of a new mass working class party in Scotland that can offer a real alternative to the parties of cuts and big business.
A different approach was possible
The independence referendum saw 1.6 million people vote Yes in what was a working class revolt against austerity and the political establishment. Scottish Labour, in particular, will pay a devastating political price for their betrayal of the interests of working class communities in Scotland.
The huge success of the Hope Over Fear tour, which Socialist Party Scotland helped to initiate, saw tens of thousands mobilised to meetings to hear a radical, left and socialist case for Yes. Tommy Sheridan became a big pole of attraction for many looking for a radical alternative to the pro-business policies of the SNP leaders. This reflected the large numbers of working class people who stood, and still do stand, to the left of the SNP leadership.
Socialist Party Scotland urged Tommy to help launch a new party/movement following the referendum that could have attracted many who were mobilised by the Hope Over Fear tour. Such a party could have reached out to the thousands who were moving to join political parties following the referendum. It would have grown rapidly with a clear uncompromising anti-austerity and socialist approach at its core.
This was not done. Instead Tommy, without any consultation with leading members of Solidarity, announced his support last September for the SNP at the coming Westminster elections and has continued to do so. This was a major mistake that resulted in a lost opportunity to strengthen the forces of socialism and genuine anti-austerity politics in Scotland. It has also meant that, even in the absence of a new party/movement, Solidarity has been unable to make the gains it could have.
Since the referendum the SNP both at the level of the Scottish Government and councils, have continued with cuts and passing on brutal Tory austerity in Scotland.
While Scottish Labour will rightly be hammered in the general election, the SNP do not offer any alternative in the battle against cuts and austerity policies.
Indeed, the SNP leadership is preparing the ground for a possible deal with Labour after the election that could see them vote for further austerity measures under a government led by Labour leader, Ed Miliband.
We appeal to all those seeking a genuine alternative to pro-business parties to help Socialist Party Scotland and TUSC build a fighting socialist alternative to cuts and austerity.