The split on the Scottish Left between celebrity populist and genuine socialist politics
On May 1st, 2003 six Scottish Socialist Party members were elected to Holyrood. From December 23rd, 2010, by far the best-known (former) member of the SSP, Tommy Sheridan, faces a jail sentence for committing perjury, following in the footsteps of Lord Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken. At a time of unprecedented attacks on the working class, led by a Tory-Lib-Dem government at Westminster, transmitted by an SNP government in Holyrood, and taken up by Labour, SNP, Lib-Dem and Tory councillors throughout Scotland, there is only one remaining socialist (SSP) representative – Jim Bollan, the councillor for the Leven ward in West Dunbartonshire.
How has this sad state of affairs come to pass, and is there anything socialists can usefully learn from all this? Perhaps the most immediate lesson is the incompatibility of trying to build a socialist organisation through promoting a celebrity leader. Furthermore, this has been highlighted, in the UK, not only by the example of Tommy Sheridan, but also of Derek Hatton (CWI/Militant), Arthur Scargill (Socialist Labour Party) Ken Livingstone (one-time Left independent) and George Galloway (Respect).
However, the fact that the same mistake keeps repeating itself shows that a significant section of the Left in the UK is more attracted to populist politics, than to genuine socialist politics, where all members are treated as equals and are encouraged to think for themselves. Continue reading “the sheridan perjury trial”