Sunday, 28 December 2014

We're not the Socialist wing of the SNP - stop asking us to be

One of the more disturbing factors about the astonishing rise of the Scottish National Party since the independence referendum has been the tangible intolerance of a minority of their more zealous recruits. 

This has been manifested mainly in the apparent belief of some of them that the Scottish Socialist Party is a plaything of the SNP, and should behave accordingly. 

Part of my duties within the SSP is to help operate the Party's social media accounts, and we have experienced a barrage of tweets from some SNP supporters demanding that we withdraw from the general election in favour of a party with which we share almost no common ground on the basis that we share some of their views on the constitution.

One such tweet, received on St Stephen's night, read thusly:

will u ask ur members to vote in GE for the good of Scotland

Naturally, I replied in the negative. Actually, we are rather hoping that members of the Scottish Socialist Party will vote for the Scottish Socialist Party in the General Election.

When the SSP said we would stand in the General Election, as we have in every General Election and Holyrood Election since our foundation, there were shrieks of outrage from a minority of SNP supporters. Dark threats were made of withdrawal of support, with one particular genius saying ''I never vote SSP anyway and will not be giving you my second vote in 2016 if you don't step down from the General Election''. I'm unsure about how to go about rebuilding the party from this shattering electoral blow.

At this stage, I ought to point out that this is not coming from any SNP candidates, leadership, hierarchy or even activists, at least the latter not to any great extent. It seems to be coming from some of those who have barely chapped a door or done a street stall for the SNP, but seem to have lost the run of themselves during the referendum and now see themselves as a sort of tartan Che Guevara.

And I must say that it's interesting that those who accuse us of ''splitting the Yes vote'' always seem to direct their ire at the SSP - they never seem to be outraged at the SNP for standing in every constituency, nor at the Greens for standing. 

These people fundamentally misunderstand politics. 

The Independence Referendum was - and there's a clue in the name - a referendum. The General Election is - and there's again a handy hint in the name - an election. There is no Yes vote in the General Election. 

During the referendum, we worked very closely with our SNP and Green partners. During the referendum. But we don't agree with each other on day-to-day politics, certainly not to the extent that Labour and the Conservatives have, almost morphing into mirror images of one another. And even at that: when the SSP put the best interests of our party to the side and called for a Yes slate of candidates for the General Election, the SNP and Greens both refused!

I don't criticise the SNP for refusing - with 90.000 new members and looking likely to win most constituencies, they're sensible to be selfish. But their zealous new fans should consider this, and look closer to home when whining about Yes unity. 

Secondly, why should we support SNP candidates in the General Election? We're not the SNP. If we agreed with the SNP's manifesto, we'd all go and join them. We are the SSP. We believe in the full, immediate implementation of socialism in Scotland. 

We believe in a republic, where the SNP is monarchist. We believe in a Scottish currency, the SNP believe in using the Pound Sterling. We wish to withdraw from Nato, the SNP is pro-Nato. We don't believe in criminalising working-class soccer fans; the SNP think that's a jolly good wheeze. We support free public transport, the SNP don't. On a multitude of issues, we disagree with the SNP. That is the point of political parties. And that is why we have elections. 

Our aim is socialism, not independence for the sake of it. If we believed in independence for the sake of it, we'd be nationalists, not socialists. We believe in independence because it is the only way to build real socialist policies in Scotland. 

Do I want to see the Labour Party smashed to smithereens in Scotland? Yes - a thousand times yes. But it's not just the SNP hoping to win over disaffected Labour supporters to - we're hoping to sweep up some ex-Labour voters. And the discerning observer might recognise that in a marginal constituency, some Labour voters disgusted with the New Labour takeover of the party will be far more inclined to vote SSP than SNP. Indeed, our understanding is that our votes are likely to come disproportionately from Labour voters rather than SNP voters. 

We are a small party and we do not expect a great deal of success in a General Election where the system is stacked against us. But argue against us on the basis of our policies. Talk about our proposed ten pounds per hour minimum wage. Debate with us our policy of free school meals for all children. Discuss our plans for a publicly-owned Scottish Pharmaceutical Corporation to manufacture generic medicines for the NHS and to provide drugs to developing countries at cost price. Have a look at our manifesto. If you think it's pish, don't vote for us. If you think the SNP's is better, vote for them. If you think Labour's is better yet, vote for them. 

But don't tell us that we have no right to put our policies to the people at a General Election. Not the right, even: it's more than that. As Scotland's Socialist Movement, we have a duty to provide a socialist alternative to the austerity policies and cuts agenda proposed, to a greater or lesser extent, by all of the main capitalist parties, including our SNP colleagues. 

And I'll just end on this note: not only us, but the SNP, spent much of the referendum trying to drum it into voters that the Yes campaign, independence itself, wasn't just about the SNP. To then turn around less than a hundred days after the referendum and demand that we stand down from a General Election because independence is all about the SNP shows a breathtaking hypocrisy and a ludicrous sense of entitlement. 

The SNP leadership is sensible and pragmatic. I've met most of them over the years. They're nice - I've a lot of time for them. There have been no shrill demands from Jackson's Entry that we sign our party over to them - and even if we did, we don't own our voters and supporters; there's no guarantee that our act of electoral suicide would benefit the SNP in any way - and they appreciate that the Yes campaign is a multi-party effort and the next Yes campaign will also be a multi-party effort. They also appreciate, as we do, that whilst we share a desire for independence, it is over for the time being. We cannot have Scotland on pause, regardless of the shrieks coming from the zealots and extremists. 

The Scottish Socialist Party is the left wing of the Independence Movement, not the left wing of the SNP. Stop asking us to be the latter: it's never going to happen.

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