Lair Of A Squirrel Red


Por ahora no pudimos by korakious
December 5, 2007, 10:51 am
Filed under: Chavez, Elections, Latin America, Venezuela


I shouldn’t really stress myself so much. I spent the whole of the last week thinking about the constitutional referendum, working out possible scenarios in my head and talking about it with everybody and their dogs. Fuck, I even had dreams about it. The last time I was stressed over a political event that much was just before the Scottish Parliament elections. Both times, anxiety gave way to profound disappointment.

However, having reflected on numbers, results and a series of articles my innate optimism has started crawling back in. This was a serious setback, but we have not been defeated. Chavez has still 5 years left in his term, the opposition barely made any gains relative to the presidential election and the magnitude of the pro SI rallies relative to those organised by the opposition clearly shows that the class balance of power leans heavily to the side of the conscious working class. Certainly, the slight victory of the No vote will give the shattered Venezuelan opposition something to rally around, as the calls for the convening of a Constituent Assembly by former Chavista General Baduel clearly show. However the very fact that the opposition will have to organise centred on a former enemy, around calls for national friendship and unity is clearly a sign of its own weakness suggesting that a well calculated, organised and swift political offensive by the Bolivarians is bound to shatter them. We have to keep in mind that revolutions are not linear processes where one side makes gains against the other until it wins; they unfold dialectically with each victory throwing up new obstacles and dangers and each defeat opening up new roads to success. What where the July Days preceding the great October Revolution if not a decisive defeat, with many good activists dead, leaders arrested and others going underground? The setback suffered by the Bolivarian movement is not even slightly comparable to that.

So what happened? It is evident from the numbers that the defeat of the reforms can be entirely attributed to the inadequate mobilisation of the Bolivarian camp. While the opposition gained a mere 100,000 votes (compared to the last presidential election), the Bolivarians lost some 2.8 million votes to abstention, with turnout reaching a very mellow 56% against approximately 70% last year. A lower turnout, in every situation, necessarily favours the forces of reaction, as the well-fed bourgeois and their satellite strata dutifully turn up to vote every time; it is the impoverished workers and peasants who abstain, for one reason or another. The question is why did they abstain on Sunday, a mere year after they overwhelmingly voted for Chavez routing both the counterrevolutionary and “revolutionary” oppositions?

The answer I believe lies in a combination of factors. First, we have to keep in mind that in any given situation, it is rather unlikely, if not impossible, that the oppressed classes will have achieved full consciousness down to the last person, especially when the situation is still prerevolutionary. For the unconscious masses, it was far easier to grasp the importance of the presidential election, as what was at stake was Chavismo itself; a defeat would have meant a regression back into the quagmire of traditional Washington Consensus neoliberalism. Reports from the ground also suggest that the opposition, with heavy financial backing from the United States, managed to mount a very effective, high intensity campaign of lies and misinformation (and terror), even if their concrete mobilisation was not much too look at. As you have probably already read elsewhere, “the state will take away your children” replaced the now cliche image of the baby eating communist.

This brings us to another, arguably the most important, question. Why did the conscious Bolivarian movement fail to agitate effectively and mobilise the masses to support the constitutional reforms? And also, why did they not effectively respond to the lies and filth propagated by the opposition? I can think of no other reason than the lack of an organised party of the bolivarian movement. In the absence of such, the campaign had to be based on largely ad hoc gatherings organised by the local socialist battalions that will form the basis of the PSUV. While the activist fervour of those should not be underestimated, their effectiveness cannot be compared to that of a integrated apparatus. The lack of a central coordinating organisation meant that the campaign had to be taken up by the state bureaucracy. These people have little in common with the working class and they would have failed to connect with it even if they had actually wanted to. The bureaucrats of the Bolivarian movement want nothing to do with socialism and they will consciously sabotage any attempt to destroy them as mediators of power, including the strengthening of community councils. It is then not really surprising that they made little effort to produce material refuting the outrageous claims of the opposition, basing their campaign on a theme of loyalty to Chavez, despite the fact that Chavez himself had often reiterated that a SI vote was not a vote for himself but a vote for the Revolution. No mention of the 36-hour week, or the community councils!

The entirely reactionary role played by the right wing of Chavismo has been sharply grasped by the radical activist base. The HOV referendum blog reports that on Monday a spontaneous gathering organised through text messages took place outside Miraflores palace in order to express solidarity with Chavez but more importantly raising the demand for a “clearing of the house” and denouncing certain officials as traitors.

The key task facing the socialist movement in Venezuela now is the foundation of the PSUV on an explicitly radical socialist basis. This will require back breaking mobilisation in the very near future (as in from January onwards). For the moment, the organised right wing has done a good job of excluding itself from the formation of the party, but it is certain that the sharper bureaucratic elements will not make the same mistake. Following that, it is imperative that the movement concentrates on a relentless attack against the dual fifth column that fetters is its development. I say dual, for apart from the state bureaucracy and the reformists, a war must be waged against the rererevolutionary ultra left that refuses to join the PSUV, the latter-day WRPs like the Argentinian PO and the neo-Kautskyite democrats who called for a spoiling of ballots at the referendum. Letting them cut themselves out of the working class movement, as they will, is not enough. In such social conditions, the minds of people are open to radical ideas, whether progressive or entirely stupid. Having said that, it must be stressed, despite being entirely obvious, that the prime threat remains the bureaucracy, the enemies within that want Chavez without socialism. They must be removed from the movement and the state at all costs and by any means necessary. Let them join the opposition and expose themselves for the hypocrites that they are. At this stage, without support from the inside, the counterrevolution will never manage to become a serious threat. Bring on the Cheka!

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Elections in Greece: Positive results for the left by korakious
September 27, 2007, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Elections, Greece

The following is my take on the recent elections in Greece. It will be also appearing on Emancipation and Liberation soon, but I thought I’d post it here as well, because I know you were waiting for it.

That the Greek parliamentary election of the 16th of September would result in a significantly different composition of the legislature than the one Greeks are used to was more or less common knowledge. Three and a half years of extreme government incompetence and quite shocking scandals such as the telephone surveillance case[1] and the abduction of Pakistani men by British agents[2], both having serious implications on national sovereignty, as well as increasing incidents of police brutality, especially during the student protests against the proposed educational reform (on which I’ll comment in another post), ensured that support for the conservative government of Nea Demokratia (ND, New Democracy), would retreat significantly from the 45.36% of the vote tallied in 2004 and the strong absolute majority of 165 out 300 parliamentary seats this guaranteed. Moreover, the fact that the whole of the rather short campaigning period took place under the shadow, or better, under the eerie glare of a rather large part of the country being ravaged by wild fires which were anything by accidental, made certain that there would be a significant protest vote gained by the far left and, to a lesser extent, the far right.

Both of the above happened more or less as expected, with ND suffering a loss of 3.52% and 13 seats, tallying 2,995,321 votes (41.83%), which significantly decreased their parliamentary power, leaving them with a very slight majority of only 152 seats. Meanwhile, the combined far left vote increased by 4.04% to 13.19%. KKE (the Communist Party) gathered an impressive 8.15% (+2.26) of the vote returning 22 MPs (+10), while SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), with 5.04% (+1.78) returned 14 MPs (+8). In large cities, the gains made by the left were significantly higher, with, for example, KKE reaching 14.55% in the V’ Peiraios district and SYRIZA 9.27% in A’ Athinon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the far right LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) entered Parliament for the first time, tallying 3.80% (+1.61) and winning 10 seats.

What was more surprising is the serious setback suffered by PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement, the Greek equivalent of the Labour party). Support for the SPD-style Social Democrats retreated below the level of the 2004 election to 38.10 % (102 MPs, -2.45%), the lowest in more than 20 years[3].

The emerging picture is that of a clear shift of popular support away from the two large bourgeois parties towards radical smaller forces. Whether this is just an isolated protest vote incidence or the beginning of a more long term trend pointing to an intensification of class struggle remains to be seen. What is certain however is that Greek society has become far more receptive to more radical politics meaning that an increasing amount of space will be opening up for the far left to organise in the near future. Before going into what the immediate tasks of the Greek left are, it would be useful to provide some background on the parties currently in Parliament which it would be fair to say, will be the prime forces shaping Greek politics in the next four years (unless of course a revolution happens, workers councils spontaneously spring up and the dictatorship of the proletariat is established, but I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up for that).

The Parties

Nea Demokratia

Nea Demokratia was founded by Konstadinos Karamanlis, the first post-dictatorship Prime Minister of Greece. It is the traditional party of Greek capital and its satellite strata. While international commentators generally refer to them as conservatives, a more correct parallel would be continental European Christian Democracy. Unlike most centre-right parties, it is not a group of right wing liberals, but on the contrary, includes a variety of rightists from David Cameron like “modern” fluffy conservatives, to intensely ideological, ultra religious xenophobic cavemen like the former Minister of Public Order, who used to refer to riot police as the “praetorian guard of the country”. The Party is currently led by Kostas Karamanlis, the founder’s nephew who seems to have been placed at the helm more for his name than his political skills.

Right after emerging victorious, Karamanlis restructured the government, removing extremely unpopular ministers like the aforementioned Public Order brute from their posts (in fact, the Public Order ministry was abolished as an independent body and was incorporated into the Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation), in an obvious effort to rebuild the party’s citizen friendly image. However, this does not in any way mean that there will be any large scale retreat from the aggressive neo-liberal policies ND has been pursuing against the exploited working strata of Greek society with the tacit support of PASOK. Nevertheless, its significantly weakened position in Parliament is bound to make the party far more responsive to social movement pressure.

PASOK

Above, I described PASOK as SPD-style social-democrats. The reason I did so is that, like the SPD, PASOK has been on an increasingly right wing trajectory without however having been transformed (yet) into a fully fledged neo-Thatcherite party like New Labour. The similarities however, end here. Unlike both Labour and SPD, PASOK did not arise organically out of the struggle of the working class, it did not emerge as the political wing of the trade union movement and was definitely never a radical socialist political force. That is not to say that, it is not, like Labour, the party were most of the working class is, but that its apparatus is not composed by cadres of a proletarian character.

The party, or movement as they style themselves, was founded following the collapse of the Colonel Dictatorship in late 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, son of the prominent classical liberal politician Georgios Papandreou. From the very beginning, the social basis of PASOK lay in the radical wings of the petty and national bourgeoisie. Its early policy platform was clearly populist left nationalist, and in that manner, they share a lot with the SNP, although Greece’s independent status makes it difficult to draw further parallels. However, like the SNP, precisely because PASOK lacks a deep, organic working class basis, it has been able to engage in a series of political u-turns, like dropping withdrawal from both NATO and EU as a policy in the period following its first electoral victory in 1981. For this same reason however, it is also far easier for the working class sections that do support PASOK to abandon it.

The current leader of the “movement” is Giorgos Papandreou, son of the founder, who acceded to the presidency shortly before the 2004 elections, in an effort to rebuild party popularity after 8 years of neo-liberal “modernisation” under Costas Simitis had severely eroded its support basis. Despite employing populist rhetoric and conjuring his father’s ghost on every opportunity, Papandreou has failed to stop PASOK’s bleeding of support to the left. After defeat in the latest elections had become evident, he announced that he would be seeking reelection as president, however, shortly after that, Evagelos Venizelos, who while popular within PASOK, is considered to be on the conservative wing of the party, also announced his candidacy. Elections are to be held sometime in November. I will return to their significance for the left later.

LAOS

LAOS is a strange case. While it would be fair to say that it is a far right wing party, its perception by many as fascist is rather mistaken. LAOS was founded by former ND member and MP, Giorgos Karatzaferis, following his expulsion in 2000. Since then, LAOS has engaged in a number of extremely haphazard political maneuvers, adopting policies in what seems to be an entirely random manner. Its contradictions are evident on a daily basis, with prominent members promoting books that supposedly debunk the “myth” that there was any homosexuality in ancient Greece, while Karatzaferis himself has stated that homophobia must be fought and voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution on homophobia in Europe. Furthermore, while LAOS maintains that there are too many immigrants in Greece, Karatzaferis has often rejected nationalism as an idea, describing himself as a patriot and an enemy of globalization instead. Further, while members of LAOS have often made anti-semitic comments, Karatzaferis has signed the EU motion on anti-semitism[4] while official party literature denounces marginalisation on any grounds and makes it clear that LAOS respects all nations and religions. If anything, LAOS has only diluted the far right in Greece, pulling it towards a more moderate direction, even though its parliamentary group contains some of the most virulently reactionary elements in the Greek political scene.

While there is definitely a difference between what LAOS as a party puts forward and what its members actually believe (LAOS includes former members of extreme right organisations that have often been involved in violent attacks against immigrants and left activists), it should be remembered that small parties can only have a political effect on society through the issues they raise and the arguments they put forward, rather than what they actually practice, simply because they are not in a position to actually do anything of any importance. The situation might have been more problematic if LAOS had managed to get into office by entering a coalition with ND had the latter not established an absolute majority in Parliament, but this is a possibility we need not presently concern ourselves with.

What is more, the percentage of the electorate that was attracted to LAOS is almost certainly not made up of potential fascists and virulent nationalists, but by less conscious exploited strata, as well as disgruntled ND voters. Its electoral campaigning was a classical example of patriotic populism, attacking “globalisation”, irresponsible bankers, foreign interests etc. while also criticising the government on its handling of “national matters” like the FYROM name question.

KKE

The Communist Party is the oldest party in Greece, founded in 1918. It has a very rich history of both outstanding heroism and shameful class treachery. Unlike most European CPs, it did not turn to reformism and social-democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead, the hardliners who marginally dominated the Central Committee purged the party of “revisionist”, or “renewing”, depending on which side you are on, elements which formed a large part of the apparatus. The expelled members went on to form Syn, on which I will comment below. Then, KKE also suffered a split in its youth wing, with the majority of the membership leaving to form another party, which has now become completely marginal.

Despite these major setbacks, KKE managed to rebuild itself and its youth, becoming the largest far left political force, with more than 10,000 members. Its success is largely based on its insistence on explicitly class based politics, its focus on staunch opposition to all imperialist projects, both NATO and EU inspired as well as its diligent participation in all workers’ struggles.

On the downside, KKE is extremely bureaucratic, leaving little, if any room for initiative to its grassroots activists. It is extremely sectarian, refusing to cooperate with other left wing groups and parties despite the fact that it could use its political muscle to become the driving force behind left regroupment in Greece. However, it does show some signs that it could be moving towards a healthier political path, with its official rejection of stage theory some time ago being the prime example. Unfortunately, the very strict model of “democratic” centralism the party adheres to makes it extremely difficult to discern its internal political developments.

SYRIZA

The Coalition of the Radical Left, is, as its name implies, not an actual party but an electoral coalition. It is quite peculiar however in that it is not composed of groups of roughly equal political weight, but is instead dominated by one party, Synaspismos, or Syn, around which a few marginal organisations have grouped. These are: the Communist Organisation of Greece (Maoist), International Workers’ Left (a split from the Greek SWP), Red (a split from the latter), Movement for the United Action of the Left, Active Citizens, Ecological Intervention, Renewing Ecological Communist Left, Popular Unions of Bipartisan Left Groups, and the Democratic Social Movement. Apart from the latter, it would be fair to say that no one, other than left wing activists, has ever heard of these groups. It is thus very unlikely that anyone, apart from their members, intended to vote SYRIZA in order to support them. It would be safe therefore to regard the growth of support for SYRIZA as a coalition, as a growth of support of Synaspismos as a party. In fact, “Synaspismos” is Greek for “coalition”, suggesting that many of SYRIZA’s voters are not aware of the distinction between the party and the coalition. Thus, the politics of Syn form the core of all SYRIZA policies, even if the smaller groups maintain some influence on their content.

Synaspismos itself was formed in the early 90s after the aforementioned expulsions from the Communist Party. The expelled members joined up with the Eurocommunists that had split from the party in the late 60s. As is the case with most Eurocommunist and reformed CP formations, Synaspismos’s social basis was far less proletarian in composition, with the party being strongest amongst the more privileged strata of the working class as well as the radicalised elements of the middle classes. Naturally then, Synaspismos conducts its politics with little, if any reference to class as the fundamental cleavage in society, while socialism is rarely mentioned as the party’s ultimate political goal, with abstract references to a “more just society” being made instead. This movementist, RESPECT like approach is entirely in line with Syn’s leadership plan to construct a broad, left of PASOK alliance, as in opposed to an explicitly socialist political force. While there’s is an argument (correct or wrong) to be made for such a strategy in countries like England, on the basis that the political level of the working class is not high enough to allow the growth of a radical class-based socialist party, in the context of a society that is obviously receptive to open class politics as is shown by the growth of KKE, this is nothing sort of reactionary.

In its defense, Syn has a far healthier internal political structure/culture than that of the KKE, which, allowing the formation of platforms is fairly similar to that of the SSP. However, the ideological cohesion of Syn is far weaker than the SSP’s even before the split. The SSP suffered from including socialists with very contradictory ideas of how socialists should conduct their struggle, but the idea of socialism as a society that is a complete negation of capitalism was never disputed. Syn on the other hand includes in its ranks anyone from orthodox Marxists to radical social-democrats. This is a rather insoluble contradiction that has often led to embarrassing incidents of Syn members from different factions opposing each other on tv panels.

I hope that the above has given the reader a more or less solid idea of the nature of the prime political parties in Greece; we can now proceed to examine the prospects opened up for the left by the electoral result.

Prospects and Tasks

While both the retreat of the main bourgeois parties and the growth of the radical left were substantial, it is important to remember that they were not nearly as great as the scale of the destruction wrought by the summer fires should have caused them to be. This is not the place to discuss how bourgeois hegemony maintains itself even in the most adverse circumstances. It is important however to realise that if the left does not remain persistent in its resolute opposition to neo-liberal offensives, as well as organise effective resistance against them, this breakthrough might very well be for naught. While a collapse of the scale of the SSP vote is extremely unlikely, simply for reasons of historic loyalty to KKE of a sizable portion of the left, a retreat to the levels of 2004 would still be very disappointing.

In the immediate future, there will be a number of issues that will require swift action to be taken by both KKE and Syn-SYRIZA. Firstly, the attitude of the government towards the communities destroyed by the fires will surely cause much disillusionment and aid will most definitely be insufficient, inefficient and tokenistic. Further, it is certain that a large part of the burned areas will be given to land developers to build on. Infact, this has already started in some areas. There will definitely be significant local opposition to this and it is imperative for both left poles to be visibly present. Unfortunately, given the rural nature of said areas and their long conservative tradition, it is unlikely that a strong left current will be established there. It is however important that the left is present, if only to help raise its national profile, as the destruction of the Peloponese is regarded as a serious matter by the whole of Greek society.

Second, after having restructured itself, the government of Karamanlis will surely embark on an offensive of “modernising” reforms that will be directed against the working class. The one that is bound to have the highest profile, at least in the immediate future, is the proposed revision of the constitution to amend article 16, guaranteeing the public and universal character of education in the country. The student movement that shook Greece last year, although bound to be significantly demobilised and weakened after a whole summer of catch up classes and exam periods, will surely be brought to the forth once again. While the movement suffered from the lack of a correct political orientation, being basically led by corrupt elements of the student union and professor bureaucracy, which saw the “framework-law” reforms – which has since been passed – as an attack against their privileges (which they were), there is little doubt as to the need to fight against the proposed constitutional revision, which would almost certainly destroy what little quality public education in Greece has. The student movement therefore will offer a good chance for the left to build and organise.

Finally, the succession struggle in PASOK will inevitably cause much upheaval within the working masses that still support them. If the populist Panadreou was unable to stop PASOK’s bleeding of support despite his overtures to the left, then Venizelos, the likely winner of the contest, who is a far more thoroughly bourgeois politician will only increase the rate of decline. It is thus more likely that PASOK will soon start to fight ND on its own ground. Bizarrely, this might actually work for them, as ND will most likely move to the right on token issues as pressure from LAOS increases and since the difference between PASOK and ND is almost entirely tokenistic, it is not improbable that the more centre oriented ND support base will move towards PASOK. In any case, a huge space will be opened to the left of PASOK that the left should move to occupy. In this respect, the president of Syn and SYRIZA, Alekos Alavanos is entirely correct in remarking that radical social democracy should be approached by anti capitalist forces[5]. However, the Syn leadership is wrong in trying to achieve this by means of finding common ground, when it clearly has the political weight to pull the left of PASOK elements towards an anti-capitalist direction, meaningfully different to the dead end of anti-neoliberalism. Any alliance of Syn with the radical social democracy on their grounds will only strengthen its internal social democratic factions and increase pressure for entering a coalition government with PASOK, a possibility which has never been rejected in principle by the Syn leadership.

Conclusion: The problem of left bipolarity and the KKE or Syn dilemma

As long as this division within the radical left persists, any resistance against the increasing aggressiveness of the bourgeoisie will be severely fettered by sectarianism, while any hope of it turning into an actual working class offensive will remain just that, a hope. While it is true that responsibility for kicking off the project of meaningful left unity lies with KKE as both the larger and the more radical force of the two (and unfortunately, the most sectarian of all), Syn-SYRIZA should be criticised on the basis that it does not engage in any action that might make the KKE Central Committee more open towards the prospect of rapprochement. Specifically, Syn’s complete lack of principled opposition to the European Union’s directives (in fact, the nature of its opposition amounts to critical support), must be abandoned in favour of a more clear cut rejection of the whole project like its position on NATO. Further, the radical wing of Syn should try to pull the party towards a more class oriented approach to politics, away from its current new left movementism, which is a sure recipe for dilution of principles. It is Syn that must provide the initiative for left regroupment on a radical socialist basis, even in the form of an electoral pact, as any such move is unlikely to come from KKE.

This situation creates an almost insoluble dilemma for non aligned Greek leftists. Electorally, one has to choose between a mass party with explicit class, socialist politics which is however totally bureaucratic and sectarian, and a smaller loose coalition of vaguely radical left forces without a clear political orientation which could in the future possibly enter a bourgeois coalition. There is no easy solution to this problem and one has to choose based as much on personal convictions and feelings as on objective political analysis. Those of us who follow the Greek left without being actively involved in it, can only hope that the self-activity of the working masses will at some point force their vanguard groups to get their act together.


[1] For a fairly good piece on this, see the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_telephone_tapping_case_2004-2005

[2] Greek society was in the dark about this, until it was uncovered by the BBC. See here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4526502.stm

[3] See the Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation website for an analytical breakdown of electoral results. http://www.ekloges.ypes.gr/pages_en/index.html

[5] Interview of Alekos Alavanos on NET (in Greek): http://www.syn.gr/gr/keimeno.php?id=7563



EXCLUSIVE! by korakious
May 9, 2007, 12:58 am
Filed under: Elections, independence, SSP, UK politics

The Lair brings you the SSP statement on the election results before anyone else! Don’t you just love us?


The day Scotlands rainbow parliament turned grey

by Alan McCombes

By any standards this was a massacre for the left.

The red-green presence in Holyrood, represented by the Scottish
Socialist Party, the Greens and Solidarity was slashed from 15 to
two.

Of the six-strong group of independents, only Margo MacDonald was
left standing.

May 3rd 2007 was the day that Scotlands rainbow parliament was
turned a drab prison grey.

The wipe out of the socialist left was made all the more bitter by
the final electoral arithmetic of the new parliament.

Last Thursday marked the end of Labours monolithic stranglehold over
Scottish politics at national and local level. The emergence of the
SNP as the biggest party in Scotland by the narrowest possible margin
will not lead to instant independence, the removal of nuclear weapons
from the Clyde, or even the demise of the Council Tax.

But it is likely to open up a new, turbulent phase in Scottish
politics, a time of strife, which could accelerate the ultimate
break-up of the United Kingdom and pave the way for the resurgence of
socialism.

After the horrendous internal strife within the left over the past
year, and with the socialist movement bitterly divided, the SSP went
into this election in a brutally realistic frame of mind. This was a
damage limitation exercise. At best, the party hoped to maintain a
fragile toehold in Holyrood in preparation for better days to come.

Yet no-one expected the sheer scale of the collapse of the socialist
vote, down by 100,000 votes from 2003. The final tally of votes
appeared completely out of synch with the attitude of voters on the
streets and at polling stations, which was open and receptive to the
politics of the SSP.

The Greens too were stunned by the scale of their losses. On the
morning after the election, shell-shocked Green MSPs admitted that
they had been expecting to win nine seats.

Although Solidarity polled more votes than the SSP, the failure of
Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow was the biggest shock result of the night,
leaving Solidarity activists visibly traumatised.

At the start of the campaign, the bookmakers William Hill had offered
odds of 100-1 on Sheridan being re-elected the kind of odds that
might be offered on rain falling in Glasgow sometime in the next six
months.

Every media and academic commentator predicted that Tommy Sheridan
would retain his seat in Glasgow, while the SSP would be wiped out.

As the political pundit, Professor Bill Miller, admitted on Scottish
Television the day after the election, We all expected the SSP to
lose all its seats, but none of us expected Tommy Sheridan to lose.

Sheridan, the most famous celebrity politician in Scotland, even
enjoyed the open sympathy of the mass circulation local newspaper in
Glasgow, the Evening Times.

As well as forecasting his certain victory - and the defeat of the
SSP - the paper even carried a sycophantic double page spread in the
final week, headlined the House of Sheridan festooned with
photographs of the Sheridan family.

This election has been a serious setback for socialism; it would be
futile to pretend otherwise. It is also a tragedy for the thousands
of people who had come to rely on Scottish Socialist MSPs to deal
with their problems.

In Glasgow, for example, Rosie Kane and her caseworker met with
queues of asylum seekers facing deportation. These cases are often a
matter, literally, of life and death.

Other MSPs have tended to hide behind the coat-tails of Westminster,
refusing to deal with asylum because it is a reserved issue. Sadly
one of these MSPs was Tommy Sheridan, who refused to dirty his hands
with asylum casework after leaving the SSP to form Solidarity.

Within the parliament too, the SSP has provided a voice for workers
in struggle, and for others who were too poor or marginalised to be
of any interest to the big mainstream parties. Holyrood will be a
poorer place without the Scottish Socialist group of MSPs.

There is no single explanation for the debacle of May 3rd. The
incineration of the left was the product of a combination of
inflammable ingredients.

In the first place, all of the smaller parties and independents were
mangled in a classic political squeeze, in which two parties were
running neck and neck. In this election, the drama was heightened by
the fact that one of the two parties stands for dissolution of the
United Kingdom, thus polarising Scotland into two camps: pro and
anti-union.

These two juggernauts had vast propaganda resources at their
disposal. While the SSP was forced to fight this election on a
shoestring budget of just £30,000, the SNP had a war chest of
£1.5million - ploughed in by big business, including a £500,000
donation from the reactionary Stagecoach tycoon, Brian Souter.

Labour, meanwhile, was gifted literally millions of pounds of free
advertising from Scotlands mass circulation tabloid press, notably
the Sun and the Daily Record.

Despite the partys cosy rapprochement with elements of Scottish big
business, many left wing voters - including it appears most of those
who voted SSP in 2003 - swung behind the SNP in this election.

Alf Young of the Herald - one of Scotlands most incisive and
experienced pro-Labour analysts - pointed out the irony behind that
shift:

The far-left took out its anger over New Labour, Blair and Iraq by
backing a party which, while sharing their goal of Scottish
independence, has even less interest than Gordon Brown in bringing
the pillars of modern capitalism crashing down.

The small print of Alex Salmonds economic policies were drowned out
by the headline promises of an independence referendum, the removal
of nuclear weapons, Scottish troops out of Iraq and more immediately,
the scrapping of the Council Tax.

Labour, the LibDems and the Tories have all been tested in government
in recent times, either at Westminster or Holyrood level, while the
SNP is as yet untarnished by power.

As we go to press, the LibDems have spurned Alex Salmonds advances
to form a coalition. That means that the SNP are likely to form a
minority government, possibly with the involvement of the two Green
MSPs.

However, with the SNP up against the much larger bloc of unionist
MSPs, it is unlikely that an independence referendum can be achieved
before 2008.

The other key flagship policy of the SNP replacing the Council Tax
with a three pence rise in income tax may also have to be shelved.

The economics of the policy do not add up. It would leave a black
hole in council budgets of half a billion pounds, forcing cuts
elsewhere. Moreover, although a deal could possibly be reached with
the Liberal Democrats over the scrapping of the Council Tax, the
Greens have in the past voted against an income-based tax which
means that the policy could be scuppered by the narrowest of margins,
even with LibDem support.

Paradoxically, a minority SNP government could potentially create a
more favourable climate for a future surge towards independence. A
stable SNP-led coalition would involve backdoor deals, horse-trading
and shoddy compromises with the LibDems, allowing Labour the
opportunity to recapture some ground.

In contrast, a minority SNP government could allow Salmond to portray
the SNP as a party which is trying to introduce radical changes, but
is being blocked and obstructed at every turn by the three unionist
parties.

Either way, the sands of Scottish politics are shifting. The
socialist left may have been marginalised for the time being, but
that can change rapidly and dramatically in the future.

It is not much more than year ago that the political obituaries were
being written for the SNP after the Dunfermline West by-election
the SNPs worst by-election performance since 1982.

A procession of political pundits pronounced the terminal decline of
the SNP and the unstoppable march of the Liberal Democrats

As one commentator, Chris Deerin, expressed it in Scotland on Sunday:
Nichol Stephen is youngish, moderate and attractive. Salmond, in
contrast, wears a sullen air& the perception that they have failed to
develop as an alternative government, makes him, and them, an
unattractive prospect. The LibDems are succeeding where the SNP have
repeatedly failed& The SNP cannot turn second place into first.

Even within the SSP at the time, some members (who later left to join
Solidarity) drew the conclusion that the SNP was finished, the LibDems
were now the main opposition force in Scotland, and the idea of
independence was all but dead and buried.

Fifteen months later, and the SNP are now Scotlands biggest party
and about to form a government.

As sure as the sun rises in the morning, the socialist left will be
back with vengeance in the future. And whatever the arithmetical
breakdown last Thursday, the only socialist party with the capacity
of coming back from this defeat is the Scottish Socialist Party.

The SSP fought this election with dignity and restraint. We also
fought a highly political campaign, with a 450-point manifesto,
including the boldest and most radical policy of any party in this
election free public transport.

In contrast, Solidarity exposed itself as an embittered personality
cult around Tommy Sheridan.

The 16-point manifesto of the breakaway party, along with its other
election material, prominently featured photographs of Sheridan, his
wife and his two year old daughter. His name appeared on every ballot
paper, including even for the local council elections.

A large part of the Solidarity vote was an expression of sympathy for
Tommy Sheridan based on confusion and misunderstanding of the facts
that led to the split in the socialist movement, rather than a
conscious socialist vote.

Tommy Sheridan himself, in his manifesto, on TV, and at public
meetings repeatedly accused the SSP of lies, dishonesty and
backstabbing.

That is the prospectus upon which Solidarity was created: that Tommy
Sheridan was the victim of a plot to remove him as party convenor;
that the SSP leadership manufactured allegations about Sheridans
personal life to justify his removal; that the party leadership
forged documents to back up these allegations; that members of the
SSP conspired to pervert the course of justice and in order to
destroy Sheridan.

The entire Solidarity edifice has been built upon this fairy tale,
and will come crashing to the ground as the lies unravel and the
truth emerges.

In the meantime, for wide sections of the public, including for many
ex-SSP supporters, there is no smoke without fire. The allegations
against the SSP have not yet been disproved. At the very least,
people are inclined to lay the blame equally on both sides.

The events of the last two years have been complex and labyrinthine.
But the stark facts are these.

Like Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, two top Tory politicians who
served lengthy jail sentences for their actions, Tommy Sheridan took
out a libel action based on a fraud: at least some of the material
published in the trashy tabloid News of the World was substantially
true.

The SSP did everything it could to dissuade Sheridan from this
insanely reckless legal case. We predicted that this grotesquely
selfish and deceitful course of action could lead to the destruction
of everything that had been built over decades by hundreds and
thousands of socialist activists.

But Sheridan carried on regardless. He dragged scores of people into
a legal toxic waste dump against their will. These included innocent
people who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have
since had their lives destroyed to protect Sheridans right to
hypocrisy.

The SSP was also dragged into the Court of Session. Our response was
to defy the courts and face down a jail sentence.

In the weeks that the SSP was under siege, dragged through the
courts, having its offices raided, Sheridan effectively went into
hiding, failing to turn up to any of the meetings to decide tactics.

The rest of the SSP stood valiantly against the courts.

Finally, Sheridan emerged to argue that the SSP should now buckle
under and surrender the partys internal documents to the News of the
World and the courts. His capitulation was backed by those who went on
to found Solidarity. So far, so dishonourable.

But worse was to come. In an abysmal display of cowardice, Sheridan
told the courts and the media that the documents had been forged by
the SSP as part of a plot to fit him up.

To salvage his fake reputation, he denounced the SSP leadership as
liars, perjurers, forgers and conspirators, before walking out to
split the left and wreck the socialist unity project, built up over a
decade and more.

The mainstream press, cowed by the courts and the threat of libel
action and perhaps also by the fear of jeopardising an ongoing
police investigation into perjury and conspiracy to pervert the
course of justice have never been prepared to bring out these
facts.

As a result, the SSP was fighting this election under a cloud of
suspicion. To pretend otherwise would be to run away from reality.

However, two or three years down the road, the events of the past
year will have begun to fade into the mists of history. With the
removal of Tommy Sheridan from Holyrood, the Solidarity bubble will
burst.

That will be a massive step forward for the left, allowing Scottish
socialism to be rebuilt under the clean banner of the SSP.

Spoiling tactics turned confusion to fiasco

Its not who votes that counts, its who counts the votes said
Josef Stalin.

The New Labour establishment could have taught the commissars of the
old Soviet Union a thing or two about manipulating elections.

If 100,000 votes had been disqualified in Venezuela, politicians and
newspaper editors would be calling for the tanks to be sent in to
restore democracy.

In Scotland, it looks like the response to this mass
disenfranchisement of a vast swathe of the electorate will be a
whitewash, with the Electoral Commission asked to investigate the
Electoral Commission.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, has called for a full judicial inquiry
a call that has been rejected by the man responsible for the
debacle, the Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander.

In Glasgow, lawyer Mike Dailly has begun legal proceedings.

The SSP should support both of these moves. This democratic
abomination was not the result of incompetence by the Scotland
Office.

It was a product of a deliberate, cynical manoeuvre by New Labour
politicians to confuse the public and marginalise the smaller
parties.

Since 1999, Labour has consciously undermined local democracy by
refusing to separate the council elections from the Holyrood
elections. In this election, when council elections were conducted
for the first time under PR, the case for a change was overwhelming.

But it was never put before the Scottish Parliament. A Tory MSP had
begun to initiate a private members bill, but, after what appeared to
be backdoor wheeling and dealing, dropped the proposal.

Even worse was the decision to swap the order of the Holyrood ballot
papers and to include the constituency and regional votes on a single
form for the first time.

This was a deliberate subversion of democracy, designed to protect
the big parties and undermine the diversity of Holyrood.

The SNP went along with this ploy, hoping that they too would benefit
from the confusion. They opportunistically attempted to manipulate the
new arrangements by renaming their party Alex Salmond for First
Minister SNP, reinforcing the confusion that already existed.

The SSP can report numerous examples of voters including even party
members - marking their X against Alex Salmond then scrolling down the
regional list to vote SSP. All of these votes would have been
discounted.

Ironically, the SNPs tactic has almost certainly backfired on the
party. Their cunning plan was that voters would back Alex Salmond on
the left side of the paper, then be forced to vote again for the SNP
on the right side of the ballot paper when they realised that the
smaller parties were not listed on that side.

What the SNP failed to anticipate was that a large proportion of
voters would mark both their crosses on the left side of the ballot
paper.

Because the regional and constituency ballot papers were not
physically separate, tens of thousands of people appear to have
believed that it didnt matter which side they marked their two
crosses.

This would not only distort downwards the vote for the smaller
parties; it would also negate many thousands of constituency votes,
particularly for the SNP.

Without a full analysis of every paper, it is impossible to say how
the results were affected by confusion.

However it is wishful thinking for Tommy Sheridan to claim he was
robbed of a seat in Glasgow. The claim that with just a few hundred
more votes, Solidarity would have won a seat in Glasgow is pure
fiction. Out of around 10,000 disqualified regional votes in Glasgow,
Sheridan would have required 2,200 to beat the Greens and 2,600 extra
votes to beat the SNP and even that would be based on the
far-fetched assumption that neither of these parties had any
disqualified votes!

In Glasgow as elsewhere, it is likely that the vote for the SSP, the
Greens, Solidarity and a range of other small parties would have been
significantly higher, but nowhere near enough to affect the outcome.

Nonetheless, this distortion of democracy blatantly discriminates
against the most deprived voters in the poorest constituencies who
are already disproportionately excluded from electoral politics.

The constituency with the highest number of disqualified papers,
Glasgow Shettleston, was also the constituency with the lowest
turnout in Scotland just 33 per cent.

And by the way, just in case you didnt know - Shettleston also tops
the UK league table for poverty and deprivation.

This will be also appearing in this week’s Scottish Socialist Voice. I am not particularly happy that we had to mention the split again and go down the “who’s the best party line”, but given the ludicrous statement of Solidarity, I guess it couldn’t have been avoided.



Look at us, we’re activists!!! by korakious
March 30, 2007, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Elections, Holyrood, SSP

The second session of the Scottish Parliament is now formally over. The 129-4=125 careerist party hacks left the hideous building to start their election campaigns. Until May 3rd, you should expect to see them addressing rallies, knocking on doors, talking to people on the street and doing every short of slimy trick to dupe the Scottish electorate into voting for them yet again. Jack “ape” McConnell chose to start his campaign by visiting a school building site. He is after all a Labour party member, looking out for workers! The Lib-Dem leader went to Aberdeen to “knock on doors”. The Nationalists too launched their official campaign, with Alex Salmond giving a speech about how Scotland has chosen independence and that SNP equals independence; usual SNP drivel.

They all care for us now! They care for us for 35 days every 4 years! Never mind that they are nowhere to be seen when Parliament is in session and the hacks comfortably sitting on their benches. They are busy with running the country then, but now, they can engage with us, hear our concerns and pledge to do the best for us if we give them our vote. Really!

Hypocrisy, lies and filth.This is the reason for the growing apathy of the Scottish people, especially the youth, with which everybody seems to be oh so concerned. Apathy? I’d say antipathy. The turnout for Holyrood elections didn’t drop from 58 in 1998 to 49.8 in 2003 because people “don’t care about politics”. What they don’t care about is the politics of the bourgeoisie or, in more concrete terms, the politics of parties who row over who can save the NHS when they pursue the same filthy policies of handouts to big business and pay cuts for the workers. What more than half of the Scottish people don’t care about is parties like the SNP and Lib-Dems, theoretically against the Council Tax in principle, voting against the SSP’s proposal to scrap it.

But wait a minute. There’s a party whose members are on the streets campaigning every week. There’s a party that’s not afraid to stir shit up a bit against the Blatcher government renewing doomsday weapons instead of using the money (TENS OF BILLIONS OF POUNDS) to provide student grants, free school meals and free public transport. Nor does this party cower away from matters reserved for Westminster.

This party, is of course, none other than the SSP. But why is the SSP not a party of hypocrites and capital sycophants? It’s not because we are “good people”. It’s not because it just happened that honest politicians found themselves in the SSP.

It’s because we are socialists. We are not responsible to this or that magnate. Our only allegiance is to the working class of Scotland and the world. This is what allows us to maintain our political integrity and stand when others cower. The parties of the bourgeoisie can only serve their masters’ interests. Even if an honest person does find his or her way in one of them, which is unlikely, they won’t be able to change anything. They’ll be reduced to some “colourful” dissident voice, only to be assimilated by the dominant party ideology as the time passes, or to drop out of politics altogether.

The only change the parties of the ruling class can bring is change within the system. This kind of politics however completely misses the point – the system is the problem. As long as the system, capitalism, is in place, the problems facing the people of Scotland and the world will remain. There is only one way out of the current deadlock and it is socialism.

Now, that’s a word neither Labour, nor the SNP like to hear.