'WE'LL BE fighting the May 2003 Scottish elections in a very different climate from 1999, when Tommy Sheridan won our single seat in the Scottish Parliament. Then capitalism seemed the only show in town. Today the war drums are beating, the stock exchange is still sliding, and there is a shift to the left in the trade union movement. The conditions are much more favourable for us.'
That is how Alan McCombes introduced the discussion on the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) election manifesto at the SSP national council last Sunday. Public opinion polls in recent months have consistently predicted that the SSP will get around 8 percent of the vote in May, which would translate into at least five or six SSP members of the Scottish Parliament.
Everyone was clear that that could have a tremendous impact. Tommy Sheridan pointed out that when the Herald (the main daily paper in the west of Scotland) assured us that we could get more votes if we talked less about socialism, they'd got it the wrong way around. Support for the SSP, he said, has grown because 'we're a party of direct action, civil disobedience and socialism'.
He said it was also because the SSP has joined picket lines, taken actions supporting asylum seekers, and played a key role in the anti-war movement. The election campaign is not an alternative to the continuing day to day involvement in struggles. The manifesto says we need to wage a war against poverty and inequality through a progressive Scottish service tax and the abolition of the water rates, which fall most heavily on the poorest in society. At the same time, as the executive of the SSP emphasised, we must be 'an uncompromising anti-war party', taking our place in united activity against any war against Iraq.
The hope is that this campaign will open new opportunities for arguing socialist ideas and for mobilising resistance to war and militarism.