Many socialists and working class people around the world celebrated Tommy Sheridan’s recent libel victory. We should also welcome his call to launch a new party in Scotland, and the momentum which this is gathering.
There can have been very few times when there was such widespread public revulsion against the government and therefore such potential to build a significant organisation to the left of Labour.
Last week over 120 Socialist Worker supporters in Scotland met and voted unanimously to support this initiative.
Socialist Worker members joined the SSP as a platform in 2001. The anti-capitalist movement was growing and disillusionment with New Labour was spreading.
The potential for a united mass-based left party was enormous.
In 2003, the SSP received 130,000 votes, sending six members to the Scottish Parliament. This vote was a reflection of the huge revulsion against the Labour government’s policies, particularly its decision to take Britain to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since that election, the SSP has played an important part in many of the struggles developing in Scotland - in the nursery nurses dispute, in defending refugees, in fighting for free school meals and against the council tax, for example.
Yet there has always been a tension concerning the relationship between the party itself and the growing mass anti-capitalist and anti-war movements.
The Socialist Worker platform has always argued that the SSP should place itself at the centre of these movements, working with all those who were fighting back, and helping to build them.
But there has been reluctance from sections of the SSP leadership to build these movements.
This was most clearly exposed during the preparation for the G8 protests and alternative summit in Edinburgh last year, when much of the SSP leadership preferred to remain outside the coalitions that were preparing for the protests and alternative summit.
For many, particularly newer members of the SSP, the G8 protests were the living proof of how a socialist party could and should work with wider forces to build a broad and inclusive movement.
Simultaneously building broad movements and the party dominated the SSP’s last conference.
In vote after vote, delegates supported seizing every opportunity to work with the widest forces in the anti-war movement, in environmental campaigns and against racism.
It is that broad, democratic socialist party that is needed now as we prepare for future battles on pensions, privatisation, racism and Islamophobia and war.
The situation within the SSP makes it impossible to build such organisation there.
That is why we welcome Tommy Sheridan’s initiative in calling for a meeting of all those in Scotland who want to begin to build a new political formation in Scotland.
It is clear that the forces exist in Scotland to make such a party a success. Many existing members and branches of the SSP have made it clear that they will join a new party.
But the discussion of a new organisation also gives us the possibility of drawing in many new forces and new members.
We can build a new party that welcomes not just existing socialists, but draws in many of the people radicalised by the war or involved in opposing the G8.
We can also attract many more disillusioned Labour supporters and many trade union members and branches that are rightly disgusted by Labour’s continued attacks on pensions, the public sector and workers’ rights.