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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Healing the Scottish left post #sp2016 #sp16

This years rift in the left in Scotland has been the second most destructive I have witnessed in 11 years (and there have been others!). And it was acerbated by a really terrible understanding of social media, relationships in the old Militant Tendency grouping who were central to the SSP, relationships between the small group who were the core of the ISG and the SSP core, and the independence campaign, on the part of some of those in key positions in both the SSP and in the grouping that became SLP/Rise. None of these misunderstandings were helped by the manipulation of young and new activists by some experienced and older activists.

The rift (or rifts) was magnified by the disrespect, sarcasm and personal attacks on "socialist" by "socialist."

The misunderstanding of how social media works is still failing the ailing Rise (and the SSP), though Rise has, perhaps too late,  began to get its house in order. Slowly Rise have began to realise that social media is NOT a cinema screen or a notice board- it is a conversation. Their conversation undertaken by angry folk with the Rise roundabout insignia was entirely negative until recently. Condemnation of socialists who "just didn't get" Rise and pro-independence folk is now slowly, making way to sensible persuasion or ignoring of the trolls. There are still blips- spats witnessed by thousands with Tommy Ball and with journalists who aren't saying what they want them to- unfortunately some feel the loud voices in MacDonalds approach works in social media. It doesn't- or at least, not against the left you are supposed to be persuading that you are a new thing. A positive change in the left in Scotland. Its roots, as I say are showing.

The SSP used to understand that, and was incredibly profitable for it- during my team's tenure of the social media aspect of the ssp, it had 60k+ interactions (views/ likes/ rt's/ shares etc on FB and Twitter), 4000 listens a fortnight on its podcast and 15k followers on Twitter. The SSP social media fell into reverse as it was taken over by Colin Fox- someone who really has no idea of how to hold a public conversation. A man who is more used to making pronouncements others must follow.

The personalities of Colin Fox, Richie Venton and Frances Curran, and their inability to compromise on tactics and the trading on their respective (and respectable) political history have been stamped on what rifts opened within the ssp during 2015. They spoke at each other and tried to outflank each other- the Machiavellian nature of their political relationships confusing National Secretary Bill Bonnar, who is still spinning from the briefings he had from Colin, Richie, Frances and his branch secretary daughter who went from being enamoured by the promise of power from Frances, to realising that the self entitled "Team Rise," the small group of ex-ISG people, are what the party building was really for.

The confusion around what the SLP/Rise was truly about now has the SSP in a spin over its future. Within the party, groups are saying that the leadership must change. The leadership, in turn, are preparing its members for a disastrous election and are already whispering "leave Rise," and as predicted by many ssp members now either sitting this election out or who have left in disgust at the treatment of activists who had concerns about how internal democracy was twisted last year, many new members are ready to jump into the new party that will split the left further.

The realisation by Rise leaders at how destructive a completely autonomous new, almost unpolitical teenage rebellion online, is now helping create a more positive atmosphere in Rise. Those who say it is a long term project are now gaining credibility within its ranks. The sprint to the May finishing line this year has alienated people who should have been allies. But many SSP loyalists are realising that the SSP name/brand, although buffed up during the independence campaign, has been hollowed out by a very undemocratic core.

So post May, there are many socialists who must create respectful, honest spaces- discussions freed from the machinations that wrecked the left during the 20th century- for those who want to create a better Scotland. A space better than the one created by the SSP in 2002 (when the party included the seeds of its destruction within its ranks).

Those in and around Rise are confusing the ground. Some are trying to create this space. But the rhetoric on social media from some of those around that is "exclude."

In my opinion, the only people who should be excluded from real discussions are those who want to build their own groups through getting involved. The purist sects like the SWP and the CWI should not be allowed to, as they are prone to do, dominate meetings or discussions (total exclusion should be an option, and the recent history of both Scottish branches of these groups should be grounds to do so). Likewise the personalities driving and manipulating the SSP or "Team Rise." At the same time, all views and concerns should be heard.

Building the framework for that process should now be the challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I just want to say I found this very interesting. It is difficult to work out what is going on with the Scottish Left from social media and this helps.


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