A valuable discussion is at present taking place on The Scottish Left Forum on Facebook. It centres on an article and subsequent responses by Suki Sangha, a member of Rise and former member of the organisation formed by ex-SWP and SSP comrades, the ISG.
Suki's superb article is here
This discussion comes as part of the year and a half long debate about the future of the left in Scotland. This debate has led to the current electoral alliance calling itself Rise, and the draining of activists from the Scottish Socialist Party.
It also comes at a time when the extremely troubled Tommy Sheridan has isolated yet another swathe of activists amidst allegations of sexual predators and cover ups within Solidarity, which seems to be now consisting of Sheridan family members and fans. Sheridan became part of this debate during and after his time as "Convenor" of the SSP. His Downfall highlights exactly what Frances Curran calls "he who shouts loudest."
My views on the discussion within the SSP are well known- I have highlighted the warping of democracy within the SSP in order for those who perceive themselves as "leaders" to maintain that power.
I am attempting to unpick the tangled, heated debate that has snowballed in the past year and a half within the SSP which has had huge consequences on the development of the left in Scotland this during that time.
As part of the ongoing debate and discussion (that I feel maybe calming down towards something more constructive than it has been), former SSP MSP Frances Curran has asked a number of questions about challenges to Suki's article.
I'll attempt answers to Frances questions (my answers- I don't purport to represent anyone).
I for one welcome her measured tone in this. Something that has been rare in the discussion within the SSP and Rise for over a year.
"1) why are the people predominantly in leading positions white older men and why has this been the case for a century? "
It's been the case since the Middle Ages- and during the Roman occupation of the U.K. It is historical and linked to how a theocracy diminished the religions and factions that were feminine led and those that promoted equality (see "witch hunts," the Cathars, the male warping of "the cult of Mary" etc).
Patriarchy is a huge problem that needs addressed.
"2) is it the case that the left just replicates the patriarchal oppression of women that is stratified through every level of capitalist society?"
"3) are we ok about that? I'm not"
I am certainly not ok with that.
"4) this domination by white older men meant that historically the movement would not support women getting the vote, equal pay, women's access to birth control, and our ability to control out own reproductive rights and our own bodies. Why?"
Because of the link within patriarchy to the pseudo science of theological morality. Patriarchy and the structures and assumptions that go with it, are the problem. Power reproduces itself in its own image.
"5) in a contemporary context there are many in our movement led by white men who don't support 50/50 and would like to reverse it - why?"
This is something I found astounding when on the SSP EC- a new constitution was presented to the EC in 2014 that had deleted the much struggled for 50/50. Virtually no one else around the table saw that as a problem.
"6) it wasn't the men in the labour movement who changed the culture and attitudes and the brought the freedoms I have as an unmarried, single parent in social housing who can have sex with whoever I want and it is no-ones business. This is a huge liberation for women. But it was brought to us through the influence of the Women's Liberation Movement. If the left is supposed to be progressive for women why were they not in the forefront of this revolution? In fact this tension led to thousand of women splitting from left organisations in the 70s."
I absolutely agree. I joined the SSP only after voices like Rosie Kane's came to the fore. Sheridan's idiocy put me off voting for and joining the party. I am certainly no advocate of "he who shouts loudest" being the person to lead anything. I as brought up and lived in Northern Ireland throughout the "Troubles." The shouty men were no friends to peace, equality or goodwill! I certainly believe in our society, patriarchy hampers talented women's voices from being heard.
"7) why are a load of men so upset about Suki's very good article? Why was the response not - yes you have a point, we need a more diverse representative left leadership what can we do to help.?"
I am not upset at Suki's article. There is nothing new in it. I agree with it.
I take issue, though, at her trying to rescue her term "pale male and stale" which originally was aimed at people (not just men as the resignations from the SSP EC should show) who were debating the nature of the push towards having the party involved in the SLP.
It was an ssp discussion- one that was not allowed to properly take place. That warping of democracy of course caused discussion within the party. Suki used the term "pale male and stale" to describe those having that conversation online. The article has since slightly changed her original use.
"8) why has the response been we are really angry at this phrase because our feelings are hurt and we don't accept your premise because we don' like the language you have used to express that experience of your oppression? The premise is completely valid."
See my answer above. I'm not angry at her article. I take issue with the almost sanitisation of her original use of the term "pale male and stale."
"Sadly you are running into the same problems of previous generations of left women oh by the way who very very class conscious. The struggle for a feminist left goes on....sadly."
I don't ENTIRELY agree with this. I think it is a case of scattergun diplomacy (or scattergun attack) that has wounded potential allies.
Perhaps Suki didn't realise that the SSP debate was really one that was happening because of a warping of democracy in the party (by those who wanted to push towards Rise).
I think the recent backflips by some of those who did this should show Suki and others where the problem lies - within the democratically challenged EC of the SSP.
Her original use of "pale male and stale" was used against people who could have been allies within Rise (or whatever it becomes), but it was, instead perceived as another attack on those who wanted questions answered about SLP/Rise; about why the SSP's mammoth work within the massive Yes campaign was being set aside for the tiny (by comparison) RIC and why bullying and defamation was being ENCOURAGED within the SSP leadership in order to move towards something they now oppose.
I disagree with many people on this thread. Historically I have rarely disagreed with Frances, but the dreadful personal attacks on those wanting proper discussion within the SSP has seen us on differing sides of this debate. The idiotic thing is, the scattergun attacks on people within the SSP has created false battle lines.
Suki's article is helpful- the phrase, because of its original use, is not.