Thursday, July 20, 2006

Frontline Vol 2, 1 (05/06)

Frontline (Vol 2, 1) arrives, with a 'Facing the Future - Crisis in the SSP' cover. The magazine now calls itself 'An independent Marxist voice in the SSP' after the dissolution of the International Socialist Movement (ISM) into the SSP. The editorial (presumably by Alister Black) records some of the history of Scottish Militant Labour and ISM platform inside the SSP. The (fair) claim is to have united the vast majority of the left into one party, gained the affiliation of the RMT and get six comrades elected as MSPs. But then, 'as we go to press' the SSP is in crisis with the bitter split between Tommy Sheridan and others in the leadership being quickly recorded in terms of a 'witch-hunt' against a shadowy 'cabal' of women comrades. The editorial puts the focus of the split on a debate about the oppression of women and its relationship to the struggle for socialism (rather than loyalty or not to Tommy Sheridan). These debates, and the fall-out from the debate on a 50-50 gender balance, it says, were also key to the dissolution of the ISM. The key paragraph seems to me to be the one saying:
"Ex-ISM members are now examining options for for new networks and alliances to develop a democratic, socialist and feminist perspective and safeguard the future of the party."

Bill Bonnar gives a personal view of the SSP's catastrophe in 'Crisis Counselling - Choices for the SSP' with some background, a couple of depressing possible outcomes and a potentially best option of unity and consensus saving the party. This seemed superficial to me.

Nick McKerrell gives an overview of the local election results in England (and Wales, but Wales gets no mention), with the title 'Local Advances but no National Alternative' summing up the picture and confirming what they said in 2004. Respect made a 'remarkable breakthrough' in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Salma Yaqoob get mentioned. The SP consolidated their local support - and had a single-issue breakthrough in Huddersfield. The IWCA and CAP in Wigan get mentioned, both with strong anti-crime agendas. McKerrell sees this as 'a barometer of the quite confusing localised state of left politics in England.' Respect is defended against the charge of communalism and the attraction of large sections of the Islamic community to the left is welcomed, but the point about Respect support in 'predominantly' Muslim communities is made, with some limited exceptions - Bristol is mentioned. And this localised support is seen as a basic socialist technique of responding to communities and promoting campaigns, but with the danger of localism. The conclusion about the left performance is that there isn't a 'credible left force capable of uniting all these bases of support in a pluralist socialist organisation'. Respect might have that potential, but it's still an open question two years on if it will move in that direction.

Catriona Grant has an important article on pensions and the calling off of the action to spare Labour embarrasment in the local elections, marking a contrast to events in France.

Jeffrey Webber (from Toronto, a New Socialist editor and an article taken from International Viewpoint May 2006) writes about Bolivia.

Alister Black writes about the US migrants movement, which makes me think: what has happened to that movement since the glorious MayDay protest.

Murray Smith is very informative about France and the anti-CPE campaign, posing the question 'what now?' I wish everyone would pose that question rather than just celebrating movements and getting into vague generalisations). The focus from Smith is on the 2007 elections. The right is certainly on the backfoot and their defeat in 2007 is possible, but the question is of the 'lack of a credible political alternative'. The Socialist Party back in government under Royal would still mean neo-liberal policies. The SP is trying to pull another 'plural left' together, but there is a possible alternative based on the campaigns against the EU constitution and the CPE. The LCR is in favour, the CP seems to have turned to te left and done well in anti-neo-liberal campaigns, and was the main force in the anti-constitution campaign, but is still ambiguous. An agreement over not participating in an SP-led government could take off and bring other forces in. There is a problem about who a Presidential candidate would be: Besancenot is the most popular, the CP would like Marie-George Buffet, best solution would be a candidate not identified with a party (not explicitly stated here is the idea of Jose Bove as that candidate).

Pam Currie writes about abortion rights struggles in the US.
Bill Bonnar writes about the Dublin Easter rising on its 90th anniversary.

Gregor Gall in 'Debating Radical Scotland' responds to Neil Davidson's review of The Political Economy of Scotland: Red Scotland? Radical Scotland? in ISJ109 (although I can't find it on the web), ending with an attack on the 'unfortunate methodological legacy of the sectarian far left'.
Bill Scott tells the story of the Bandiera Rossa.
Kenny McEwan writes about the great JMW Turner as someone with radical and democratic sympathies.

Overall, good stuff and I'd recommend a £10 subscription to Frontline, from PO Box 2633, Glasgow, G69 6YS.


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