Socialism Internationally: The Scottish Socialist Party on campus

by Calum Martin

Scottish Socialist Party / BBC

2014 was an exciting year for Scotland. Dominated by the Scottish Independence Referendum, the year saw a fever pitch of political activity. It’s been a good year too for the Scottish Socialist Party. The SSP is Scotland’s socialist party: we have Scotland’s only elected Socialist councillor; Scotland’s leading Socialist newspaper, the Scottish Socialist Voice and whilst one of three parties to support Scottish Independence, the SSP are the only party that is fully committed to the principle of an independent Scotland which is a republic rather than a kingdom.

First formed in 1998, the SSP has branches the length and breadth of Scotland, with Student societies and groups at various Scottish universities. The SSP is the largest and most successful socialist force Scotland has given rise to in recent history, and 2014 has seen a huge further boost to the SSP with swathes of new members and branches joining and forming this year.

The Scottish Socialist Party stood as one of the three parties involved in the launch of the pro-independence ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign. Throughout the referendum, the SSP played a positive role, making an important and increasingly widely visible contribution to the democratic process and carrying forward the message in communities the length and breadth of Scotland that this was a chance to break free from the austerity agenda the two-party system at Westminster clings to; an opportunity to reduce the power of the vested interests which dominate in London over Scotland’s future; a clear way to unlock Scotland’s Social-Democratic majority and build a firmly left of centre Scotland.

Across Scotland SSP students were fantastically active in the referendum campaign, not just as members of the SSP on street campaign work, but also campaigning hard on campuses too. For example at the peak of their campaign there, SSP students at the University of Edinburgh campus were organising and running campaign stalls twice a week on the case for Independence, with huge numbers of leaflets on ‘The Internationalist case for Independence’ produced by the Edinburgh Universities SSP society being circulated.

Much of this work on campus though came to demonstrate the importance of the mass democratic socialist party in society. By working as part of a nationwide, grassroots, mass socialist party, SSP student societies have allowed students to help build something that goes far beyond a single campus. Indeed, it means that with each campaign we fight, - be it work on campus to resist the introduction of tuition fees; be it campaigns on to challenge racism on our streets; be it the campaign against winter fuel poverty – the rewards of progress and recruits of the campaign come together and build together leaving us collectively stronger and better able to fight for progress on the many fronts we face.

2014 has been a rewarding year in that sense - SSP student societies have grown substantially, as well as the party as a whole. The scale of growth for the SSP really has been phenomenal this year: indeed in the three days following the referendum alone, over 2’500 people applied to join the SSP – a surge on an almost unprecedented scale for the socialist movements in Europe.

For it is by building mass, democratised, grassroots Socialist formations, such as the SSP, that we can really make our voices to break through, not just as a scattered individuals, in a society dominated by rampant capitalist extremism,  but as thousands - even as tens of thousands - of voices speaking as one, with a clarity and strength that all can hear. A voice that can speak out to challenge xenophobia and racism in our societies; a voice that can speak out against attacks on the most vulnerable in our communities; a voice that can speak out to challenge the systematic exploitation that exists in our world and put forth a clear vision of how we can and will go about building a society that puts people before profit.

From Alabama to Aberdeenshire, it is clear the extent to which we need such a voice, and on campus it is an important message to many students that there is little sense in simply waiting on someone else to do it: building up such a party or formation can be slow progress at times. It is always the time for building though, and the more people lend their shoulder to the wheel, the faster we can build and progress.

In Scotland the socialist movement is making progress, and SSP student groups work hard to help to keep pushing forward. There is of course very much to be done and a fair way to go yet though. For SSP student groups, 2015 will likely be dominated by the campaign for a £10 Living Wage that the SSP is rallying around across Scotland. As things stand, the SSP is on course towards being able to make a return to the Scottish Parliament in the 2016 election. With hard work we can do it, and SSP students will certainly be there to do their utmost to ensure there is a voice in that Parliament that will speak for the millions, not for the millionaires.

Looking across the Atlantic it is a joy to see that there are YDS groups across America that are vibrant, hard-working and committed to building progress. The YDS and the DSA have the potential to play an important and essential role in American society. In standing up on your campuses and in your communities and being a voice that speaks out to say that progressive change is possible; building that voice that is needed in America as much as it is in Scotland.

2015 has the potential to be a year of important progress for Scottish Socialists. In the spirit of internationalism, we hope it can be for American Socialists too.

Calum Martin is a Edinburgh Universities SSP organiser and interim branch-secretary for Edinburgh South and Midlothian SSP.

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