Archive for the ‘International Conversations’ Category

Where do we go from here?

Part Three: Agency and self-determinations, retaking the future without Marx

Gerry Hassan and Anthony Barnett

Open Democracy, August 5th 2010

This is the third, final, exchange of a wide-ranging three part conversation between Anthony Barnett and Gerry Hassan, touching on the state of British politics and democracy and how the left – weak and disorganised in the face of a resurgent neoliberalism – can propose and build alternatives to the dominant dogmas of the past thirty years. You can read Part I ‘The frustrations of British politics’ here, and Part 2 ‘Challenging the Official Future’ here.

Gerry, Thanks very much indeed,

Your response has sent me into shock. I good one, perhaps, but also painful, hence the delay in my reply. One part of me is trying to sort out what to make of the peculiar new situation here in the UK. Has the Coalition given energy to a conservative modernisation, talking about ‘progressive fairness’ while, despite great legislation on liberty, reasserting traditional forms of centralised control behind a programme of indirect rule known as ‘the Big Society’? Or can its communitarian appeal to self-help gather genuine political momentum?

But you have called for something more far-reaching than a response to the British situation, however sweeping this might be in confronting the entire edifice of British rule. You want to recast the way to think about change in terms of four forms of self-determination: economic, social and cultural and even “futures self-determination” which you see as perhaps the most important. This approach and its terminology to replace socialism.

I want to agree. Let’s put aside the hubris in any claim to “futures self-determination” which I’d certainly argue over as I think modesty is a central virtue not just a character trait (see Philip Pullman at the Convention).

Replacing socialism has to be a practical and strategic ambition not just a theoretical or moral one. It is all very well calling for a better way of life and a political ideology that could replace socialism or social democracy, but who is going to make it happen? What force or agency could deliver your self-determinations? What interests could be gathered around such an approach and successfully defy the currently existing vested interests of the state and corporate capitalism? Read the rest of this entry »

Where do we go from here?

Part Two: Challenging ‘the Official Future’

Gerry Hassan and Anthony Barnett

Open Democracy, August 4th 2010

This is the second of a wide-ranging three part conversation between Anthony Barnett and Gerry Hassan, touching on the state of British politics and democracy and how the left – weak and disorganised in the face of a resurgent neoliberalism – can propose and build alternatives to the dominant dogmas of the past thirty years. You can read Part I here.

Thanks for the message Gerry!

How am I supposed to get to sleep without an answer to the next onslaught of neo-liberalism!

I agree and disagree, so lets start with the latter which is more interesting. When I hear the word “values” I reach for the off-switch. What we need is democracy, meaning a fight to get power into the hands of citizens. To achieve this calls for a constitutional settlement that permits and protects democracy and the law-based human and minority rights, liberty and privacy that are the essential framework for any majority decision taking. So we do need to debate and change processes, structures and in our case the UK constitution which is a dangerously broken beast.

I strongly agree that this needs to be combined with a far-reaching political economics that we don’t have as yet.

You can see the essential combination of democracy, structures and the economy at play in the ham-fisted debate that is taking place in the Euro-zone about fiscal policy.

Why am I not as alarmed as you? Meaning I am in a state of alarm but not yet despair. First, there is economic growth taking place around the world from which many are benefiting. Second, the digital revolution is transforming productivity and will eventually open the way to green, sustainable energy too. The application of IT is part of the problem, of course, as it is disrupting so much so profoundly. As well as creating a monstrous potential threat to liberty. Yet also, it’s leading to new forms of politics that could provide the means for democrats to organise democracy (instead of having this done for us by parties). Read the rest of this entry »

Where do we go from here?

Part One: The frustrations of British politics

Gerry Hassan and Anthony Barnett

Open Democracy, August 2nd 2010

In the first of a wide-ranging three part conversation, Anthony Barnett and Gerry Hassan discuss the state of British politics and democracy and how the left – weak and disorganised in the face of a resurgent neoliberalism – can propose and build alternatives to the dominant dogmas of the past thirty years.

Hi Gerry,

There is a strange mixture of moods here in political London. There is a Tory right, with Spectatorish leanings, used to dominating the argument across most of the print media and bullying the BBC. It is aghast at the coup Cameron has dealt them. He has got office, the highest validation of principle in the Tory cannon, yet he has won it by delivering the liberal Toryism they scorned (and hoped he was merely pretending to advocate).

It is a truism that Britain (and even, arguably, England) is a centre left society. But the ruling elite has never been and they are astounded by the coalition. This includes the BBC which refused to regard the ‘database state’ as important or report the fears of an intrusive state, which were very widespread, as ‘relevant’. Mark Thompson, its Director General, recently told Broadcasting House that he favoured opening the archives as the BBC’s coverage over the years gives a “pretty good portrait of people’s lives and emotions”. But no one who listens to its broadcasts of the past few years would come away with any understanding of why the Coalition has set about rolling back the intrusive, controlling state. The BBC, of course, is part of it, thanks to the license fee. Read the rest of this entry »

The Next Left: A Transatlantic Conversation

Jonathan Freedland and Michael Walzer

Published in Gerry Hassan (ed.), After Blair: Politics after the New Labour Decade, Lawrence and Wishart in association with Compass 2006.

London
May 23rd 2005

Dear Michael,

In the Clinton-Blair years, progressive parties in Britain and the US joined forces, trading electoral techniques and even the ‘New’ philosophy that saw them shed unpopular positions on welfare, crime etc in order to become more electable: New Labour, New Democrats.

In Britain that approach has weathered better than it did in the US: Labour is still in government while Democrats have been ejected from both Congress and the White House.

Could there be a new kind of transatlantic progressive dialogue that might heave the Democrats out of the hole – and rejuvenate a flagging Labour government? There are dozens, including climate change and immigration etc, but I propose three areas to consider: Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland in the Global Age: Rethinking Ukania, Europe and the New International Order

Tom Nairn and George Kerevan in conversation

This is a longer version of a conversation of which an abridged edition appeared in Gerry Hassan, Eddie Gibb and Lydia Howland (eds), Scotland 2020: Hopeful Stories for a Northern Nation, Demos 2005.

Edinburgh
October 5th 2004

Dear Tom,

I feel like an old soldier parading for the Armistice, medals proudly on show, but just a bit quizzical about what we achieved in the conflict. For you and I are battle-scarred veterans of the Second Devolutionary War. The one that ran from the failure of the first devolution referendum in 1979, to the final victory and restoration of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Read the rest of this entry »