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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Scotland’s Radical Tradition is richer and more diverse than ‘Red Clydeside’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 14th 2016

The 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution will be in 2017. The seizure of power by Lenin and Trotsky in October 1917 was one of the central events of the twentieth century, took Russia out of the imperial quagmire that was the First World War, and led to revolutionary uprisings across Europe – from Berlin and Bavaria to Budapest.

Scotland had its own mini-version of this in ‘Red Clydeside’ and the series of events between 1911-19 – which saw agitation, protest and revolutionary fervor in parts of industrial West Scotland and which culminated in the bitter battle of George Square in January 1919.

‘Red Clydeside’ is much cited and also much misunderstood. There have been many in-depth studies of the period by the likes of Iain McLean and others showing that this wasn’t a mass revolutionary moment, but one of radicalism in places and government and ruling class panic in light of the Bolshevik revolution.

One strand constantly downplayed subsequently is how ‘Red Clydeside’ has been used as a spectre by middle class and bourgeois opinion as a sort of mobilising myth to scare people about the power of the mob and frighten them into being part of anti-socialist opinion. Thus ‘Red Clydeside’ has down the years equally served the mythologies of parts of the left and the reactionary right. Read the rest of this entry »

As Britain crashes and burns can Scottish politics embrace more humanity and substance?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 8th 2016

Britain is falling apart by the day. ‘British politics’ no longer exist in any form outside the House of Commons; ‘Brexit Britain’ is an inaccurate term considering the divided vote and kingdom; while the UK Government wastes our resources going to the Supreme Court to prevent a parliamentary vote actioning a referendum decision that was supposedly about parliamentary sovereignty.

It’s confusing isn’t it? Meanwhile Tory politicians and newspapers rail against judges as ‘Enemies of the People’, and the influence of millionaires in politics. At the same time, the self-titled ‘bad boys of Brexit’ led by Leave.EU donor Arron Banks plans to launch a new English-focused citizens movement. (Meanwhile, ‘The National’ responded with a front page of May and David Davis labelled ‘Enemies of the Scottish People’; a deliberate parody of the ‘Daily Mail’).

Such are the gathering absurdities of Lilliputian Britain. This is a place where the outdated, obsolete constitution which offers few real checks and balances on what central government can and cannot do, has been, after years of being weakened, finally and completely, been blown apart by Brexit. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the UK finds itself in a new location, its traditional institutions disorientated, and rather than this being seized on as a popular moment instead, plutocrats and millionaire bankrollers of Leave see it as a chance to reduce the UK to some kind of personal plaything. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for a Bolder Scotland: The Seven Stories of Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

The National, November 30th 2016

We are living through unprecedented times of change and uncertainty.

The words and phrases we use can barely keep up – ‘post-truth politics’, ‘fake news’, ‘alt-right’, the vacuity of ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and the debate on whether Trump is a ‘fascist’ or not. Language itself is struggling to convey and understand these times.

This is true in Britain and Scotland. ‘The Economist’ magazine, in its review of the year and assessments of next year, when talking of Brexit observed that ‘When a building is demolished, a brief calm usually prevails at first.’ We are at the moment in the calm before the almighty storm – one which when it hits will bring walls tumbling down and from which no defences will be fully effective.

There is a widespread assumption in the Westminster village that, with all this impending chaos, Scotland and the cause of independence is increasingly boxed in by Brexit, the constraints of EU disengagement, and powerful economic forces. They seem to misinterpret the stillness north and south of the border as a permanent calm, alongside the slender basis on which Scots voted to remain in the union in 2014: not understanding that its pragmatism could quickly evaporate given the potential future direction of Britain. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Nairn’s Break-up of Britain turns 40 and is as relevant as ever

Gerry Hassan

The National, November 24th 2016

Few books about politics stand the test of time like Tom Nairn’s The Break-up of Britain.

Next year will see its 40th anniversary. Originally published during the Queen’s Jubilee of 1977, the book offered a blistering counterblast to the then official commemorations – and self-congratulation of political and media elites who used the occasion to reflect on the wonders of the British way of doing things.

The UK has undergone dramatic change since then. Superficially in form and appearance it still looks similar. But that belies realities. Economic and social change has produced a bitterly divided country of self-obsessed, triumphalist winners, and millions of losers.

There has been devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as restoration of London governance, but the political centre hasn’t reformed. Instead, it has got worse: with power more centralised in the Prime Minister and no process of democratisation.

Nairn’s original thesis is so far reaching and prescient that it has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. The opening words of Break-up state: ‘Only a few years ago, the break-up of Britain was almost inconceivable’, but this was changing then, and is now mainstream today. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland the Bold or Scotland the Timid?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 22nd 2016

Is Scotland really special? Are we a land that has bucked the retreat of the centre-left and social democracy, and proven itself immune to the right-wing populism sweeping the West from Brexit to Trump?

Significant parts of Scottish opinion are always looking for any reason to jump on a wha’s like us exceptionalism: one which invokes our morality, values and commitment to social justice, alongside our collective opposition to all things evil from Thatcherism and Blairism to neo-liberalism.

Truth of course is rather different. Scotland is both different and not that different, in comparison to the rest of the UK. Our social democracy isn’t immune from the dynamics that have weakened it elsewhere, and should not be confused with the electoral strength of the SNP – just as before it shouldn’t be equated with the once-dominance of the Scottish Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »