Posts Tagged ‘The Future of the Left’

The crisis of Britain’s institutions is one of the labour movement too

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 23rd 2013

One of the defining characteristics of the Labour Party through the ages has been its moral dimension – its indignation at the inequities and injustices of a rotten, economically and socially divisive capitalist system.

It has critiqued this via its early socialist, radical and religious roots  – more Methodist than Marx, more the Bible and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ than ‘Das Capital’.

As politics and society have changed – the post-war consensus, Thatcher, New Labour – these strands have weakened but remained. There was a hope amongst some that post-Blair and Brown Labour would recover its core principles and purpose and make the case against an economic, social and political system which has clearly lost its way.

Events have proven to be a bit trickier than that. The crisis of British capitalism, its traditional establishment and the world of clubland and ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are deep rooted. The forces of new capitalism and its brash elites in the City, hedge funds and outsourcers, has proven even more anti-social, selfish and brutal than the old one. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Flat Earthers: Barbarism Begins at Home

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, May 26th 2012

Once upon a time the world was filled with earnest left-wing revolutionaries confident that they were the future.

They inhabited places like the Sorbonne, Berkeley and LSE campuses and thought they spoke for all humanity leading to a whole generation being caricatured as ‘Private Eye’ character ‘Dave Spart’, ‘television sit-com Citizen Smith’ and the propensity for endless ideological schisms seen in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’.

All these stereotypes are now many decades old but they still carry some currency because they hit a truth; most left-wingers if they are honest will recognise their inner ‘Dave Spart’.

This is despite the fact that the left has been in retreat for the last 30 years, and that the equivalent Dave Sparts of today are the dogmatic, fanatical, humourless zealots of the free market. It is they who have tried to change human beings, behaviour and relationships to suit their simplistic theories. Read the rest of this entry »

State of InterIndependence: A Vision for Scottish Self-Determination

Gerry Hassan

May 24th 2012

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in the future

And time future contained in the past.

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (1936)

This week the Scottish independence debate reaches new levels with the launch of the ‘Yes Scotland’ pro-independence campaign, the emergence of the shape of the pro-union campaign, and the spectre of Tony Blair hovering threateningly over Scottish politics.

Scottish independence has long been viewed by the British political classes as eccentric and unworldly. The Economist’s ‘Bagehot’ column made a revealing comment this week when it stated that ‘the SNP took control of the Scottish Government in 2011’ (1), showing that for many in London this debate (and the threat of Scottish self-government) only really began with the election of a majority SNP Government in May last year.

The week of the launch of the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign has confirmed the problematic right-wing trajectory of British politics, the Conservative Party and the Westminster village. First, there has been the leaking of the Beecroft deregulation report (2), which proposed that small employers should be able to ‘hire and fire’ at will, and which has been met with derision from Lib Dems. Second, more impressively and worryingly, was the huge report from the Taxpayers Alliance and Institute of Directors, the 2020 Tax Commission (3) which brought together 19 ‘experts’ (18 men and a solitary woman) to propose the toxic mix of a 30% single income tax, abolition of corporation tax and inheritance tax, and the shrinking of the state as a percentage from half to one-third of GDP.

This backdrop has a massive impact on Scotland, as UK politics heads inexorably towards a deregulated, marketised, individualised fantasy world which aspires to be some kind of Singapore or Hong Kong sitting off the European continent. And of course, there is the now nearly inevitable in/out European referendum, posing the question: what kind of union is it that the pro-union forces want to defend? Read the rest of this entry »

The Limits of Modernisation: Blair, Cameron and Salmond

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, May 12th 2012

‘Modernisation’ is one of the defining words of our time, along with ‘legacy’ and ‘journey’. It is a word used by Tony Blair, David Cameron and Alex Salmond.

It is an in-word for those who feel they shape and define the age, change and the world. It has had an interesting trajectory; it was once bright, shiny, confident, swaggering with confidence, impatient with opposition, and believing the future was theirs for shaping.

It became associated with Tony Blair and New Labour; modernisation was about ‘the project’ and ‘the narrative’; it was against ‘old Labour’, dinosaurs, vested interests, and ‘the forces of conservatism’.

Modernisation was in Blair’s view about optimism and embracing globalisation as a force of liberation. This was ‘an unstoppable force’ and one for which he had no time for opposition, putting it to the 2005 Labour conference that people who wanted ‘to stop and debate globalisation’ might as well ‘debate whether autumn should follow summer’: an elemental view of the change sweeping the globe.

New Labour’s reactionary politics might be obvious to most now, but it did for a period pre and post-1997 open up new questions. There was an awareness that Labour had to change and understand aspiration, transform public services, look at the role of civil society, and challenge the conservatism of trade unions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beginnings of an Alternative Scotland

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, April 28th 2012

What a week it has been – Murdoch, Trump, Rangers FC and of course the economy going into double dip recession.

It is all-reminiscent of that last period of acute crisis, a failing, nervous political class and economic instability: the 1970s amplified by Dominic Sandbrook’s excellent current TV series on the decade.

Scottish debate on the economy has for many years been shaped by two contradictory strands. The first has been the power of conventional economics, concerns over our relative economic growth rate compared to the rest of the UK, and the desire to pursue ‘faster, smarter growth’. This has been the policy of all Scottish administrations post-devolution and all four mainstream political parties.

The second has been an aspiration to do economics differently from Anglo-American capitalism and the British economy and state. This has drawn on critiques of economic growth, sustainability and green concerns, and debates around health and well-being. Read the rest of this entry »