Posts Tagged ‘The Future of the Left’

A Journey into the World of George Galloway

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 27th 2014

Many ridiculous things have been said in the independence referendum.

There was Alex Salmond’s questioning of Alistair Darling in the first debate on the possibilities of ‘aliens’; Jenny Hjul in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on ‘the enemy’ next door and then trying to pass it off as humour; and only last week Polly Toynbee in ‘The Guardian’ referenced Alex Salmond and Robert Bruce, then wrote, ‘That’s what fighters the world over say’, listing a host of warzones from Gaza to Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, and then publically denied making any connection.

Yet the prize for the most consistent performer in saying outlandish things in the independence referendum has been, like the Scottish Premiership, no real contest. In an analogy he would undoubtedly approve of, the Celtic FC in this context is the (thankfully) one and only: George Galloway, erstwhile MP for Bradford West.

Last week Galloway took his ‘Just Say Naw’ tour to Portobello Town Hall on a sunlit Wednesday night. In an Edinburgh of many attractions, Galloway attracted an audience of just under 200, nearly all of whom, if the applause and tuts were any guide were convinced No voters, with a couple of undecided, and a sprinkling of half a dozen Yes voters out for an evening’s entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 30th 2014

Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.

All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.

However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

A Time for Boldness and Honesty: 21st Century Scottish Radicalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 23rd 2014

The independence referendum has seen an explosion of radical and progressive thinking and activism. Where there was once silence and disillusion, now there is hope, excitement and imagination.

There is the generosity and pluralism of National Collective, the breadth and reach of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), and the energy and dynamism of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Then there is a wider set of trends looking at how to develop a deeper democracy from the work of So Say Scotland and its Citizen’s Assembly, ‘the art of hosting’ processes, and the Electoral Reform Society’s work on deliberative democracy.

The above – with all its undoubted positives – has to be put in historical and political context, understanding the shortcomings and failures of the left generally, and the Scottish left in particular. This is an essential prerequisite if this outburst of energy and radicalism is to have a lasting effect on the Scottish body politic. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »