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Telling the Missing Stories of Working Class Culture in Cinema:

‘Peterloo’ and ‘Nae Pasaran’

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, November 3rd 2018

It is a rare occasion when two films are released on the same day about working class histories of Britain. This weekend sees such a situation with the release of Mike Leigh’s much awaited ‘Peterloo’ and Felipe Butos Sierra’s ‘Nae Pasaran’.

‘Peterloo’ is the story of the infamous massacre at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, on 16 August 1819, when fifteen people were killed in cold-blood by the authorities, demonstrating naked power and to remind them of their place.

It is cause for celebration that a mainstream film has finally been made about this important event in British and working class history. ‘Peterloo’ occurred at a time of radical ferment in Britain, in the years immediately after the Napoleonic Wars when, despite the defeat of the French, the British ruling classes were still in mortal fear of rebellion and the example of the French revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban: This is not an Age of Fascism Yet

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 31st 2018

A spectre is haunting the modern world: fascism. All around the world people are talking about and identifying fascists. Newspaper headlines abound in the US such as ‘Is Donald Trump a fascist?’, ‘How fascist is Donald Trump?’ and even more emphatically, ‘Donald Trump is actually a fascist’: all from mainstream liberal papers.

The threat of fascism is now a worldwide phenomenon. We have just seen in the Brazil the victory of ‘strongman’ Jair Bolsonaro; the Hungarian authoritarianism of Viktor Orban; the rise of France’s Front National, led by Marie Le Pen; Germany’s Pegida and AfD; and Austria’s Freedom Party. All have earned the description at points ‘fascist’. If that were not enough there is another dimension, with some talking about ‘Islamic fascism’ and frequent comments such as ‘the terrorists are the heirs to fascism’: that last quote from George W. Bush, but it could have been any Western leader of recent times.

Trump is a cheerleader and mobiliser, whether you are for or against him, by dint of being the President of the USA. The thoughtful Robert Kagan wrote before the 2016 US election: ‘This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster … and with an entire national political party … falling into line behind him.’ Read the rest of this entry »

British politics, Misogyny and the Prejudice which festers in the Tories

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 24th 2018

The political world has been seen as an abrasive, macho and male club for centuries. Across the West this has meant to have changed in the last couple of decades with record levels of women’s representation and women leaders across the world.

Yet, despite this, the male exclusivity tag still hangs over much politics. Neither the Labour Party or Liberal Democrats (or their predecessors the Liberals) have ever had a woman leader. The Tories may have given the UK two leaders and two Prime Ministers, but until recently they had a terrible record in women Tory MPs. And the total number of women elected in the last century has only just exceeded the number of men in this House of Commons.

In the year when we marked one hundred years since women first won the vote in the UK, although it took another decade for gender equality (and then another twenty years until 1948 until the UK abolished plural voting), it is a bit of a reality check for some optimists when a number of Tory MPs talk in a disgusting and unacceptable way about their leader and PM Theresa May. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming Together or Falling Apart? Freedom of Speech in the Age of Noise

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 17th 2018

The context and limits of freedom of speech have always been important, but everywhere this seems to have become increasingly contentious.

Whether it is white supremacists in the US declaring they are protecting the US way of life, our very own home-grown hate speak from Tommy Robinson, or the multiple sensitivities, claims and counter-claims on transgender issues something seems to be going on.

Only last weekend there was a mini-controversy when Ann Henderson, Edinburgh University’s Rector, retweeted details of an event on ‘How will changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) affect women’s rights?” She was condemned by a host of equality and women’s rights campaigners who felt that Henderson, a lifelong feminist, had somehow let down the cause by the act of retweeting, and thus acknowledging there was a debate that needed to be had. Read the rest of this entry »

A Vision of the Future comes to Dundee: A Tayside Renaissance?

Gerry Hassan

New Statesman, October 12th 2018

Dundee is being talked about. This marks a big change for a city that traditionally has been ignored or presented in clichés – of jute, jam and journalism, the Tay Rail Bridge disaster, and William McGonagall.

Now Dundee is on the map, and not just the Scottish and UK one, but internationally as a tourist and cultural hot spot, and a must-see destination.

The major reason for this sudden interest is the opening of the V&A this month. It has been a long time coming, with expectation rising in the city and beyond.

The V&A is a statement of intent, and style-wise makes a dramatic impact. Its striking angular, shape and structure; its visceral materials and dark colours, can be seen from across the River Tay – and in the city centre, glimpses of the V&A peek out from side streets. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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