I am an admirer of Gerry Hassan. I don’t agree with some of his analyses, but I have never read anything he has written that is not cogently argued and doesn't contains key insights that matter fundamentally for Scotland’s future, whatever it may be. He is, and will continue to be a serious voice in the critical years ahead of us. His commitment to Scotland’s independence is beyond question.
In a number of telling phrases, he captures what is wrong with Scottish Labour, but also sees another dimension to Scottish society, one that is little recognised, but vital.
For example – “Scotland is a social democracy for its middle-class professional interest groups. The system of government and public spending work best for those most entrenched in the system.”
By God, I recognise that reality, and fulminated against it as the Glasgow professional classes, blinded – and bought – by the glitz and glamour of Big Sport and the Commonwealth Games - and the Scottish Government - ignored and betrayed the vulnerable people and small business of old Dalmarnock, and the mothers of the disabled children of the Accord Centre, .
He refers to the “profound absence of responsibility” among Labour politicians as they “closed their eyes to the mediocre services the party offered” and to the “pronounced Scottish Labour entitlement culture” in Labour for the last half century.
But he also inveighs against a straw man, “the romanticising of our history” among a sector of nationalist support that denies the reality of the problems Scotland faces. Gerry is above making the tired old Braveheart taunt, but that’s what he means, and he must know that although this exists – and will continue to exist – among a minority of less informed nats (and a few well enough informed to know better), it has not been a defining characteristic of the party for many years now.
Like many intellectuals of the Left, Gerry is sometimes unaware of his own romanticisation of the potential of a new Scotland - a kind of Left-wing, cloth-capped Mel Gibson fantasy of a Scotland that will fearlessly condemn oppression across the globe, will turn away in disdain from the grubby business of trying to persuade amoral capitalists - and sometimes questionable regimes - to invest in or trade with Scotland, and will bring about the long-awaited collapse of capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
As one of my Barras soapbox orators of the 1940s used to say, fixing his admiring audience with a glittering, roving eye – “Aye, that day will come comrades, but it’ll no' come the morra, or even the day efter …”
Gerry, of course, can cloak all this when he chooses in dense prose and arcane economic theory, but the essence of the auld socialist cry is there – the Great Left Rapture, will assuredly come, when Scotland will be lifted to an ineffable state of social and economic morality. Unfortunately, for a century now, this has produced the Great Left Rupture, and the dream has turned to dust again and again, as economic reality, blatant careerism, money grubbing and realpolitik intruded, not to mention event, dear boy, events …
Gerry distrusts the pragmatism of Alex Salmond, and doesn’t like his economic vision. At this time of international economic and social turbulence, with the beast of neo-fascism, unbridled corporate power and religious intolerance slouching towards Bethlehem again, I think our only salvation is exactly Alex Salmond’s ebullient pragmatism, to secure jobs, futures and a life worth living for Scots young and old. But we need voices such as Gerry Hassan’s to balance that pragmatism with core values that still matter and are always, always under threat.
But we do not need the voice of Douglas Alexander, a career politician in the thing that the Labour Party has become, profoundly irrelevant to the future of Scotland – unless he and the Scottish Labour Party can shake off their obsession with the Union, abandon their fake internationalism, and embrace the independence of their truly internationalist country, where, in the immortal words of James Connolly - Séamas Ó Conghaile – that internationalism begins with nationalism.