“Scottish socialists cannot support a strategy for independence which postpones the meeting of urgent social and economic needs until the day after independence. But neither can they give unconditional support to maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom – and all that that entails – without any guarantee of radical social change.” Gordon Brown, student.
Gordon Brown, Hapless Gordon, bag man to the banks, failed politician.
Having stated socialism must never be imposed on Scotland, Brown resurfaces to impose his version of neo-liberal capitalism. He does Westminster’s bidding, unelected to undermine the outcome of the people’s Referendum.
Devolution, or ‘Devo-max’ is a discredited, befuddled proposition.
Arguably the most disliked prime minister of recent times, he stands accused of chronic blindness in proclaiming an “end to boom and bust” economies when western society was running from the path of an economic tsunami that originated in the USA.
A man who doesn’t like people
Back in the Eighties Gordon Brown attended a conference in Edinburgh on the way forward for the Scottish film “industry,” (there is no industry, only cottage activity) a conference arranged by the under-funded and weak Scottish Screen. Brown spoke nary a word throughout the entire two-hour discussion. He sat facing the audience in a corner on the speaker’s platform taking copious notes.
He left the impression of a man with personal problems, over and above poor eyesight brought about by a kick to the head in a rugby match. We can add vanity to an oddly anti-social persona, mistrusting of people to make direct contact with them, and ill-natured.
He never visited the Scottish Parliament when prime minister, and indeed, turned his back on a gaggle of reporters when the news broke of the SNP’s victory at Holyrood. This is a man with serious social problems. Even now, he insists on depicting the genuine aspirations and internationalism of Scotland as some sort of insular proto-fascism.
Does Brown have friends?
His reticence, his surliness, it must be said, makes no surprise his friendship the children’s author, J. K. Rowling. They’re two pees in a pod, fit for each other.
Brown’s relationship with Tony Blair is well documented, one minute Blair’s right-hand man, the next his nemesis. There is an inability to relate to people in consistent way.
Implacably set against Holyrood and Hollywood
His attendance at the film conference was not a waste of time. A few years later, chancellor of the exchequer, he announced the offer of grants in the form of six tranches of £30 million for individual film production companies, generous assistance to struggling filmmakers for project development and distribution deals, the kind of capital an American production company thinks basic cash flow. (He also passed tax benefits for film production but later withdrew them. He left corporate tax dodgers unmolested.)
Not one Scottish-based company got support. At least two were manifestly eligible, a portent of things to come as far as his concern for Scotland’s interests is concerned.
Consequently, my direct experience of the man is immutable – he is petty, self-defeating, morose, perhaps with a “moral compass” his admirers talk of, but not one pointing to his homeland’s good health.
A safe seat
It’s easily forgotten he did not attain a seat in Westminster’s parliament by political adroitness. He first stood for parliament in 1979 and lost in an election that swept Margaret Thatcher to power.
His gift was to be granted the safe Labour seat of Dunfermline East, his family backyard. An easy career path does not seem to have helped him with free time to support his homeland in its efforts for empowerment. It was not always so.
The quotation at the start of this essay
In a celebrated dispute with his alma mater, Edinburgh University, when he was rector at the same time as a student, he defeated the University’s attempt at censorship by exposing its investments in apartheid South Africa. He also fought a running battle, and won, the right to chair the University’s court. All-in-all, Gordon Brown was a rising star.
Brown gathered a group of radical intellectuals around him and published their essays and thesis in what he entitled, The Red Paper. The people he chose to publish read like pillars of Scotland’s socialism in the Scotland of the Seventies: playwright John McGrath, author David Craig, future MP and “ethical” Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, academic Owen Dudley Edwards, John McEwan, who went on to write a searing expose of the greed of Highland landlords. A belligerent Jim Sillars is there too, espousing the kind of template socialism that makes pub socialists comfortable. Sillar’s cri de coeur, was empowerment for working class but not so much as it might be wrestled from Westminster.
Crossing the floor and old friends
Years later Sillars crossed the floor of the House, so to speak, not once but twice, the first to form his own party, only to watch it disintegrate in endless bickering. He joined the SNP, a final step on the Road to Damascus, became its leading spokesperson, fell out with confederates on plans. By then the faithful had doubts about his ability to deliver the ideal. He lost his seat, tossing a Malvolian rebuke on his exit at voters who had deserted him as “ninety-minute patriots.”
Gordon Brown committed a similar sin when, microphone switched on, he unwittingly gave his opinion of a constituent as a “bigot” during an election campaign. Gordon the Hapless was proving to be as clumsy as ever, piss-poor timing an indelible characteristic.
The Red Paper
Brown’s collected jottings altered my outlook from pink socialist hot-blooded teacher in Glasgow to enquiring nationalist. Naturally, I looked for guidance, got hold of a copy of The Red Paper, devouring it in a single sitting and a stiff back. The Red Paper was a Bible of socialism as it could be practised in Scotland. Second reading proved less of a drum beat.
To be candid, a great deal of it was incomprehensible, crammed with meretricious jargon glued together with woolly thinking. I don’t recall much about “Britain” as we talk of it now, not the Britain avowed socialists such as Gordon Brown so boldly protect from assault today at Scotland’s cost. The Labour party was then as now utterly dedicated to power residing at Westminster, yet each treatise attacking the centralisation of power failed to offer a lessening of Westminster control.
An exception was Irish-born Owen Dudley Edwards who had a few lessons to teach the Scots about Ireland’s experience wrestling violent control from the British establishment. The other was the latent theorist of political nationalism, Fife-born, Tom Nairn, as I write still a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University, a good second-level place of scholarship. I read his piece avidly, after all, the SNP had made great strides politically securing 11 Westminster seats – yet nowhere in Nairn’s chapter, “Old Nationalism and New Nationalism,”did he define what he meant by “nationalism.” I came to my own conclusion – civic pride, not big nation imperialism.
Power to the people – maybe
The Red Paper was full of proposals for worker’s self-management, transferring power from the elite to the working class, expanding the public sector, profit participation, taming multi-national companies, criticism of imperialism, and attacks on the malignant influence of “the market.” Unless my memory fails me – few copies were printed, fewer distributed, mine loaned by my journalist cousin, Ian Christie.
Brown’s enthusiasm encompassed a kind of independence. He was certain constitutional change would lead to socialism and socialism to social justice, which in turn, because The Red Book was essentially about Scotland’s ills, could only mean some kind of self-governance for Scotland. But his ideal always fell short of genuine autonomy.
Nationalism is not a disease
Impressed with Brown’s certainty, his lack of any fear of independence – “nationalism should not be regarded as a disease” – I wrote his remarks, quoted above, in my journal, a beacon of light in a contradictory world of diverse socialist doctrines, from Italy’s Gramsci to France’s Sartre, from Sweden’s Olaf Palme to Scotland’s Hugh MacDiarmid, from H. G. Wells to Bertrand Russell, all purporting to be radically Left Wing, all dominated by the threat of succeeding Tory governments as the natural party of the United Kingdom.
Radicalism isn’t just for Christmas
When he became an MP, Brown’s socialist radicalism all but disappeared. Under Blair and the rejection of Clause Four, Browns party had become the party of business, a carbon copy of Conservative orthodoxy, only with a slightly different emphasis. What he had for the electorate was taxation cartwheels, shocks and rescue for the Bank of England and its satellites, and a smile remindful of rigor mortis.
Brown wanted to help the working class and poor of Scotland, and in the Red Paper he made it clear that if the Union could not do, then to hell with the union. Today we see him tell us rule from Westminster is the only choice.
A difference of priorities
Salmond and now Sturgeon offer the people of Scotland a plebiscite – two in 310 years! -to choose a destiny that can lead to a social democracy, and if we choose self-governance, to know it is ours without fear of interference. Brown is the politician who saved the careers and bonuses of the criminal class banksters. He became the very thing he detested.
The difference between Brown’s nationalism and that of the SNP is monumental .
Only one choice can deliver the mechanisms of progressive change for Scotland and it isn’t Gordon Brown. It never was.