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... The value and interest of the three examinations of Gramsci which I began to discuss last week in the first part of this article is that they concentrate upon his view of politics: nobody concerned with such problems can avoid finding almost every page of Gramsci and Marxist Theory1 and Gramsci’s Politics2 absorbing; as for Gramsci and the State,3 while it is undeniably a repository of some of the obscurest paragraphs ever written about the man, the reader will also discover the most monumental and exhaustive analysis of his life and ideas in relation to Third International Leninism ...

It’s a Knock-Out

Tom Nairn, 27 May 1993

The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... In his brilliant account of collapsing Yugoslavia, A Paper House, Mark Thompson meets a leader of the Vojvodina Ruthenes called Professor Julijan Tamas. Since 1989 this tiny people has been struggling back into political existence. In 1991 they managed to stage the first World Congress of Ruthenes and just before that the first Bible in Ruthenian had finally appeared ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: On Culloden, 9 May 1996

... On 16 April, the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden: The air was clear and bracing, the sun bright, and the whole country breathing of Spring. The pleasantness of the season, joined to the interesting associations connected with the day, drew vast crowds of persons to the field of Culloden. Most of the teachers in town indulged their pupils with a holiday and groups of little wanderers might be seen in all directions spreading over the moor, or sitting by the graves of the slain ...

Ghosts in the Palace

Tom Nairn, 24 April 1997

... The first British election ever without the Monarchy: is this not how it’s likely to be remembered? The Italian phrase for it is better than ours: perdere la bussola, the loss not merely of bearings but of the compass itself. Queen Elizabeth II will still be around for the vote, I know, but as little more than an accusing spectre. Within less than half of her own reign the glamour of Monarchy has vanished ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... Much of the tale is conveyed by the covers. A sad, thoughtfully dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes against the background of a setting sun ...

The Sound of Thunder

Tom Nairn: The Miners’ Strike, 8 October 2009

Marching to the Fault Line: The 1984 Miners’ Strike and the Death of Industrial Britain 
by Francis Beckett and David Hencke.
Constable, 303 pp., £18.99, February 2009, 978 1 84901 025 2
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Shafted: The Media, the Miners’ Strike and the Aftermath 
edited by Granville Williams.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, 176 pp., £9.99, March 2009, 978 1 898240 05 1
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... The Miners’ Strike took place 25 years ago: long enough for many readers to know practically nothing about it, and for others to have forgotten much of what seemed so important at the time. Both the books discussed here describe the strike as more like a civil war than an industrial dispute. It began in March 1984 and ended a year later, after a majority of the miners had gone back to work over the preceding months, disillusioned, scared by the violence, or starved back (miners got little strike pay and no state help, since it wasn’t held by the courts to be an ‘official’ strike ...

Managed by Ghouls

Tom Nairn: Unionism’s Graveyard, 30 April 2009

Union and Unionisms: Political Thought in Scotland, 1500-2000 
by Colin Kidd.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £15.99, December 2008, 978 0 521 70680 3
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... Colin Kidd’s study of Scottish Unionism goes, as he himself insists, sternly against the prevailing ideological current, which is focused on the emergence of political nationalism in both Scotland and Wales. Kidd thinks his book will serve its purpose if it unsettles this debate, and brings about a revision of ‘the basic categories of political analysis ...

Euro-Gramscism

Tom Nairn, 3 July 1980

Gramsci and Marxist Theory 
edited by Chantal Mouffe.
Routledge, 288 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 7100 0358 7
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Gramsci and the State 
by Christine Buci-Glucksmann.
Lawrence and Wishart, 470 pp., £14, February 1980, 9780853154839
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Gramsci’s Politics 
by Anne Showstack Sassoon.
Croom Helm, 261 pp., £12.95, April 1980, 9780709903260
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... all of its political ideas and theories. This is the first part of a discussion of Gramsci by Tom Nairn. The second will be published in the next ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8, 4 August 2005

... over, one direly familiar since 2001. Among the observers in Scotland was the American journalist Tom Engelhardt, who provided a perceptive account: On Thursday morning, with the London bombings monopolising the TV set, I watched our president take that long, outdoor, photo-op walk from the G8 summit meeting to the microphones to make a statement to ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Spengler

Tom Nairn, 24 January 1980

An Unfinished History of the World 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 700 pp., £12.50, November 1980, 0 241 10282 0
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... In the Preface to Book I of The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler proudly declared that his work was ‘a German Philosophy’. There was no incompatibility between this and a history of the world. For universal history showed the Germans to be the most important people in the ‘Faustian Civilisation’ of Europe, itself the motor of modern development ...

What nations are for

Tom Nairn, 8 September 1994

The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994 
by Edward Said.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, July 1994, 0 7011 6135 3
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Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures 
by Edward Said.
Vintage, 90 pp., £4.99, July 1994, 0 09 942451 7
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... The politics of dispossession is nationalism – an over-generalisation which at once calls for precise qualification. It is quite true that not all nationalists are dispossessed: possessors have their own (often strident) variations on the theme. It is also true that nationality politics did not originate among the crushed and uprooted: indeed its primary source was the nouveaux riches or upwardly mobile of Early Modern times, in Holland, England and France ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: Australian Blues, 18 November 2004

... The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole, Drowning himself by the coolibah tree, And his ghost may be heard as it sings by the billabong, Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? ‘Waltzing Matilda’, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1895) Three weeks before the American presidential vote, the political right was victorious in the Australian federal elections of 9 October ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: The Australian elections, 13 December 2007

... On voting day I took the Melbourne tram downtown, stopping only to glance in a bookseller’s window. It was good to see Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore holding its place in the bestseller list. 1 A good cop yarn set in Victoria, stylistically it is West Coast American, and has been received well there. But that’s not why it’s so popular here ...

Where’s the omelette?

Tom Nairn: Patrick Wright, 23 October 2008

Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 488 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 19 923150 8
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... In Europe’s Inner Demons, Norman Cohn described the medieval witch craze as a ‘supreme example of a massive killing of innocent people by a bureaucracy acting in accordance with beliefs which, unknown or rejected in earlier centuries, had come to be taken for granted, as self-evident truths’. Of course popular beliefs had to fall into line with the bureaucracy’s position, and Cohn provides plenty of examples to show that they did: rural and small-town societies were rich in resentments, ancestral curses and fears of the unknown ...

On the Threshold

Tom Nairn, 23 March 1995

Frameworks for the Future 
Northern Ireland Office, 37 pp., February 1995Show More
Northern Ireland: The Choice 
by Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden.
Penguin, 256 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 023541 8
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... in another admirable analysis which appeared just before the Framework Document, Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden’s Northern Ireland: The Choice. The authors point out that any new agreement on governing Northern Ireland hinges on a choice between fully acknowledging this existing separation or trying to wish it away by administrative magic. Either the ...

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