SCOTLAND’S SOCIALISTS APPEAR TO BE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

HAMISH CARLISLE

In his gentle 1953 classic on post-war Germany Über Alles the Hungarian George Mikes devoted a chapter to searching for a Nazi.

Having totally failed, he bemoaned the fact that, despite his considerable distaste for Nazism, he was still disappointed not to find a single example of one in the fatherland such a short time after they had dominated the country.

This thought occurs to me as, sitting in remote Shepherds Bush, I hear tales of the collapse of Socialism in my homeland north of the Border.

We were led to believe that no sooner had the Scots lost their referendum than all would be forgotten and the status quo restored. They would slink back to their lairs in an echo of Culloden, hide the tartan, get the still bubbling, and drown their sorrows.

But no. Apparently Mr Brown’s vow was a confidence trick discovered too late. The teetotal Mr Murphy has failed to rally the troops and disaster looms. Salmond is on the march, Milliband is in his pocket, and Westminster trembles

Many years ago I set out from Edinburgh to travel the world, accompanied by my good friend, Niven. After a few weeks we ran out of money and were forced to take employment as zookeepers in the pretty university town of Heidelberg.

Just off the main street, down a narrow lane, was a hostelry named Zum Ritterhalle. Ritter means knight. On the wall inside was a headpiece from a suit of armour, visor closed. The place always seemed a bit down on its luck but one large table was set aside for Stammgäste, the regulars.

These regulars were elderly men, usually with shaven heads and bull necks. An air of menace emanated from them. Perhaps Mr Mikes had looked in the wrong place

On Hitler’s birthday, Niven met a group of burly Norwegian students en route to Zum Ritterhalle. Inside the place was heaving with celebration. The visor of the armour was open and inside was a picture of the late Fuhrer labelled “Lieber Adolphus.”

The Norwegians immediately attacked the customers and a full scale brawl ensued. Some years later we revisited Heidelberg. No trace of the pub remained.

So what, you may ask, has this to do with Socialism in Scotland?

Every species depends upon its environment for survival. One hundred years ago the era of the Red Clydesiders saw the Golden Age of Scottish Socialism. The booming shipyards, railways, coal mines and steelworks, combined with appalling housing conditions, provided fertile ground for the movement.

And mighty men and women stepped forward to lead it: James Maxton, John Maclean, Mary Barbour, Willie Gallacher, Manny Shinwell. These were the titans of the movement in a golden era.

But the passing of the heavy industry left the Labour Party with little but the trade unions of the public sector to represent.

The egregious events surrounding the 2013 selection process in Falkirk saw both the Labour Party and the Unite union treating the electorate with contempt. The writing was surely on the wall. The humiliation of Unite the same year in the Grangemouth fiasco served to emphasise this point.

Yet in this age of fading biodiversity, when one laments the passing of the Great Auk and the Horned Dung Beetle, spare a thought for this apparently endangered species.

The preserving of this species, before it becomes extinct, is surely something we owe future generations. Let us put bitterness to one side and cherish those National Treasures, the Aurochs of Scottish Socialism, Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway, before they lurch harmlessly off the political stage and vanish into the dustbin of History.

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