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On with the Pooling and Merging

Neal Ascherson: The Incomparable Tom Nairn

17 February 2000
After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland 
by Tom Nairn.
Granta, 336 pp., £15.99, January 2000, 1 86207 293 0
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... Throughout this book, the poet Douglas Dunn provides epigraphs and quotations. His final contribution occurs in the last section, ‘Epilogue: The Last Day’, a sort of diary of what TomNairn did and felt on the unforgettable rainy Thursday of 6 May 1999. It was the first polling day for the reconvened Scottish Parliament. As Nairn drove back from Fife, where he had gone to say goodbye to ...
17 July 1980
... 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 ...
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 ...


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 ...
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. ‘“We want to create the conditions ...

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 ...

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’. These categories should acknowledge that ...


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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... of the wider philosophy of the Left, of its stereotyped world-view. And, within that world-view, above all of its political ideas and theories. This is the first part of a discussion of Gramsci by TomNairn. The second will be published in the next issue ...

From the Outer Edge

Rory Scothorne: ‘Painting Nationalism Red’

6 December 2018
Tom Nairn‘Painting Nationalism Red’? 
by Neal Ascherson.
Democratic Left Scotland, 27 pp., £4, February 2018
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... glances of fans who see a man elbowing his way towards the stadium as they are pouring out after the last whistle’. Ascherson’s homecoming in 1975 coincided with that of another ‘red Scot’, TomNairn, whose own journeys, intellectual and geographical, are now surveyed in Ascherson’s essay-length intellectual biography. The essay was commissioned by Democratic Left Scotland, a small ...


R.W. Johnson

7 July 1988
The Enchanted Glass: Britain and Its Monarchy 
by Tom Nairn.
Radius, 402 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 09 172960 2
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... TomNairn has, for many years, been pondering the peculiarities of the British state with impressive intelligence and originality. His earlier work, The Break-Up of Britain, remains a landmark – but had the ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8

4 August 2005
... the spectacle – the projected meaning-system – down in ruins. Another kind of theatre took 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: A Spasso con Gusto

1 November 2007
... a form of organised local resistance to global capitalism, a concrete example of the ‘learning to live simultaneously in a cosmopolitan web and in various and diverse primary communities’ that TomNairn mentioned in the last issue of the LRB. Most of the people attending the meeting in the spring were mayors and councillors, there to share ideas about such practical matters as the best ways to ...
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. German philosophy alone had scaled the mental ...


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. On 12 October I went ...


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. The book sets out to display, often brutally, just ...

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