Sunday Herald: Brian McNair

An old communist confesses: the class war is over and even Rupert Murdoch makes sense … what do lefties do now?

EVERYONE remembers where they were the first time they found themselves agreeing with Rupert Murdoch. I was at my desk, circa-1995, reading a speech he had given on the global impact of new technologies. These, he said, were proving “an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere”. Fax machines, direct dial telephones, primitive e-mail (this was before the internet really got going) were eroding state control over media and culture, all over the world. As a result, “the Bosnian Serbs cannot hide their atrocities from the probing eyes of BBC, CNN and Sky News cameras … the extraordinary living standards provided by free-enterprise capitalism cannot be kept secret”.

Before that moment the only thing I had in common with Murdoch, apart from our Scottish heritage, was the fact that we both kept busts of Lenin on our desks as students. He abandoned any attachment to Marxism in order to become a master of the media universe. I left the Communist Party at the age of 26, but continued to see myself as a man of the left. What else could you be in the west of Scotland during the Thatcher years? This was Red Clydeside, my city, the place where tanks once parked in George Square to prevent Bolshevik-inspired revolution. We were proletarian in our hearts, even if now we went to universities and became academics and teachers and social workers. We had read our Marx, and some of us our Stalin, and so knew that capitalism was doomed to collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions. We admired the Cuban revolution, and defended the Soviet Union even as Gorbachev was telling us how much the whole sorry experiment stank of stagnation and decay.

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