From International Socialism (1st series), No.13, Summer 1963, p.36.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The Conservative Enemy, A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960’s
Jonathan Cape. 30s.
It is always a pleasure to read Crosland. He has a sure grasp of what passes for political reality today; he bothers with facts; he writes well and with an astringency uncommon amongst practising politicians. His views on the scholarship and comprehension of the soggy left (New and Old) are sometimes devastatingly accurate. He is certainly the best exponent of the Right.
These essays, part reprinted, part published for the first time, form a complete statement. The Western democracies, we are told, are in a “post-political phase” in which “many of the burning issues of the past ... assume a rather marginal character” (Chapter 16). Specifically, the politics of welfare (reforms) have succumbed to their own victories and to the larger range of individual choice brought about by growing affluence (Chapter 10, passim); and the politics of control (revolution) have receded before the growing power over production exercized, negatively, by the trade unions and the growing realization that direct control is impossibly difficult fox non-professionals (Chapter 14, passim).
The traditional classes are withering on the vine: owners have made way for managers (Chapter 5) and the manual working class is being swamped by a classless salariat (Chapters 8, 10 passim). Capitalism has ceased to exist (p.92 passim) and socialism is defined purely “in terms of certain (personally selected – p.159) social and ethical values” (p.120). What remains is the politics of personal consumption: education, urban renewal, consumer protection etc, and, to ensure these, generous social spending (Chapters 11, 12, 15, passim).
Nothing disturbs this post-political calm. Nuclear weapons are mentioned once, at the end of a five-point program, as something to be controlled (p.159). (The only other reference to ‘defence’ states the need for “the full acceptance of our obligations under NATO” – p.131). The possibility of unemployment is nc~t considered; and so on.
Yet these essays are worth reading. Not because they are relevant to socialist politics, for Crosland shares with the soggy left he so despises a confusion between the continuing realities of politics and the declining relevance of the parliamentary and centralized forms it has hitherto adopted. But because they document the social and political changes to which too many on the ‘hard left’ have refused to admit these last thirty years; and because they do so without the prolixity, preciosity and moralizing of the soggies.
Last updated on 19.10.2006