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International Socialism, Autumn 1965


Jenny Davison

Hotch Potch


From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, p.29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Planning For Freedom
R.H.S. Crossman
Hamish Hamilton, 21s

This is a series of essays written by Crossman over the last fifteen years. Most of the book consists of miscellaneous essays and lectures to the Fabian Society worked up for publication.

The book, like the title, is liberally spattered with sweeping statements and meaningless generalisations, such as:

‘Freedom is always in danger and the majority of mankind will always acquiesce in its loss, unless a minority is willing to challenge the privileges of the few and the apathy of the masses.’

It is a strange mixture; he shows keen insight in his accurate analysis both of present day capitalism and particularly of the role of the Labour Party in office:

‘... all the Attlee Government did was to retain the cumbersome system of wartime controls and apply it – not unsuccessfully – to the increase of exports, the prevention of a postwar collapse of agriculture ...’

The shortcomings of ‘welfare capitalism’ as he terms the achievements of the Labour Government, he notes clearly – concentration of capital and economic privilege unchanged, profits, wages and salaries unplanned, industries’ ‘effective power’ still ‘in the hands of a small managerial and civil service elite.’ But between the odd flashes of insight is a vague hotch potch of nationalism and shallow pragmatic reasoning.

‘There is only one defence for the consumer, and that is through his elected representatives, ... That is why every nationalised industry must be made fully responsible to Parliament.’

In one essay Crossman makes a damning survey of nuclear policy in the USA, then ends with the conclusion that America’s allies should therefore concentrate on conventional forces! Occasionally an obvious admiration for the state-organised economies of eastern Europe breaks through the surface of his writing.

‘When an intelligent man makes a convincing analysis and then proceeds to draw a ridiculous conclusion you can be pretty sure that some political or moral obstacle has blocked the main channel of his argument and forced it to issue in an absurdity.’

Said by Crossman of Kissinger in his survey of American nuclear power, this even more applies to Crossman himself. It is difficult to see how someone with at least a partial understanding of the predicament of a Labour government in a capitalist society can remain such a quiescent member of the present government.

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