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John Charlton


(Autumn 1964)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.18, Autumn 1964, pp.19-21.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Hugh Gaitskell 1906-63
Ed. W.T. Rodgers
Thames & Hudson, 25s.

This is a collection of essays, most of which are highly personal reflections on the various writers’ relationships with Hugh Gaitskell. Written as it was immediately after his death, and edited by his arch-disciple Bill Rodgers, one could hardly expect to find a balanced judgment, and sure enough there is not one. For the most pan the contributions are so loaded with nostalgia for the ‘lost leader’ or ‘chum’ that they offer little of value for the serious student of politics. However, three of the fifteen essays, those by Michael Postan, David Wood and Arthur Schlesinger Jnr, are of interest because here, in stating Gaitskell’s position on Marxism, the mixed economy, and the Atlantic Alliance, the writers are by implication stating the position of the political arm of the Labour movement: the complete rejection of a class-based, in favour of a nation-based, ideology. The fact that Gaitskell’s general strategy of far-right reformism was never attacked from a class position (the Bomb – always the moral issue; even Clause Four – ‘the Nation should reap the benefits ...’) is a sad reflection on the political awareness of the party, and the result is that all opposition, all criticism, has crumbled, at a time when greater inroads are likely to be made into working-class standards.

A critical evaluation of Gaitskell and his times could be a valuable contribution to an understanding of the situation of the class and the party since the war; this, despite the extravagant claims of the blurb, is not it.

Raymond Challinor   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 20.8.2007