Anthony Crosland: The Future of Socialism (1956)


Crosland was one of a group of Oxford educated intellectuals, sponsored by Hugh Dalton, which included Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey, who sought to revise and transform socialist theory from its pre-war Marxist basis to a post-Marxist social democratic position. This was predicated on the belief that Britain was entering a period of relative affluence and that the Marxist premise of class struggle over economic value was no longer relevant.

At university, Crosland had established a Democratic Socialist club to counter the communist-dominated Labour Society. Crosland was elected to Parliament in 1950 where, together with fellow ‘revisionists’, he supported Hugh Gaitskell. In 1965 Crosland was appointed education secretary in Wilson’s first government, moving on to President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for the Environment, becoming foreign secretary in 1976. He died in 1977. He wrote a number of books and sets of essays, including Socialism Now (1962) and The Conservative Enemy (1974).

“Socialists in the 1930’s, whatever their disagreements on long term questions, were united on the immediate objectives of a majority Labour government. These were first the abolition of poverty and the creation of a social service state; secondly a greater equalisation of wealth; and thirdly, economic planning for full employment and stability.

“Marxism was the dominant intellectual influence, and it made a profound impact on my generation of socialists in their formative years before the war… Marx has little or nothing to offer the contemporary socialist, either in respect of practical policy, or of the correct analysis of our society, or even of the right conceptual tools or framework. His prophesies have been almost without exception falsified, and his conceptual tools are now quite inappropriate.”

“As our traditional objectives are gradually fulfilled, and society becomes more social-democratic with the passing of the old injustices, we shall turn our attention increasingly to freedom, happiness, and cultural endeavour; the cultivation of leisure, beauty, grace, gaiety, excitement, and of all the proper pursuits, whether elevated, vulgar or eccentric, which contribute to the varied fabric of a full private and family life.”

“There are, after all, not one, but two good reasons for being a reformer, and on the Left. The first is a belief in the benefits of socialism. But there are many changes in society which an idealistic reformer might wish to make, but which are not set to be assumed under any defensible definition of socialism. And one is also on the Left, and a Labour supporter, because as a matter of experience most of those advocating such changes are to be found on the Left, and those opposing them on the Right… I would like to see action taken both to widen opportunities for enjoyment and relaxation, and to diminish existing restrictions on personal freedom… We do not want to enter the age of abundance, only to find that we have lost the values which might teach us how to enjoy it.”

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