Ralph Miliband

20100825_2010+34ralph_w Jonathan Derbyshire in The New Statesman:

During a recent televised debate, the five candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party were asked to name their “Labour political heroes”. Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham both chose John Smith, Tony Blair's predecessor as party leader. Ed Balls's implausible choice was Blair, and Ed Miliband chose the architect of Labour's first election landslide, Clement Attlee. But by far the most interesting nomination was David Miliband's: his Labour hero, he said, is Anthony Crosland, the author of The Future of Socialism (1956) and the leading theoretician of postwar social democracy.

It's an intriguing choice because, as his bro­ther, Ed, acknowledged in a lecture in 2006 on the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Future of Socialism, “in the household in which [we were] brought up, Crosland and his ideas were not popular – his critique of Marxism, his views on public ownership”. The Milibands' father, Ralph, a Marxist intellectual who died in 1994, spent much of his working life warning his comrades on the left not to be seduced by “siren” voices such as Crosland's.

“It's a great irony that people are saying of David and Ed that they are the inheritors of Croslandism in the Labour Party,” says Leo Panitch, who studied under Ralph Miliband at the London School of Economics in the 1960s and later co-edited the annual journal Socialist Register with his former supervisor. “Ralph's finest book, The State in Capitalist Society [1969], was written very consciously as a critique of Crosland's position.

“Crosland believed that Marxism was no longer relevant, because the state had detached itself from the influence and control of the capitalists. But Ralph set out to show that the state was not independent of the capitalist class.”

Miliband remained locked in intellectual combat with the kind of revisionist social democracy represented by Crosland for the rest of his life.