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Masterpiece of British Political Writing,
This review is from: The Future of Socialism (Paperback)
This is an excellent book of British political writing, a worthly follow up to George Orwell's earlier socialist book The Lion and The Unicorn and deserving of a place alongside other UK or anglophile political writing like Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty.
Dismissed by the traditionalist labour left of his day as a dillettante Crosland wrote a book which examined the ways in which capitalism has been transformed from its early days into what exists today and reading it it is easy to forecast the shifts in public opinions which paved the way for the historic migration of the centre ground of politics to the right which took place with Thatcherism.
The is a foreword by Gordon Brown which is a nice piece of writing welcoming the return to print of The Future of Socialism and making some important points about the political imperative of credibility.
Brown appears to posit that British socialists need to take a long, long view upon economic and political development and change in Britain, this is inline with earlier books by British socialists, such as Bernard Crick which posit a change spanning generations during which much confidence building needs to be carried out by socialists and recognition in the mean time of how dated original goals and objectives can become.
Part One of the book looks at the transformation of capitalism and asks the important question of whether or not the status quo can really be considered capitalism. This chapter is important because, I feel wrongly, many supporters and opponents have understood socialism purely in contra distinction to capitalism itself.
Part Two outlines the aims of socialism, giving a brilliant synopsis of traditions and perspectives within British socialism and considering the very meaning of socialism itself. This chapter is important for how it outlines the extent to which socialism is a diverse, disparite and varied creedo, not bound to any of the examples from else where and in the UK organically developed from the liberal conventions, culture and institutions of the land.
Part Three considers the promotion of welfare and the purposes of social expenditure, this chapter I found very interesting as a great deal has been written decrying social expenditure per se as a waste, infact it is a tribute to Thatcherite cultural revolution the extent to which it considered commonsense to believe so.
Part Four, The Search For Equality, I consider to be the greatest chapter of all. Orwell considered equality to be the crux of socialism, the pursuit of a classless society and he was impressed by the example of socialist developments in The Spainish Civil war to this end. Crosland examines the determination of social class, opportunity, education, wealth, the structures of the economy and industry, it is a sweeping analysis and possibly one of the best accounts of class and class identity formation in the UK (Mind The Gap being a close second and less dated).
The final chapter considers the practical actioning of socialist ideas to date and in the future, considering regulation, nationalisation, public ownership and planning. This is a good chapter but I believe will be less interesting to some socialists, it can read as more prosaic than earlier chapters and more work-a-day.
There is a very personal and warm afterword by Susan Crosland which protrays Crosland as an interesting character, the sort of which is abscent from British politics these days, and as disliked by his own partisan wing of the political spectrum as his opponents.
I've always thought this was a great shame, this is an open and honest investigation of were the state of the nation was at the time of writing, there is no betrayal of radical values, policies or difficult choices here, neither is there a tacit cowardice in the face of international or national pressure or media hostility.
It could be a historical oddity to todays readership, if it receives a readership at all, what is certain is that it is a compelling political read which does not deserve to be sidelined and forgotten about.