Posts Tagged ‘Richard Crossman’

Labour’s new revisionists will lead the revival

31/05/2015, 12:15:20 PM

by Alex White

The Labour Party is ‘travelling in strange country, exposed to climatic rigours it had not anticipated and against which its traditional equipment gave little protection’.

It is a damning indictment of Labour’s comfort zone tendency that Richard Crossman’s contribution to the 1952 New Fabian Essays, which he edited, would make a good summary of the party’s current situation.

Crossman was not a revisionist, but the essays he edited are home to the first serious collection of modern revisionist thought; the tradition which would – by way of a titanic struggle between Hugh Gaitskell and Aneurin Bevan – find its strongest voice in Anthony Crosland and its strongest actor in Tony Blair.

Labour Kremlinologists and historians with an eye on the symbolism of Gaitskell versus Bevan may attempt to see something similar in the battle between Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall. It is no coincidence that Kendall’s ‘what matters is what works’ line is the most articulate understanding of revisionism since Crosland’s writing on the distinction between ends and means.

A revisionist has one purpose: rethink the role of the state (the means) to build a more equal society (the ends).

To call this Tory-lite is a lazy attack with an even lazier understanding of Labour history, with the disastrous consequence of surrendering ground to the Conservatives. As Adrian McMenamin highlighted recently on Uncut, revisionism is a movement far wider and richer in history than those who use the Blairite label as an insult understand. It found its way to the 21st century from Eduard Bernstein’s repudiation of Karl Marx and R.H Tawney’s seminal text on equality, via the brave but unfulfilled leaderships of Gaitskell and Neil Kinnock.


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Crossman, Etzioni, abstaining and the big society.

02/02/2011, 12:30:45 PM

by Tom Watson

“One of the difficulties in politics is that politicians are shocked by those who are really prepared to let their thinking reach any conclusion. Political thinking consists in deciding on the conclusion first and then finding good arguments for it. An open mind is considered irresponsible – and perhaps it really is”.

It will be sixty years in November since Richard Crossman penned that entry in his diary. I think about that quote a lot; have done ever since I first read his diaries over many hours in the coffee shop of the national film theatre in 1984. It repeats back to me most days, particularly these dark days of opposition. Sometimes it’s the little things that trigger the memory of it.

This week, for example, the Labour party has done a lot of abstaining. The Tories are mired in a long, long internal argument about the European bill. Our corporate view is that much of the discussion, and subsequent backbench clauses to the bill, are private grief for the prime minister. For Labour MPs, the division bells have been closely followed by a text message with the words “we are abstaining”. I hate abstaining on anything. It seems so weak. Last night I cracked and decided to positively abstain, that is, to vote in both “aye” and “no” lobbies. A whip – friendly, polite, gently firm – asked me not to. I obliged. Is my thinking so unclear that I can’t even conclude to abstain right? It’s been a busy, stressful week but I was disappointed with myself for being so compliant. (more…)

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