Labourism and socialism: Ralph Miliband’s Marxism

Issue: 129

Paul Blackledge

It is more than a little ironic that the recent race for the leadership of the Labour Party came down to a contest between the Miliband brothers.1 For their dad, Ralph, was the author of a devastating socialist critique of the Labour Party, Parliamentary Socialism. Ralph Miliband (1924-1994) was, alongside Edward Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Perry Anderson, one of the best known academic Marxists of his generation, and an important public intellectual: he was a socialist who always looked beyond the walls of the academy to influence wider debates, and in particular debates within the British and international labour and socialist movements. In a positive but critical review of Divided Societies—his excellent defence of class politics in a context of the bulk of the academic left’s dismissal of this idea as out of date—Duncan Hallas described Miliband as floating “between the best of the academic left and revolutionary left”.2

Hallas was right. And it is because of this that Miliband’s work deserves to be read by a new generation of socialists. Nevertheless, he should be read critically. Books like Parliamentary Socialism (1961), The State in Capitalist Society (1969), Marxism and Politics (1977), Capitalist Democracy in Britain (1982) and Divided Societies (1989) offer a rich source of insight into politics in modern capitalist societies, but as we shall see they are also flawed in important ways.

In Parliamentary Socialism Miliband powerfully exposed how the Labour leadership consistently helped maintain the capitalist system by playing a “major role in the management of discontent”, and how the Labour left, despite its tendency to mount periodic “revolts” against the leadership, shared a fundamental worldview with the party’s right which meant that these “revolts” remained trapped within the politics of “Labourism”: “an ideology of social reform, within the framework of capitalism, with no serious ambition of transcending that framework”.3

Though Parliamentary Socialism is arguably Miliband’s finest work,4 he is perhaps best known in academic circles as one of the two key protagonists, alongside Nicos Poulantzas, of an important, if very flawed, debate on state theory.5 This debate was significant not only because of its enormous influence on the academic left in the 1970s, but also because for both men it was part of a broader attempt to raise theory to the level of practice. Miliband’s own commitment to socialist political practice stretched back at least as far as 1940, when as a 16 year old Jewish refugee from fascism he swore at Marx’s grave a private oath of allegiance to “the workers’ cause”. Later he was active in the left wing Bevanite and Victory for Socialism movements in the Labour Party before playing an important role in the British New Left. In the wake of the collapse of the New Left in the early 1960s he founded and co-edited, alongside the Marxist historian John Saville, the Socialist Register.6 Subtitled a “survey of movements and ideas”, by the 1970s Miliband was pushing at the limits of this approach, and in its 1976 issue he opened a debate on how the left could “move on” to become a real living force in British politics.7

In the wake of the publication of this essay, he attempted both to theorise socialist political practice, and to shape contemporary events through political activity. Alongside the books noted above, Miliband’s essay “The New Revisionism in Britain” (1985) should be required reading for anyone interested in fighting for socialism. In the 1980s he wrote as an activist first within the Socialist Society—which he conceived as a project of “socialist renewal inside the labour movement”—and then as a key member of the Independent Left Corresponding Society—which was conceived as a left wing think tank advising Tony Benn.8 He also debated with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at our annual Marxism events at sessions attended by his young and enthusiastic son Ed.9

Evidently neither we nor his father convinced Ed of the power of Marxism. Superficially, that might seem a minor example of familial betrayal, and at one level it is: there is a continuing tradition of Milibandian Marxism embedded in the Socialist Register which has continued as an annual beacon of socialist internationalism in the decade and a half since his death. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which Miliband’s more or less right wing Labourite sons followed in their father’s
footsteps.10 For the author of Parliamentary Socialism ended his days believing that the Labour Party was the only viable alternative to the Tories. Thus in his posthumously published last book, Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994), he reluctantly concluded that “the best the left can hope for in the relevant future…is the strengthening of left reformism as a current of thought and policy in social democratic parties”.11

That he came to this conclusion in the wake of a serious and sustained attempt to build an independent socialist organisation demands serious consideration on these pages. Miliband dropped out of the Labour Party in the mid-1960s and in both the concluding sections of his second book, The State in Capitalist Society and the second edition of Parliamentary Socialism (1972), he tentatively suggested that the left should move beyond the negative critique of the Labour Party outlined in the first edition of this book, to begin the more positive process of building a socialist alternative to Labour. Undaunted by a situation in which the Labour Party could not be expected to fight for socialism and where he regarded the extra-parliamentary left as too small and too fragmented to mount a serious challenge to the system, Miliband insisted that the “absence of a viable socialist alternative is no reason for resigned acceptance or for the perpetuation of hopes which have no basis in political reality”. If the second half of this sentence might have been written to immunise our generation against illusions in his own son, over the next decade and a half he attempted to follow through on the promise of the first half of the sentence by making a powerful argument for, and effort to build, “such an alternative”.12

A comprehensive account of Miliband’s attempt to build a new socialist organisation would necessarily involve a detailed account of the history both of the Socialist Society and of his later relationship with Benn. Unfortunately, in lieu of the publication of Tony Armstrong’s important research on this topic,13 the core of my essay deals more narrowly with Miliband’s theoretical arguments; only highlighting their influence on his practice in my conclusion. If I consequently focus on the weaknesses of his thought this should not be misconstrued as a wholly negative critique. Miliband is worth criticising because he made a serious attempt to contribute to socialist politics, and this essay is intended to contribute to a critical assessment of his legacy.

Concretely, I suggest that Miliband’s shift from a project of building a new socialist party to settling for work inside the Labour Party was not a pragmatic response to the events of the last decade or so of his life, but rather illuminated limitations of his earlier attempt to theorise socialist organisation. Two key issues stand out. On the one hand, his analysis of Labourism never matched the power of his description of Labour’s failings. Though he provided mountains of evidence of the conservative nature of both the Labour and trade union bureaucracy, because his explanation for this behaviour was superficial—he conceived Labourism primarily as an ideological error—he failed to provide an adequate frame for revolutionary politics. On the other hand he never adequately came to terms with Lenin’s contribution to Marxism, and this failing was related to his inadequate attempt to conceptualise Stalinism.14 Taken together, these gaps in his thought informed an ambiguous relationship with the Labour left and his final unenthusiastic embrace of the Labour Party.

By contrast with these analytical weaknesses, Miliband had, in a number of articles from “The Transition to the Transition” (1958) through to “Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes” (1989), suggested an approach to socialist politics through which a more coherent answer to these questions might be conceived. In these essays he argued that a sound theory of socialist political organisation must include both a systematic account of Stalinism, and a socio-economic analysis of the context of social democratic practice. I argue that it is by following through on these suggestions that socialists might realise the strongest aspects of Miliband’s attempt to raise theory to the level of practice as suggested in, among other places, “Moving On” (1976) and Marxism and Politics. For though Miliband ultimately failed to realise the project outlined in these writings, the questions he asked about socialist politics and the detailed empirical research he carried out continue to offer a rich source of insight that commands serious and critical attention from the left.

From Parliamentary Socialism to “Moving On”

Miliband had been thinking about the possibility of building an independent socialist organisation since the days of the first New Left in the late 1950s, and though he broached the topic in the second edition of Parliamentary Socialism, it was not until the publication of “Moving On” in 1976 that he explicitly argued for the formation of such a party.

In “Moving On” Miliband posed with stark clarity the key problem facing socialists in the Labour Party: “The belief in the effective transformation of the Labour Party into an instrument of socialist policies is the most crippling of all illusions to which socialists in Britain have been prone”, and far from activists capturing the Labour Party, the Labour Party tends to capture the activists.15

Despite the unambiguous nature of this claim, the analysis of Labourism outlined in Parliamentary Socialism was, as David Coates has pointed out, “very much a buried and underdeveloped one”.16 Miliband defined the “Labourism” characteristic of both the left and right of the party, minimally, by its parliamentarianism: the Labour Party is among the most “dogmatic” of workers’ parties, “not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system”.17 When originally penned these lines were intended to inform “an eleventh-hour call for the party to be transformed into an agency for the establishment of socialism, rather than a plea to leave the party”.18 Interestingly, although he signalled his break with this perspective in the second edition of the book, he did not complement this changed perspective with a deepened analysis of the nature of Labourism. In 1972, as in 1961, he explained the limitations of the Labour Party by the ideology of parliamentarianism. To the extent that he provided some implied socio-economic basis for this claim he suggested that a deep-seated commitment to parliamentary democracy was evident not only within the Labour Party but also within the working class more generally. Consequently, the socialist left would have to address this ideology if they were to challenge Labourism for hegemony within the British labour movement.

In as far as it goes, this argument is unobjectionable: reformism runs deep within the British working class, and the Labour Party, partially at least, reflects this situation. However, this doesn’t take us very far, and certainly doesn’t provide the kind of systematic socio-economic analysis of Labourism that Miliband himself had demanded as early as 1958.19 This is important because, although Miliband ably described the failings of the Labour Party, by focusing on its ideological aspect rather than its social roots his explanation of these failings tended to be weak. A key consequence of this undeveloped conception of Labourism is that, despite the claim that the belief in the possibility of transforming the Labour Party into a socialist organisation was a “crippling illusion”, Miliband never completely closed the door to this idea.

Like Miliband, classical Marxists have pointed to the debilitating consequences of the Labour Party’s parliamentarianism. However, whereas Miliband explained this weakness as a function of the ideology of Labourism, classical Marxists have argued that this ideology was in turn rooted in the nature of trade unionism in modern liberal democracies. Within capitalist democracies the trade union bureaucracy acts to mediate between capital and labour, and consequently functions as the structural expression of the partial negation of the power of capital within capitalist social relations. The Labour Party is the political expression of this bureaucracy as it attempts to realise its political goals through the state. This is the social basis of Labour’s parliamentarianism. However, because the state is structurally interdependent with capital, this political project cannot point beyond capitalism, and this explains why Lenin judged the Labour Party to be a capitalist workers’ party. Though its membership, and more so those who vote for it, are largely working class, the party itself is tied through this pivotal role of the trade union bureaucracy to capitalist social relations from which it cannot escape.20

The division of labour between the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour leadership means, moreover, that the Labour Party exists one step removed from the day to day struggles of the working class at the point of production. Though its electoral base is within the working class, the Labour Party tends to view class struggles as problems to be overcome from the point of view of the rational organisation of the state. In periods of capitalist expansion the Labour Party can respond to these struggles with reforms. However, in periods of recession and crisis Labour governments act to stabilise capitalism in the only way possible from the point of view of the capitalist state—they attempt to make workers pay for the crisis. By contrast, because the trade union bureaucracy directly mediates these conflicts it has an interest in acting as a barrier to untrammelled capitalist exploitation. Nevertheless, though more directly rooted in these struggles at the point of production, because the bureaucracy’s role is to mediate rather than to overcome the relationship between capital and labour it is fundamentally a conservative social layer, and acts to dampen any movement that threatens to become a broader challenge to capitalism. The labour bureaucracy wants to see a healthy capitalist bakery so that workers might get more crumbs from the cake.

This socio-economic analysis suggests that though the Labour Party might talk left to win elections, when in power it will act in what it perceives to be the national interests of capital. The trade union bureaucracy, by contrast, because of its more direct relationship to struggles at the point of production, will tend to play a double-sided game: though essentially conservative it is able to act in a more radical manner depending on the concrete circumstances. Clearly socialist activists must learn to work both with and against the bureaucracy, depending on the context. And for this reason alone (there are others—unevenness of the class struggle, nature of the state etc), socialists need to be organised independently both from the trade union bureaucracy and more so from the Labour leadership.

This is an important part of the social basis for “Leninist” political organisation. Reformism is a general characteristic of the class struggle under capitalism, and reformist bureaucracies will tend to emerge as the mediation between reformist movements and the state. Moreover, wherever reforms become a real possibility these tendencies to bureaucratisation will tend to be strengthened. Socialist strategic orientation towards these bureaucracies is framed by the fact that they represent a partial negation of capitalism on the basis of movements from below which they nonetheless act to police.21

Effectively to abstract the ideology of parliamentarianism from this mediating role, as did Miliband, lends itself to an approach which misunderstands the revolutionary critique of Labourism.22 Indeed, Miliband caricatured the classical Marxist critique of reformism simply as an impotent ideological inversion of parliamentarianism. This was the basis for his rejection of the existing parties of the far left, when, in “Moving On”, he argued for the creation of a new socialist party. In this essay he repeated his rejection of the Labour Party as a viable agency of socialist transformation because of its dogmatic attachment to parliamentarianism and dismissed the Communist Party because of its undemocratic structure. Others who had similarly distanced themselves from Stalinism and social democracy had been drawn into the orbit of the existing revolutionary left. By contrast, Miliband argued that the alternative Trotskyist organisations, because of their commitment to the insurrectionary model of the October Revolution, exhibited an “ultra-left” tendency to replace parliamentary cretinism with a form of “anti-parliamentary cretinism” that had “virtually no appeal to the British working class movement”. Indeed, this ideology helped ensure the continued inability of such groups to break out of the political ghetto.23

The next issue of the Socialist Register carried replies to Miliband’s arguments from activists within the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the SWP. For the SWP Duncan Hallas pointed out that Miliband’s use of the term ultra-leftism was problematic because of its obvious ambiguity: the SWP was undoubtedly ultra-left in terms of contemporary debates in Britain, but it was not ultra-left in the sense that Lenin used the concept in 1920-1: what, Hallas asked, did Miliband mean when he used this term?24

To the extent that Miliband had addressed this issue he equated ultra-leftism with the model of socialist transformation suggested by the Bolshevik Revolution: asserting that this model was inadequate for modern Western societies, where “a strategy of advance has to include a real measure of electoral support”.25 Commenting on this argument, Hallas wrote:

if what is being said is that the Russia of 1917 and the Britain of today are so radically different that it is out of the question for the course of events in Britain to closely follow the pattern of the Russian events of 60 years ago then there is no dispute… If, however, what is being suggested is that there is, after all, some non-revolutionary road to socialism then we have to part company. “Moving On” does not state this position but it gives—to me at least—the impression of a certain equivocation. I hope that is a mistaken impression. For this is fundamental. We already have one major and one minor party—Labour Party and Communist Party—committed to the “parliamentary road”… There is no political space for a third.

Concretely, Hallas agreed that a socialist party “must strive for ‘a real measure of electoral legitimation’”, but insisted that “this necessary activity can never be its main thrust. That must be towards rooting the organisation in the workplaces and in the unions and in a wide variety of types of grassroots direct action. Nothing else makes sense unless you entertain the parliamentary illusion”.26

Hallas argued that Miliband’s “equivocation” over the need for revolution reflected a more general weakness characteristic of the majority of leading figures of the New Left generation of 1956: a “failure”, and indeed a “refusal”, to “take a clear and unequivocal stand against left reformism. It refused to come to grips with the Communist tradition in its original Leninist form and with the Left Opposition tradition that arose from it. It largely ignored the whole historical experience from 1914 to 1956. Significantly, it hardly discussed the Communist International. In short, it failed to develop a clear and consistent theoretical and political foundation”.27

In his reply to this point, Miliband clarified his use of the term ultra-left as a description of the British revolutionary left. Ultra-leftism, he argued, involved “working towards the formation of a ‘vanguard party’ based on ‘democratic centralism’ and preparing for a seizure of power … The model also includes…the ‘smashing’ of the bourgeois state and the establishment of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’”. Together, these features were witness to a “self-defeating and dangerous … deep contempt for the institutions which make up capitalist democracy”.28 It followed from this argument, according to Miliband, that the ghettoisation of the far left was in part self-imposed. It was their politics that excluded them from cultivating popular support. Miliband provided the theoretical underpinnings for this argument in Marxism and Politics; a book which de facto rose to Hallas’s challenge of addressing the historical experience of the Communist movement between 1914 and 1956.

Marxism and Politics

Miliband opened Marxism and Politics with the assertion that Marxist political analyses had not generally been written as systematic treatises, but had been produced as a series of responses to a multiplicity of events, and as such did not exist as an easily summarised unity: they were, in a nutshell, “unsystematic and fragmentary”. Moreover, the very term Marxist was a contested category, with no universally accepted criteria by which a Marxist could be defined.29 Despite these problems, Miliband aimed to “reconstruct” a systematic politics from the various writings of a selection of Marxist theoreticians; and this reconstruction was explicitly made against the authoritarian “line” that had been “a particular quality of Stalinism”—an approach to politics
from which the New Left of the 1950s had broken.30 Miliband therefore located his discussion of Marxism in the context of the anti-Stalinism of the New Left, but rejected, nominally at least, the various left wing characterisations of the Stalinist regimes. He claimed that while “the subject badly requires serious and sustained Marxist political analysis”, socialist anti-Stalinist debates on the nature of the Soviet regime had been “paralysed by the invocation of formulas and slogans—’degenerate workers’ state’ versus ‘state capitalist’ and so forth”.31

Unfortunately, Miliband could not so easily disentangle his ideas from the problem of conceptualising Stalinism. As he himself recognised, the very idea of “Marxism-Leninism” was a Stalinist construct. Consequently, to write a study of the Marxist conception of the party entailed some engagement with the problem of the relationship between Stalinism and “Leninism”.32 With regard to this issue, Miliband’s suggestion that “the argument turns on the meaning which is given to Stalinism” is obviously true, but only serves to refocus our attention, as we shall see below, on his own refusal to outline a detailed model of the Soviet regime. Negatively, he wrote, Lenin neither held absolute power, nor showed “the slightest sign” of striving for the kind of absolute power that Stalin came to hold; and although Russia did experience some repression under Lenin, the “sheer scale” of the repression experienced under Stalin’s rule “distinguishes it most sharply from Leninism”.33 However, he insisted that, whereas the controversy over the nature of the Soviet regime was “obviously of some importance…no conclusive answer to the question has ever been returned, or can be”.34 Why “no conclusive answer” could be made to the question of the nature of the Soviet Union was left in the air. However, despite Miliband’s attempt to bypass this problem he obviously worked with some model of Stalinism, explicit or not, and this included the belief that the Stalinist states, despite their bureaucratic distortions, were regimes “of the left”.

In Socialism for a Sceptical Age Miliband revealed that, while he believed East European “Communism” had “nothing to do with what Marx meant by communism”, the disintegration of the Stalinist states in Eastern Europe had had a “deep influence” on his “thinking about socialism”.35 Indeed, he suggested that the collapse of the Soviet Union marked “the end of a particular alternative to capitalism”, which was best understood as one of the many “defeats and disappointments which the left has suffered in recent decades”.36 This conclusion implied that the Soviet Union and its satellites were, if not socialist states, then to some sense progressive social formations when compared to Western capitalism. To a degree, therefore, Miliband offered an answer to a question he had posed in 1989: what did “the crisis of the Communist world signify for people who remain committed to the creation of a cooperative, democratic, egalitarian, and ultimately classless society?” He correctly pointed out that an answer to this question “requires first of all a clear perception of what kind of regimes are in crisis”. Explicitly, his characterisation of the “Communist” regimes appeared much more critical than his mourning of the collapse of these states would suggest. He argued that the East European states were “oligarchical collectivist regimes”, which were the products of revolutions that brought about “fundamental changes in property relations”, whether “internally generated” or “imposed by Soviet command from above”. However, although their structure could be traced back to the October Revolution on the one hand, and the social transformations wrought by the conquering Red Army in East Europe after the Second World War on the other, the leadership of these regimes was made up of a “large state bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie”.37

Whereas this description of the Eastern Bloc might be read as implying that Miliband absolutely dissociated his model of socialism from that practiced in the Stalinist states, this was not the case. As early as 1963 he insisted, from a perspective greatly influenced by Isaac Deutscher, that the Eastern Bloc states “approximated to something we think is socialism”.38 Deutscher explicitly showed that viewing the “revolutions from above” experienced in Eastern Europe after the Second World War as being in any way socialist, as he himself did, involved a break with Marx’s notion that socialism could only come through the self-emancipation of the working class.39 For his part, Miliband sought to frame his vision of socialism in terms of Marx’s idea of working class self-emancipation while simultaneously following Deutscher to insist that the Russians had brought about a “revolution from above” in Eastern Europe.40 Thus in 1974 he insisted that, despite their bureaucratic distortions, these states were not a “total repudiation” of socialism. Moreover, he suggested that though history had been unkind to Deutscher’s prediction that the development of the productive forces in Russia in the 1960s would unleash radical progressive reforms across the system, such an optimistic perspective could not forever be discounted.41

In 1991 he was careful to link the Stalinist and post-Stalinist regimes with Lenin’s revolutionary government: “What we are witnessing”, he wrote in 1991, “is the termination of the historical experience that was begun in 1917”.42 More generally, he insisted that these states were “regimes of the left”, and that Stalin had interwoven “his own rule, and the terror that went with it, with the building of “socialism” in the Soviet Union”.43 Consequently, as Gorbachev’s reforms rose to their culmination, Miliband maintained a “slender hope” that the crisis of the Communist states would not lead to “capitalist restoration”, but in the direction of “something approximating to the beginnings of socialist democracy”.44

The failure of the Soviet Union to evolve in this direction in the late 1980s and early 1990s informed Miliband’s pessimistic rejection of the possibility of building a new socialist party and his partial rapprochement with social democracy. He read the collapse of the Soviet Union as involving not only the failure of one possible alternative to capitalism, but also, and as a corollary of this, the dissolution both of the Communist parties and of all revolutionary organisational alternatives to social democracy. Therefore, of the “two types” of left wing political parties known to the 20th century—Communist and social democratic—the demise of the Communist parties meant that “to speak of parties of the left nowadays is to speak above all of social democratic parties”.45

This argument involved two related conflations: first, he conflated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc states with the collapse of the revolutionary socialist alternative to capitalism. Second, he conflated the organisations built by Lenin with those built by Stalin. If the first assumption illuminates the way that his Deutscherite analysis of Stalinism undermined the vision of socialism as working class self-emancipation, the second assumption tends to abstract the rise of Stalinism from its social context. However, as Miliband himself pointed out, in the period between 1917 and the early 1920s “the party itself was crippled by the weakness of the working class”.46 Moreover, in the decade that followed, the changes wrought by Stalin were so dramatic as to warrant an answer to the question did not quantity transform into quality? That is, did the dramatically increased “scale of repression”, noted by Miliband, constitute the negation of all that was positive and progressive in the October Revolution? Miliband’s negative answer to this question had direct repercussions for the rest of his discussion of Marxist politics.

For instance, in his analysis of the role of intellectuals within the Marxist movement, he claimed that the “Leninist” injunction that intellectuals should “serve the people” was, in one sense, unproblematic. However, he argued that within the Marxist movement after Lenin’s death the interpretation of how the people were to be served had been increasingly redefined such that only the party leader, specifically Stalin or Mao, could decide what it actually entailed.47 The differences between Lenin’s party and those of Stalin or Mao were accordingly ones of degree rather than of quality: “Leninism was a political style adapted … to a particular strategy … Stalinism … made a frightful caricature of the style, and made of the strategy what it willed”.48

At the centre of this style, according to Miliband, was the structure of “democratic centralism”, which fostered a subservient “attitude of mind to which Marxists have been prone”.49 By prioritising a discussion of the style of “Marxist” parties over the content of their practice, this argument led Miliband to lose sight of the fundamental nature of the break between Lenin’s political practice and the ideology of “Leninism”. For Lenin’s conception of organisation, as Marcel Liebman—Miliband’s friend and collaborator on The Socialist Register—pointed out in his book Leninism under Lenin (1975), was subordinate to his model of revolution.50 Revolutionary parties were necessary because socialism required a revolutionary overthrow of the old state, and democratic centralist organisation aimed at ensuring effective revolutionary action by guaranteeing, in Liebman’s paraphrase of Lenin, “freedom of discussion, unity of action”.51 Furthermore, and in contrast to Miliband’s comments on the practice of democratic centralism, Rabinowitch pointed out in his 1976 study of Bolshevism that it was the Bolshevik Party’s “internally relatively democratic, tolerant, and decentralised structure and method of operation, as well as its essentially open and mass character” that underpinned its successes in 1917.52 Indeed, in a letter to Bukharin and Zinoviev which the Stalinists tellingly omitted from his Collected Works, Lenin commented that demands for obedience within the Comintern would tend to “destroy the party” by driving “away all not particularly amenable, but intelligent, people” while leaving behind only “obedient fools”.53

Miliband’s focus on the issue of political style acted by comparison to centre his analysis of “Leninism” on the question of form at the expense of content. This opened the door to his characterisation of the parties of the Stalinist Third International as Leninist, despite the fact, as he insisted, that “Leninism as a coherent strategy of insurrectionary politics was never seriously pursued” by the Stalinists.54 Indeed, he pointed out, with the Popular Front of the 1930s the Third International “abandoned” insurrectionary politics, such that from this point onwards the Western Communist parties “have not been ‘revolutionary’.”55 Nonetheless, he and Liebman claimed that because the Communist parties had remained committed to a fundamental transformation of Western societies, there was “a weak sense” in which they remained “revolutionary”.56

This apparent conceptual slippage is explicable if we look at Miliband’s analysis of the Comintern’s shift towards the Popular Front in the 1930s. He explained this process as a belated, but realistic, recognition within the Communist movement of the importance of defending bourgeois democracy against the threat of fascism.57 In so doing he effectively ignored the analysis of the evolution of Comintern policy outlined in Fernando Claudin’s The Communist Movement (1975)—despite citing this book in the bibliography of Marxism and Politics. According to Claudin, changes in Communist policy had little to do with the needs of the workers’ movement. On the contrary, they emerged as a cynical attempt by Stalin in the run up the Second World War to foster an alliance with the Western powers against the growing threat of Germany.58

The truth of this argument is of more than academic interest, for a great deal rides on the characterisation of the Communist parties after Lenin’s death. Five points are important. First, the Popular Front emerged as a reaction to the failures not of revolutionary politics but rather of Moscow’s previous wilfully ultra-left “Third Period” policy (on this, more below). Second, in the wake of Hitler’s victory in Germany there did indeed arise within the Communist parties a genuine desire for working class unity to stop fascism. However, third, this desire was quickly channelled by the Moscow based leadership of the Communist parties in an electoralist direction which aimed to pressurise capitalist governments, primarily Britain and France, into an alliance with Russia against Germany. Fourth, this process was made easier because it was done in the context of the defeat of the workers’ movement in Germany, which was obviously of international significance, and on the back of a previous process of removing any independent thinkers from leadership positions within the Communist parties. Finally, at a time when Russia seemed the last hope against Hitler, any movement that might threaten Stalin’s relations with Britain and France was labelled Trotsky-fascist, and anyone critical of the new perspective was denounced as a “Trotskyist”. The difficulties involved in maintaining revolutionary politics in this context were profound.

Unfortunately, Miliband skirted over these difficulties. So, despite recognising that the move to the Popular Front marked a break with revolutionary politics which was “encouraged” by Stalin, he suggested that it was not “really plausible to attribute” to Stalinist manipulation the ease with which this renunciation was effected. Miliband argued that Stalin had found it easy to push through his programme within the Comintern because insurrectionary politics did not “correspond to very powerful and compelling tendencies in the countries concerned”. Moreover, the failure of the expected revolution in the West after the First World War confirmed that these countries did not fit the model for which “Leninist” political organisation had been constructed. Thus, with or without the help of Stalin, “the politics of Leninism, insurrectionary politics, failed in the countries of advanced capitalism”.59

Of course this is true, but it doesn’t tell us very much. We need a detailed discussion of the defeats both of the early 1920s and those a decade later, and the relationships of these defeats to, amongst other processes, the ongoing degeneration of the Russian system. The first thing that becomes apparent from such a comparative analysis is that politics pursued by the Comintern in the early 1930s, far from being “Leninist” in any meaningful sense, actually amounted to a bureaucratic caricature of the infantile leftism that Lenin had criticised in the strongest possible terms a decade earlier in Left Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder. And whereas the defeats in Germany and elsewhere in the early 1920s were an understandable
consequence of the lack of experience of these new parties, the defeats experienced a decade later were in large part a consequence of cynical power plays in Moscow: radical verbiage abroad was merely the flipside of Stalin’s attack on Bukharin at home. To posit these defeats, and especially Hitler’s victory over the German workers’ movement, as defeats of Leninist organisations is profoundly to misunderstand this very important point.60

Nevertheless, Miliband did reject “Leninism” on the grounds that “insurrectionary politics” had never offered a realistic solution to the needs of the Western workers’ movement. The corollary of this argument was the claim that some type of reformism was the only viable strategy for the left. For instance, in Capitalist Democracy in Britain (1982), he argued that given the “conditions of capitalist democracy”, no path to socialism was conceivable other than via a democratically elected government “pledged to carry out” radical reforms: in fact the existence of parliamentary democracy “turns the insurrectionary project into a fantasy”.61 In an exploration of the possible actions of a democratically elected radical government, he argued that once it moved to “carry through far-reaching anti-capitalist measures” it would “arouse the fiercest enmity from conservative forces”, such that the government’s response to this would be “crucial”. Miliband suggested that such a government could survive only if it mobilised its popular support; and in so doing it “must lead to a vast extension of democratic participation in all areas of civic life—amounting to a very considerable transformation of the character of the state and of existing bourgeois democratic forms”.62 He even went so far as to suggest that such a strategy could realise Marx’s proposition that “the working class cannot lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purpose”.63

Aside from what Miliband later admitted was the implausibility of this scenario,64 Colin Barker pointed out that this strategy was innocent of a realistic model of the role of social democratic parties and trade union leaders within the class struggle. “Miliband forgets that such a government would be a government of parties who never intended … [and] have no tradition of mobilising mass movements.” Indeed, Barker pointed out that reformism “is the politics of controlling rather than leading rank and file movements”.65 Interestingly, Miliband made much the same point both in Capitalist Democracy in Britain and in Divided Societies. In these two books, he wrote that trade unions acted not as radical agencies of socialist advance but as “agencies of containment of struggle”, while the leadership of the Labour Party played a similar role at a more explicitly political level.66 Nevertheless, despite acting in this way, Miliband insisted that the divisions between leaders and rank and file members of both social democratic parties and trade unions was not a simple consequence of oligarchic tendencies, but that it had an important ideological component.67 With reference to trade union leaders, Miliband argued that, alongside a commitment to constitutionalism, it was the ideology of “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” that limited their radicalism within parameters set by the reproduction of capitalist relations of production.68

As with Miliband’s account of the parliamentarianism of the leadership of the Labour Party, this model provided him with a valuable point of departure for a rich description of the politics of the leadership of the trade union movement, but did not offer a structural explanation of the consistently conservative role played by this social layer. Rather, as he made clear in a comment on Robert Michels’s famous “Iron Law of Oligarchy”—by which Michels had attempted to explain the conservatism of the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party before the First World War—the central division within the labour movement was based not on structural conditions but on “quite concrete ideological grounds”.69

Miliband was undoubtedly right to reject Michels’s arguments—which involve an elitist rejection not merely of the possibility of socialism but also of any form of democratic organisation.70 He was also right to root the division between leaders and left activists within the unions in the orientation of the union leaders towards parliamentary, statist politics. Unfortunately, as in his discussion of Labourism, this criticism was weakened by a failure to root the trade union leadership’s orientation to the state in their mediating role in the class struggle. This meant, as we shall see in his relationship to the Labour Party in the 1980s, that he tended to overstate the importance of divisions between left and right wing trade union officials, in a way that undermined his attempt to build a socialist organisation. By focusing on the—undoubtedly important—ideological divisions within the trade union bureaucracy at the expense of the—more important—essential structural conservatism of this layer, Miliband effectively tied the fortunes of his socialist project to forces that had no intention of leading a radical socialist transformation
of British politics.

From this perspective it is instructive to compare his analysis of the nature of reformism with that offered by Lukács in History and Class Consciousness: “the most articulate expression on a theoretical level of the world-historical events of 1917”.71 While this appreciation of Lukács’s work is shared by many on the revolutionary left, Lukács’s name does not appear in the index of Marxism and Politics (although History and Class Consciousness is listed in the bibliography).

This is an important omission. For in his early Marxist essays Lukács pointed to just the kind of systematic defence of Marxist political theory which Miliband had suggested did not exist in the introduction to Marxism and Politics. In “Towards a Methodology of the Problem of Organisation”, Lukács argued that reformist organisations were best understood as structures which attempt to represent the working class, or rather the various strata that together make up the working class, as they exist as a partial negation of capitalism, but which remain engulfed within a reified bourgeois worldview. The problem with such organisations, he argued, was that while the class struggle is a dynamic process, and the consciousness of those proletarian strata involved in struggle are open to transformation, the reformist bureaucracy itself tended to ossify, thus holding back the development of socialist class consciousness:

While the organisations of the sects artificially separate “true” class consciousness (if this can survive at all in such abstract isolation) from the life and development of the class, the organisations of the opportunists achieve a compromise between these strata of consciousness on the lowest possible level, or at best, at the level of the average man. It is self-evident that the actions of the class are largely determined by its average members. But as the average is not static and cannot be determined statistically, but is itself the product of the revolutionary process, it is no less self-evident that an organisation that bases itself on an existing average is doomed to hinder development and even to reduce the general level.72

A revolutionary party, according to this view, acts as a corollary of the uneven consciousness of the working class in the class struggle; and whereas reformist parties actively hinder the emergence of widespread revolutionary consciousness, revolutionary parties aim to foster this process. The revolutionary party attempts to act in a way informed by lessons generalised from the high points of a century and a half of such struggles. Moreover, as “the process of revolution is—on a historical scale—synonymous with the process of the development of proletarian class consciousness”, the struggle by revolutionaries for hegemony against the influence of reformists within the working class can only succeed with the success of the revolution itself.73

Superficially, this perspective coheres with Miliband’s argument, as outlined in the conclusion to The State in Capitalist Society, that “a serious revolutionary party, in the circumstances of advanced capitalism, has to be the kind of ‘hegemonic’ party of which Gramsci spoke”. However, whereas Lukács and Gramsci insisted that the struggle for hegemony was the precursor to a necessary overthrow of the old state and its replacement with a system of workers’ councils, in that book Miliband maintained that the reform of the state “is, of course, possible”. Furthermore, he argued that the limitations of such a reformist strategy ultimately derived not from the structural constraints placed on the state by capital, but because of the “ideological and political integration of social democratic leaders into the framework of capitalism”. Indeed, he suggested that the increasing absorption
of social democracy into the capitalist system meant that the historic role of the “labour and socialist movement” as “the main driving force of the extension of the democratic features of capitalist societies” was lessened.74 Miliband therefore suggested a model of revolutionary organisation as a militant type of reformist party, which, unlike the Labour Party, was not hamstrung by its ideological attachment to capitalism.

Miliband thus implicitly dismissed Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of reformism: “people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal”.75 He effectively answered Luxemburg’s defence of revolutionary politics by characterising the alternatives to his own position as “insurrectionary” and “constitutionalist”; a move which by focusing on the moment of transition obscured the differing day to day practice of reformist and revolutionary parties. Lukács suggested that reformist parties emerged in periods of relatively low levels of class struggle as the organisational expression of the struggle of labour against capital within an assumed, reified naturalisation of capitalist relations of production, while revolutionary parties emerged as the organisational expression of the break made by sections of the working class, based upon heightened class struggles, with this reified outlook. In contrast to this approach, Miliband tended to reduce the debate between reformists and revolutionaries, or constitutionalism versus insurrectionism, to a technical question narrowly relating to the moment of transition. Consequently, while he described the policing role played by the leadership of social democratic parties and trade unions, he did not integrate this description into a dynamic model of their function within the capital accumulation process.

This weakness in his discussion of reformism complemented similar problems with his analysis of the state. This is an important issue because both the right and left within the Labour Party oriented to winning the state through parliamentary elections, and because Miliband’s analysis of the state suggested that socialist advance through the state was a realistic possibility. In an early, and perceptive, review of The State in Capitalist Society Isaac Balbus argued that although Miliband offered “ostensibly a class analysis of advanced capitalist systems” in execution his thesis was a “static”, if “sophisticated, version of elite-stratification theory”.76 Similarly, Haldun Gulalp criticised Miliband for conceptualising the state’s role of “maintaining and reproducing the relations of domination” in terms of its links with the dominant class, as opposed to through its “relation to capital accumulation”.77 As Colin Barker argued, by thus abstracting both his conception of the state and of reformism from capitalist social relations, Miliband failed to understand that the state was not a mere instrument of the capitalist class, but was itself a capitalist state.78 This informed both Miliband’s rejection of the classical Marxist claim that the state had to be “smashed” and his failure to address the argument that Lenin’s goal was not merely to build a party that could organise an insurrection but that he also aimed to win hegemony away from the social democratic leaders of the workers’ movement as a necessary precondition for the transition to socialism.79

The famous Twenty-One Conditions for entry into the Comintern were aimed, however clumsily, not, as Miliband suggested, “to split all labour movements from top to bottom”, but rather to exclude reformist and centrist leaders from entry into the Comintern, where they would be expected to talk left while acting right.80 For Lenin, the rationale of the Twenty-One Conditions was to exclude these opportunists so as to build real combat organisations of the working class.81 Miliband’s contrary interpretation of this break informed his consistently expressed regret at the split between reformists and revolutionaries. As he put it in 1964, “the split between Social-Democracy and Communism” not only “tore the Labour movements apart”, but also helped ensure that “most Labour leaders had acquired a large stake in moderate reform within capitalism, and a deep fear of militant action”.82 Similarly, in Marxism and Politics, he argued that “confronted with a Bolshevik and Communist presence” the leaders of the social democratic parties “became even more ‘reformist’ than they had been”.83

He therefore explained the strength of social democratic constitutionalism, in part, by the very existence of revolutionary parties. This superficially plausible argument is sound only so long as we ignore the differing day to day activities of these parties. This approach acts to obscure what Miliband’s rich descriptions of reformist organisations actually
highlighted: the fact that social democratic parties police mass movements, while revolutionary organisations attempt to fan the flames of revolt. To judge the effectiveness of the split between social democracy and Communism in Miliband’s terms involves assuming away these fundamentally different modes of practice, while simultaneously accepting that social democrats and Communists both aim at the same goal, if at different rates and by different paths. Miliband reinforced this perspective with the assumption that the Comintern’s embrace of the Popular Front in the mid-1930s was an organic development which reflected its realisation that insurrectionary politics were a non-starter in the West, and that consequently the only viable form of left politics was one or other form of reformism.

However, as we noted above, Miliband asserted but did not argue this interpretation of the Popular Front; or rather his argument was based on the acceptance of a version of Hegel’s aphorism that “what is, is Reason”: revolutions had failed in the West, and revolutionary parties had been consistently marginalised. Thus in Divided Societies he argued that the “insurrectionary bids for power” attempted by the German Communist Party in the early 1920s were “doomed to failure”. However, he also suggested that Germany was the only example of “an advanced capitalist country where a revolution might have succeeded”.84 Unfortunately, this revolutionary opportunity was squandered when the Social Democratic Party (SPD) acted as “the bulwark of the existing order” in 1918.85 Miliband points out that the revolutionary opportunity was spurned by the Social Democrats before the formation of the Communist Party, and argues that henceforth Communist sectarianism, culminating in the rhetoric of the Third Period, ensured that splits in the labour movement meant that a left wing solution to the crisis of the Weimar state was all but impossible.

This assessment of Weimar history is doubly problematic.86 If the SPD had acted as the bulwark of the old order in 1918 surely it was an imperative that the left organise themselves in opposition to this party—which, contra Miliband, they had already begun to do during the First World War precisely because of the Party’s counter-revolutionary role from 1914 onwards. Moreover, his analysis of the ultra-leftism of the Comintern in the late 1920s and early 1930s was undermined by the same error evident in his explanation of the move to the Popular Front. In both occasions he abstracted the policy on the ground from the machinations in Moscow. He did not analyse the move towards “Third Period” ultra-leftism in the late 1920 in relation to the Stalinist counter-revolution but as the logical culmination of Leninist politics: “The sectarianism which marked those early years reached new heights in the so-called Third Period”.87 In thus abstracting his criticism of “Leninism” from any serious analysis of how, in Claudin’s words, Stalin “vulgarly distort[ed] Lenin’s policy”,88 Miliband elided Lenin’s own criticisms of formally similar arguments in his LeftWing Communism an Infantile Disorder (1920) through to his defence of the united front tactic in 1922.89

Ironically, in Marxism and Politics, Miliband approvingly quoted Trotsky’s criticisms of the ultra-leftism of the Stalinist Third Period.90 However, he did not explore either how Trotsky’s arguments in the early 1930s built on Lenin’s perspectives from a decade earlier, or how the leftism of genuine revolutionaries in the early 1920s differed qualitatively from Stalin’s cynical reproduction of similar arguments a few years later. Indeed, it was precisely because Stalin knew Lenin’s thinking as well as Trotsky did that his embrace of ultra-left rhetoric illuminated the fundamental nature of the break between his “Leninism” and Lenin’s actual practice. It was the wilfully criminal nature of Third Period politics that led Trotsky to conclude that revolutionaries must split from the Communist movement in 1933.91 According to Trotsky, just as the Second International’s capitulation to nationalism in 1914 had created the need for a new international socialist movement, the Comintern’s criminal acquiescence in Hitler’s rise to power demanded the creation of a new revolutionary party in the 1930s.

By contrast with this position, Miliband believed that while the split between Communism and social democracy was understandable, it had the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the constitutionalism of the reformist leaders, while simultaneously increasing the isolation of socialist militants. Moreover, in conflating the degeneration of the Communist parties with the demise of the revolutionary alternative to social democracy, Miliband assumed away the significance of the break between Trotskyism and Stalinism. Whereas Trotsky defended the creation of independent revolutionary parties, the logic of Miliband’s perspective tended in the direction of reuniting the various fragments of the left by papering over the split of 1914. Ironically, therefore, “Moving On” might best be understood as a rather naive and utopian call to move back to the glory days of the Second International.


Commenting with the benefit of two decades of hindsight on the collapse of the first New Left in 1962, Miliband suggested that the foundations of a new socialist party might have been laid in the late 1950s and early 1960s:

As I see it now, and as I only dimly perceived it then, the New Reasoner “rebellion” should have been followed by a sustained and systematic attempt to regroup whoever was willing into a socialist association, league or party, of which the journal might have been the voice. But this is no more than hindsight; and there was then no steam behind any such idea.92

While this caveat is true, it demands its own explanation. As I have argued elsewhere, it was the left reformism hegemonic within New Left circles that lent itself to over-optimistic hopes for Labour after a motion calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament was passed by the 1960 party conference, and which in turn resulted in extreme pessimism when, a year later, these hopes were crushed as the party machine turned against the left.93

It might be thought that the publication of Parliamentary Socialism in 1961 would have put paid to the New Left’s illusions in the Labour Party. And indeed, two leading members of the International Socialists, the
precursor of the SWP, read it in just this way. Tony Cliff built on its arguments in his first substantial analysis of the Labour Party, while Paul Foot credited it with saving him from a life as a Labour MP.94 By contrast, Miliband himself, as we have noted, originally intended it as a contribution to saving the Labour Party for the left, and the substance of his analysis remained unchanged even when he came to argue for a new socialist organisation in the 1970s. By the early 1980s his hopes for a new socialist formation once again brought him into the orbit of the Labour left, this time in the shape of the movement around Tony Benn which emerged as a reaction to Thatcher’s victory over a moribund right wing Labour government in 1979. In 1981-2 Miliband played a key role in launching a new formation which aimed to move the left beyond the limits of existing left organisations: the Socialist Society. He initially conceived this organisation as an embryonic party that would transcend the limits both of Labourism and Leninism. However, in practice he was increasingly drawn into the orbit of the Labour left. This wasn’t a consequence of relating to the Labour left, which in the context was undoubtedly the right thing for a Marxist to do. Rather how he related to the Labour left illuminated weaknesses with his analysis of Labourism generally and his critique of the Labour left more specifically.

Writing at the time, Duncan Hallas pointed to two important characteristics of the Bennite movement which would obviously shape how revolutionaries should relate to it. On the one hand, it was “shallow”: Bennism reflected a move to the left among an existing layer of Labour and trade union activists at a time when the mass of the working class were suffering from demoralisation born of defeats in the industrial struggle, first under the Labour government’s Social Contract and then under Thatcher. On the other hand, many of the new activists who joined the Labour Party after 1979 did so as part of a movement away from the revolutionary left in a direction that took them increasingly into the orbit of reformism. The ideological impact of these two elements of the Bennite constituency in the context of the downturn in the industrial struggle combined to ensure that there was no native revolutionary current within the Labour Party, and short of an about turn in the class struggle this was unlikely to change.

So while there was a large layer of socialists within the Labour Party whose anger at Thatcherism was real and profound, this layer tended to see the solution to these problems in traditional Labourist, that is electoral, terms. The key weakness with this general perspective was that it left the Bennites open to intense pressure from the right and centre of the party to moderate their arguments to the logic of the parliamentary game: the need to win Daily Mail reading swing voters in marginal seats. It followed from this analysis that the role of revolutionaries in this situation was to relate positively to the anger of these activists, working with the Labour left while maintaining their independence from them—explaining that reformism offered no real solution to the underlying problems of British society. This is exactly what the SWP aimed to do.95

While Miliband was undoubtedly right to see in Labour supporters the main constituency for any new socialist party, the weaknesses of his purely ideological conception of Labourism coupled with his belief that the state could become an instrument of a socialist government fundamentally weakened his critical faculties in the face of Benn and the Bennites. Thus as late as 1983 he suggested that the Bennites could win the Labour Party to socialism. He argued that, while his original critique of the Labour left was in general correct, he had “underestimated how great was the challenge the new activists would be able to pose to their leaders”, and suggested that whether or not these activists would be able to push matters further than he had previously thought was now “more open that I had believed”.96

This argument involved a complete miscalculation of the political context.97 Benn’s defeat in the 1981 deputy leadership election was the high point for the Labour left which from then on in, and with alarming speed after the defeat of the Great Miners’ Strike, was in retreat. Not only did the witch-hunt of the Militant Tendency—today’s Socialist Party—begin the day after Benn’s defeat, but also Benn submitted to the pressure from the right and centre of the party to conform as early as January 1982 when, at the so-called “Peace of Bishops Stortford”, he agreed not to challenge for the leadership of the Party. His reason for doing this followed the electoral logic which Benn shared with the right of the party. When the most right wing elements of the party resigned in March 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party (the Dem side of today’s Lib Dems) many Labour Party socialists were glad to see the back of them. However, rather than strengthening the left, the departure of the SDP strengthened the right within the Labour Party. This was most evident in the wake of the first by-election after the SDP split from Labour. When, in July 1981, the SDP candidate Roy Jenkins almost won the safe Labour seat of Warrington, the Labour leadership’s eminently electoralist response was to move the party to the right.

The author of Parliamentary Socialism should have known better than anyone that this trajectory was the most likely scenario through the 1980s: he had detailed similar developments in the party in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s. But rather than maintain his independence from the Labour left in a way that would have allowed him to act as a voice of realism on the left, Miliband’s interpretation of Labourism as a purely ideological phenomenon opened the door to him being drawn into the Bennites’ “crippling illusions” in the Labour Party, illusions he had done more than anyone else to highlight in the past! It was this optimism that quickly turned into its opposite once the scale of Benn’s isolation within the party became apparent.

If Miliband’s one-sided analyses of Labourism and the state opened the door to these unrealistic conclusions, his too dismissive critique of Leninism left him at some distance removed from the one player within the Socialist Society that might have tempered this hyper-optimism with a more realistic assessment of both the balance of class forces in Britain at the time and the possibility of transforming the Labour Party: the SWP. Isolated from the SWP and eventually overwhelmed by a declining Labour Left, far from renewing the left by overcoming divisions between reformists and revolutionaries the Socialist Society ended up, as Miliband and other leading Socialist Society members agreed, “squeezed” between the SWP to its left and the Labour Party to its right.98

Although Miliband’s eventual political isolation in the late 1980s was in large part a product of the defeats of the working class over the previous decade, it was also a consequence of his failures either adequately to engage with Lenin’s contribution to Marxist politics or to provide a socio-economic analysis of Labourism. If these gaps in his theory informed, first, the weaknesses of his original project of party building, and, second, his eventual retreat from this project, coming to terms with them will help us go beyond the limits of Miliband’s Marxism so that we may realise his call to build an independent socialist party in Britain.


1: This essay is a revised version of Blackledge, 2008. Thanks to the editors of the collection in which that essay was published, and to Colin Barker, Ian Birchall, Alex Callinicos, Christian Høgsbjerg and Jonny Jones for comments on this revised version.

2: Hallas, 1990.

3: Miliband,1972, p376; 1983, p293.

4: Burnham, 2008, p48.

5: For criticisms of the positions taken by both Miliband and Poulantzas see Barker, 1977; 1979a; 1979b.

6: Blackledge, 2005.

7: Miliband, 1976.

8: Newman, 2002, pp271; 299-308; 2008, pp36-44.

9: After I’d debated Miliband’s legacy at a Historical Materialism conference a few years ago I was somewhat surprised to find that Ed Miliband was in the audience. He told me that in his youth he enjoyed tagging along with his dad to Marxism to listen to him debate with the SWP!

10: Newman, 2002, p339.

11: Miliband, 1994, p148.

12: Miliband, 1972, pp376-7; 1969, p245.

13: Armstrong, 2010. For an overview of the Socialist Society see Newman, 2002, pp270-278.

14: Despite a sympathetic analysis of Lenin’s The State and Revolution (Miliband, 1970), Miliband never adequately addressed Lenin’s Marxism. The French philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard described situations like this, when there appears to be a “resistance of thought to thought”, as “epistemological obstacles” (Lecourt, 1975, p135). Lenin was such an obstacle to Miliband. Unfortunately, this is a typical failing of contemporary leftists. Thanks to Alex Callinicos for pointing me to Bachelard’s argument.

15: Miliband, 1976, pp128, 131.

16: Coates, 2003, p73; 1975, p134.

17: Miliband, 1972, p13.

18: Newman, 2003, p57; see also Miliband and Saville, 1964, p156; Miliband, 1965, p193.

19: Miliband, 1958.

20: Cliff and Gluckstein, 1996, p2.

21: Callinicos, 1995; Cliff and Gluckstein, 1985.

22: Cliff and Gluckstein, 1996, p90; Harman, 1998, pp347-354.

23: Miliband, 1976, p139.

24: Hallas, 1977, p8.

25: Miliband, 1976, p139.

26: Hallas, 1977, p10.

27: Hallas, 1977, p7; see Anderson 1980, p153.

28: Miliband, 1977a, p48.

29: Miliband, 1977b, p1.

30: Miliband, 1977b, pp3-4.

31: Miliband, 1977b, p14.

32: Miliband, 1977b, p1.

33: Miliband, 1977b, p145; 1983, p199.

34: Miliband, 1977b, pp111-112.

35: Miliband, 1994, pp4, 2; see also 1992, p108; 1983, p225.

36: Miliband, 1994, pp43, 69-70.

37: Miliband, 1989a, pp28-31.

38: Kozak, 1995, p275.

39: Deutscher, 1963, p514. Deutscher’s influence on the Marxist left informed the pessimism which overtook many nominally anti-Stalinist socialists in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union (Blackledge, 2004a, pp3-4). On Deutscher more generally see Cliff, 1963.

40: Miliband, 1989b, pp173, 15.

41: Deutscher, 1960, pp21-23; Miliband, 1974, p393; Compare Newman, 2003, p68.

42: Miliband, 1991b, p17.

43: Miliband, 1980, p6; 1974, p386.

44: Miliband, 1991a, pp382, 388; Compare Miliband, 1994, p45.

45: Miliband, 1994, pp138, 143.

46: Miliband, 1974, p384.

47: Miliband, 1977b, p62.

48: Miliband, 1977b, p169.

49: Miliband, 1977b, pp64, 83.

50: Liebman, 1975, p108.

51: Liebman, 1975, p51.

52: Rabinowitch, 2004, p311.

53: Lenin quoted in Hallas, 1985, p109; see also Carr, 1972, p305, and Cohen, 1980, p294.

54: Miliband, 1977b, p169.

55: Miliband, 1977b, p172; 1987, p487.

56: Miliband and Liebman, 1984, p9.

57: Miliband, 1977b, p75.

58: Claudin, 1975, pp176, 182-185; Hallas, 1985, pp141, 144.

59: Miliband, 1977b, pp170-171.

60: For an important survey of these various movements, see Hallas, 1985.

61: Miliband, 1982, pp156-157.

62: Miliband, 1977b, pp183-188.

63: Miliband, 1977b, p189.

64: Miliband, 1994, p158.

65: Barker, 1977, p28.

66: Miliband, 1982, pp56, 33, 67-76; 1989b, p69.

67: Miliband, 1982, p69.

68: Miliband, 1982, p61.

69: Miliband, 1989b, p68; Michels, 1962.

70: For a powerful critique of Michels, see Barker, 2001.

71: Jay, 1984, p103.

72: Lukács, 1971, pp326-327.

73: Lukács, 1971, pp326, 286.

74: Miliband, 1969, pp242-245; 1989b, p68.

75: Luxemburg, 1989, p75.

76: Balbus, 1971, pp40-41.

77: Gulalp, 1987, p311; Compare Harman, 1991, p4.

78: Barker, 1979b.

79: Interestingly, this one-sided view of Leninism parallels anarchist claims that Lenin was a Blanquist (Blackledge, 2010, pp148-153).

80: Miliband, 1989b, p 61.

81: Hallas, 1985, pp162-163.

82: Miliband, 1964, p95.

83: Miliband, 1977b, p170.

84: Miliband, 1989b, pp63, 74.

85: Miliband, 1989b, p74.

86: For a superb history of the German Revolution, see Harman, 1982.

87: Miliband, 1989b, p63.

88: Claudin, 1975, p154.

89: Hallas 1985, pp38-43, 64-69.

90: Miliband, 1977b, p75.

91: Deutscher, 1963, p200 onwards.

92: Miliband, 1979a, p27.

93: Blackledge, 2004b; 2006.

94: Cliff, 2002; Foot quoted in Newman, 2002, p77.

95: Hallas, 1982, pp27-33.

96: Miliband, 1983, p303.

97: On Bennism see Cliff and Gluckstein, 1996, pp348-355, 361-366.

98: Newman, 2003, p67; 2002, p307; Miliband, 1983, p303.


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