Ralph Miliband on Crewe and Nantwich

May 23, 2008 at 12:10 am (elections, history, Jim D, labour party, left, politics, workers)

Written in 1972 (as a Postscript to his book Parliamentary Socialism):

“The Labour Left in Parliament can mount episodic ‘revolts’ on this or that issue, though with dubious effect; and it can act as a pressure group upon Labour leaders, with equally uncertain impact. But more than this it cannot be expected to do.

“What this means is that the Labour Party cannot be transformed into a party seriously concerned with socialist change. Its leaders may have to respond with radical-sounding noises to the pressures and demands of their activists. Even so, they will see to it that the Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been – a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted. That system badly needs such a party, since it plays a major role in the management of discontent and helps to keep it within safe bounds; and the fact that the Labour Party proclaims itself at least once every five years but much more often as well to be committed not merely to the modest amelioration of capitalist society but to its wholesale transformation, to a just social order, to a classless society, to a new Britain, and whatever not, does not make it less but more useful in the preservation of the existing social order. 

“It is very likely that the Labour Party will be able to play this highly ‘functional’ role for some time to come, given its overwhelming preponderance as ‘the party of the left’ in the British political system. There is at present no party or grouping which is capable of posing an effective challenge to that preponderance; and this helps to explain why so many socialists in the Constituency Labour Parties, in the trade unions (and for that matter in the Communist Party) cling to the belief that the Labour Party will eventually be radically transformed. But 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. On the contrary, what it requires is to begin preparing the ground for the coming into being of such an alternative: and one of the indespensible elements of the process is the dissipation of paralysisng illusions about the true purpose and role of the Labour Party.”

And – yes – Ralph was, indeed, the father of David!


  1. Jim Denham said,

    I see that the soft-lefties of ‘Compass’ have turned on Brown in the aftermath of the C&N drubbing:


    Can’t fault what they’re saying. But weren’t they, not so long ago, rather enthusiastic supporters of Brown for leader? And didn’t their head honch Neal Lawson write some gushing paeans to the Great Leader in such publications as the Graun and the Indie shortly after Broon’s coronation? Was he hoping for a job? Anyway, the disappointed fans have turned upon their erstwhile hero with extraordinary venom, haven’t they?

  2. voltairespriest said,

    Yes indeed – and I can’t see their figurehead Cruddas having the stomach for a challenge this time either.

  3. Scott Redding said,

    Years ago, there was an interesting two parter on the Ralph/Ed/David Miliband relationship in the Guardian:



  4. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken - eine Auswahl « Entdinglichung said,

    […] Ralph Miliband: Postscript to Parliamentary Socialism […]

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