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Crosland Territory

Stuart Hall
A political introduction to the series of articles on What’s Wrong With Capitalism, linking the theoretical
arguments to the current political debate in the Labour Party.

THERE ARE one or two aspects of the current struggle for (a difficult one, this, for ‘nationalisation’ is the last of
the soul of the Labour Party which have, so far, gone the TU shibboleths) and remaking the Party from
unremarked. The first—and most important—is the within. The ‘image’ will follow, and after that—
scope of the ‘Crosland Revolution’. Few of us hopefully—victory. In this difficult task, Mr. Gaitskell
imagined, when Mr. Crosland began to construct his commands the active and continuous (if surprising)
house of theory in The Future Of Socialism, that he support not only of Party moderates, but also of the
would become the architect of the Party in the sixties. centre heavy-weights of the press: The Guardian, The
We have continued to think and speak of the reforming, Observer, The Spectator and The Economist.
‘rethinking’, revising wing of the Party as a rough- What are the essential elements of this new ideology?
and-ready caucus of practical empiricists. For a summary of Mr. Crosland’s theses, applied to the
Far from it. Naturally, a good many Party men have moving arena of politics, one cannot do better than
look over Mr. Gaitskell’s Blackpool speech. The analysis
been pushed into the Crosland embrace by circum- began with the social backdrop to Labour’s defeat—
stances—the successive defeats, the deadlocked debates, the changing character of the Labour force. Next he
the unpopular policies, the falling membership, the gathered up in one sweep the current myths about
absence of that god in the electoral machine—the swing capitalism, lending them the force of his moderate
Nevertheless, what they have taken on to cover the personality: how it had been tamed from without (the
nakedness of their position, are the outer garments—at Labour Government reforms) and changed from
any rate—of an ‘ideology’. Mr. Crosland’s picture of within (the managers replacing the ravening capitalists
capitalism and the world has behind it the pressure of of earlier eras). Then finally, he gestured towards
an informing vision: it provides the right wing of the prosperity—the Welfare State, the “comforts, pleasures
Party with a framework for the facts, a logical structure and conveniences of the home”.
enabling them to explain the past and predict the future. “In short”, he summed up, “the changing character of
What we have been witnessing in recent weeks is the labour, full employment, new housing, the new way of
tail-end of that revolution. The ideological battles have living based on the telly, the frig., and the car, and
long since been joined and won: first Mr. Gaitskell the glossy magazines—all these have had their effect on
assented, and then, one after another, the up-and- our political strength.”
coming intellectuals in the leadership—Mr. Healey, In the ‘American’ age just in front of us, when
Mr. Gordon Walker, Mr. Roy Jenkins. By the time reformed capitalism will flush out the remnants of
that Industry And Society appeared at Brighton, in earlier squalor (a point not dwelt on), Mr. Gaitskell
1957, the picture of reformed capitalism, the managerial could see little for Labour to do, if it desired to rule
revolution and applied Keynesian economics which once more, but follow in the path of the upturns in our
Mr. Crosland described had already begun to be etched economic life. (Someday, he could be heard singing in an
across the face of official policy. Mr. Crosland may not exclusive interview with The Observer the following week,
himself have recommended or approved the share- “the swing will come”). The future of the Party, then,
buying scheme: but this—and other proposals of this he cast in this soft mould: defence of the underdog
kind—followed on naturally from his analysis. The (not a comforting prospect, this, since he had already
recent notes for Political Education Officers in the implied that capitalism would take care of him too,
Constituency Parties affirms that capitalism has been
so reformed that it deserves to be called, not capitalism, in the next round of prosperity): “social justice”
but Statism—a direct quote from Chapter and Verse in “an equitable distribution of wealth and income”; a
The Future Of Socialism. What is most important is “classless society” (surely a misfit, this one). Finally,
that it was the force of this ideology which sustained (a concession to the young Liberals, who picketed the
Mr. Gaitskell’s hands at the Blackpool Conference. Conference with a fresh-faced delight?)—“equality of
Only the final stages of the campaign remain: to the races”, a belief in “spiritual” values (a heightening
isolate the Left as a fundamentalist rump (what The sentiment in the age of the glossy magazine) and the
Economist refers to as the Victorian Marxists in the freedom of the individual.
Constituency parties), to popularise the more difficult This case is tougher than it looks on paper. It has,
Crosland concepts and to fight them through into the behind it, the force of circumstances (post-war pros-
Party, drawing the Trade Unions into place behind them perity); beneath it, the support of serious intellectual
analysis (the managerial revolution and Keynesian It follows, then, that we should be driven to ask the
economics); and before it, the lure of political office question, in what direction is the motor running? What
(the third Tory victory). What is more, it is firmly are the trends, the signs, the portents? And here, a vast
rooted—or appears to be so—in contemporary ‘facts’. area opens up which is wholly untouched by Mr.
In this sense, the analysis is certainly more alive to the Gaitskell’s deft analysis. We won’t recount the major
realities of society today than the defence which the social imbalances which this system of corporate power
Left mustered in reply. The composition of the labour establishes for our society, (Charles Taylor has tried to
force has changed: there are “fewer farm-workers, more tackle that in his piece); but we can sum up the general
shop assistants, fewer miners, more engineers”, and picture of an economy which is capable of dealing
these facts are bound to have an effect upon the attitudes, profitably in consumer goods and personal conveniences
aspirations and expectations of working people. The (though not equitably: the question of economic
fact that this change is so uneven through the country— and class inequalities, which have grown in the last
the newer technological industries advancing, leaving ten years, not receded, must be introduced at this point);
the older factories as great gaping social and economic but which is incapable of dealing with major areas of
sores—simply masks and confuses this transformation. our social life: education, town planning, municipal and
Mr. Gaitskell may be altogether wrong in his analysis public rebuilding, roads, pensions, health and welfare
of what working people want—of why, for example, in all its aspects, the phased introduction of automation
they should always and by definition want a new car and new technology, the comprehensive re-planning of
more than they want a better education for their industries which are in decline, and the public services.
children: but it does not help to assert that nothing is Gradually, over the next few issues, we shall highlight
new under the sun. these serious contradictions and failures in contem-
porary capitalism, asking, at every point, are these
failures structural or marginal? will prosperity deal with
Errors and Abuses these too, as the by-product of affluence? or are they
The errors in the argument fall into two categories. built-in features of the system, which can only be
In the first place, the analysis of capitalism and its changed if we are prepared to strike at the very root of
trends appear to us wrong: wrongly conceived, and not the matter—private property and the profit system itself?
borne out by the facts. In the second place, the picture Associated with this picture of how capitalism is
of prosperity is false, couched in individualist and actually working before our eyes, are three related
Tory terms, and accepted on their face value, without a themes, which we shall develop as well. The first is the
rigorous examination from socialist assumptions. urgent political question of the relationship between
We have passed through a period of post-war pros- capitalism and military expenditure. The second is the
perity. We have also passed through a period of post- question of whether capitalism, as it is driven at the
war inflation, never dipping into the deep troughs of a moment, is capable of undertaking the most urgent
major slumps, but oscillating, with alarming regularity, economic task which lies before us: the industrialisation
between jumping prices and industrial recession. The of the backward two-thirds of the world. The third
inflation question is still on the agenda—unresolved. aspect of the problem is the question of whether,
What is more, the managerial revolution is not what by administrative controls and Government ‘inter-
it seems. The arguments here are more fully worked out ference’ a capitalist economy can be managed and
in Charles Taylor’s article, which is the first of a series directed towards targets radically different from those
which will take up, in detail, the socialist case against which the surviving capitalist economies of the world—
this challenging ideology. But briefly, the managers, the US, Germany, Britain and France—are steadily
where they are ‘in control’, remain the managers of moving towards.
the private corporations, the governors of private
property in its latest form in an industrial society (the Tory Images of The Good Life
modern firm). The controllers, who own great segments
of the private sector, and who direct its overall strategy But the earlier points—about the misplaced priorities
—the new capitalists of a corporate economy—are of British capitalism, even in its prosperity phase—
more firmly based now than they have ever been. relate very closely to the lack of socialist assumptions
The managers—tame, mild-mannered, public-spirited in Mr. Gaitskell’s approach to the whole problem.
though they may be—are the servants (the well-paid, Can we really accept, at this stage in history, the defini-
well-cushioned servants) of the system: and the circle tion of ‘prosperity’, of ‘the Good Life’, which is now
of the system remains the accumulation and investment the most popular Tory ‘image’? If it is true, as we argue,
of private wealth, and the making of profits. This that the system has not and cannot provide for what we
picture needs to be much more fully explored and may generally call the public, social, and community
developed. But the essential point is that the making of needs of the society (and the trends, except in particular
profits is what keeps the wheels going round: this is the sectors which capitalism urgently needs, are moving
dynamic power that drives the economy and sets the steadily the other way, both here and in the United
targets for the society. States), how is it that we have been driven into the
position of basing a socialist case on a capitalist view of them political form. The failure of imagination must
life, a propertied interpretation of human ‘needs’? then be defined, ultimately, as a failure of political
If socialism has roots anywhere, it is in the concept of a imagination: the incapacity to take the lead, to stand as
community of equals, in the moral principle of sharing a political Party and a movement in place of these
and co-operation, in the planned command of skills and ideals, to draw in and weld together in political terms
resources so that they can be made to serve the full the unfelt, unexpressed, unarticulated needs of our
needs of the community. If we abandon this we, have people as a community.
abandoned everything for which socialism stands.
That is because, to stand in the name of what is
Although the provision of an adequate community genuinely new in the society (and that is not the way of
life has often been appropriated by the social demo- life of the glossy magazine) would mean confronting
crats and the public administrators, and its water the old enemy in new, fancy clothes. In order to establish
muddied by the concepts of self-help and State assist- new priorities for our society, we would have to control
ance, it could be the most dynamic and moving human “the commanding heights of the economy” (to use a
theme in the restatement of socialism in contemporary much quoted, much maligned phrase of Lenin’s): not
terms. To give this up, and lie down before the advance control them at a distance, not ask on bended knees
of ‘individualism’, is not so much a betrayal of the past that the managers do our job for us, or pray that
ideals, as a woeful and disastrous failure of the imagina- the controllers of the economy will suffer a change of
tion—a collapse before history. Isn’t it extraordinary that heart—but control them: as a community. To do that,
a serious political party—and a party of the Left— would in fact mean the re-application of the principle
should set itself as its major task to divest itself of a of common ownership to our economic thinking—not
certain image in the popular mind? One would think as a well-worn shibboleth which must be defended,
that a party of the Left should be constantly searching, like Buckingham Palace, because it is there—but because
analysing, trying to find what is wrong with society we cannot make a system which is geared to go forward
and how it can be put right. The present Labour Party in one direction reverse itself, unless we are prepared
leadership seems to think that it can dispense with this to work it ourselves, unless it is responsible to us.
kind of fundamental questioning. Does it know how it This is the case—or the elements of it—for common
is going to bring us growth without inflation, have a ownership, and if we are going to march forward in
decent education system, a health service worth the name, our serried ranks in defence of Clause 4 of the Con-
how it is going to help the underdeveloped countries, stitution, without going right through, from scratch, to
institute a classless society? We have only their say-so the reasons why we need common ownership, the fight
that they are going to do these things, they have never in 1960 will be as sterile as the defence of the Left
let us into the secret of how they are going to be proved to be at Blackpool in 1959.
accomplished. Or can it be that there is no secret?
Can it be that they believe, following Mr. Crosland The ‘ends’ are contained by the ‘means’, then. If it
that a modern reformed Capitalism, suitably ‘guided’ is really a classless society we want, we must face up to
will bring us all these blessings in due course? The the fact that the system which we are trying to tame,
whole thing represents a tragic failure of political vision, which provides Mr. Macmillan’s kind of ‘prosperity’
a pigmy’s sense of the problems before us, and one on the one hand, is what generates class power on the
which, ironically, cuts across the most cherished aim other. Behind the back of the Welfare Revolution, a
of the Labour leadership—political office. For, on this revival of the class system has silently taken place: and
view there is no role for a party of the Left which the the more profitable it is to supply the consumer needs of
Liberals could not fill just as well. the community, the more robust the owners, controllers
and managers of the system will become, the sounder
The rising, skilled working class, before whom Mr. their social position, the more stable their personal
Gaitskell makes his obeisances, are simply new groups prospects, the greater the gaps in income and privilege,
of people, with new aspirations and new visions, living the more divided the society. Are Mr. Gaitskell and
through the end of an old society. They are the people Mr. Crosland prepared to ignore forever the increasing
whose inarticulate needs—education and welfare and stability and confidence of our new ruling élite in the
decent homes and pleasant cities, responsibilities before country? and its effect on the culture of our society?
the job and a sense of their own independent dignity When is an Executive speech at Conference going to
before life—are untouched by socialism, as we speak of begin, “Let us really look at what has been happening
it today. They are the people about whom Mr. Gaitskell within ‘the commanding heights of the economy’, let us
has accepted the modern myth—the crass, debased discuss whether we are in fact moving towards a more
image of telly-glued, car-raving mindless consumers. humane and equal society. . . .” Then, at last, the
Whereas, the task of socialism in the sixties and economic facts—analysable in any breakdown of
beyond, is to pioneer the opening new horizons, the income, wealth and privilege in the Blue Books,
enlarged experience of the world, the new human demonstrable before our very eyes—will have broken
ambitions which this class, by a tireless, bitter operation- through into politics, and we can begin to discuss just
bootstrap, have opened up for themselves, and to give what we are going to do about it.