Anthony Crosland

A British Labour politician and social theorist, Crosland was a leading exponent of revisionist socialism. In The Future of Socialism (1956), he dismissed Marxism on the grounds that capitalism, in its classical sense, no longer existed, having been transformed by the spread of democracy, progressive taxation, the trade unions, welfare reforms and, above all, the divorce of ownership from effective control of industry. In this light, Crosland defined socialism in terms of ethical goals, notably equality and social justice, rather than class antagonism and common ownership. In Socialism Now (1974), he championed the idea of ‘democratic equality’, which, in recognising that some level of inequality is of benefit to all, prefigured the ideas of Rawls (see p. 30). Although Crosland revised the ‘ends’ of socialism in these ways, he supported a diverse and radical set of ‘means’ to advance them. These included a strengthened welfare state, Keynesian demand management, the wider use of progressive taxation and expanded social ownership (particularly through state investment in business).

Anthony Crosland (1918–77) Labour politician and author Anthony Crosland’s book The Future of Socialism (1956) had a huge impact on the Labour Party of the 1960s and 1970s and arguably led it in a very new direction. Crosland argued that capitalism had matured and transformed and owners were no longer in control of production as there was a new class of managers who had grown in significance and status . These men and women were not just focused on profit but realised that they had to cooperate with unions, for example . Crosland criticised the argument that commitment to nationalisation should be the central aim of party policy and argued that ownership of industry should not be a priority for the Labour movement any more . A revisionist, he believed that opposition to capitalism was pointless and that modern socialists needed to adapt to modern society and accept private ownership and a mixed economy . Instead socialist parties should focus on the eradication of poverty and the creation of a more equal society . The key to achieving this was not by attacking the rich and dividing society on class lines but should be on spending more on public services and education in order to achieve a fairer and more (but not completely) equal society . Therefore Crosland was examining the means to achieve socialism rather than the ends and arguing that the means needed to change with the times . He focused very much on improving welfare and creating social justice . Economic growth needed to be encouraged as it would lead, via a progressive taxation system, to a larger pot of money being available to fund public services .

Anthony Crosland was a senior Labour Party politician, who served as a Cabinet minister during the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s. His book The Future of Socialism (1956) made a vital contribution to the development of Social democracy in Britain.

Crosland contested that public or common ownership had gone far enough, arguing that public ownership had never been the aim of socialism, merely a method for achieving it. The true objective, Crosland insisted, was equality, which could now be achieved within a managed capitalist economy.

■ Crosland asserted that capitalism had been changed for ever as a result of economist John Maynard Keynes, whose belief in state- managed capitalism became orthodox in western Europe after 1945. Thanks to Keynesian principles, Crosland argued, advanced societies could now enjoy permanent economic growth and full employment, without requiring any serious extension of public ownership. Thanks to constant growth, these societies could enjoy a steady expansion of the welfare state which, in turn, would diminish inequality and advance socialism.

■ Crosland also noted an important change in society. He argued that owing to economic change, society was less ‘binary’, less polarised between employers and employees, and ‘infinitely more complex than Marx could ever have imagined’. In particular, Crosland cited ‘new classes’, such as ‘managers’ and ‘technocrats’, whose perspectives were likely to be different to those of traditional workers.

Crosland argued that socialism now required a ‘mixed’ economy. This mixed economy would mainly comprise private enterprise and private ownership, alongside key services and a small number of industries owned by the state, a situation which, for Crosland, had largely been achieved following the 1945–1951 Labour governments. For Crosland, the future task of socialist governments was not more public ownership but more public spending and better public services.

In his later books, The Conservative Enemy (1962) and Socialism Now (1974), Crosland focused on other issues affecting society, notably education. He argued for a new form of state education, known as comprehensive education, which would end the segregation of pupils at the age of 11 and create new schools catering for all abilities. Crosland believed these comprehensive schools would break down class divisions far more effectively than any extension of public ownership, while ensuring all pupils had equality of opportunity. Crosland pursued this idea while Secretary of State for Education between 1965 and 1967, initiating a process that made comprehensive education the norm by the time of his death.