Anthony Crosland

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Anthony Crosland

Charles Anthony Raven Crosland (29 August 191819 February 1977), born at St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, England, was a British politician and Labour member of Parliament - as well as being a socialist theorist. He held many posts in the Labour Cabinets of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan before his sudden death in 1977.


  • The trend of employment is towards a high level, and a recurrence of chronic mass unemployment is most unlikely. The Keynesian techniques are now well understood, and there is no reason to fear a repetition of the New Deal experience of a government with the will to spend its way out of a recession, but frustrated in doing so by faulty knowledge. The political pressure for full employment is stronger than ever before; the experience of the inter-war years bit so deeply into the political psychology of the nation that full employment, if threatened, would always constitute the dominant issue at any election, and no right-wing party could now survive a year in office if it permitted the figures of unemployment which were previously quite normal.
    • 'The Transition from Capitalism' in Richard Crossman (ed.), New Fabian Essays (1952), pp. 39–40
  • I am...wholeheartedly a Galbraith man.
    • The Conservative Enemy (1962), p. 103
  • If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.
    • Crosland is so quoted by his wife Susan Crosland in her biography, Tony Crosland (1982), p. 148. Some of his political allies dispute that he believed the sentiments conveyed by the quote and therefore cast doubt on whether he actually said it.
  • To say that we must attend meticulously to the environmental case does not mean that we must go to the other extreme and wholly neglect the economic case. Here we must beware of some of our friends. For parts of the conservationist lobby would do precisely this. Their approach is hostile to growth in principle and indifferent to the needs of ordinary people. It has a manifest class bias, and reflects a set of middle and upper class value judgements. Its champions are often kindly and dedicated people. But they are affluent and fundamentally, though of course not consciously, they want to kick the ladder down behind them. They are highly selective in their concern, being militant mainly about threats to rural peace and wildlife and well loved beauty spots: they are little concerned with the far more desperate problem of the urban environment in which 80 per cent of our fellow citizens live ... As I wrote many years ago, those enjoying an above average standard of living should be chary of admonishing those less fortunate on the perils of material riches. Since we have many less fortunate citizens, we cannot accept a view of the environment which is essentially elitist, protectionist and anti-growth. We must make our own value judgement based on socialist objectives: and that judgement that growth is vital, and that its benefits far outweigh its costs.
    • 'Class hypocrisy of the conservationists', The Times (8 January 1971), p. 10
    • An extract from the Fabian pamphlet A Social Democratic Britain.
  • The great service of Keynes to recent history is that we now know, in the way that governments did not know in the 1930s, how full employment can be maintained.
    • Address to the Trade Union Public Services International in Copenhagen ('Government and Industry') (September 1971), quoted in Socialism Now (1974), p. 274
  • Nationalisation ... does not in itself engender greater equality, more jobs in the regions, higher investment or industrial democracy. The public knows this perfectly well, and so do the workers who have suffered from pit closures, steel redundancies and the run-down of the railways. It is idiotic to try to bamboozle them.
  • Much more should have been achieved by a Labour Government in office and Labour pressure in opposition. Against the dogged resistance to change, we should have pitted a stronger will to change. I conclude that a move to the Left is needed.
    • Anthony Crosland, Socialism Now (1974), p. 44
  • As a democratic Socialist profoundly committed to the rule of law, I could not condone, let alone encourage, defiance of the law.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 6 November 1974, Cols. 1076–7).
  • For the next few years times will not be normal. Perhaps people have used the words 'economic crisis' too often in the past. They have shouted 'wolf, wolf' when the animal was more akin to a rather disagreeable Yorkshire terrier. But not now. The crisis that faces us is infinitely more serious than any of the crises we have faced over the past 20 years...With its usual spirit of patriotism and its tradition of service to the community's needs, it is coming to realize that, for the time being at least, the party is over...We are not calling for a headlong retreat. But we are calling for a standstill.
    • Speech in Manchester Town Hall (9 May 1975), quoted in Christopher Warman, 'Councils are told to curb rise in spending', The Times (10 May 1975), p. 1
  • [T]o withdraw now would create in this country a mood of poor man's inchoate chauvinism, reviving old dreams of Empire and special relationships that have had such disastrous effects on British policy-making since 1945.
  • I do not believe there is a long-term future for the privately rented sector in its present form.
  • Unless the Arab states give Israel formal recognition, within secure, recognised and mutually agreed boundaries, as a permanent feature of the geography and politics of the Middle East. But if Israel is to obtain this recognition, she must, in a settlement, put an end to the territorial occupation which she has maintained since the war of 1967; the nine members of the European Community have declared that this is an essential element in a settlement. On behalf of the British Government I underline that need today.
  • We conceive the function of Tribune to be the expression in popular form, and to as large a public as possible, of the views of the Left and Marxist wing of social democracy in this country. Its policy must be that of those who believe that the present leadership of the Labour Party is not sufficiently Socialist.
  • We believe that the developing crisis in the capitalist system, by which we mean both economic stagnation, and the social and political conflicts to which it gives rise, makes it possible to think in terms of developing a sizeable and serious revolutionary socialist party in a way that was not possible 20 or even 10 years ago.
    • The Times (8 September 1977).

The Future of Socialism (1956)[edit]

  • I am sure that a definite limit exists to the degree of equality which is desirable. We do not want complete equality of incomes, since extra responsibility and exceptional talent require and deserve a differential reward. We are not hostile, as our opponents sometimes foolishly suggest, to 'detached residences in Bournemouth where some elderly woman has obviously more than a thousand a year'. I do not myself want to see all private education disappear; nor the Prime Minister denied an official car, as in one Scandinavian country; nor the Queen riding a bicycle; nor the House of Lords instantly abolished; nor the manufacture of Rolls-Royces banned; nor the Brigade of Guards, nor Oxford and Cambridge, nor Boodle's nor (more doubtfully) the Royal Yacht Squadron, nor even, on a rather lower level, the Milroy Room, lose their present distinctive character; nor anything so dull and colourless as this.
  • We still retain in Britain a deeper sense of class, a more obvious social stratification, and stronger class resentments, than any of the Scandinavian, Australasian, or North American countries.
  • Militant leftism in politics appears to have its roots in broadly analogous sentiments. Every labour politician has observed that the most indignant members of his local Party are not usually the poorest, or the slum-dwellers, or those with most to gain from further economic change, but the younger, more self-conscious element, earning good incomes and living comfortably in neat new council houses: skilled engineering workers, electrical workers, draughtsmen, technicians, and the lower clerical grades. (Similarly the most militant local parties are not in the old industrial areas, but either in the newer high-wage engineering areas or in middle-class towns; Coventry or Margate are the characteristic strongholds.) Now it is people such as these who naturally resent the fact that despite their high economic status, often so much higher than their parents’, and their undoubted skill at work, they have no right to participate in the decisions of their firm, no influence over policy, and far fewer non-pecuniary privileges than the managerial grades; and outside their work they are conscious of a conspicuous educational handicap, of a style of life which is still looked down on by middle-class people often earning little if any more, of differences in accent, and generally of an inferior class position.”
  • Objectively, class differences in accent, dress, manners, and general style of life are very much smaller; and one cannot, strolling about the street or travelling on a train, instantly identify a person’s social background as one can in England. Subjectively, social relations are more natural and egalitarian, and less marked by deference, submissiveness, or snobbery, as one quickly discovers from the cab-driver, the barman, the air-hostess and the drug-store assistant.
  • (The) pattern of consumption is markedly more equal than in Britain. ‘Prestige-goods’ are widely distributed, and there is less conspicuous contrast between the standard of living of different income-groups. To take the most obvious example, almost every family owns a car; and this is significant not only because a car is the most conspicuous of all consumption goods, but also because universal car-ownership leads to the universal consumption of other conspicuous or semi-luxury goods – holidays, hotels, middle-class habits of shopping, etc. But the lack of external class-distinctions can be observed in many other spheres: e.g. clothes, eating-habits, drug-stores, the ownership of consumer durables, and so on.
  • A high proportion of the population enjoys many of the ‘luxuries’ which until recently were considered the prerogative of the rich; and the ordinary worker lives at what even two decades ago would have been considered in Britain a middle-class standard of life.

Quotes about Crosland[edit]

  • Your proposals are in fact far more revolutionary in their effects than an electoral promise to nationalise ICI and most of engineering. If I was perverse, I would say that they are diabolically and cunningly left-wing and Nye [Bevan] should have been clever enough to think them up. But you put them forward as ways of ensuring a calm evolution towards higher living standards and more personal freedom.
    • Richard Crossman to Anthony Crosland on his book The Future of Socialism (23 October 1956), quoted in Martin Francis, ‘Mr Gaitskell's Ganymede? Re‐assessing Crosland's The Future of Socialism’, Contemporary British History, Volume 11, Issue 2 (1997), p. 62
  • Crosland died in February 1977, not living to see the disproof of all his doom-laden economic prophecies. He had never appreciated that an economy increasingly open to the world was inconsistent with the comfortable message of The Future of Socialism. The ideas that had provided the background to The Future of Socialism, that a high rate of growth could be relied on and that the problem of unemployment had been solved, were already at a discount. Contrary to The Future of Socialism, the economic problem had not been solved. The Keynesian techniques in which Crosland had deposited so much confidence had failed. It had proved impossible to reconcile full employment with stable prices.
    • Edmund Dell, A Strange Eventful History: Democratic Socialism in Britain (1999), p. 462
  • He had a mind of high perspective, yet cared little in a personal, as opposed to an aesthetic sense, about the past. He had practically no sense of nostalgia. He believed in applying highly rational standards to decision-making (he always thought me hopelessly intuitive) but he was full of strong emotions.
    • Roy Jenkins, The Sunday Times (20 February 1977), quoted in John Campbell, Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life (2014), p. 37
  • Our friendship persisted on an intense but fluctuating basis for nearly four decades. Not only was his character engaging, his personality was dazzling and his intellect was of very high quality. He had maddening streaks of perversity, was in my view not at his best as a minister, but was the most exciting friend of my life.
  • Each term we had a lively debate with the other political clubs at the Oxford Union, particularly the Labour Club, which at the time was very left wing and included some famous names like Anthony Crosland – who even in those days could condescend to a Duchess – and Tony Benn.

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