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How Bolshevism built modern Britain Lenin still haunts our welfare state

A poster of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)

A poster of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)


January 15, 2024   6 mins

Vladimir Lenin has a way of confounding Marxist historians, many of whom generally — and with good reason — attach odium to Great Man History. For he was that rare thing: an individual instigator of historical change. A hundred years after his death, hagiographies and obloquies continue pouring off presses as once did concrete to erect statues of Uncle Volodya. But even his most hostile critics would be churlish to dismiss his outsized role during the heady months leading to Red October.

Yet there is another achievement that Lenin was inadvertently, indeed perversely, responsible for: the Western welfare state. That we rarely recognise this owes to a common misperception. Very many of us regrettably buy that Labour conceit, hawked by spin doctors and court historians, that celebrates Clement Attlee and William Beveridge as the co-fathers of our welfare state. But as the historian David Edgerton reminds us, it is in fact the Liberal-Tory coalition of David Lloyd George in the immediate aftermath of the First World War that we ought to be thanking. These were the years when the major strides in education, healthcare, and insurance were made. Post-war, all that was left for Labour to do was to extend it to one and all. Already covering some 80% of the population, welfare was brought to the remaining one-fifth of Britain by Beveridge.

More importantly, it was neither paternalism nor prodigality that prompted these early stirrings of dirigisme. Rather it was red contagion. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, a concatenation of revolts detonated across the globe. Bolshevism spread westwards, from Vienna through Budapest and Sofia to Kiel. The Bavarian Soviet Republic was briefly established in April 1919, before the far-Right Freikorps did it in. Britain wasn’t immune to the ferment. Between the February and October Revolutions, the Leeds Soviet did indeed appear to be the beginning of something. That nothing came of it was down to Lloyd George’s unsentimental pragmatism. Many of the workers’ demands were duly conceded, taking the sting out of union radicalism, even as many leaders were put behind bars.

Two years later, Lloyd George’s Bolshevik bugbear was to return with a vengeance, when shipbuilders stormed the Glasgow City Chambers. With hindsight, it is obvious that “Red Clydeside” was never, in any meaningful sense, a harbinger of “Red Britain”: the radicalism of Glaswegian trade unions on either side of the River Clyde was never going to spread to the rest of the country. Yet at the time, the red threat was all too real. “This country was nearer to Bolshevism that day than at any time since,” Lloyd George would later recall of the police and prison officers’ strike. London and Birmingham were spared, but Merseyside had rocked to the sound of rioting and looting. Violence was brought to a halt only when the army was brought in.

It is difficult for us to conceive what the “peace” after the armistice actually looked like. Yet Simon Webb’s 1919: Britain’s Year of Revolutions reconstructs a society teetering on the brink of collapse: soldiers roughing up workers; martial law in Luton; tanks cruising the streets of Liverpool. The Italians call the two years immediately following the war the biennio rosso, and it seems fair to speak of a red biennium in Britain as well. For one thing, it would be impossible to understand British domestic and foreign policy without reference to that singular neurosis of the interwar ruling class. While cavorting with the antisemitic Whites to crush the Reds in Russia, Westminster and Whitehall were at the same time crushing the unruly bolshies back at home. Churchill, then minister for war, put forward the government line with characteristic crassness: “kill the Bolshie, kiss the Hun.”

As it must in democracies, with the stick also came the carrot. Yes, the workers were brutally put down. But they hadn’t protested in vain. Gone were the Gladstonian days of cheese-paring Liberalism. Lloyd George’s Liberals were an altogether different beast: by turns technocratic, interventionist and ambitious. They were, no doubt, building on pre-war precedent, in particular the health and insurance schemes of 1911, and making good on wartime promises, but they were above all trying to make peace with the bad, mad and dangerous Brits on the streets.

To begin with, they gave a great many people a greater share in government, shepherding them from the barricades into polling stations. Universal male suffrage in 1918 enfranchised unpropertied men — that is, two in five men — as well as propertied women over 30. The same year, the Education Act, lobbied by Lancashire unionists, raised the school-leaving age from 12 to 14 to forestall cotton bosses from battening on benighted boys. And in 1919, the Housing and Town Planning Act put in motion the construction of what became that instantly recognisable feature of the British urban landscape: the council estate.

Bettered by Attlee and Harold Wilson, battered by Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, the early interwar consensus around the welfare state survives to this day. Both under Labour and the Tories, truculent workers with ideas above their station have been shown their place: from Ramsay MacDonald’s disciplining of the “communistic” trade unions in 1924 through Thatcher’s thwarting of the miners in 1984 to Keir Starmer’s disavowal of organised labour in 2024. Likewise, since 1945, both parties have shown a general commitment to public spending around the 40% of GDP mark. Creaking, underfunded, “our NHS” continues nevertheless to be spoken of only in hallowed whispers.

Time and again, our rulers have let slip the real reason why welfare matters. Here’s Attlee in Margate in 1950: “our policy of democratic socialism is the only dynamic alternative to totalitarian communism.” Is it any surprise that two of the most robust welfare states across La Manche were created in societies that boasted a formidable communist presence? The Parti Communiste Français in 1946 counted some 800,000 members, and the Partito Comunista Italiano nearly two million. It is true that the Communist Party of Great Britain never had much to recommend it, but the strength of the post-war British Left — independent of Labour — is undeniable. It was the miners who brought down Edward Heath in 1974.

As with the British welfare state, so with British intellectual life. Our republic of letters would have been a dreary landscape of conformity were it not for the Russian Revolution, which fired three generations of Anglo-Marxists. The interwar years were a time when communists could rise to the very top of the cultural establishment. E.H. Carr, for example, became a leader writer and deputy editor of The Times, a perch from which he preached the gospel of collectivist planning and conciliation with Stalin. His monumental History of Soviet Russia — running to 7,000 pages and 14 volumes — remains the best account of the early years of the revolutionary regime.

Even such a sceptic of the state as George Bernard Shaw was swept away by Russomania. By 1931, with Britain reeling from the Depression, he was singing Stalin’s praises. Fabian gradualism, his old creed, wasn’t going to cut it in the 20th century. MacDonald’s Labour had evidently failed, he reflected in a new preface to Fabian Essays in Socialism. What was needed was “swift effectiveness” — Soviet-style. A trip to Moscow was written up in glowing terms in The Rationalisation of Russia.

In a manner of speaking, the remoter reaches of the ivory tower, too, succumbed to the Soviets. G.E.M. de Ste. Croix inaugurated what was by far the most arresting development in classical studies. A child of empire born in Macau, “Croicks” turned his back on his “thoroughly Right-wing upbringing” on the “lunatic fringe of Christianity” — as he later put it — in the Twenties. A romp across the Soviet Union in 1937 with Intourist, the Soviet travel agency, left him critical of Stalinism but committed to Marxism, on the strength of observing the peasants of the Caucasus. Thereafter, he became a “thoroughgoing Marxist”, tutoring a generation of students at New College, Oxford, who, in their own writings, were to remain alert to class in the classics. The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World appeared in 1981.

Such profiles can be indefinitely multiplied. Suffice it to say that most of the smartest minds of the interwar period were on the Left. This would soon change with the emigration of Eastern and Mitteleuropean conservatives to Britain — Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper, Lewis Namier, Ernest Gellner — producing a more balanced intellectual division of labour. But before that, Left hegemony was unrivalled. John Strachey was undoubtedly among the most important political commentators of the Thirties. His father was the editor of The Spectator for nearly 40 years, and Strachey’s best man was Oswald Mosley, then still on the Left. When Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists, Strachey led some of the largest demonstrations against him.

As it was, the Marxist Strachey lost the battle of ideas to the Liberal John Maynard Keynes, who famously had no truck with communism: “How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and intelligentsia who, with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?” Yet Keynes could do little to prevent one of his Cambridge protĂ©gĂ©s, Maurice Dobb, from taking up the cudgels for the boorish proletariat.

Communism gained a bridgehead in Cambridge thanks to Dobb, who edited The Plebs, a Marxist magazine, in the Twenties. He extolled Lenin as a “stern realist” blessed “with all the Jesuit’s sincerity and idealism”. By contrast, “non-Marxists” were “as silly as pre-Darwinian biologists”. He helped found the Communist Party Historians Group, and set up Kim Philby — of the Cambridge Five ring of spies — with the NKVD. Later students included Amartya Sen and Eric Hobsbawm, whose own Oxbridge appointments were blocked by Tory dons.

Paradoxically, then, Soviet communism unwittingly fortified British capitalism. The unintended upshot of Anglo-Marxism was to make the Establishment more heedful of working-class interests. The same went for the welfare state. Peace was preserved between the classes. Redistribution took the edge off class conflict. What’s more, an educated and healthy workforce proved good for business. Moderately progressive taxation was a tiny insurance premium to keep the workers in working condition and the barbarians at bay. These days, barring a few libertarian crackpots, Tory radicals, Bridesheady (Saltburny?) nostalgics, and campus Marxists, nearly everyone is united in confirming the wisdom of this arrangement. The simple fact is that most Brits like their politics dull.


Pratinav Anil is the author of two bleak assessments of 20th-century Indian history. He teaches at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

pratinavanil

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Talia Perkins
Talia Perkins
6 months ago

I know of two your former countrymen who left Britain and the NHS, as they were essentially being asked to keep a stiff upper lip and die on time. They weren’t worth treating.
Between the two of them after numerous surgeries for cancer which did in the end take them, they nevertheless had 13 years of life more than the NHS was willing to grace them with — in the NHS, their cancers were “untreatable further”. The one set of daughters I know appreciated the five more years they had with Dad.
Sic Semper Socialism.

fjbernal
fjbernal
6 months ago
Reply to  Talia Perkins

No one stops people in the UK going for private treatment. The lack of money and of an NHS is certainly a challenge across the pond. Great healthcare… if you can afford it!

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago
Reply to  Talia Perkins

Very soon – with the rights obsessed Leftists in power – those kind striking 35% NHS Young Doctors (who went skiing while the sick and suffering died untended at home on 2 year waiting lists) will be on the wards …with lethal injections in their back pockets and a licence to ‘assist’ the dying and to up the bodycount. Good luck meek old grannies with greedy Wolf kin who need that big house!! Good luck otherwise healthy young adults tormented by mental health and depression, you may exit too (see Belgium).. Good luck the very poor and struggling old who fall for warm entreaties to just end it all and stop being a burden (see Canada). I propose that these Killer Docs have skull and cross bones on their lapels so we can see them coming. Hypocratic Oaths and human rights my arse. This is how the Nazis began of course. With T4 & euthanasia (read up,). Smash the old Judeo Christian idea that Life is sacred Protect the NHS too as a bonus. Such are the dark ways of our illberal Progressive State. Watch out.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Those medicos who are not busy killing babies, about a quarter million a year.

But if does save a lot of ÂŁ, so really, can’t be all bad, right?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

The NHS is so hallowed, millions of people are streaming to Britain’s shores to partake of its hallowed resources. Too successful advertising by half! 😉 😉 😉

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
6 months ago

Suffice it to say that most of the smartest minds of the interwar period were on the Left.
Ouch. Doesn’t speak very well of the interwar period, does it?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago

Same as any other period, sport.
Your hero is Donald Trump. Smart ain’t exactly your brand, is it?

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
6 months ago

How very ironic of you.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
6 months ago

Is that why left wing ideas always fail?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

But the whole thrust of the argument is that Anglo-Marxism was a great success and save GB from Russian-style communism?? Not a failure as you suggest!

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

But the whole thrust of the argument is that Anglo-Marxism was a great success and save GB from Russian-style communism?? 

And the threat of communism led to real improvements in ordinary peoples lives.

It depresses me when people on here completely misread an article because they’ve got their commie=bad glasses on.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The trouble is that Communism and Socialism really are actually both very bad. So it’s not a distorted perspective, but a clear headed judgement from history.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

You’re not that loathsome Trot and Oik Andrew Fisher by any chance?

If so you should return to selling ‘Socialist Worker’ outside East Croydon Station and muttering “Wot about the workers?”. You are wasting your time here.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

Be fair Charlie.. a little balance never did any harm.. no point in everyone strenuously arguing on the same side is there?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Even Corbyn had to sack him!
BTW how is Lusitania?

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Balance? Even a bit of nuance would help.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

Your hero is Marx. Shut it, squirt.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

What’s wrong with Marx? ..and why the appalling rudeness? ..surely you must have better standards than that?

Jae
Jae
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

What’s wrong with Marx? Do you mean that racist, anti semitic whose “theory” caused the deaths of millions of people under Lenin and Stalin, the Marx who never worked a real job in his life but leeched off his fellow man? That Marx?

J. Hale
J. Hale
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Well for one thing, Marx was a hypocrite. He didn’t always pay his housekeeper. He thought his “big ideas” were far more important than wage theft regarding his working class housekeeper.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago

Ummm Joe Biden.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

The Joe Biden who utterly crushed Trump in 2020?
That one?

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago

Thus proving that the Left has no monopoly on intelligence.

mike otter
mike otter
6 months ago

Yeah – as a GOP reg’d voter i hate trump – he has done to our brand what herr thatchler did to the tories in uk. Hate is never going to help anyone. Sure posh libtards like the unherd staffers will always spray hate at us humans – but hey – they were bullied at school. If i were given the chance to bully the furedinis and sayerse at school again? Course i would!!! they deserve it. But the kids of the desperately poor, the addicts, the mentally unwell?? not so much . Its not so much smart v thick – its more human v not so human – Ecce Homo ? No ecce homo unherd

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

MAGA, and even Ultra MAGA rocks!

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
6 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

 Quote “i hate trump – he has done to our brand what herr thatchler did to the tories in uk. Hate is never going to help anyone.”
Isn’t there something wrong with this Mike Otter quote?

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago

Not really. But the period of left wing critique of the status quo and the bourgeoisie was culturally rich. Even when it was silly it was interesting and culturally productive. As for now? What is there to say?

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Cultural richness of expression in the eyes of a dilettante minority is a very high price to pay for the destruction of whole culture over 3-4 generations ashamed of their own identity.

N Satori
N Satori
6 months ago

Doesn’t speak well for the “smartest minds” either. The ‘Left’ has long been the most attractive faith for the intellectual classes. The belief that society can (and should) be reconstructed along more rational lines by its cleverest people has proved to be an irresistible lure to those who need a mission to give purpose to their lives.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I think you mean the wannabe intellectual classes

N Satori
N Satori
6 months ago

Nope, I mean the real ones.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

But to believe the nonsense they spout they are obviously missing the intellectual faculty needed to be the intellectual classes and we are guilty of letting them get away with the masquerade

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The belief that society can (and should) be reconstructed along more rational lines 


Not such a dumb idea prior to the work on self organising systems. And not surprising if many of the cleverest were convinced by it. That stupid people sometimes turn out to be right is little credit to them.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well, this raises an interesting point about what clever means. I think you could make the case that a certain kind of focussed academic performance, especially in the arts, has a negative correlation with rounded judgement. Consider the finding that the highly intelligent are more prone to groupthink than average citizens.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Stevie K

I could probably make the case if I felt so inclined.
I very much doubt that you could…

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago

That was when the Left, ie Labour, was more inspired by Christianity thanMarx and Lenin. Evangelicals, non-conformists, Anglicans and Catholics, formed the backbone of the Party as it came into being at the dawn of the 20th Century . The influence of Marx and its growing influence was brought mostly by academics.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

Surely it served to shame so called christians into acting like Real Christians? In doing so it was of great benefit to the lower 80%?

Jae
Jae
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Because in your world Christians must be “shamed” to act. Only Marxist thinking is for the poor? Your posts indicate you may be living in a leftist bubble. Get out more, broaden your thinking, for your own sake. You sound quite bigoted, I’m sure you’re not.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

No not all. Real Christians had being doing their best to look after the poor for a very long time before the state took over.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

I think it’s a little unfair to blame a ‘period’ for the shortcomings of well healed, chinless wonders! I note they’re making a comeback btw!

Jae
Jae
6 months ago

The Left, always promoting themselves as intellectual superiors. When their idiot ideologies are the bane of society.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago

Compared to now?

Arthur G
Arthur G
6 months ago

Otto von Bismarck invented the welfare state to prevent the workers from being seduced by Marxism. The real Communist never cared whether the workers were ill fed, ill housed, and ill clad. Gotta break a few eggs, ya know!

Douglas H
Douglas H
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Quite. And why do communists assume that everyone likes omelettes?

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.’ (Shaw)

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
6 months ago

Yes, the Silver Rule.

L Brady
L Brady
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

True. How many workers starved to death due to Stalins collectivisation? Estimated to be 30 million.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

What about the “Great Leap Forward “, estimates range from 45-60 million in only 3 years.
Well done Chairman Mao.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

The real Communist never cared whether the workers were ill fed, ill housed, and ill clad

Not really. The communists feared that working class people could be bought off with bread and circuses, while in their view they had “a world to gain”. The motives of historical figures are hard to gauge exactly, but certainly welfare state reforms could be sold to the rich on the basis of fear of the alternative.

Arthur G
Arthur G
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The communists never gave a fig about the workers. The workers were a tool to enable the “revolutionary vanguard” to seize the power they felt they deserved.
Marxists (including today’s woke brigades) have never been anything except mediocre (or worse) intellectuals who were bitter that the world didn’t bow down before their obvious (to themselves) brilliance.

Tony Price
Tony Price
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

I think that it’s pushing it a bit to say that he ‘invented’ the welfare state, but the new Germany was certainly the first major implementation of such.

A decent welfare state, and high-wage economy, are certainly the best drivers for capitalism, even if individual capitalists would usually push back in the interest of short-term profits.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
6 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

I have no idea how such ism’s get into people heads. If you go to a political debate in Edmonton Canada you can still listen to Communist and Marxist-Leninist groups. They stick them at opposite sides of the stage.
Reading their pamphlets is even more interesting.
The Marxist-Leninists have scientific papers on how to solve the economy pricing problem. The Communists have nice posters and firm leadership.
And, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a glass case with an axhandle inside. In case of Marxism, break glass, on their table.

Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
6 months ago

Soviet Communism did not fortify capitalism by forcing non-Communist governments to adopt economic dirigisme (such as in France and Britain) or an extensive welfare state (such as in the United States). On the contrary, by adopting these kinds of economic policies and what is usually called “social democracy” (don’t forget that Social Democratic Party was Lenin’s own party) have destroyed the European economies (and to a lesser extent, that of the United States) and have also destroyed European and North American societies (welfarism, egalitarianism, proletarianism, social-levelling nationalism, secularism, democratism, and all that).

Though welfarism might have been might have once been politically necessary as an ideological weapon in the War on International Communism (meaning International Socialism, it’s the same thing), adopting it has come at such a hefty price, one wonders whether anything was really gained at all at the end, in 1989, or if that had been nothing but a Pyrrhic victory. Perhaps we should all have adopted Bismarck’s second pillar of his anti-Socialist policies, namely prohibiting the Social Democratic Party (and banning the Labour Party and the “Parti Socialiste” and all of those Communist parties in all but name), keep the socialistic policies at a bare minimum, with no rampant trade unionism, none of the insanity that are public pensions, the monstrosity of state provided healthcare, the sacrilege and heresy of state provided education, and the folly of state provided cash transfers, conditional or not, of whatever amount, and thereby contain the economic, social, moral, and religious damage that social democracy has inflicted. I don’t know if that might have worked, but I really don’t know whether now even the United States is too far gone (even if it always was a Protestant country).

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

Nope, it is warfareism and not welfareism that has ruined the US. Although, greed, hatred and gangsertism also played their part.
US welfarism is well behind European welfarism.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago

What the UK and US have got is Socialism-lite, which we’re learning has the same end result as full-strength Socialism, it just takes a little more time.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Very cunning of them to employ Tories to do the actual wrecking job. Or are they all really left wing plants taking their orders from 
. Well not Moscow, but somewhere.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

They’re all–both sides–just politicians who are trying to remain in office–and the best way of doing that, for any of the Parties, is to give their constituents what they want. Arguing Tories versus Liberals and Republicans versus Democrats is just a waste of breath. They’re all complicit.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Very beautifully and accurately put!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago

This article ignores the trends that emerged in the UK during the 19th century, such as the Poor Law Amendment Act, the Factory Acts and the 1870 Education Act which were built upon during the 20th century. The author is guilty of distorting history through a typically Marxist-Leninist lens.

Nevertheless, some interesting points were made around the rise of Communist sympathies in higher academia. Obviously, “romping” through Soviet Russia in the 1930s didn’t include visits to the Lubyanka. The legacy of such unwordly stupidity continues to this day.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes. The writer seems to think that there was no tradition either of left wing thought or of state intervention in Britain prior to the Russian revolution.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Surprise, surprise.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I think you missed the main thrust of his argument..

Jae
Jae
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Which is what? We should be thankful for a theory that never works but will bring about the deaths of millions of citizens.

mike otter
mike otter
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

“writer” – no it aint – it is a paid satrap from oxford “university”.. only a “writer” in so far as a chimp can mimic a human hitting a keyboard.

Tony Price
Tony Price
6 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

Are you as unpleasant in the real world off your keyboard?

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

As long as he is as interesting……

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Well there was William Morris, and then the Webbs. (Two cheers for E P Thompson?)

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Gramsci wrote this in 1915, the idea was embraced, seeded, rooted and disseminated by academia: In Gramsci’s own words, he viewed the task thus: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity
in the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

“Capitalism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity
in the new order, Capitalism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”

Jae
Jae
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yeah, let’s overwhelm capitalism and promote socialism because the only mechanism that is actually proven to work for lifting people out of poverty is a terrible thing.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You’re making the common error of confusing modern corporatism with the capitalism that gave autonomy to many millions along with the freedom to be creative and constructive.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Capitalism is an evolved economic system of broadly free exchange. There are varieties. Pure socialism is always a disastrous attempt to have the state control the economy in minute detail.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” sounds wonderful but is completely contrary to human nature, in which we are highly attuned to dessert (deservingness). Do you pay your workmen to have a much deserved holiday in Tenerife when they are working for you, for example?

Capitalism and socialism are therefore not equal and opposite concepts. One basically works, the other dies not.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

it has –

The actual word for this capturing is ‘Entryism’, a communist strategy – Trot I think, maybe Lenin, where a few radicals infiltrate and use every dirty trick to raise each other to positions of power – and a few extremists can capture a whole system and warp it to their filthy wishes.

SĂžren Ferling
SĂžren Ferling
6 months ago

Trot 😉

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Surely the point is that it wasn’t ALL bad, was it? It made for a happier lower class, easier to control and exploit..

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

If the ‘lower class’ are oppressed and granted little social care, it’s the ruling elite doing what Marxists predicate their argument upon. If, however, the governing parties introduce reforms which bring the majority out of poverty, improve healthcare and lifestyles, it’s making them “easier to control and exploit”.
You can’t have it both ways.

Jae
Jae
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

And murder.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago

I think we can stop acting like Marxism, which has an end stage of property abolition (Communism) is a conspiracy theory just because Fascism was an inappropriate reaction it. Marxism/Leninism and Fascism are just variations of the same Collectivist Religion. The author describes “E.H. Carr, for example, became a leader writer and deputy editor of The Times, a perch from which he preached the gospel of collectivist planning.”

Marxism is a gospel with prophets; Lenin being the highest saint. But Marxism is inefficient and unproductive. Every Marxist eventually realizes it reduces production and quality of life. But they don’t depart from the gospel, they just reinterpret it.

Marxism didn’t produce the Western labor parties. It correctly pointed out a few kernels of truth and probably temporarily created some balance with wage and work demands. But that balance was quickly outweighed by the inflation it prompted. The welfare state is a product of inflation. So yes, Marxism is responsible for the modern Welfare State…because it’s responsible for rapid inflation.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

That statement “the welfare state is a product of inflation” is produced without substance and is doing a lot of heavy lifting in your argument.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

How is it without substance?Marxism/Leninist policies produce shortages everywhere they’re installed.

Shortages are caused by limited supply of goods. If the supply of something is limited, prices have to rise. If prices become unaffordable for too many people, the Central Planner has to assume control over the means of production. A large centrally planned Welfare State has to be installed whenever scarcity hits a tipping point.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

Certainly a fear of Bolshevism was one factor in some of the welfare state initiatives in first few decades of 20th Century but it wasn’t the only one. There had been an emerging appreciation that trade cycles created great hardship for workers through no fault of their own, and not just in the UK. the biggest rival, Germany, had acted already. It took until Keynes for a better understanding to be crystallised but appreciation that capitalism needed some ameliorations already clear.
The Boer War and then WW1 also surfaced major concerns about the ‘C-3’ Nation where too many were being rejected from the Forces because of poor health.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
6 months ago

Marxism seems to have won meanwhile, our big State is mired in debt due to profligate welfarism and our Politics are mired in socialism.
Time for the revolution !! ?

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago

Always good to delve into History. But we are living in a dangerous new phase of the Welfare State. The 20 year culture of entitlement and Human Rights propogared by our Progressive Lenin Class has created an unreformed giant welfare state which like their deadly broken proto socialist NHS is sucking us dry. When more people receive handouts from an already bankrupt State which tried Leftist Money Tree Madness than pay in and middle classes depend on tax credits to survive, you are in crisis and Endgame. Politics far from dull when the terrible payback for the failure of the 20 year EU/Blair/Fake Tory progressive revolution comes in.

Douglas H
Douglas H
6 months ago

Not bad. From the headline, I was expecting a swivel-eyed anarchocapitalist rant.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Me too. Perhaps that’s why so many commenters seem disappointed and upset.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

“…Soviet communism unwittingly fortified British capitalism… Anglo-Marxism was to make the Establishment more heedful of working-class interests. The same went for the welfare state. Peace was preserved between the classes. Redistribution took the edge off class conflict”.
Surely the foregoing is all to the good and as such to be celebrated? That being so then surely the more appropriate word in the title is not “haunt” but “inspire”? Otherwise, according to the author himself, Britain would now be a fully communist state!
If the vast majority of Brits are (reasonably) happy with Marxist inspired capitalism Lenin is to be thanked, celebrated and welcomed? Now that it’s bring dismantled as such and replaced by a greedy oligarchy, risking more rebellion maybe a bit more respect for the great men is in order, ie Marx and Lenin.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Now that it’s bring dismantled as such and replaced by a greedy oligarchy 


And not too surprising if the elite starts behaving totally in its own interests if the fear of retribution is removed.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
6 months ago

Yet again, an academic conflating union bosses with “the workers”.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

It takes quite the disconnect from cause-and-effect to sanctify the welfare state. The classes that presume themselves to be intellectual have been quite adept at pushing for ideas that benefit themselves but otherwise, result in mass misery. In the US, all the bright lights that wanted to battle poverty succeeded largely in destroying the black family since giving money to mothers, but only if the father is not in the home, creates a perverse incentive. Now, we’re doubling down with goodies for migrants at the expense of citizens.

Tony Price
Tony Price
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Have you never read about the real ‘mass misery’ extant before there was a welfare state? Try living in Victorian London’s St Giles, or Devil’s Acre! Or the working class hell that existed in Chicago as exposed by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle. Is that want you want back?

mike otter
mike otter
6 months ago

FFS Anil you can’t equivocate the dysfunction of the UK criminal classes from Attlee via BLiar and bj Boris to Herr Sturmer. You are too thick to understand the flaws of dialectic materialism or any other ideology. Unherd: after 45 years i dumped private eye subscription due their 1930s style “blood and soil” anti-semitism. If you continue to give voice to racists, national socialists and scumbags in general under the fakery of free speech you will lose my ÂŁ50 pa as of now. Trouble with posh rich kids like unherd inciting hate and violence is this: as soon as you get a kicking cos of your hate against the (mostly) honest, hard working women and men you run off to the pigs… yes the same pigs that run the “postcode gangs” in London and cover for the afpak tribal rape gangs in the north. Well aren’t you just the OGs Sayers and nepa-bebĂ©-doc Furedi? In the words of your proxy craig braan – one dare for one day: dare you to come to Wincheap conos…..

Jae
Jae
6 months ago

So we’re all beholden to Communism for our welfare and settled state today. As long as you completely ignore the murderous nature of it of millions of citizens, as this author chose to, it’s all to the good.

I half expected him to say we just aren’t doing Communism right today.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Jae

You’ve misread the article I’m afraid. It was the fear of communism that had positive effects. Not it’s implementation.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago

The unintended upshot of Anglo-Marxism was to make the Establishment more heedful of working-class interests.

Ive seen the argument made more strongly that without the threat of communism the elite simply looks after itself and pursues its own ideas and interests. The fall of the Berlin Wall was seen as the end of that threat, and it’s hard to miss the fact that since then the gap between rich and poor has opened up and the elite has lost interest in the “boorish” proletariat – recast as racist brexiteers.

Jae
Jae
6 months ago

Yawn, another author who thinks Leftists are intellectually superior. The bigotry of it is appalling, not to mention wrong. But the Left is blind to their faults, they have no ears to hear nor eyes to see their failings that’s very clear now. And it’s quite obvious from this article. Who would take credit for where we are today, unless you’re oblivious to reality.

Having the institutions in thrall to Marxism doesn’t indicate a superior intellect, quite the opposite. But having these Leftist ideologies shoved down our collective throats every day explains the complete mess we’re in.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  Jae

I’d agree with that. I see being in thrall to Marxism as a form of intellectual disability; that is, an inability to escape the confines of a dogmatic view of the world. How typical of academia.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
6 months ago

And it has been a disaster. In the 1860s we had a choice between a bottom up, communitarian enhancement of families and place-bound communities, home grown friendly societies, cooperatives, DIY care and compassion, charity, …every family having enough of a means of production to get by…or what Pope Leo later codified as ‘distributism’…on the one hand,… or on the other, a top down, bureaucratic, anti-familial, all knowing all powerful welfare state. We chose to accept and accentuate private corporate monopolies and compensate with balancing public collectivist monopolies. As Colin Ward point out, the clearest example was housing. Homes for heroes as maybe – but workers were banned from building their own, banner from the prideful and skillful yeoman sufficiency and herded instead into shoddy council housing, forever to live a life determined by local apparatchiks – even down to the corporation grey colour of the front door. Ordinary people were progressively deprived of every means of production by bylaws and regulations – always framed in terms of public safety (against home slaughter, home dairy, domestic/commercial kitchens, home chickens, home industry of any kind) ….and intended sotto voce to ensure dependency and sustain the monopolistic reach of the corporations. And nothing has changed

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
6 months ago

The author ignores the Poor Laws, suggests he reads G M Trevelyan.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
6 months ago

It may be fair to say that the welfare state has kept generation after generation on welfare.

J. Hale
J. Hale
6 months ago

Regarding the “boorish proletariat,” I recall an episode of the U.S. TV program “60 Minutes” from around 1976. It showed a mob of unionized British factory workers breaking down the gate on a Friday afternoon in order to exit their place of employment TWENTY MINUTES before their shift ended. The narrator asked “Would you buy a product made at this factory?” Needless to say Thatcher was elected three years later.

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
6 months ago

Boy, am I glad I never went to Oxford. So happy to be patronised by one of my betters. Paper hat.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago

As Uncle Joe plays the Cheshire Cat, so too the New Deal and Butskellism fade away, until There Is No Alternative but Mr Reagan & Mrs Thatcher; and a New Gilded Age . . .

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
6 months ago

Great piece, thank you, perhaps only understating the influence of liberal fascism, understandably, covert as it was.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
6 months ago

“Nearly everyone” is united? Can this man be serious? Politics dull? Mass immigration on an unprecedented scale, completely contrary to the wishes of the working class, and indeed the bulk of the population, for starters.