Andrew Whitaker (Perspective, 9 September) said none of Labour’s post-war leaders adopted “as radical and avowedly socialist a stance as Jeremy Corbyn”.
However, my recollection is that under Clement Attlee, Labour’s 1945 programme was both radical and avowedly socialist. To a wide-ranging list of industries and companies to be nationalised, starting with the Bank of England, there was added the aim of a planned economy, in contrast to the lassez-faire economics which were blamed for the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Another strand consisted of measures designed to improve the lives of the general populace – I think most would agree that the welfare state and the NHS were pretty radical for the times. Labour’s opponents certainly thought so, foreseeing dire consequences – very like Mr Corbyn’s rivals today.
Mr Corbyn, in contrast, claims to be a pragmatist. Some of the measures he has discussed would probably be approved of by “socialists”, but in many continental countries right-of-centre governments are quite happy to go along with, for instance, state-owned railways or power stations.
Isn’t there much we don’t yet know what is meant by Jeremy Corbyn’s “avowedly socialist stance?” It can’t be taken for granted that there is a recognised ideology all “socialists” agree upon.
Take just a few for example, like Marxist socialism, communist socialism, Christian socialism or democratic socialism. Perhaps now these are passé, and the contemporary favourites are market socialism or even libertarian socialism. However, it could be suggested that these are oxymorons, as socialism isn’t compatible with markets or freedom.
Arguably Utopian enthusiasm for socialist measures will melt away like snow off the top of a dyke when the heat of economic reality kicks in.
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