I first met Tony Crosland 25 years ago, at a seminar at Nuffield College. I took an instant dislike to him. I was then a rather priggish Bevanite, and I was shocked by his politics. I was even more shocked by his manner. He seemed to typify what I most disliked about the Southern English mandarinate. He had a cut-glass accent. He was insufferably sure of himself. He was appallingly and gratuitously rude. Then I read The Future of Socialism. Slowly, reluctantly, and with many backward glances, I was converted. Capitalism, it seemed, had changed, after all. Public ownership was not essential to socialism. It was merely a means to an end, and not a very important means. What mattered was equality, and equality could be achieved in other ways. Bevan dropped out of my pantheon, and Gaitskell took his place. Crosland did not join the pantheon, exactly, but he became a sort of candidate member. The next time I met him, the qualities which had previously shocked me seemed forgivable, perhaps even endearing. Very well, he had a cut-glass accent. Who can help his upbringing? Very well, he was sure of himself. If the author of The Future of Socialism did not have a right to self-assurance, who did? Very well, he was rude. That was a sign of a fundamental seriousness and egalitarianism.
LRB 1 July 1982 | PDF Download