work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

Hands off Ralph Miliband!

10.01.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

I agree with Roy Greenslade in his Guardian blog that it is wrong to dismiss anything that is brought to you by the Daily Mail on the basis that, in the 1930s, they supported not only the British Union of Fascists but also their foreign master, Adolf Hitler. The main reason being that the paper turned around in 1940 latest and however right wing and xenophobic it remained unto today – the characterisation as “fascist” in any other than a politically incorrect polemic sense would not be justified.


The Daily Mail itself now tried its hands at a reverse smear in which, in order to taint the current leader of Labour Party as a crypto-Marxist (and, probably the more powerful attack, to remind voters that he’s the son of an immigrant) they portrayed the eminent British Marxist social scientist Ralph Miliband (who happens to be Ed and David’s father) as a man who hated the country that gave him refuge.

I do not mind the Mail attacking the Labour leader – it’s their job just as it is the Mirror‘s job to attack the Prime Minister. But as a foreign-born critical social scientist (although not a Marxist one – unless you absurdly stretch out the meaning of that term) I am taking the attack on Ralph Miliband personally. Why? Because the implication is that if you’re not born British you better subscribe to the Daily Mail’s version of what is good about Britain or you risk being exposed as some sort of foreign agent who hates Britain. The implication that freedom of expression (and with it academic freedom) should be limited to the born-and-bred is worrying. Even more worrying is the idea that critical analysis and utopian thinking are expressions of disloyalty.

As Ed Miliband points out – his father served in the British Navy. He didn’t have to, but did so out of a sense of obligation that he needed to join the battle for freedom and democracy in Europe led by Winston Churchill, who had made sure that Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere the First’s chum, Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, was locked up safely.

As I said – I completely agree with Roy Greenslade:

The point is: damn the Mail if you will for what it publishes now. But Rothermere the Second, Rothermere the Third (Vere) and now Rothermere the Fourth (Jonathan) cannot be held responsible for the views of the first of their line.

But that only applies as long as the Mail applies that standard itself and does not use (in this case: grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented) views of the fathers against sons.

And in terms of the matter in question: the price restrictions on energy suggested by Miliband the youngest – Miliband the elder would not have approved of just regulating. I am sure he would have opted for re-nationalisation – a fiercely anti-British suggestion no doubt. Or is it?. Could not the Mail’s defence of the interests of German energy corporations be construed as a resurfacing of their pre-WWII loyalties? Will they support Germany in the next World Cup? Absurd? Precisely – that’s my point.

As to Ralph Miliband – wherever you stand politically, there can be little doubt that he, alongside other Continental antinazi academics (such as his adversary, the Liberal Ralph Dahrendorf), contributed greatly to the development of the social sciences in Britain, laying the foundations to the great esteem they now enjoy across the world (which is, among other things, also of financial benefit to the country). There is nothing to be ashamed of in being a critical social scientist – even if you’re born abroad.


One Response to “Hands off Ralph Miliband!”

  1. […] contribution. This line of inquiry is what Matthias Varul has brought to my attention with his thoughts on the matter. I thought back to when he recommended I read Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia (1937). After […]

Skip to toolbar