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Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart most recent book, Controlling the Economic Future, was reviewed here by David Marquand (LRB, Vol. 6, No 12).

Atone and Move Forward

Michael Stewart, 11 December 1997

In a speech at the London School of Economics in June this year, Antonio Caesese, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, spoke about the century’s greatest forgotten massacre and the role of the ‘Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide’ in drawing it to the world’s attention. Though provision had been made in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 to bring the Turkish-perpetrators to trial, the impetus soon weakened and in the place of justice came punishment by the Commandos, who sought out and murdered leaders of the Young Turks in Germany in 1921-22. The aim of the Commandos – and this was Caesese’s point – was not primarily revenge. Their most famous member, Soghomon Tehlirian, surrendered voluntarily to the police, hoping that a public trial would make the world more aware of the massacre. Tehlirian was tried, and acquitted, by a Berlin court – but even so the story of the slaughter all but disappeared from the historical record. Antonio Caesese recalled Hitler’s reported appeal to his worried colleagues when they doubted they could get away with a ‘final solution’: ‘After all, who today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?’’‘

Nanny knows best

Michael Stewart, 4 June 1987

Let us begin with Kinnock, in order, so to speak, to get him out of the way. If one’s view is that Neil Kinnock is a good man in a position made impossible by historical developments, one will not find much in either Michael Leapman’s sympathetic and readable portrait, or John Cole’s lively and good-humoured canter over the events of the last decade, to change one’s mind.

Hattersley’s Specifics

Michael Stewart, 19 March 1987

Tony Crosland’s epoch-making book The Future of Socialism was published in 1956. That Roy Hattersley’s aim is to don the master’s mantle in the late 1980s is evident not only from his book’s subtitle, but also from his brief account of a conversation he had with Tony Crosland a week before the latter’s fatal stroke. ‘Give me,’ said Crosland, ‘a simple definition of socialism’. Hattersley obligingly failing to do this, Tony Crosland did it himself. ‘Socialism,’ he said, ‘is about the pursuit of equality and the protection of freedom – in the knowledge that until we are truly equal we will not be truly free’. It is that self-evident truth, says Hattersley, that his book seeks to demonstrate. (Subtle politician that he is, Hattersley refers us to Susan Crosland’s biography of her husband ‘for a full account of the conversation’ between him and Crosland. In fact, Mrs Crosland’s book contains hardly any fuller an account: but it does contain ample evidence of the fact that Tony Crosland liked Roy Hattersley. Ah well, that’s showbiz.)’

Roll Call

Michael Stewart, 5 September 1985

Lord Roll is a very distinguished man, who has levitated over a period of 70 years or so from a small village in an obscure corner of Central Europe to the topmost rank of the British Establishment. He has had three separate careers. First he was an academic, writing among other things A History of Economic Thought, a valuable introduction to the subject still in print almost 50 years after its first publication. Then he was a civil servant, deeply involved at one point in the abortive 1961-63 negotiations on British entry into the EEC, and later Permanent Secretary of the 1964-70 Labour Government’s Department of Economic Affairs. Finally he became a power in the City, as Chairman of Warburg’s, Director of the Bank of England, Times Newspapers, and so on and so forth.

Diary: Staggeringly Complacent

Michael Stewart, 6 June 1985

The arguments about the miners’ strike will go on for a long time yet, as is evident from Richard Hyman’s piece on another page. My own view remains essentially what it was when I wrote what turned out to be a controversial article last summer (LRB, 6 September 1984). Mr Scargill’s demand that no pit be closed except on grounds of exhaustion was economic nonsense; his attempt to achieve his aims by extra-Parliamentary means which included violence and intimidation had to be defeated; but the support he enjoyed inside and outside the mining communities was an understandable reaction to a government indifferent to high unemployment and worsening poverty, and determined to ram highly contentious policies through Parliament despite the paucity of its electoral support. This reading still seems to me to be correct.

1966 and all that

Michael Stewart, 20 December 1984

There are, one might venture to suggest, two kinds of people: those whose New Year resolution to keep a diary peters out on 5 January, and those who are still hard at it on 31 December. We are surely fortunate that Barbara Castle – like the late Dick Crossman – is in the second category. And when Mrs Castle keeps a diary, she doesn’t mess about: she really keeps a diary. The indefatigability of her labours was first revealed four years ago, when she published her diaries for the period from 1 January 1974 to 13 April 1976, the latter date being five days after her old enemy and new Prime Minister James Callaghan unceremoniously sacked her. Those two years and 104 days took over four hundred thousand words to chronicle – an average of around five hundred words a day; but since some days apparently only merited a few lines and others none at all, this means that it was not uncommon for a day to receive a thousand or even fifteen hundred words of description. In a way this is fair enough, since few people are as busy as a conscientious Cabinet Minister, and there is plenty to record. All the same, the mind boggles at the amount of time and energy that Mrs Castle must have spent in jotting down in shorthand what had happened during the past few hours, and then transcribing it all on her faithful old Olivetti typewriter in the small hours of the morning or at weekends.

The Miners’ Strike

Michael Stewart, 6 September 1984

The present miners’ strike compels an appalled fascination of a kind quite different from that exercised by other industrial disputes. It grips like a thriller. It is partly the question – identified by E.M. Forster as a simple but fundamental aspect of the novel – of what happens next. Will other unions be drawn in? Will we be into power cuts by Christmas? What will Mrs Thatcher do then? It is partly – to take another of Forster’s categories – the actors: the interplay of the cheeky chappie from Yorkshire and the lumbering pensioner from Florida. But there are other ingredients not normally present in industrial disputes. There is the daily violence – brought into every home by television – on the picket-lines, where hordes of tough young miners and uniformed policemen sway and grapple in physical combat like Medieval armies. There is the uneasiness about the accountability of the Police. There are the guerrilla raids at night, presumably by striking miners, which leave a trail of damage and destruction. There are the dignity and guts of isolated working miners, and the cowardice of those who telephone their homes to threaten their children. There is the tragic irony that under their feet, as they stand in picket-lines or sit unwillingly at home, the livelihood of many miners is gradually disappearing, as inexorable geological forces, no longer kept at bay by human skill and ingenuity, buckle roadways, crush machinery, obliterate coalfaces and flood whole pits. There is the sombre feeling that in the mining communities a very British characteristic, a comradeship and sense of humour in the face of adversity, a willingness to suffer hardship and deprivation in a good cause, is being exploited and squandered for obscure and questionable ends. And underneath it all, there is something else: dim memories of 1926; the feeling that in Britain perhaps there was never a peace treaty in the class war, just a truce; that the country, split more than ever into two nations by the recession, is evolving in ways that nobody can predict; the first tremors of an earthquake that might merely dislodge a few tiles from the roof – but could also shake the present painstakingly constructed British political edifice to pieces.–

Letter

The Miners’ Strike

6 September 1984

SIR: If I had ever had any doubts about the depth of the passions stirred up by the miners’ strike, the thoroughly intemperate tone of the replies to my article would have dispelled them (Letters, 20 September and Letters, 4 October). I have picked my way as best I can between Mr Hawthorn’s patches of intellectual incoherence, Mr Milican’s laborious sarcasms and Mr Arblaster’s...

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