Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Michael Foot (1913-2010)

Former Labour leader Michael Foot has died. He was as Tony Benn notes, a 'giant of the labour movement' in twentieth-century Britain, but one whose life - despite moments of heroism and intellectual courage - sadly only too clearly also revealed much about the futility and bankruptcy of dedicating oneself to what the Marxist Ralph Miliband called 'parliamentary socialism'. In his last published interview, however, it is nice to note that he thought his 'happiest moment' in all his years of activism came in 2003 with the massive Stop the War demonstration against the criminal and disastrous Iraq war, a war waged by those in New Labour now so fulsomely paying him their obsequious respects. I also like this quote of his about Marxism:

'In my opinion, Marxism is a great creed of human liberation. It is the creed which says that when all other empires fade and vanish, our business is to enlarge the empire of the human mind.'

Edited to add:
Tristram Hunt on Michael Foot
Homo Ludens on Michael Foot

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At 10:19 pm, Anonymous Grim and Dim said...

Foot was a genuine left reformist, who did some good things and some less good. He - together with his nephew Paul - was one of the finest speakers I have ever heard.

One thing to his credit is that he twice supported Tony Cliff's unsuccessful applications for British citizenship.

However he always had his feet in two opposing camps. There is a lovely description in the biography of him by Mervyn Jones (who by coincidence also died a few days ago). In the late fifties, when he was one of the leaders of the Labour left, he was staying in the best hotel in Venice at Lord Beaverbrook's exppense. One day he went out for a motor-boat ride with two Tory MPs and .... Oswald Mosley. There is something about parliamentary socialists that makes them think all parliamentarians are their friends.

At 9:56 am, Blogger Snowball said...

The similarities and differences with Tony Benn are interesting - I seem to remember Benn going to Enoch Powell's funeral.

Yet, as a perfect contradiction, it is interesting to note Michael Foot (again like Paul) could also sustain a friendship with the black Trinidadian Marxist CLR James, whose Black Jacobins he read on first publication in 1938 - see Michael Foot, 'CLR James' in Cain and Cudjoe (eds) 'CLR James's Intellectual Legacies'.


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