First posted: 3rd October, 2013
The actual Daily Mail headline was: 'The man who hated Britain.' Edward Miliband has said that it was a 'character assassination'. That's no surprise. If his dad had been Vlad the Impaler - or even Jimmy Saville! - he would have probably said something similar. In fact most sons would do the same – it's only natural.
"We do not maintain... that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father's teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different."
The writer of the article, Geoffrey Levy, questioned whether or not Ralph Miliband's Marxist views have influenced Ed Miliband. It's a justifiable question considering the fact that for a long time Edward's father was one of the most important Marxist academics and intellectuals in the UK. (He was perhaps slightly less influential – or at least less popular - than the Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm.) Ralph Miliband also had close links to the Labour Party and wrote about it in often critical terms (as well as saying many dismissive things about 'capitalist' or parliamentary politics).
As you'd expect, Edward Miliband has distanced himself from his father – or at least from his father's Marxist beliefs. He said:
Indeed 'Red Ed' has 'pursued a different path'. Even if one doesn't accuse Ed Miliband of being a Marxist, he must know that Marxists have followed all sorts of different 'paths' throughout the 20th century and beyond. There's been Trotskyism, Leninism and Stalinism. There have also been many Marxist political strategies: such as entryism; the state-and party-based politics of the Communists; the violence- and activism-based politics of the Trotskyists (e.g., the SWP); the infiltration-of-the-Labour-Party route of Militant and many other such groups and individuals; and now we have the patronise-and-tap-into-the-'revolutionary-potential'-of-Muslims route of contemporary the 'Progressives'; such as George Galloway's Respect Party, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Hope Not Hate. However, the most effective 'path', I would argue, is the Gramscian or Frankfurt School one of 'taking over the institutions' and carrying out the revolution from within. And what bigger institution is there than the Labour Party?
Not surprisingly (because most what it said is true), the Daily Mail has refused to apologise for the story and stands by it (it did so in an editorial). The bone of contention, at least in Ed Miliband's eyes, is a single passage which the Daily Mail cited. It is a quote from Ralph Miliband in which he wrote that the English were
This quote is apparently from diary written when he was 17. In response to its use by the Daily Mail, Edward Miliband said that to 'build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd'. No, Ed, what's absurd is that you think the Daily Mail - or anyone else - would base all it charges against Ralph Miliband on a single diary entry. If, say, Margaret Thatcher's - or even Tony Blair's – father had written that, no one would have made such a big deal about it. Only a famous Marxist theorist wrote it – the father of the shadow Prime Minister; who, some would argue, may well have similar views.
Edward Miliband also said the article was a 'smear'. Yet Marxists - until very recently - wouldn't have thought twice of voicing such categorical slag-offs of Britain and the British people. Nonetheless, Ralph Miliband (just as with Leftists/Marxists today) would of course have felt it necessary to exclude all socialist and Communist Brits from such criticisms. But they would have only constituted a small number of British people. And the situation is even worse today. Contemporary Leftists (including the pseudo-patriots) still hate most Brits and what they believe; even if they too, like Ralph Miliband, exclude the tiny number of Brits who've escaped from 'false consciousness' (or from 'internalising the values of the elite', as Chomsky puts it).
Indeed, considering that Marxists and Leftists still think this about most Brits and all patriots, it's perhaps even more likely that they did so in Ralph Miliband's day. In fact the contemporary Labour Party is still firmly attached to all sorts of groups - from Hope Not Hate to UAF and to unions such as UNISON, NUT and the NUJ - that still think precisely in these terms.
Even internally the Labour Party has had many elements which were Communist/Trotskyist and which therefore hated all forms of British patriotism. This was most certainly true up until Neil Kinnock's day (when he had a lot of bother from Militant) and perhaps up until Tony Blair. But many would now argue that the Trotskyists and Communists in the Labour Party are far more subtle and wise than they used to be. They know that mouthing off about the sins of patriotism - or 'chauvinism', 'xenophobia', or 'racism' as they often put it - will be politically counterproductive. Indeed because these Leftist elements in the Labour Party - and beyond - have already 'taken over the institutions', as suggested by Antonia Gramsci, they have no need to mouth off or demonstrate on the streets about the evils of patriotism. Instead of mouthing off or activism on the streets, they can do something about it in the Labour Party itself, or in the Rights and race industries, or in the Law, or in the councils, or in the local and national newspapers, or in the universities, or in the BBC, or even in the churches. In fact that's precisely what Leftists or 'priogressives' have been doing since at least the 1960s; the time when Ralph Miliband, Ed Miliband's father, was most active.
Some final food for thought:
The full quote which was partly used by the Daily Mail:
"The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world...When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. … This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation."
“The history of reform under capitalism shows it to have been a very partial response to specific ‘problems’, and to have remained constrained by the logic of capital. Far from seeking to achieve radical cures, conservative governments have viewed reform as a means of preventing radical transformation from occurring by buying social peace with concessions.” - Ralph Miliband