John Strachey was indubitably England's leading Marxist theoretician in the '30's. His three major works -- The Coming...



John Strachey was indubitably England's leading Marxist theoretician in the '30's. His three major works -- The Coming Struggle for Power, The Menace of Fascism and The Nature of the Capitalist Crisis -- as well as his activities with the Left Book Club helped turn large sections of the English middle class toward communism and socialism and his was one of the clearest and most prescient voices warning against the rising Fascist tide. Considered by some a ""ruthless intellectual,"" Strachey, after spending his Oxford years as an aesthete and a Tory, veered leftward on a course that took him from the I.L.P. to, briefly, Oswald Mosley's New Party, to the British C.P., through wartime patriotism, and finally and serendipitously back to Social Democracy. It was in many ways an improbable journey for one who was heir to a baronetcy, scion of a family of Eminent Victorians, a man whose passion for social justice and the working class remained always to a degree de haut en bas. A biography of him has been overdue and fortunately Thomas is sufficiently a kindred spirit to appreciate and convey the exhilaration and remarkable stamina of Strachey as polemicist, politician and Marxist theorist. A history of Strachey necessarily sweeps through much of the intellectual and political life of England in the '30's, '40's and '50's. At various' times Strachey knew and admired Keynes and Bevan as well as Mosley; he was a pupil of Palme Dutt and a patient of Freud's disciple Ernest Jones. A heretical Etonian he was; but he remained bound by affection and family affiliation to the ruling class then experiencing social and intellectual dislocation leading to a disastrous failure of nerve. That Thomas never manages to get behind Strachey's cold rationalism is not entirely his fault. Many of his contemporaries found Strachey austere, distant, and in human terms, impenetrable. Perhaps this too was part of his patrician inheritance. At the heart of the driving intellect there seemed to be a spiritual vacuum and it may be asking too much of a biographer to tap a personal dimension which simply wasn't there.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1973


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1973