Back to the Future Day? #bttf2015

Former Labour MP for Neath and author Peter Hain grabs his hoverboard and heads ‘Back to the Future’ in today’s Marty McFly inspired guest post about socialism past, present and future in the UK…


Dude, where’s my invite to the party?

Peter Hain_1980s

Peter Hain (photo courtesy of

I mean the one planned to welcome Marty McFly and Doc Brown, the two time travellers from 1985 in the film trilogy Back to the Future. They are due to appear on 21 October and Hollywood intends to celebrate their arrival.

I had hoped that, having stood down as an MP (and not yet been formally admitted to that ‘Other Place’), I might be able to exploit my new found freedom with some rest and relaxation. Why not join in the fun on what Hollywood is calling Back to the Future Day?

After all, I have a claim to be included on the guest list. That is my new book Back to the Future of Socialism, already nominated by one reviewer for an award as ‘Worst Book Title of the Year 2015’.

The cool crowd

OK, I admit that I didn’t really hang out with the cool crowd in the 1980s. Instead I began those years by chairing what we called ‘The Debate of the Decade’, involving amongst others Tony Benn, Paul Foot and Tariq Ali.

“What I remember most was struggling to keep order amidst disruptions from various anarchists”

A debate which degenerated into a row about the record of the Labour government that lost office in 1979, and about what Labour had to offer working people in the years ahead. Sounds familiar?

What I remember most was struggling to keep order amidst disruptions from various anarchists.

The real inspiration for my book stemmed of course from Tony Crosland’s classic 1956 text The Future of Socialism, a book which provided a creed for governments of the centreleft until the global banking crisis changed everything.

By reappraising Crosland’s criteria for socialism and setting them in a current context I try to redefine Labour’s future up to 2020 and beyond.

Optimistic assumptions

Marty McFly went back to 1955 before jumping ahead to 2015. If he had been in the UK he would have seen how far our world fell short of Tony Crosland’s optimistic assumptions about economic growth and consensus politics, and especially of how dramatically differently finance capitalism has evolved following Margaret Thatcher’s ‘big bang’ financial reforms of 1986.

The three decades since 1985 have seen the emergence of a capitalist system which is more integrated, more unstable and more unfair than Crosland’s generation ever anticipated. It is productive but prone to paralysis.

It is dynamic but discriminatory. Its self-destructive tendencies, not least in the area of environmental sustainability, require far more radical responses than neoliberal orthodoxy can hope to provide.

“..since 1985 [we] have seen the emergence of a capitalist system which is more integrated, more unstable and more unfair than Crosland’s generation ever anticipated”

My book presents a practical alternative to austerity. It rejects George Osborne’s recipe for a permanent squeeze on public spending after tax cuts for the better off which deliberately put a budget surplus beyond reach, so providing an excuse for the state can continue to be shrunk.

For this Tory government is the most economically right wing in memory.

Instead it invites a resurrection of Labour’s mission based upon hardheaded economics and evidence – a modernised Keynesianism or a fresh Croslandism, some might say. Democratic socialism not neoliberalism should remain both the source of our inspiration and the vision for our age.

#backtothefutureofsocialism #backtothefuture #bttf2015

Back to the future of socialism_PBK [FC]Back to The Future of Socialism is out now in paperback and is available to purchase here  from the Policy Press website. Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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