The Guardian this morning carries an obituary of Paul Sweezy who died a few days ago. Its magazine at the weekend included a long piece on Ralph Miliband and his sons David and Edward. Works by both Sweezy and Miliband played an important part in my own socialist education. Sweezy's The Theory of Capitalist Development I remember as being one of the clearest basic expositions of Marx's economic concepts, an excellent introductory aid to the more laborious, though also enjoyable and rewarding, study of the three volumes of Capital. For a period I used to read Monthly Review regularly, the magazine edited by Sweezy and Leo Huberman. Then they, and it, veered off in a Maoist direction and I lost interest.
Several of Ralph Miliband's books - Parliamentary Socialism, The State in Capitalist Society, Marxism and Politics - and many of his essays, also left their mark on me. What I loved, and still do, about Miliband's writing was its directness and its clarity: you knew what he was saying, which is an elementary but also considerable merit in any writer, not emulated by everyone contributing to Marxist theoretical reflection from the 1960s on. His points were delivered with some verve and argumentative force. There was never any doubt, as well, in Ralph Miliband's work, that the socialism he was committed to was democratic in its assumptions and its methods and its very essence. The annual Socialist Register, which Ralph edited with John Saville, and then later Leo Panitch, was something I always eagerly awaited. One of my own best memories as a writer was the first time I was invited, in a letter from Ralph, to contribute an essay to that annual.
The Becket article on the Milibands contains much of interest, and some of this comes from the counterpoint it sets up between the politics of the father and the rather different politics of the two sons. I thought, however, that buried somewhere in there was a mildly oppressive assumption: as if the sons might not (quite) be entitled to their paths. I'm sure this is not how Becket intended it, but it sort of speaks willy-nilly out of the counterpoint.