by Mark Jenkins
“The first edition of this work, in 1979, coincided with a seminal moment of Labour’s history, though few might have anticipated it at the time. The era of Thatcherism was about to descend. In that final year of the Callaghan administration, Michael Foot was Leader of the House and yet he kindly granted me an interview in his busy parliamentary office. In the event it lasted for two whole hours because of Michael’s abiding interest in the Bevanite movement, of which he had, of course, been a key leading member �
The book began as a four-year research thesis for my Doctorate. Upon completion, it was immediately taken up by Ken Coates and published by Spokesman as a valuable contribution to Labour’s post-war history � The thesis of Bevanism was a polemic against leftist denigrators of the seventies who denied that the Bevanites represented the broadest, most popular Labour current of the twentieth century, with a mass following in both the Party and the trades unions far exceeding the levels of support enjoyed by the Socialist League and the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the thirties. The weight of statistical evidence I assembled as proof has never subsequently been challenged. However, the thesis was never a slavish promotion of Bevanism or even its programme.
So, we return to Bevan’s social-democratic dilemma. Where do the boundaries of the state end and the free market begin? Bevan was never the ideologue of dogmatic statism. He was always the principled pragmatist, prepared to win over the medical profession by ‘stuffing their mouths with gold’ to establish the principle of free public medicine. The NHS remains his abiding legacy, which today, along with public education, faces its sternest test since the days of Clement Attlee’s bold initiatives.”
Mark Jenkins, from his new introduction to the 2012 edition