Ralph Miliband

On this date in 1924, Adolphe Miliband, later known as Ralph Miliband, was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. His parents were Polish Jews who migrated in the 1920s to Brussels, where they met and married. The Miliband family relocated to London in 1940, fleeing the Nazi invasion of Belgium. In London, Miliband changed his first name to Ralph to avoid any connotation to Adolf Hitler. At age 16, Miliband visited the grave of Karl Marx in London to swear allegiance to “the workers’ cause” (“Labourism and socialism: Ralph Miliband’s Marxism” by Paul Blackledge in International Socialist, January 2011). Miliband studied at the London School of Economics under the British Marxist historian and theorist Harold Laski, who greatly influenced Miliband’s politics. Miliband broke from his studies to serve in the Royal Navy, and returned to LSE to graduate in 1947. Miliband then earned a scholarship for Ph.D. research at LSE, at which time Laski arranged for Miliband to teach at Roosevelt College (now Roosevelt University) in Chicago. In 1949, Miliband became a lecturer in political science at LSE.

Miliband co-founded, with E.P. Thompson, John Saville, Raphael Samuel, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, the New Reasoner and New Left Review, radical journals that represented the British New Left during the 1950s. In 1964, Saville and Miliband established the Socialist Register journal, influenced by Miliband’s friend C. Wright Mills. Miliband began teaching at the University of Leeds in 1972, and spent time teaching at other universities in the United States and Canada. He argued after the mid-1960s that a better, more revolutionary alternative to the British Labour Party needed to be established. His promotion of a Marxist style of revolutionary socialism influenced generations of socialist scholars and leaders, including Tariq Ali. Miliband married one of his former LSE students, Marion Kozak, in 1961. They raised their two sons, David and Edward, in a secular lifestyle. Ironically, Miliband, who critiqued the Labour Party in his book, Parliamentary Socialism (1961), had two sons who rose to great power in the Labour Party. Both sons vied for the party Leader position, with Ed winning by a narrow margin in 2010. Miliband was the author of The State in Capitalist Society (1969), Marxism and Politics (1977), Capitalist Democracy in Britain (1982), Class Power and State Power (1983), Divided Societies: Class Struggle in Contemporary Capitalism (1989) and Socialism for a Skeptical Age (1994). He is buried near Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery in North London. D. 1994.

“The political climate in our house was generally and loosely left: it was unthinkable that a Jew, our sort of Jew, the artisan Jewish worker, self-employed, poor, Yiddish-speaking, unassimilated, non-religious, could be anything but socialistic.”

—Ralph Miliband in a note for his unpublished political autobiography, quoted in The New Statesman, “Ralph Miliband, father of the Labour leadership rivals David and Ed, is remembered as a great teacher,” by Jonathan Derbyshire, Aug. 30, 2010

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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