Ralph Miliband in 1958
|Born||7 January 1924
|Died||21 May 1994
London, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||London School of Economics|
|Influenced by||Karl Marx|
Ralph Miliband (7 January 1924 – 21 May 1994), born Adolphe Miliband, was a Belgian-born sociologist known as a prominent Marxist thinker. He has been described as "one of the best known academic Marxists of his generation", in this manner being compared with E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Perry Anderson.
Miliband was born in Belgium, to working class Polish-Jewish immigrants, but Miliband and his father fled to Britain in 1940 to avoid persecution from the invading Nazi Germany. Learning to speak English, and enrolling at the London School of Economics, he became involved in left-wing politics, and made a personal commitment to the cause of socialism at the grave of Karl Marx. After serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, he gained British citizenship and settled in London in 1946.
By the 1960s, he was a prominent member of the New Left movement in Britain, which was critical of established Stalinist governments in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. He published several noted books on Marxist theory and the criticism of capitalism, such as Parliamentary Socialism (1961) and Marxism and Politics (1977).
Life and career 
Early life: 1924–1940 
Miliband's parents had grown up in the impoverished Jewish quarter of Warsaw, Poland. In the early 1920s, they had been amongst those Polish Jews who migrated westward, to Brussels in Belgium. It was here that Miliband's parents first met and married. His father, Sam, was a skilled craftsman who made leather goods, whilst his mother Renia travelled around selling women's hats. She was embarrassed by having to work in this profession, hiding it from her neighbours, but required the extra income due to the economic troubles of the Great Depression during the 1930s. Renia spoke Polish fluently, but her husband had only had a very basic education, and as such probably only spoke Yiddish, but he taught himself French by reading newspapers.
On 7 January 1924 Ralph was born as Adolph Miliband in Brussels, the city he subsequently grew up in. In May 1940, following the outbreak of World War II, the armies of Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, and the Miliband family, being Jewish, decided to flee the country from the anti-Semitic Nazi authorities. They missed the train to Paris in France, and although Adolph - who was then sixteen - wanted to walk to the border, the family recognised that his younger sister Anne-Marie, who was only twelve, was too young for the journey. It was decided that whilst Renia and Anne-Marie would stay in Brussels, Sam and Ralph would go ahead and make the journey to Paris, but during the trek, Sam decided to change the plan, and went with his son to Ostend, where they caught the last boat to Britain. They arrived there on 19 May 1940.
Early years in Britain: 1940–1959 
In London, Miliband abandoned the name Adolph due to its connection with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and instead began calling himself Ralph. He and his father gained work in the Chiswick area removing furniture from those houses bombed in The Blitz, and after six weeks were able to send news to Renia and Anne-Marie that they were in London and not Paris as they had previously planned. Discovering that the Jews of Belgium were being rounded up by the Nazis (to be sent to extermination camps in the Holocaust), Renia and Anne-Marie managed to escape to a rural farm, where they were hidden by a French family until after the end of the war, when they were reunited with Sam and Ralph. He wrote in his diary shortly after arriving in England: "The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world...When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent in general and for the French in particular...England first. This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation".
Learning to speak English, Ralph gained a place at Acton Technical College (now Brunel University) in west London with the help of the International Commission for Refugees in January 1941. After completing his course there, he gained the help of the Belgian government-in-exile to study at the London School of Economics (LSE). He had become interested in Marxism and revolutionary socialism, and visited the grave of Marxism's founder Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery in north London, to swear an oath to "the worker's cause". Meanwhile, with the constant aerial bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, LSE was evacuated to the premises of the University of Cambridge. At the time, Harold Laski, the historian and socialist theorist, was a dominant figure at LSE. Miliband studied under Laski, and was considerably influenced by him politically.
After three years' service in the Royal Navy during the war, Miliband resumed his studies at the LSE and graduated with a First in 1947. After obtaining a Leverhulme research scholarship to continue studies at the LSE, Miliband taught at the Roosevelt College (now Roosevelt University) in Chicago. He became a naturalised British subject on 28 September 1948. In 1949 he was offered the post of an Assistant Lectureship in Political Science at the LSE.
New Left: 1960–1994 
Miliband was on the British New Left during the 1950s, alongside the likes of E. P. Thompson and John Saville, with whom he launched the New Reasoner and the New Left Review. He also set up the Socialist Register with Saville in 1964 and was influenced by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills, of whom he was a friend.
In 1961, Miliband published Parliamentary Socialism, which examined the role that the Labour Party played in British politics and society. Paul Blackledge would later claim that it was "arguably Miliband's finest work". In the mid-1960s, Miliband ended his membership of the Labour Party, and began arguing that socialists in Britain had to start working towards building a viable alternative that would be genuinely revolutionary socialist in its positions.
Miliband was passionately opposed to the American war in Vietnam. In 1967 he wrote in the Socialist Register that "the US has over...a period of years been engaged...in the wholesale slaughter of men, women and children, the maiming of many more" and that the United States' "catalogue of horrors" against the Vietnamese people was being done "in the name of an enormous lie". In the same article, he attacked Harold Wilson for his defence of the United States' action in Vietnam, describing it as being the "most shameful chapter in the history of the Labour Party". He went on to say that the US Government "made no secret of the political and diplomatic importance it attached to the unwavering support of a British Labour Government".
He left the LSE in 1972, having found himself torn by the controversies which had beleaguered the institution over the preceding few years, to take up the post of Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds. The time at Leeds was an unhappy period for Miliband, and he subsequently chose to assume several posts in Canada and the USA.
In 1985 he published the essay "The New Revisionism in Britain". Writing some two and a half decades later Paul Blackledge argued that this essay "should be required reading for anyone interested in fighting for socialism".
Political ideas 
Miliband's ability to merge theoretical discussion of Marxism with practical action in trying to promote revolutionary socialism led Duncan Hallas to characterising him as floating "between the best of the academic left and revolutionary left".
Personal life 
David and Ed Miliband 
His elder son, David was Labour MP for South Shields from 2001 to 2013. From 2006 to 2010 he served in the cabinet, latterly (from 2007) as Foreign Secretary. His younger son, Ed, was elected a Labour MP for the Doncaster North seat in 2005. From 2007 to 2008 he served as Minister for the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office and drafted Labour's manifesto for the 2010 general election. In October 2008 Ed was promoted to the position of Secretary of the newly formed Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). On 25 September 2010, he became the 20th leader of the Labour Party  after a leadership contest in which both David and Ed had run.
Writing in the journal International Socialism, Paul Blackledge remarked that it was "more than a little ironic" that the Miliband brothers were in positions of power in the Labour Party considering that their father was the author of Parliamentary Socialism (1961), a powerful critique of that party and its policies.
The journalist Andy McSmith of The Independent, in comparing the lives of Ralph with David and Ed, noted that the elder figure had a "nobility and a drama" that was lacking in their "steady, pragmatic political careers".
- Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour (1961). ISBN 0-85036-135-4.
- The State in Capitalist Society (1969), ISBN 0-7043-1028-7
- Marxism and Politics (1977), ISBN 0-85036-531-7
- Capitalist Democracy in Britain (1982), ISBN 0-19-827445-9
- Class Power and State Power (1983)
- Divided Societies: Class Struggle in Contemporary Capitalism (1989)
- Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994)
- Blackledge 2011. p. 67.
- McSmith 2010.
- Spartacus Educational, Ralph Miliband: Biography, accessed 10 July 2011.
- "History", Brunel University London
- Blackledge 2011. p. 68.
- The London Gazette: . 12 November 1948.
- Blackledge 2011. p. 69.
- Miliband, Ralph (1967). "Vietnam and Western Socialism". The Socialist Register (London: Merlin Press) 4 (1): 11–25. ISSN 0081-0606. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- Newsnight Broadcast, BBC2, 23 September 2010)
- Hallas 1990.
- Beckett, Andy (28 February 2004). "In the house of the rising sons". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-15.
- "Ed Miliband to take on brother David in leader battle". BBC News. 15 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-15.
- Blackledge, Paul (2011). "Labourism and socialism: Ralph Miliband's Marxism". International Socialism 129 (London: Socialist Workers' Party).
- Hallas, Duncan (1990). "Partial Vision". Socialist Worker Review 127 (London: Socialist Workers' Party).
- McSmith, Andy (7 December 2010). "Ralph Miliband: The father of a new generation". The Independent (London).
Further reading 
- Barrow, C., Burnham, P., Wetherly, P. eds. Class, Power and State in Capitalist Society: Essays on Ralph Miliband (London: Palgrave)
- Newman, Michael. Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left (Merlin Press, 2002)
- Aronowitz, Stanley, and Peter Bratsis. Paradigm Lost: State Theory Reconsidered (University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
- Ralph Miliband: The father of a new generation
- LSE profile
- Marxists.org Bibliography of Miliband
- Lipman-Miliband Trust
- Socialist Register