cover image Harold Laski: 2a Life on the Left

Harold Laski: 2a Life on the Left

Isaac Kramnick. Viking Books, $35 (688pp) ISBN 978-0-7139-9106-2

Tireless apostle of democratic socialism, prolific journalist, British Labour Party activist, Zionist and London School of Economics political science professor, Harold Laski (1893-1950) for a time was the most influential socialist thinker in the English-speaking world, yet his reputation is in eclipse today. This vigorous, balanced biography depicts an electric personality ``riven by contradictions.'' Fiercely egalitarian yet personally prone to elitism and cultural snobbery, Laski positioned himself as an alienated outsider while cultivating friendships with Franklin Roosevelt, Felix Frankfurter, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Edward R. Murrow, among others. The authors perceptively discuss Laski's marriage to Fabian socialist Frida Kerry, his sensational 1946 political libel suit against a British newspaper, which he lost, and his attempt to fuse Marxism with a commitment to civil liberties, a decentralized economy and pluralist politics in an egalitarian society. Kramnick is a Cornell professor of government, Sheerman a Labour Member of Parliament. Photos. (Nov.)