John Strachey (politician)

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The Right Honourable
John Strachey
John Strachey by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg
Secretary of State for War
In office
28 February 1950 – 26 October 1951
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Manny Shinwell
Succeeded by Anthony Head
Personal details
Born 21 October 1901 (1901-10-21)
Guildford, Surrey
Died 15 July 1963 (1963-07-16)
Marylebone, London
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford

Evelyn John St Loe Strachey PC (21 October 1901 – 15 July 1963) was a British Labour politician and writer.

Background and education

Born in Guildford, Surrey, the son of John Strachey, editor of The Spectator, he was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. At Oxford he was editor, with Robert Boothby, of the Oxford Fortnightly Review. Strachey's Oxford career was interrupted by ill-health – peritonitis – and he left after two years in 1922 without taking a degree. He later joined The Spectator.

Political career

Strachey joined the Labour Party in 1923 and was editor of the Socialist Review and The Miner. He unsuccessfully contested the Aston division of Birmingham in 1924. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Birmingham Aston in 1929, serving to 1931. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Oswald Mosley. He resigned from the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1931 for Mosley's New Party. Following the New Party's drift towards fascism he resigned to become a supporter of the Communist Party, contesting the Aston constituency as an independent.

Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) organized a large rally at the Olympia hall in London in June 1934. A counter-demonstration was organized, and the rally turned into a fight in which many were injured.[1] A Committee for Coordinating Anti-Fascist Activities was formed, with Strachey as secretary, sponsored by the World Committee Against War and Fascism (Amsterdam-Pleyel). When the BUF staged another demonstration of 3,000 Fascists in Hyde Park, London on 9 September 1934, Strachey's committee organized a major counter-demonstration by 20,000 anti-Fascists.[2]

Strachey assisted the publisher Victor Gollancz in founding the Left Book Club in 1936. As the author of The Coming Struggle for Power (1932), and a series of other significant works, Strachey was one of the most prolific and widely read British Marxist-Leninist theorists of the 1930s.[3] He criticised the economics of John Maynard Keynes from a Marxist perspective before himself becoming a Keynesian.[4] He helped launch the Popular Front in December 1936.[5]

Strachey became increasing unhappy with the Communist movement following the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet Invasion of Finland. In a letter to the New Statesman Strachey claimed the Communists "are prepared, for the sake of the..Soviet Union,to give way to Hitler to any extent, and they are utterly irresponsible as to the consequences to the British people of such unlimited giving away. So long as that remains the case I...can have nothing to do with them."[6] He broke with the CPGB in 1940 and joined the Royal Air Force in which he served as a Squadron Leader with a temporary commission.[7] He was posted to the Air Ministry as a public relations officer in the Directorate of Bombing Operations and made a reputation as an air commentator for the BBC, making official broadcasts about the men of RAF Bomber Command.

Returning to the Labour Party, he was chosen to be the Labour candidate for Dundee in 1943 and was again elected to Parliament, serving from 1945 to 1963. He served as Under-Secretary of State for Air in 1945 and is widely credited as having been responsible for ignoring Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris and, by implication, Bomber Command from the Victory Honours List. This may have been retaliation for Harris' request to have Strachey removed from his wartime post within the Directorate of Bombing Operations due to Strachey's changeable political persuasions, a request that was not successful as Strachey remained in the post until the end of the war.[7]

As Minister of Food in 1946, he was involved in the abortive Tanganyika groundnut scheme. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1946. On the division of the Dundee constituency, he was elected as Labour MP for Dundee West in 1950, holding the seat until his death in 1963. He was Secretary of State for War, 1950–51. He supported Hugh Gaitskell as successor to Clement Attlee in 1955. In the 1950s Strachey devoted much of his time to writing studies of British society from a social democratic viewpoint.[8]

Personal life

His second marriage, in 1933, was to Celia Simpson. The marriage produced two recorded children: one son and one daughter.

Strachey died in Marylebone, London, in July 1963 aged 61. His death caused a by-election in his Dundee West constituency, won by Labour's Peter Doig.


  • Revolution by Reason (1925)
  • Workers' Control in the Russian Mining Industry, (1928)
  • The Coming Struggle for Power (1932)
  • Unstable Money, John Day (1933)
  • The Menace of Fascism (1933)
  • The Nature of Capitalist Crisis (1935)
  • The Theory and Practice of Socialism (1936)
  • What Are We to Do? (1938)
  • Why You Should be a Socialist (1938)
  • A Programme for Progress (1940)
  • A Faith to Fight For (1941)
  • Post D (1941/1942)
  • Arise to Conquer (1944)
  • Labour's task (1951)
  • Contemporary Capitalism (1956)
  • The End of Empire (1959)
  • The pursuit of peace (1960)
  • On the Prevention of War (1962)
  • The Strangled Cry (1962)
  • "The Challenge of Democracy" (1963)

See also


  1. Ceplair 1987, p. 163.
  2. Ceplair 1987, p. 164.
  3. Macintyre 1972.
  4. Markwell 2006.
  5. The Liberal Party and the Popular Front, English Historical Review (2006)
  6. Michael Newman,John Strachey Manchester, UK ; New York : Manchester University Press ; New York, NY, USA ISBN 071902174X, (pp. 80-1).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Falconer 1998.
  8. David Widgery, The Left In Britain, Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1976. (p.135) ISBN 0140550992


  • International Who's Who, 1945–1946 ("Strachey, Evelyn John St. Loe, M.P.")
  • Ceplair, Larry (1987). Under the Shadow of War: Fascism, Anti-Fascism, and Marxists, 1918-1939. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-06532-0. Retrieved 6 March 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Falconer, Jonathon (1998). The Bomber Command Handbook 1939–1945. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1819-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Macintyre, Stuart (1972), John Strachey, 1901–1931: The development of an English Marxist, MA thesis, Monash UniversityCS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Markwell, Donald (2006). John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace. Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Evelyn Cecil
Member of Parliament for Aston
Succeeded by
Arthur Hope
Preceded by
Florence Horsbrugh
Dingle Foot
Member of Parliament for Dundee
With: Thomas Cook
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Dundee West
Succeeded by
Peter Doig
Political offices
Preceded by
Hon. Quintin Hogg
The Earl Beatty
Under-Secretary of State for Air
Succeeded by
Geoffrey de Freitas
Preceded by
Ben Smith
Minister of Food
Succeeded by
Maurice Webb
Preceded by
Manny Shinwell
Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Antony Head