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Stephen Bodington

 

 

Born on 22nd March 1909 in Cheltenham, Bodington is best known in Communist circles as the writer on political economy, John Eaton.  But this was a nom de plume, which almost certainly came from a family name - his father was Phillip Eaton Bodington.

 

After university and in the late 1930s, Bodington worked for the Labour Research Department, which was of course well populated by Communist Party members.

 

A September 1939 memorandum in the Communist Party archives on 'The American Economy today and during the last war with special reference to Anglo-American relations' has been credited to him. Although there is no indication as to whom the memorandum was intended for, it is known that the Communist Party’s EC was especially interested in original research on the future role of the USA at the end of the war; it seems likely that they had such an interest at the outset also.

 

In career terms, Bodington was involved with state planning after the war, working first for the Planning Board and then the Board of Trade in which he reached a very high civil service grade.

 

In 1950, he married Joan MacDonald (b. 30 Jan 1920, Woolwich, d. 25 Jul 1990).

 

The short term reason for Bodington’s nom de plume was simply due to his being in such a high grade in government service. But, as the cold war receded, it became more that too close an association with the Communist Party would damage his career. Either way also pointed to a fault line in his relationship with the Party.

 

Despite Bodington’s clear acceptance of theoretical Marxism via his writing as Eaton, Bodington’s job involved the practical application of the kind of advanced mathematics that the discipline of economics was becoming in the capitalist world. This world was now so far distant from the political economy of Marx that it only probably took the events of 1968 to enable a break from the Communist Party to be marked for him.

 

It is likely that leading up to this had been rising tensions out of his membership of the Party’s Economic Committee. It was the Party’s National Industrial Organiser, Bert Ramelson (see separate entry), who was carving out a new place for what had been a rather theoretical body in the past amongst the sharp militancy of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

 

By the early 1970s, around the time of his formal retirement from paid work, Bodington was increasingly publicly linked with the Institute for Workers' Control, a body that Ramelson was scornful of. But for Bodington, the non-state leanings of such a project was attractive, it seems mainly as a reaction to the staidness of his career role. By the end of the 1970s, Bodington had clearly left the Communist Party, although he appears to have done this quietly. Although joining the Labour Party, he linked up with the decidedly leftwing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

 

In his final years, he was concerned to mark out a role for information technology in decentralised, democratic forms of economic co-ordination, whilst his later pamphlets and essays (`he Cutting Edge of Socialism’ `Developing the Socially Useful Economy’ `Computers and Socialism’) were especially anxious to keep socialism distinct from authoritarianism.


Bodington died on 24th December 1989 in Hampstead.

 

 S

Born on 22nd March 1909 in Cheltenham, Bodington is best known in Communist circles as the writer on political economy, John Eaton.  But this was a nom de plume, which almost certainly came from a family name - his father was Phillip Eaton Bodington.

 

After university and in the late 1930s, Bodington worked for the Labour Research Department, which was of course well populated by Communist Party members.

 

A September 1939 memorandum in the Communist Party archives on 'The American Economy today and during the last war with special reference to Anglo-American relations' has been credited to him. Although there is no indication as to whom the memorandum was intended for, it is known that the Communist Party’s EC was especially interested in original research on the future role of the USA at the end of the war; it seems likely that they had such an interest at the outset also.

 

In career terms, Bodington was involved with state planning after the war, working first for the Planning Board and then the Board of Trade in which he reached a very high civil service grade.

 

In 1950, he married Joan MacDonald (b. 30 Jan 1920, Woolwich, d. 25 Jul 1990).

 

The short term reason for Bodington’s nom de plume was simply due to his being in such a high grade in government service. But, as the cold war receded, it became more that too close an association with the Communist Party would damage his career. Either way also pointed to a fault line in his relationship with the Party.

 

Despite Bodington’s clear acceptance of theoretical Marxism via his writing as Eaton, Bodington’s job involved the practical application of the kind of advanced mathematics that the discipline of economics was becoming in the capitalist world. This world was now so far distant from the political economy of Marx that it only probably took the events of 1968 to enable a break from the Communist Party to be marked for him.

 

It is likely that leading up to this had been rising tensions out of his membership of the Party’s Economic Committee. It was the Party’s National Industrial Organiser, Bert Ramelson (see separate entry), who was carving out a new place for what had been a rather theoretical body in the past amongst the sharp militancy of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

 

By the early 1970s, around the time of his formal retirement from paid work, Bodington was increasingly publicly linked with the Institute for Workers' Control, a body that Ramelson was scornful of. But for Bodington, the non-state leanings of such a project was attractive, it seems mainly as a reaction to the staidness of his career role. By the end of the 1970s, Bodington had clearly left the Communist Party, although he appears to have done this quietly. Although joining the Labour Party, he linked up with the decidedly leftwing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

 

In his final years, he was concerned to mark out a role for information technology in decentralised, democratic forms of economic co-ordination, whilst his later pamphlets and essays (`he Cutting Edge of Socialism’ `Developing the Socially Useful Economy’ `Computers and Socialism’) were especially anxious to keep socialism distinct from authoritarianism.


Bodington died on 24th December 1989 in Hampstead.