George Strauss, the son of Arthur Strauss, was born on 18th July, 1901. His father, a Conservative Party MP, sent his son to Rugby School. His friend, Tam Dalyell, later argued: "George Strauss came of a family of well-to-do Jewish metal merchants... Quite often I would talk to Strauss abut public-school boys in the Labour Party. Although he was grateful to Rugby for its high-quality teaching, a scar was left at the rough treatment meted out to Jewish boys at school. From that time on Strauss cared vehemently about issues of race."
Following his father's death in 1920 he decided to join the family firm rather than go to university. Strauss became an active member of the Labour Party and in 1925 was elected to the London County Council (LCC). In the 1929 General Election Strauss was elected to the House of Commons as the representative of North Lambeth. Soon afterwards he was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Herbert Morrison. Strauss was an opponent of Ramsay MacDonald and his National Government and like most Labour members he lost his seat in the 1931 General Election.
In 1931 G.D.H. Cole created the Society for Socialist Inquiry and Propaganda (SSIP). This was later renamed the Socialist League. Other members included George Strauss, William Mellor, Charles Trevelyan, Stafford Cripps, H. N. Brailsford, D. N. Pritt, R. H. Tawney, Frank Wise, David Kirkwood, Clement Attlee, Neil Maclean, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Alfred Salter, Jennie Lee, Gilbert Mitchison, Harold Laski, Frank Horrabin, Ellen Wilkinson, Aneurin Bevan, Ernest Bevin, Arthur Pugh, Michael Foot and Barbara Betts. Margaret Cole admitted that they got some of the members from the Guild Socialism movement: "Douglas and I recruited personally its first list drawing upon comrades from all stages of our political lives." The first pamphlet published by the SSIP was The Crisis (1931) was written by Cole and Bevin.
According to Ben Pimlott, the author of Labour and the Left (1977): "The Socialist League... set up branches, undertook to promote and carry out research, propaganda and discussion, issue pamphlets, reports and books, and organise conferences, meetings, lectures and schools. To this extent it was strongly in the Fabian tradition, and it worked in close conjunction with Cole's other group, the New Fabian Research Bureau." The main objective was to persuade a future Labour government to implement socialist policies.
His biographer, Andrew Roth, has argued that during the 1930s, like many Jewish intellectuals who felt the threat of Nazism, he moved to the left, joining Sir Stafford Cripps and Aneurin Bevan in their efforts to form an anti-fascist alliance stretching from the Communists to the Liberals." Strauss returned to the LCC and served as Chairman of the Highways Committee (1934-37). Strauss returned to Parliament in October 1934.
In January 1937, George Strauss and Stafford Cripps decided to launch a radical weekly, The Tribune, to "advocate a vigorous socialism and demand active resistance to Fascism at home and abroad." William Mellor was appointed editor and others such as Barbara Betts, Aneurin Bevan, Ellen Wilkinson, Barbara Castle, Harold Laski, Michael Foot and Noel Brailsford agreed to write for the paper.
William Mellor wrote in the first issue: "It is capitalism that has caused the world depression. It is capitalism that has created the vast army of the unemployed. It is capitalism that has created the distressed areas... It is capitalism that divides our people into the two nations of rich and poor. Either we must defeat capitalism or we shall be destroyed by it." Stafford Cripps wrote encouragingly after the first issue: "I have read the Tribune, every line of it (including the advertisements!) as objectively as I can and I must congratulate you upon a very first-rate production.''
Strauss also joined with other left-wing Labour Party MPs that campaigned for the formation of a United Front with other left-wing groups in Europe to prevent the spread of fascism. At the 1936 Labour Party Conference, several party members, including Strauss, Ellen Wilkinson, Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and Charles Trevelyan, argued that military help should be given to the Spanish Popular Front government, fighting for survival against General Francisco Franco and his right-wing Nationalist Army.
Along with Aneurin Bevan, Emanuel Shinwell, Sydney Silverman and Ellen Wilkinson Strauss toured Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Shinwell later wrote: "The reason for the defeat of the Spanish Government was not in the hearts and minds of the Spanish people. They had a few brief weeks of democracy with a glimpse of all that it might mean for the country they loved. The disaster came because the Great Powers of the West preferred to see in Spain a dictatorial Government of the right rather than a legally elected body chosen by the people."
Stafford Cripps declared that the mission of the Socialist League and The Tribune was to recreate the Labour Party as a truly socialist organization. This soon brought them into conflict with Clement Attlee and the leadership of the party. Hugh Dalton declared that "Cripps Chronicle" was "a rich man's toy". Threatened with expulsion, in May 1937 Cripps agreed to abandon the United Front campaign and to dissolve the Socialist League.
By 1938 George Strauss and Stafford Cripps had lost £20,000 in publishing The Tribune. The successful publisher, Victor Gollancz, agreed to help support the newspaper as long as it dropped the United Front campaign. When William Mellor refused to change the editorial line, Cripps sacked him and invited Michael Foot to take his place. However, as Mervyn Jones has pointed out: "It was a tempting opportunity for a 25-year-old, but Foot declined to succeed an editor who had been treated unfairly."
Strauss continued to campaign for a United Front and in March 1939 he was expelled from the Labour Party along with Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and Charles Trevelyan. However, they readmitted in November 1939 after agreeing "to refrain from conducting or taking part in campaigns in opposition to the declared policy of the Party."
In 1940 Strauss won substantial damages from Henry Newnham and the journal Truth, after it was claimed that he was a coward for not fighting for his country during the First World War (Strauss was too young to fight in the war). During the Second World War Strauss became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Stafford Cripps, the Lord Privy Seal (February 1942 to November 1942) and later Minister of Aircraft Production (November 1942 to May 1945).
In the government formed by Clement Attlee after the war, Strauss served as Parliamentary Secretary for Transport (August 1945 to October 1947) and as Minister of Supply (October 1946 to October 1951). Tam Dalyell argued: "It fell to Strauss to steer through Parliament the most controversial legislation of that government, the nationalisation of iron and steel. This he did with consummate skill and there is no doubt that, had there been Labour governments in the 1950s, Strauss would have been a major minister."
George Strauss died on 5th June, 1993.