Labour and Socialism: A History of the British Labour Movement, 1867-1974

By James Hinton | Go to book overview

5
The Labour unrest, 1910-14

The labour movement as it had emerged by 1910, socially restricted and politically unambitious, constituted a challenge to capitalist power only in the most qualified and limited sense. A Labour Party struggling for political muscle which nevertheless failed to promote an agitation against the exclusion from the franchise of more than two-thirds of the working class, male and female, was clearly something less than the all-embracing political movement of the class. The exclusive attitudes of organised labour towards women and the poor might derive, in part, from the difficulty of organising those sections of the population. But such attitudes, in turn, powerfully reinforced the inability of the movement to break out of its minority position. Even the more radical activists -- the socialists -- often based their politics on the assumption that the working class, for the time being at least, was too weak to embark on the independent pursuit of its own emancipation.

During the five years before the First World War the whole pattern began to shift. A new upsurge in trade union membership laid the basis for a widening of the movement's social base and its political horizons. The period of relative industrial peace since the turn of the century ended during the depression of 1908-9. A railway strike was narrowly averted in 1907 when, following a dramatic intervention by Lloyd George, the unions were persuaded to accept a conciliation scheme which still denied them effective recognition. The next year saw major disputes in cotton and among engineering and shipbuilding workers on the North-East coast. In the former case wage reductions were enforced in a seven-week lockout that broke fifteen years of peace under the 1893 Brooklands Agreement. In the latter wage reductions were also imposed under threat of national lockouts. These defeats formed the prelude to a new trade union explosion when the depression lifted.

-83-

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Labour and Socialism: A History of the British Labour Movement, 1867-1974
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Abbreviations vi
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Society, Politics and the Labour Movement, 1875-1914 24
  • 3 - Socialism and the New Unionism, 1884-95 40
  • Notes 63
  • 4 - The Labour Alliance, 1895-1914 64
  • Notes 82
  • 5 - The Labour Unrest, 1910-14 83
  • Notes 95
  • 6 - The Impact of War, 1914-21 96
  • Notes 117
  • 7: Working-Class Organisation Between the Wars 119
  • 8 - Labour Government and General Strike, 1924-31 131
  • Notes 147
  • 9 - The Thirties 148
  • Notes 160
  • 10 - Labour and the Nation, 1939-51 161
  • Notes 178
  • Notes 200
  • Further Reading 201
  • Index 207
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