The British Labour Party and the Working Class

The British Labour Party and the Working Class

The British Labour Party and the Working Class

The British Labour Party and the Working Class

Excerpt

Chapter One contains introductory material setting out two broad aims of the book — to examine the relationship between the Labour Party and the working class and to throw some light on the experience of social democracy in Britain.The history of the British Labour Party is placed within the context of the achievements and failings of Western European social democracy.

In Chapter Two, I am primarily concerned with the facts concerning the British class structure and the electoral relationship between the Labour Party and the working class.Do most of the working class vote Labour? Who else votes Labour? Why do one third of the working class not vote Labour ? Is the electoral allegiance of the working class to the Labour Party being eroded ? Starting from a survey of the electoral facts, and a discussion of the reasons put forward to explain these facts, I will go on to examine two theories involving the alleged 'de-radicalization' of both the Labour Party and its working class electorate.Each can be seen as an attempt to identify imminent change in the electoral stalemate of social democracy.

The first of these is the 'affluent worker' or 'embourgeoisement' thesis, which will be considered briefly. The second — the 'decline of working class politics' theses — will be treated at greater length because I believe that it raises important questions about class consciousness and the historical role of the Labour Party.In addition, an examination of this argument necessarily involves an appraisal of the historical and contemporary evidence concerning the operation of, and working class participation in, the Labour Party at the local level.

In Chapter Three, therefore, the discussion of these theories leads into a general analysis of the Labour Party, and in this I have attempted to isolate key problems of general interest and points relevant to the preceding discussion.In particular, if a 'decline of working class politics' is alleged, if a 'de-radicalization' of social democratic parties is implied, then one must be . . .

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