Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920-1924

By Stephen White | Go to book overview

8

Soviet Russia and
Labourism

Labour's decision to extend diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government has variously been interpreted. Perhaps the most influential thesis has been that which has posited a connection between the party's policy and the socialist princcples to which it was—at least ostensibly—committed. The party's foreign policy, in this view, was a 'repudiation of traditional British foreign policy': it was characterised by opposition to the pursuit of national self-interest, and by a hostile attitude to imperialism and colonial exploitation in any (but more especially in its British) variant. The party's 1918 constitution, it has been suggested, 'repudiated capitalism as a system'; after this date the ILP's 'systematic anti-capitalism ... was incorporated wholesale into Labour's foreign policy pronouncements'. 1

The decision to confer de jure recognition on the Soviet government, in this analysis, was an expression of the party's 'instinctive sympathy with a Workers' government'. The party was motivated by 'ardent pro-Soviet sentiment' and a sense of 'class grievance and solidarity'; and there was an 'assumed identity of common status' with the Soviet government. 2 The ILP executive did indeed welcome the act of recognition, and it looked forward to joint measures to restore the economic life of Europe, to stimulate the development of trade and industry and to lessen the burden of unemployment. The statement explicitly referred to the British and Soviet governments as 'two Labour governments'; and Brailsford, in the New Leader, declared that the new Labour Cabinet would stand beside the Soviet executive as 'one of the only two Socialist Governments in the world'. 3 What could be more natural than that one such government should recognise the other?

It will be suggested in what follows that this thesis can scarcely be sustained. Other factors are quite sufficient to account for

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Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920-1924
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution - A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920-1924 *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • List of Abbreviations *
  • Part I - Negotiation *
  • I - The Trade Agreement *
  • 2 - Labour and Soviet Russia *
  • 3 - Conferences *
  • Part II - Imperial Confrontation *
  • 4 - Imperial Crisis and Soviet Russia *
  • 5 - Soviet Russia and Revolution *
  • 6 - The Curzon Note' *
  • Part III - Labour, Business and Recognition *
  • 7 - 'Entente Commerciale' *
  • 8 - Soviet Russia and Labourism *
  • Conclusion: - Class, Party and Foreign Policy *
  • Notes *
  • Select Bibliography *
  • Index *
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