Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought, 1895-1914

By Bernard Semmel | Go to book overview

XIII
CONCLUSION

SUMMARY

In England, by 1914, the working classes found themselves relatively prosperous, and, after years of close collaboration with the Liberal party, fairly well protected by laws which not only guaranteed trade union security, but also provided national insurance and old-age pensions. In this way, the British working classes were 'nationalized,' were given their 'stake' in the state, just as the German working class had been nationalized in the decades following the enactment of Bismarckian social reform, and the Italian working class had been 'incorporated' into the nation by the pre-war Giolittian programme. When war came in 1914, the 'proletariats' of all the European nations had become convinced that the working classes of the losing nations would suffer far more than those of the victors. They consequently tossed aside sentimental socialist internationalism and became patriots. The elaborate programmes of the social- imperialists had justified themselves as the proletariats, heretofore hostile to the state, rushed to the national battle standards.

There had been two principal forms of social-imperialism in England. One had emphasized the need to maintain the empire and had asserted that the welfare of the working class depended upon imperial strength. The second had emphasized the condition of the working classes as the basis of imperialism, the need for a healthy and vigorous imperial race, and had suggested that it would be impossible to defend and maintain the empire without such a base. The first argument was to be found--expressed or implied--in the writings of all the social- imperialists and imperial-socialists; it served as virtually the sole argument for the Tariff Reform League and Joseph Chamberlain. The second was adopted not only by the Liberal- Imperialists--who made it their chief campaign point--but it also appeared prominently in the writings of such Tariff Reformers as Milner and Mackinder, and in the tracts of the

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