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

By James Hinton | Go to book overview

during the early 1890s was the growth of the Labour Churches. Led by John Trevor, a Manchester Unitarian, who thought he saw God working through the labour movement as once He had worked through the Christian Churches, the Labour Church movement supplied a staging post on the road to secular socialist politics for many people alienated from nonconformity by its bourgeois aura and its identification with the Liberal Party.

Robert Blatchford, whose Merrie England was one of the most popular socialist texts of all time, captured the essence of ILP socialism: 'I think that the best way to reallse Socialism is -- to make Socialists. . . . Give us a Socialistic people, and Socialism will accomplish itself.' 13 Questions of strategy and tactics paled into insignificance beside the propagandist mission -- 'to make Socialists'. Propaganda for the socialist ideal was, indeed, of primary importance. But, in practice, no socialist party beyond the merest sect could escape the need to intervene in the everyday struggles of the working class. Within the ILP, ethical socialism served as a substitute for any coherent attempt to relate the practical politics of the party to its socialist goals. This left the leadership of the party with considerable freedom of political manoeuvre -- a freedom from any constraints of socialist principle. In this way the ethical socialism of the 1890s paved the way for the subordination of the socialist movement to trade unionism and to the New Liberal revival after 1900.


Notes
1
E. P. Thompson, William Morris, London 1977, p. 125.
2
G. S. Jones, Outcast London. A Study in the Relationship Between Classes in Victorian Society, Oxford 1971, p. 293.
3
Thompson, op. cit., pp. 409-10.
4
H. Llewllyn Smith and Vaughan Nash, The Story of the Dockers' Strike, London 1889, pp. 94-5.
6
H. Collins, "'The Marxism of the SDF'", in A. Briggs and J. Saville (eds), Essays in Labour History, vol. 2, London 1971, p. 55.
7
K. D. Buckley, Trade Unionism in Aberdeen, 1878-1900, Edinburgh 1955, p. 82.
8
Thompson, op. cit., 1955, p. 528.
9
H. Pelling, The Origins of the Labour Party, Oxford 1954, p. 95.
10
P. Thompson, "Socialists, Liberals and Labour". The Struggle for London, 1885-1914, London 1967, p. 51.
11
"Tom Mann and Ben Tillett", The New Trades Unionism, London 1890.
12
Statement by a leader of the West Ham SDF in 1901, in S. Pierson, Marxism and the Origins of British Socialism, London 1973, p. 255.
13
Robert Blatchford, Merrie England, London 1908, p. 243.

-63-

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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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