New LLA education series: Labour and the left – a history of witch-hunts and fight-backs

See further below for reading recommendations and other useful materials
  • October 21
    Introduction: the left and Labour 1880-1918
    speaker: Kevin Bean
  • October 28
    Labour and the CPGB 1918-1939
    speaker: Lawrence Parker
  • November 4
    The Independent Labour Party and Labour left 1922-39
    speaker: Kevin Bean
  • November 11 
    The left versus the right; Bevanites
    speaker: speaker tbc
  • November 18
    The new Labour left in the 1960s and 1970s: Benn and the Alternative Economic Strategy
    speaker: speaker tbc
  • November 25
    The struggle in Liverpool in the 1980s
    speaker: Mike Hogan
  • December 2
    The rise of the Bennite left in the 1980s
    speaker: Graham Bash
  • December 9
    The witch-hunt against Militant in the 1980s
    speaker: Roger Silverman
  • December 16
    The left and the Blairite counter-revolution in the 1980s
    speaker: Roger Silverman
  • December 23
    Conclusion: the future of the Labour left
    speakers: Kevin Bean, Roger Silverman and Graham Bash

Background information

The Left and Labour 1880-1918

Key themes

  • Strategy and tactics: ‘reform or revolution’?
  • Relationship to Marxism and ‘the class war’
  • Debates in Second International on strategy and programme/revolutionary consciousness
  • Ethical socialism and Christianity
  • Attitudes to bourgeois parties e.g., Tories and Liberals
  • Elections and parliamentary representation
  • Attitude to the trade unions and ‘syndicalism’
  • Relationship to the Labour Party
  • ‘Socialist Unity ‘and the ‘Labour Alliance’
  • Attitudes to imperialist war and Russian Revolution

Historiographical themes

  • Stereotypes and hindsight
  • Defining the left and setting the boundaries
  • marginal Marxism and Methodism
  • accepted narratives and teleology: the forward march of Labour?
  • Successes and failures: lessons from history?

Key events

  • 1881-formation of the Democratic Federation
  • 1884-Democratic Federation renamed as Social Democratic Federation (SDF): changes its name to Social Democratic Party in 1908
  • 1884-split from SDF forms the Socialist League
  • 1884-formation of Fabians
  • 1893-foundation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP)
  • 1900-formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC); trade unions representatives and delegates from SDF, ILP and Fabians
  • 1903-Labour-Liberal electoral pact
  • 1903-split in the SDF forms the Socialist Labour Party (SLP)
  • 1904- ‘Impossibilist ‘split from SDF forms Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB)
  • 1906-General election:29 Labour MPs elected
  • 1907- Colne Valley by-election: Víctor Grayson elected
  • 1910 -General elections 40/42 MPs
  • 1911-formation of British Socialist Party (BSP) from SDP and sections of the ILP and smaller socialist groups
  • 1915-Hyndman and right split from BSP to form Socialist National Defence League
  • 1916-BSP affiliated to the Labour Party
  • June 1917-Leeds Convention in support of Russian Revolution supports the call for Soviets in Britain 
  • 1918-Cabour conference adopts Clause 4 and individual membership

Suggested books:

  • M.Crick, The History of the Social Democratic Federation, 1994.
  • D.Howell, British Workers and the Independent Labour Party 1888-1906,1983.
  • D.James, T. Jowitt and K. Laybourn (eds)The Centennial History of the Independent Labour Party, 1992
  • W. Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-21, 1971
  • J. Allen, A. Campbell and J.McIlroy (eds), Histories of Labour: National and International Perspectives, 2010.
  • Also see bibliographies