Labour Party history

Editorials - February 1995

Editorial comments on Blair's "modernisation" project in the Labour Party and the peace process in Northern Ireland. Click here to download article as pdf. Article continues on page 5.

Remembering 1945

75 years ago, on 26 July 1945, Britain’s first-ever majority Labour government took office. David Booth remembers. My father, Albert, was born in 1897 in Hoxton, east London. His father had never been to school. He worked at the Army and Navy stores making ladies’ shoes. There were six children, two of whom died in infancy – average for the time – the youngest taking their mother with her. So Grandad worked shorter daytime hours and, after the kids were in bed, sorted mail at Mount Pleasant sorting office all night. The working class was therefore our class and the Labour Party our party...

The birth of the Labour Party and the right to strike

In Solidarity 539 (18 March), I told the story of Labour’s rise and drew lessons for rebuilding independent working-class politics – as opposed to Lib-Lab-type “progressive” politics – today. One aspect I’d like to explore further: how in its first years Labour grew out of, built and led a successful fight to overturn legal anti-strike restrictions and assert workers’ right to strike. That also has lessons for today. Over the second half of the 19th century, trade unions carved out significant space for organising and industrial action. Legal restrictions on the right to strike were much...

"Lib-Lab" is a way backwards, not forwards

Some, even on Labour’s left, advocate electoral alliances or coalitions between Labour and non-labour movement “progressive” parties — mostly, in practical terms, meaning the SNP and the Lib Dems. From a class-struggle, socialist point of view, there are many arguments to be made against such “progressive alliances”. Here I try to draw some lessons from Labour’s history, focusing on alliances with the Liberals. Debating “progressive alliances” with Janine Booth from Workers’ Liberty at the 2019 Labour conference fringe event The World Transformed, left Labour MP Clive Lewis cited the 1906 Lib...

A Labour newspaper?

Should the labour movement have its own newspaper? That is the question posed by Richard Burgon, currently running for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Burgon, speaking to Novara Media, said that a Labour freesheet could mimic the Evening Standard or the Metro. The various editions of the Metro currently have a total circulation of 1.4m, and the ES has about 800,000 around London. That makes them two of the most-read newspapers in the UK. Burgon was attacked by Ian Murray, the most right-wing of those standing for the deputy leadership: “We are a party aspiring to be in government, not a...

When workers beat the fascists: how the left fought the antisemites at Cable Street

IN OCTOBER 1936, the workers of East London stopped police-protected fascists marching through the Jewish areas of the East End. The Battle of Cable Street was an epic, and is now a myth-enshrouded event in British working-class history. The far right is on the rise in many countries. The fight against fascism may once more become a matter of life and death to the labour movement. What lessons for this work can we learn from the anti-fascist struggle in East London? Did ‘objective conditions’ and, after 1934, Establishment disapproval kill off Mosleyism, or was it direct action on the streets...

Why not tactical voting?

Unity and pluralism are important. Labour needs to be a coalition rather than seek to make coalitions with non-socialist parties. It needs more member control, more trade unions affiliating. It needs to readmit the unjustly expelled socialists, many hundreds of whom were purged without a hearing or even precise charges in 2015 and 2016. It needs to recruit, involve and represent working-class people in all our diversity. But that is different from tactical voting, or agreements to stand down, of the type which Sinn Fein and SDLP have made in Northern Ireland. (Sinn Féin will stand down in...

A poundshop Lloyd George?

“Principles mean nothing to him — never have. His mind doesn’t work that way. “It’s both his strength and his weakness”. That was how the Tory politician Arthur Balfour described David Lloyd George, prime minister 1916-22, a leading government minister 1906-16, and a dominant figure in Liberal Party politics for most of the first half of the 20th century. A minister who worked with Lloyd George saw him as having an “absolute contempt for detail” but a strange capacity to improvise and “pick up the essential details of a question by conversation”. A biographer described him as “always in a...

Corbyn in the 1980s

The Times of 6 July 2019 ran an article by Dominic Kennedy, "Corbyn's hard-left blueprint revealed", attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his links in the 1980s with Socialist Organiser, a forerunner of Solidarity. Sean Matgamna, editor of Socialist Organiser in the period described, talked to Solidarity. We have serious political differences with Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. But Corbyn has the record of an honorable, serious left-winger, who - unlike many others who had some association with Socialist Organiser in the 1980s - did not change his coat in the years of Blair's New Labour...

Hatton’s no glory days

Derek Hatton used to be famous. In the mid-1980s he was the chief figure in Liverpool’s Labour council, embattled against the Tories. Formally deputy leader of the council, he was able to be the main public figure because he was promoted by the Militant group (forerunner of the Socialist Party), which then had decisive influence in the Liverpool labour movement. His record was shameful. After a series of show mobilisations, the Liverpool council dialled down their campaign. At a crucial point in the miners’ strike, the council left the miners in the lurch. Hatton did a deal with the Tories to...

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