Labour Party history

A poundshop Lloyd George?

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2019 - 11:19

Colin Foster

“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

Published on: Wed, 17/07/2019 - 08:51

Sean Matgamna

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

Published on: Wed, 27/02/2019 - 12:41

Gerry Bates

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

A heroine of Poplar

Published on: Wed, 16/01/2019 - 11:09

Ian Townson

Minnie Lansbury was one of the rebel Labour councillors of Poplar (East London) who in 1921 forced the Tory¬Liberal coalition government to start central government payments to equalise resources between councils in poor and in well¬off areas.

Janine Booth’s biography of Lansbury is rich in detail about her life; working¬class conditions at the time; and much more. It is a solid achievement given the scarcity of material available on Lansbury to work on.

Lansbury’s parents were impoverished Jews from Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, and had fled to the East End of London to

Minnie Lansbury — a different sort of Labour councillor

Published on: Wed, 28/02/2018 - 12:35

A meeting organised by Lewisham Workers’ Liberty Wednesday 28 March, 7.30 Amersham Arms, New Cross.

Minnie Lansbury was only 32 when she died in 1922, but she had a full and inspiring life.

She was one of the Poplar Labour councillors who carried out extensive reforms in the interests of the borough’s working class and, when the council began to struggle financially, led a mass campaign for poor boroughs to receive more funding.

Defying the Tory-Liberal coalition government, she went to prison as a result along with 29 other councillors (including four other women). They won!

Before that she

The story of Votes for Women

Published on: Wed, 14/02/2018 - 13:06

Jill Mountford

The first leaflet in Britain to “insist” on woman’s suffrage was written in 1847 by a prominent woman Chartist, Anne Knight. Seventy years later women over 30, with certain property qualifications, were granted the right to vote as part of the Representation of the Peoples Act in February 1918.

The fight for women’s suffrage is best known for the militant campaign waged by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and conducted for almost a decade from 1905 to 1914. However, the history of the fight for women’s suffrage goes way beyond those militant nine years and the activities of the

Learning the lessons of the Labour left

Published on: Wed, 31/01/2018 - 12:57

Will Sefton

A Party with Socialists in it: a History of the Labour Left (Pluto Press 2018) by Simon Hannah.

Clarion editor Simon Hannah has produced a well written and concise history of the Labour left from the party’s inception through to the present day.

In 270 pages the book deals with over 120 years of history in quick-fire fashion. It is a useful resource for people on Labour’s Marxist and reformist left. It the first book to try to describe the contradictions and struggles of the Labour left as it enters a phase where a lifelong backbench rebel and obscure Labour left activist could become Prime

Illusions of Power: The lessons of last time round

Published on: Wed, 06/12/2017 - 12:09

Keith Road

In the early 1980s, many Labour councils were committed to defy Tory cuts. Sadly, every single one of these councils backed down in the end. There are many lessons to be learned from that defeat.

Today business rates are set by, and channelled through, central government. In the 1980s, councils set and collected rates levied on local businesses. They had more scope to offset central government cuts through these tax-raising powers. In that context many argued that this tax-raising was progressive and redistributive.

Socialist Organiser (Solidarity's predeccessor newspaper) argued against

The Russian revolution and the British left

Published on: Wed, 31/05/2017 - 10:46

Chris Mathews

It is February 1917. A large crowd are gathered to hear socialists and pacifists denounce the war. As the speeches start the snow begins fall... The hundreds who assembled that snowy night, looking like a scene out of Dr Zhivago, were not in Petrograd 1917 but in Waterfoot, Rossendale. The rally held that snowy evening was to support the candidature of Albert Taylor, a local anti-war trade union leader and member of the British Socialist Party (BSP) in a parliamentary by-election; the campaign on his behalf (he had been imprisoned at the request of the Liberal party agent) was a coalition of

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