British Labour movement

Clause4 700Ever since the formation of the Labour Party in 1900, there has been controversy on the left over whether or not to participate in the party. To develop a correct understanding of this question, it is important to look at the experience of the past. Our task is to learn from history in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes. History, after all, is littered with the wreckage of small sectarian groups who attempted to mould the workers’ movement into its preconceived plans and failed.

Different “Marxist” groups have made one mistake after another on this key question. Towards the end of the 1960s, a number of left groups abandoned work in the Labour Party in disgust at the counter-reforms of the then Labour government. They wrote off the party and set about building their own independent revolutionary parties, ignoring everything that had been written on the importance of the mass organisations. The more isolated they were, the more ultra-left they became. Rather than connect with the real movement, they continually sought to tear the advanced workers away from the mass. They saw their prime task as to “expose” the leadership through shrill denunciation. This has been the hallmark of all these different sectarian groups. With such antics they end up playing into the hands and reinforcing the position of the right-wing leaders.

— From Britain: Marxism and the Labour Party – Some important lessons for today

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the death of John Maclean. Maclean was an outstanding figure. He was Britain's most famous Marxist propagandist and revolutionary organiser. At great personal cost, he hailed the Bolshevik Revolution and fought hard to promote the world socialist revolution. The following article gives a glimpse of his life, commitment and contribution to the workers' movement.

Barbara Humphries looks at the conflicting tendencies within the British Labour Party on the question of war. It is clear that the rank and file members of the party have always tended towards opposition to war, while the leadership has swung the other way. At times, however, the opposition has been so strong that it has limited the ability of the Labour leadership to put all its weight behind war efforts such as the US war on Vietnam.

The killing of two Spanish reporters during the war in Iraq stirred public opinion in Spain and it increased the anger that the working class and youth feel towards the present right-wing Aznar government. Above all, the case of Jose Couso, a reporter of the Tele 5 TV channel, which is believed to have been a case of blatant murder carried out with a deliberate action on the part of an American tank, underlined the brutality of the invading forces and has put Aznar in a very delicate position. The Spanish Marxist journal, El Militante, interviewed Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the British NUJ (National Union of Journalists), on the war

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This is the first of a series of articles on the history of the British Labour Party. These articles will help workers and youth to get a greater understanding of what the Labour Party is and what the attitude of Marxists to it should be. In this article we look at how the Party emerged from the struggles of the working class towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party with a look at the experience of the first two Labour governments. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 49 March 1997.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party. 1945 marked a watershed for Labour and for British society. The Labour Party won an historic victory, with a 146-seat majority over all other parties. It was won on the most radical election manifesto, before or since. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 50 April 1997.

In this last article in her series on the History of the Labour Party, Barbara Humphries looks at how the turn to the left in the 1970s was cut across and how the present Blairite clique came to dominate the party, and draws the lessons for today's activists. The present turn to the right is nothing new in the party's history. As in the past it will be followed by a turn to the left.

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the British Communist Party. As a result we are publishing the following article on the early years of the Communist Party.

Alan Woods writes an obituary of Olwyn Hughes, a Welsh miner whose political life went back to the period during and just after the War, when he first got active in politics, first in the Young Communist League, and then in the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party.

The Labour Party and the trade unions remained defiant in the face of the 1931 general election defeat. The 1932 Annual Conference of the Party was told that "when the dust of battle had settled, an army of nearly 7 million men and women had rallied with unflinching loyalty and resolute determination to withstand the supreme attack of the combined forces of reaction…Labour refused to yield and at the end remained on the battleground a united formidable compact force that was the admiration of the working class movements of all countries. This augurs well for the future."

In this article in our series on the history of the British Labour party, Barbara Humphries looks at the early years of Labour in parliament and how the development of the class struggle forced the leaders of the party to make the final break with Liberalism. (Originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 48, February 1997).

Following on from our first introductory article on the founding years of the British Labour Party, Barbara Humphries continues her series of articles that look at the issues and characters involved in the British Labour Party’s history and development. This was originally published in November 1996 in the British Socialist Appeal.

In the light of recent developments in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) we are publishing a document written by Ted Grant back in 1992 which already outlined the roots of the present crisis in the SSP. Ted explained that the concessions the leaders of the then SML (later to become SSP) were making to Scottish nationalism would lead to a disaster. Time has proven him correct.

The end of the war brought about an entirely novel situation in Europe, presenting the Marxists with difficult and unforeseen theoretical problems. The revolutionary wave in Western Europe did indeed manifest itself in the election of left governments and the strident demands of the workers for concrete reforms and social change. But the full impact of the workers' movement was blunted by the Communist and Socialist Party leaderships, acting as a brake on developments. The precise characterisation of the post-war regimes in Western Europe and the perspectives for these countries were the subjects of intense debate within the Trotskyist movement.

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