Who were the working class?
- Workers who earned living through manual labour.
- Earned wages through working for others.
- 1918 75% - 80% of population in Britain working class.
- In this period working class became aware of solidarity with other working classes, regardless of occupation.
- Identified with workers nationwide, not just in own town or region.
- Became aware of class conflict, exploited by employers and employers were now opponents.
- Real wages failing to meet rise in living costs and Britain’s wealth.
- Formed by workers to get better deals from employers.
- Better pay, shorter hours and 19th century unions, also working conditions and who could and could not do work.
- Before 1850 trade ‘model’ unions small groups of skilled workers existing to help members and run saving schemes.
- By 1914 4 million workers in trade unions.
- Organised mass strike, commanded attention of employers, newspapers and government.
- These aimed at recruiting members of less skilled trades
- Many had not previously been in unions
- Charge lower subscription fee than ‘model’ unions to entice more members and from lower paid jobs
- More militant than the ‘model’ unions, possibly because led by active socialists
- However, also because less skilled workers were thought easier to lay off than skilled
- Employers were unwilling to negotiate with unskilled, consequently actions by unskilled workers became more aggressive and troublesome
Why did the new unions become more militant?
- Real wages failing to rise on equal terms to inflation
- Trade boom increased unions bargaining power before World War I
- Unemployment fell to just 2.1% in 1908-13
- Education acts in 1870,1876 and 1880 had introduced compulsory education
- Workers were now better educated and aware of rights and ability to bargain
- Many factories were getting larger, fewer workers now knew their employer
- Easier to ask for a rise from someone you know little about than a life long employer
- Taff Vale case was replaced by 1906 Trade Disputes Act
- Picketing could now include trying to persuade others to strike
- Trade unions could now not be challenged in courts
- 30 Labour Members of Parliament in Parliament after 1906 election, however, many workers were displeased with what they had achieved since gaining their seats
- Argued that strikes were needed to bring about a socialist society
Employers’ reaction to new trade unions
- Formed associations to give support to one another
- Used the law to their advantage
- Invariably won court battles against unions
- Confirmed belief amongst trade unions that they needed representation in politics
- This party would represent the working class and trade unions
- They would be in a position to change laws to benefit the workers
TAFF VALE 1901- huge turning point
The emergence of the Labour party
- The question should not be how did the Labour Party come to being in 1906, but why did it take so long?
- The working class had been involved in politics since the earliest expansion of the franchise to include working class in 1815
- The 1867 and 1884 Reform acts had extended the vote to large numbers of working class men
- Both Liberals and Conservatives sought to win over the votes of the working class
- However, neither were willing to allow the working class extended political power
- As Members of Parliament had to fund their own position it was impossible for many working class to stand as Members
- The Liberals were still committed to free trade, allowing only minimum of government interference in the market
- The unions therefore found it difficult to believe that the Liberals were the party of the people as they would want them to believe
- The Liberals accepted working class men as parliamentary candidates in certain areas
- However, there were only 11 Lib-Lab Members of Parliament by 1900
Why was the Labour party so slow to develop?
- The existing parties were popular with the voters
- Both Conservatives and Liberals had large working class support
- Many people voted on religion rather than class
- Non-Conformists Liberal and Anglican Conservative
- Many workers were not interested in politics or socialism
- Many workers were more interested in their pastimes rather than getting involved in politics
- Many were respectful of the existing system and accepted it rather than rebelling against it
- British governments treated trade unions well and respectfully compared to their foreign counterparts
- Labour candidates worked through existing parties
- Many early labour representation league candidates ran as Liberal Members of Parliament
From 1888 this situation began to change
- Disappointed with Liberals
- Increasing success for trade union movement
- The emergence of charismatic working class leaders
- Led to the foundation of the Independent Labour Party
The Independent Labour Party
The Bradford Conference 1893
- In 1890-91 there had been a strike in the Bradford area in the silk and textiles industries
- Employers had worked together to defeat the strike
- The unions worked together to help the strikers
- The workers lost
- However, the experience had created strong support for political action
- Many saw the need for a strong and independent Labour Party
- The Bradford conference drew together various socialist factions
- The Scottish Labour Party (Keir Hardie), Trade Union representatives, Social Democratic federation (SDF), Fabians and labour club representatives
- The main aim of the delegates was to create a party where socialists and trade unions could work together and get Labour candidates into parliament
- They deliberately called themselves a Labour party rather than a socialist party to draw as much support as possible from trade unions
What did the ILP achieve?
- Provided a social life for people, set up Sunday schools and clubs
- Its Leader, Keir Hardie, was a charismatic dominant figure
- Preached of a better life under socialism
- Members worked tirelessly in trade unions
- Achieved more influence in the unions
- Co-operated with Liberals in local areas
- Many members were elected onto local councils, school boards
- Overall grew in size, began to get elected at local level
- Most importantly gained authority with trade unions
The Labour Representation Committee 1900
- ILP leaders knew trade unions were of great importance to them
- The trade unions were now more aware of a need for political representation
- The unions wanted laws introducing 8 hour working days and extension of picketing rights
- This meant getting Members elected into Parliament
- The Trade Union Congress (TUC), ILP, SDF and Fabians met at a conference arranged by Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald
- They all had differing views but concentrated on organisation not policy details
- They drew up an agreement for ‘a distinct Labour Group who shall have their own officials and agree upon policy’
- They would cooperate with any party willing to promote legislation in the direct interests of Labour
What did the LRC achieve?
- The group was a federation of different groups, not yet a single party
- Trade unions provided money to fund LRC candidates
- Only 2 Members got into Parliament after the 1900 election
- To be more effective the LRC needed funds and election workers, the trade unions were the only organisation large enough to provide both
- In 1901 the LRC had 353,000 affiliated members through trade unions
- After Taff Vale this had risen to 850,000
- Taff Vale helped gain members through the decision to make trade unions liable for damages after strike action
Lib-Lab Pact 1906 election
- Semi-secret agreement between Labour and Liberals
- Candidates from both parties would stand down in opposition to one another if the other candidate was more likely to win
- This would help gain victory over Conservatives as the voters would be more likely to vote Liberal or Labour
- 29 LRC candidates were elected, 24 of them had no opposition from Liberals
- Impossible to know if LRC candidates would have been elected without pact
- However, undoubtedly helped gain support
What did the Labour Party achieve 1906-14
- Labour Party title adopted in 1906, after general election all those sitting specifically to represent working class interests agreed to act as single party
- Miners did not merge until 1908, when the party’s political power shifted to greater
- Trade disputes act 1906, shows Labour influence over Liberals
- Changed law to protect trade unions and strikers in reversal of Taff vale decision
- Education provision of meals act 1906
- Brought forward by newly elected Labour Member of Parliament and adopted by Liberals
Labour party 1906-14
- Broadly based organisation
- No clear commitment to full programme of socialism
- Divisions in the Labour party ran deep
- The ILP still remained separate identity within the party
- Dispute over female suffrage caused divisions
- Working class men were generally amongst the least sympathetic to the idea
- More committed socialist (Keir Hardie) were in favour of female votes
- Fielded only 70 candidates through fear of financial problems resulting from Osborne judgement
- 40 labour Members of Parliament elected, all from areas where no Liberal stood
- After 1910 elections the Irish Nationals became the focus of Liberal legislations
- Before became dependent of Irish, New Liberals had been sympathetic to those seen as natural allies against Conservatives
- Now as Liberals lost majority moved away from natural concerns of Labour party and moved towards Irish question
Osborne Judgement 1909
- Set back for Labour party
- House of Lords judges decide trade unions have no legal right to use its funds for political purposes
- Undermined Labour party funding
- Seen by working class as attack on Labour movement
Trade Union Act 1913
- Major boost
- Asquith’s government pass bill which gave unions right to use subscriptions to fund political parties
Overall...Was Labour making progress before 1914?
- Liberals needed Lib-Lab Pact as much as Labour in order to control growing threat of Labour movement
- Powerful trade unions were abandoning Liberals and turning to Labour
- Liberals introduced some reforms under pressure from Labour, School meal and pensions
- Payment of Members of Parliament Act 1911 gave working class opportunity to stand for parliament
- Membership had risen from 375,000 in 1900 to 1.5 million in 1910
- Organisation and funding had risen dramatically along with trade union involvement in party
- Labour only got 42 Members of Parliament in 1910 through Lib-Lab pact
- Only gained seats where Liberals did not stand
- Labour too closely linked with Liberals, had no single identity
- Labour not pursuing policies to help working class
- Supported Home Rule rather than campaigning for improved living standards
- Liberals established as party of social reforms