Rise of the Labour Party
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The Origins of the Labour Party 1890-1906

  • Socialist revival - renewed interests in principles of socialism - marked by founding of political groups dedicated to socialist ideas
  • 1840s political movement known as chartists emerged - demanded political rights for all men & fairer distribution of wealth
  • Late 1840s chartism collapse - appeal of socialism & working class protest died

Why in 1880 the ideas of socialism and the idea Britain needed a separate working class to be considered

  • Das Kapital, Capital - the ideas of Karl Marx  published and translated into english in the 1870s. Marx was German revolutionary - advanced idea that human society operated according to scientific principles - behaviour of humans determined by social laws that could be studied and applied - human behaviour was class struggle
  • 1870 economic slumps - w/c badley affected
  • 1867 reform act - more working-class men able to vote
  • Material conditions of w/c improving - gap between them, m/c and u/c continued increasing
  • Although they tried neither the conservatives or the liberals appealed and were accepted by the working classes

Formation of political groups


SDF (Social democratic Federation) - 1884

  • Marxist group
  • Aim to promote class hostility
  • Wanted revolution - take over political power
  • Founded by ex-Tory Hydman who converted to Marxism after reading 'Das Kapital'

Fabians - 1884

  • Group of middle-class intellectuals
  • Favoured working towards socialism through parliamentary system
  • Name from roman general who preferred patient sieges to bloody military battles
  • Founded by George Bernard Shaw
  • Co-founder, Sidney Webb wrote 'Labour and New Social Order'

The Socialist League

  • Offshoot of SDF
  • Marxist tone
  • Agreed with Handyman of of SDF that revolution only way to bring socialism
  • Founded by William Morris

Marxist: followers of the ideas of Karl Marx, who argues that revolution was required to overthrow capitalism and create a classless socialist society

Capitalist System: Economic system based on private ownership of land and resources and driven by the need to make profit

Socialism: A social and economic system in which private property in all forms are abolished and the means of production and distribution of wealth are owned by the community as a whole

Class struggle: a continuing conflict at every stage of history between those who possessed economic and political power and those who didn't


Labour Party Timeline

  • 1893 - Keir Hardie, a Scottish miner who had been elected MP for West Ham, set up the Independent Labour Party - a socialist propaganda society.
  • 1900 - the Trades Union Congress set up the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) - with Ramsay MacDonald as secretary - to support working-class candidates in elections.
  • 1903 - the LRC agreed with the Liberal Party that only one candidate (Liberal or Labour) should stand in each seat against the Conservatives in the next election.
  • 1906 - 29 LRC-sponsored candidates won seats in the election and set up as a separate party in Parliament. They called themselves The Labour Party. One Labour MP - John Burns - was invited by the Liberal government to join the Cabinet the first Labour minister.
  • 1910 - 42 Labour MPs were elected, and the Liberal government needed the Labour Party to support it.
  • 1914-1918 - during the war, the Party struggled, because Labour members disagreed about whether to oppose or support the war.
  • 1918 - the Party reorganised itself, adopted a new constitution and published a manifesto - Labour and the New Social Order - which advocated nationalisation of industry and the redistribution of wealth. The Labour Party won 63 seats in the 1918 election.
  • 1922 - the Labour Party won 142 seats in the election.
  • 1924 - in the election the Conservatives won 258 seats, Labour 191 and the Liberals 158. Labour and the Liberals formed a coalition government with Ramsay MacDonald as the first Labour prime minister.

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