The Rise Of The Labour Party Had

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The Rise Of The Labour Party Had More To Do With Class Consciousness Than Socialism Discuss Essay, Research Paper The Rise of the Labour Party had more to do with class consciousness than socialism. Discuss. The British Labour party is essentially a twentieth century phenomenon, which came in this century to essentially take the place of the Liberals as the main opposition to the traditionally strong forces of conservatism. The question which is to be addressed then is how and why this change came about, and whether this was mainly to do with the increasing popularity of socialism as a political creed or whether it was based on much wider social and class issues. Certainly many working class people were becoming disturbed at the striking contrast between the poverty of the

poor and the comfortable existence enjoyed by the upper and middle classes. However what remains to be addressed is whether most of these people saw the solutions to these problems in socialist terms or simply regarded them as issues which should be addressed, regardless or not of any socialist objective. It is an oversimplication to talk about the rise of the Labour Party as if it were a single homogenous body. In fact it was an amalgamation of three different socialist groups the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabians and the Independent Labour Party with some trade unions. Although these groups were all described as Socialist, their aims and methods were not always the same. This distinction is crucial in understanding the importance of socialism in the rise of the Labour

Party. The Social Democratic Federation was a short lived organisation vehemently socialist party who preached using violent revolution to overthrow the capitalist system. It never enjoyed popular support but attracted publicity through its protest marches and demonstrations, the most famous being the one held in Trafalgar Square in 1887 which came to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the violence which ensued. It had little importance in the actual rise of the Labour movement, because though preaching rigid socialism did not appeal to those it actually intended to represent. The Fabian Society was also strongly socialist, though not violent, and it too made little impression on the working classes. It consisted of a group of middle-class intellectuals which included Sydney

and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw. Their benevolence was evident and much of their work was admired in upper and middle class circles, but they too failed to identify with the working class who after all were the ones they intended to help. It clear then that the earliest socialist groups had very little to do with the gradual rise of the Labour Party. It was to be the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893 which was perhaps the most important initial element. It was not ideologically rigid, and some of its leaders, notably Keir Hardie, deliberately embraced the strategy of a labour alliance. This stressed the importance of socialists joining trade unionists to form a distinct working class party which, though not committed to socialist objectives, would be

independent of the Liberal and Conservative parties. This would clearly seem to demonstrate that there was definite feeling that it was not merely socialism that was important in the growth of a Labour movement but the development of a party who represented the working class. The ILP was not highly successful in itself only ever attracting a small membership and no real electoral success in the elections of 1895, but its greatest importance was perhaps in spreading socialist ideas and acquiring a good deal of support within the union hierarchy. It was indeed class consciousness and a need for independent representation of the working classes and not socialism which led to the formation of the first large body to demand representation of the working classes in Parliament. In 1899