Labour Party history

Articles about the history of the British Labour Party

Gaddafi’s Foreign Legion to Knight’s Rescue (1981)

(This article was the subject of a five-year long libel case brought by the WRP in the name of the actress Vanessa Redgrave against its author, Sean Matgamna, and John Bloxham, who had repeated some of it in a circular letter to supporters of Socialist Organiser. The libel case collapsed when the WRP imploded at the end of 1985.)

SOMETHING strange and nasty happened at the "Local Government in Crisis" conference. Gerry Healy’s so-called Workers Revolutionary Party turned up to support Ted Knight and rent and rate rises.

This article was the subject of a five-year long libel case brought by the WRP in the name of the actress Vanessa Redgrave against.....

Marxist Theory and History: 

"The Old Left Continues To Rot" (1994)

THE "George-Galloway-loves-Saddam-Hussein" affair gave the Tories a
brief respite from their own scandals and sensational revelations last
week.

THE "George-Galloway-loves-Saddam-Hussein" affair

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

The Old Left Continues To Rot (1994)

THE "George-Galloway-loves-Saddam-Hussein" affair gave the Tories a
brief respite from their own scandals and sensational revelations last
week.

THE "George-Galloway-loves-Saddam-Hussein" affair

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Workers of Ireland! (By the author of "The Red Flag")

[To the tune of O'Donnell Abú]
Workers of Ireland
Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Workers of Ireland!

[To the tune of O'Donnell Abú]
Workers of Ireland
Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Workers of Ireland!

[To the tune of O'Donnell Abú]
Workers of Ireland
Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag, published this song in Jim Larkin's paper, the Irish Worker, in 1911. It goes to the tune of O'Donnell Abú

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Vladimir Derer, campaigner for Labour Party democracy

Vladimir Derer who was the leading figure in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) for forty years after its foundation in 1973 has died at the age of 94.

Although almost unknown other than amongst Labour activists, he was the Labour left’s leading strategist at the height of its influence in the 1970s and 1980s.His strategic vision made CLPD, the most effective organisation on the Labour left through to the New Labour years and the present.

Vladimir Derer, the leading figure in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy from its foundation in 1973, has died at the age of 94.

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Tony Benn, 1925-2014

(The author worked with Benn and others to set up the Rank and File Mobilising Committee, which for a while united most of the Labour Party left, at the start of the 1980s.)

The first thing that should be said and remembered about Tony Benn, who died on Friday 14 March, is that for over four decades he backed, defended, and championed workers in conflict with their bosses or with the "boss of bosses", the government.

An analysis of the political career of Tony Benn who died on 14 March.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

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Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Trade Unions: 

Gerry Healy and "Orthodox Trotskyism in Britain in the 1950s

Gerry Healy, the main leader of the "Cannonites", or "Orthodox Trotskyists" in Britain during the 1950s is justly discredited because of the antics of the "WRP" in the last phase of his life. The memory of the earlier Healy, who had the guts, determination and conviction to hold some of the Trotskyists together in the general semi-collapse at the end of the 1940s, and afterwards, does not deserve to be buried under the later Healy. - Sean Matgamna.

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

How could Thatcher have been beaten? (Workers' Liberty London Forum)

Date: 

24 April, 2013 - 19:00 to 21:00

Location: 

University of London Union (ULU), Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY

Description: 

Speaker: John Bloxam

Facebook event here.

Margaret Thatcher, one of the British ruling class's greatest ever fighters, died on Monday 8 April.

Widely reviled for policies that inflicted misery on working-class people at home and abroad, she reshaped British society in the interests of capital and, by breaking the power of organised labour, established a political consensus that remains dominant today.

But her victory wasn't inevitable. If, for example, the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS) had joined the National Union of Mineworkers on strike in 1984-85, the miners' strike could have ended very differently. And if the Labour Party and the TUC could have been forced into mobilising real support for the miners, the entire government would have been threatened.

Those key turning points are often less well-known than the outcome of the big struggles. We discuss the moments at which Thatcher could have beaten, why she wasn't, and what they tell us about the kind of movement we need to win.

Downloadable/copyable leaflet below.

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

How workers' action freed the Pentonville Five

It is July 1972. With the union leaders safely in talks with [Tory Prime Minister] Heath and knuckling under to his Industrial Relations Act (IRA), the Tories now went for the real union power on the docks: the rank and file.

Vic Turner, one of the "Pentonville Five" (dockers jailed for union activity) died in December 2012. This article, from Workers' Liberty magazine 1997, tells the story of the incredible upsurge of working-class militancy that freed Vic and his comrades.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Resources for "New Unionism: how workers can fight back"

Resources, including a reading pack, for the 18 February 2012 dayschool "New Unionism: how workers can fight back".

Resources, including a reading pack, for the 18 February 2012 dayschool "New Unionism: how workers can fight back"

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Newcastle Workers' Liberty public meeting: Guilty and Proud of it! Poplars Rebel Councillors (with Janine Booth)

Date: 

5 October, 2011 - 21:00 to 23:00

Location: 

The Settle Down Cafe, Thornton Street, NE1 4AW (5 mins from Central Station)

Description: 

Janine Booth (Worker Liberty and RMT activist) will introduce the story of Poplar Rebel Councillors and Guardians (and you'll be able to buy a copy of the book as well)
The meeting will include projection with photos of the events, Settle Down Cafe will also we serving drinks, cakes, food and the like. The venue is on ground floor with one or two steps.
In the aftermath of the First World War, thirty Labour councillors went to prison rather than accepting inequitable taxes.
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With unemployment rising in 1921 in Bow, Limehouse, Millwall and Old Ford, Poplar Borough Council could not help provide relief drawing only on the limited wealth of one poor London borough.
Poplar councillors, including future labour leader George Lansbury, demanded that rates from richer areas should help.
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Workers Liberty North East, will be holding monthly public meetings from now on. Contact us newcastle@workersliberty.org if you want to be on our mailing list, and we will keep you informed

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

What Is a Marxist Perspective?

What We Are And What We Must Become [SECTION 3]

VULGAR MATERIALISM AND PLATONIC PERSPECTIVES

By Rachel Lever, Phil Semp and Sean Matgamna

A critique of the politics and "Perspectives" of the Militant Tendency [July 1966]

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

Julia Scurr: a fighter for every poor woman

Poverty and all its associated miseries can crush and starve the human spirit, but it can also be the kindle that starts raging fires in individuals and movements. Julia Scurr (née O’Sullivan) was born into, grew up with, and lived with poverty and all the miseries it lavishly spreads so freely; but crush and starve her it did not.

Politically active from her late teens, she fought tirelessly against the ills and injustices of capitalism until her early death (at the age of 54) in 1927.

Julia Scurr (née O’Sullivan) was politically active from her late teens, fighting the injustices of capitalism, until her early death aged 54 in 1927.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Labour youth organise

A Young Labour activist writes about the left's attempts to fight Blairite influence within Labour's youth wing. Also included is a review of Roy Porter's London: A social history.

Click here to download article as pdf.

Click here to download pdf.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

The militant working-class suffragist

“Women do not want their political power to enable them to boast that they are on equal terms with the men. They want to use it for the same purpose as men – to get better conditions. Every woman in England is longing for her political freedom in order to make the lot of the worker pleasanter and to bring about reforms which are wanted. We do not want it as a mere plaything…”

(Selina Cooper, Wigan Observer 1906)

Born into a working class family in 1864 and a millworker from the age of 12, Selina Cooper was a trade unionist, suffragist and socialist in the north of England who fought for better conditions for women in the workplace.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

The story of Clay Cross

In 1972, the Tory government told local councils to implement the “Housing Finance Act”, designed to claw in a bit of extra money by increasing council tenants’ rents. The context was in some ways similar to that of today — an aggressively pro-profit, anti-worker Tory government seeking to make working-class people pay for economic instability created by capitalism itself.

Two articles from Workers' Fight in 1973 on the different response of two Labour councils to the Tories Housing Finance Act — Clay Cross in Derbyshire and Bolton in Lancashire.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

A working-class feminist on Islington Council

In 1982, Pat successfully stood in St. George’s ward for election to Islington borough council. Socialist Organiser, the predecessor of Workers’ Liberty, was active in the Labour Party at the time. The following extract is taken from an interview with Pat from Socialist Organiser No. 83, May 6 1982. As workers again face a Tory government seeking to make savage cuts, our class will need councillors like Pat who will argue for councils to refuse to pass on the cuts that Tory central government wants them to make.

In 1982, Pat Longman, a longtime member of the AWL who died recently, was elected to Islington council. Here we reprint an extract from an interview with Pat in our paper 'Socialist Organiser' at the time.

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

The Labour Party now! By Jim Connell, author of "The Red Flag" (Verse)

Author: 

Jim Connell

The turncoats and renegades, like "the poor", are always with us, shadows the Socialist Movement leaves behind as it goes on its way, as Jim Connell noted over a hundred years ago. Jim Connell, who wrote "The Red Flag", was an Irish Fenian, member of the first Marxist organisation in Britain, the Social Democratic Federation, of the Independent Labour Party and of the Labour Party. He died in 1928. He may have had in mind here John Burns, the Marxist 1889 London docks strike leader and later, after 1906, Liberal Government Minister.

THE CANDIDATE

The turncoats and renegades, like "the poor", are always with us, shadows the socialist movement leaves behind as it goes on its way, as Jim Connell noted over a hundred years ago...

Marxist Theory and History: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Illusions of Power: The Labour Left, Local Government, and the Challenge of Thatcherism After 1979

Author: 

Mick O'Sullivan and Martin Thomas
The tragic, leson-rich story of the Labour Local Government Left — Ken Livingstone, David Blunkett, Margaret Hodge, Ted Knight, etc. — who took "local power"and then collapsed ignominiously in face of the Thatcherite offensive against the working class and the Labour Movement.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

THE BLUE ROSE OF FORGETFULNESS

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

THE BLUE ROSE OF FORGETFULNESS
The Kinnock Rose is blooming now
In Thatcher's shadow trained to grow:
It signifies apostacy,

---------------------------

An anonymous "young Labour MP" told
Radio 4's"Today" programme that the Red Flag
should be rewritten as "The Red Rose"

Neil Kinnock's Labour Party

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Trade Unions: 

Marxists and mass workers’ parties

Author: 

Karl Kautsky

Evolving out of the trade unions, adopting a formal commitment to socialism only in 1918, two decades after its formation, the Labour Party puzzled and perplexed European Marxists. It was accepted into membership of the Socialist International in 1908 on the grounds that it fought the class struggle even though it did not “recognise” it and was independent. Karl Kautsky, the leading Marxist of the time, wrote a resolution to that effect.

Evolving out of the trade unions, adopting a formal commitment to socialism only in 1918, two decades after its formation, the Labour Party puzzled and perplexed European Marxists.

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Left unity in the 1890s

Author: 

Cathy Nugent

From the mid-1890s, British socialists tried to unite under one umbrella. Tom Mann, as Secretary of the Independent Labour Party, was at the centre of the negotiations and debates that took place between the ILP and the Social Democratic Federation. These moves, popular with the members, were scuppered by the leaderships, mainly that of the ILP.

Left unity was an inevitable question thrown up by the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. Why were there separate organisations of socialists, asked the members. Shouldn’t the groups merge, fuse or federate?

Cathy Nugent continues a series about early British socialism

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

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