Against imperialism and war
in ‘Red Ellen’ Wilkinson
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Wilkinson's approach to imperialism and war provides significant insight into her political ideas. For much of the interwar period, she perceived a causal link between imperialism—which she understood as a product of late capitalism—and war. This was clearly a Marxist analysis rather than a feminist or Fabian one. Her opposition to these connected phenomena led her to participate in movements against war (No More War Movement, PPU, WILPF, IPC) and against colonial oppression (LAI, India League, Meerut Prisoners, CCC). Her support for these movements superseded her doctrinal differences with both pacifists and anti-colonial nationalists in her commitment to social mobilisation to effect change. Her approach to these matters also reveals a drift and transition in her political ideas. In late 1936 in response to appeasement, her ideas started to drift away from a Marxist position and she underwent a transformation in 1940. After that point, she gave enthusiastic support not only for the war but also for the interests of the Empire. Where war was concerned, she moved from an anti-militarist and radical pacifist position to an acceptance of war and a legalist solution to it in the shape of the United Nations.

‘Red Ellen’ Wilkinson

Her ideas, movements and world

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