A distinctive politics?
in English radicalism in the twentieth century
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This chapter summarises the main themes of twentieth-century English radicalism: freedom of thought, speech and assembly; and equality, economically and materially, but also politically and socially. There has also been a belief in the ‘common people’ and the importance of ‘human agency’ in the historical and political process. All those studied in this book have been advocates of extra-parliamentary, popular social movements and of the moral bases of such movements. English radicals have believed passionately that capitalism is an untenable, irrational and immoral system. But they have also held that revolutionary, insurrectionary politics was not a viable position, at least in the context of twentieth-century Britain. New social movements in the early twenty first century – notably the environmentalist campaigns – have buttressed the belief in the necessity for social-movement activism, in addition to ‘orthodox’ political party involvements. ‘Populism’ and ‘identity’ politics have also added to the complexity of the radical environment, and these dimensions to the radical context are also discussed, not least the (different) dangers they represent to radical perspectives and culture. There thus remain challenges for English radicalism in the future: but the tradition remains both relevant, indeed vital, if progressive change is to be achieved.

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