How the Communist Party of Great Britain discovered punk rock
This chapter demonstrates how and why a section of the Young Communist League (YCL) came to embrace punk as a signal of youthful revolt at least somewhat in tune with the objectives of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). It considers the party's debate on youth culture as a means to expose tensions that served both to enliven but also to fragment the left over the later twentieth century. The Socialist Workers' Party's support for and involvement in Rock Against Racism have, understandably, overshadowed the CPGB's more piecemeal interaction with punk-associated cultures. But while YCL members may not have seized the initiative as decisively as others on the left, some revealed themselves attuned to punk's early stirrings and engaged in wider debate as to the youth cultural changes over the later 1970s.
The Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the opinion of ILP members
This chapter argues that the Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party (ILP) disaffiliation debate was a continuing theme throughout the inter-war years and not just confined to the years 1929-32. Historians have generally agreed that the ILP's disaffiliation in 1932 was a product of the tensions that had been developing since the end of the First World War. The 1918 Labour Party constitution committing Labour to socialism, 'Socialism in Our Time' and The Living Wage, as well as personal conflict, conspired to ensure that the ILP pushed forward to disaffiliation in its attempt to speed up the move to socialism. The ILP's 1932 Easter conference discussed disaffiliation but delayed making a decision. The breaking of the ILP's link with Labour led to the further collapse of ILP membership and the complete reshaping of Scottish Labour politics, in which the ILP had been the powerful player.
This chapter examines George Howell's historical writings and considers how far these reflected his political views and shaped his contemporary reputation. The extent of Howell's emotional investment in his historical writing is evident in his diaries and unpublished autobiography. Howell dissected each review, for example from the Daily Chronicle, the Atheneum, the Daily News and the Manchester Guardian. The historical section of the 1891 Trade Unionism New and Old was shorter than The Conflicts of Capital and Labour, the bulk of the later work being devoted to analysing the new unionism of the 1880s. Howell's concept of trade unions 'as successors to the old gilds' is open to criticism on a number of grounds. In the official biography of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Howell's historical efforts were swatted aside as 'simply a plagiarism from Lujo Brentano'.
Professor Christopher Wrigley has been a leading authority on British labour and trade union history, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century British history more generally, with much of his writing in the form of biography. Chris was a Labour member of Leicestershire County Council between 1981 and 1989, acting as Labour Chief Whip in 1985 and 1986, and leader of the Labour group between 1986 and 1989. He was also a Labour member of Charnwood Borough Council between 1983 and 1987, acting as deputy leader of the Labour group. The ubiquitous nature of Chris's work makes it difficult to encompass all of his research interests into one volume of essays. Although Chris has written extensively on the British Labour Party, the co-operative movement and May Days, and co-edited Britain's Second Labour Government, 1929-31, much of his work has been presented through the prism of biographical history.
This book reflects upon the wide range of Chris Wrigley's research and publications in the study of the various aspects of British labour history. It presents a set of themes revolving around the British labour movement and the lives of those connected with it. The book begins with a discussion on biography in the shape of George Howell's work on trade unions and presents Herbert Gladstone's view that the unions emerged from the medieval workers guilds. Chris was also interested in political figures connected with progressivism and the labour movement, which is reflected in the examination of Gladstone's role in the Liberal Party. There is an examination of the Co-operative Party in the north-east of England, the 1911 National Insurance Act, and the relationship between the unions and the Labour Party. The inter-war British labour politics is covered by the disaffiliation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) from the Labour Party and by a study of the Progressive League. British and German working class lives are compared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Female trade unionism is dealt with a focus on Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries (AWCS). The contribution of the Lansburys is brought by an essay on the role of the family members in working-class politics, including women's enfranchisement. The book also deals with the attempt by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) to engage with punk music, and ends with a discussion on the theme of Labour disunity.
This chapter explores what light can be shed on the party's present-day malaise by its wider post-war performance, which includes other low points, such as those of 1983 and 1992, as well as that of 1959. A short overview of Labour's post-war losses underlines the importance of two key determinants: disunity and poor leadership. Labour's history shows that while avoiding disunity is not a sufficient condition of regaining power, it is a necessary one. Internal strife and inadequate leadership have clearly cost Labour dear on numerous occasions, and both feature prominently on the list of contingent, avoidable factors that have contributed to the party's patchy record at Westminster elections. In the 1950s and 1980s especially, Labour seemed willing to prolong its internecine warfare without much regard for the electoral consequences.
The politics of co-operation in northeast England, 1881–1926
This chapter explores the diverse responses of co-operators in the north-east of England. It suggests that politicisation in 1917 was the culmination of a much longer transitional process, one which had as much to do with Sidney Pollard's class solidarities as with the fight for equitable treatment by the state. Co-operative enterprises, which emphasised the equal rights of all classes, came to be regarded as the practical application of Chartist principles. A co-operative political voice had been making itself heard for some time, not least through the welfare reform campaigns of the Women's Co-operative Guild (WCG). As Gillian Scott argues, WCG women played a leading role in politicising the movement and were committed to delivering the female vote at election times for Labour. By 1923, a Labour Co-operative alliance was operational inside the House of Commons, and this culture of mutual support was strengthened at the local level too.
The debate about the relationship between the trade unions and Labour politics in Britain is older than the Labour Party itself. This chapter attempts to identify the benefits and problems that the union link has brought to the British Labour Party. Overall, it argues that more good than harm has come from the relationship, and that Labour and the trade union movement have been stronger together than they would have been apart. A number of unions contributed to the creation and establishment of the party in the first place. It is true that the Labour Representation Committee was a coming-together of socialists and trade unionists. Union membership and finance continued to play a key role in the party's development. There were also times when at least some unions came forward to help the party with special contributions, such as for general elections or in periods of real financial difficulty.
Trade union benefits and the advent of state policy
In his early work, Chris Wrigley wrote extensively on the relationship between the Liberal Party and the labour movement in general and on David Lloyd George and the trade unions in particular, notably during the years surrounding the First World War. This chapter revisits this relationship by reviewing the pre-war Liberal governments' well known welfare reforms and their impact on trade union organisation and work. It examines diversity in union support for unemployed members and reviews state intervention as a new form of labour market regulation and as a project of trade union reform. By examining the birth of state-sponsored unemployment insurance in terms of its impact on trade union organisation and practices, the chapter re-establishes links between social welfare and industrial relations that have generally been studied as separate spheres of labour politics. Unions offering unemployment benefits grew from federations of local societies supplying help for their members.
The Progressive League and the quest for sexual reform in British politics, 1932–59
This chapter examines the role of the little-known Progressive League in the progress of sexual reform in the mid-twentieth century, including birth control, eugenics, abortion law reform, marriage reform, the legalisation of homosexuality and reform of the obscenity laws. The sexual views of the League exceeded societal norms, arguing that young people should feel safe to experiment without fear of unwanted pregnancies or the 'calamity of a precipitate marriage'. With individual freedom a central core belief, Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals members were active in both the birth control and the abortion law reform movements. The 'separate spheres' ideology, which saw women as equal but different, with a wife's primary role as home-maker, persisted. Concerned about male unemployment, the Labour Party feared that the legalisation of birth control would lead to more women usurping men in the workplace.