For Class and Country: The Patriotic Left and the First World War

For Class and Country: The Patriotic Left and the First World War

by David Swift


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The First World War has often suffered from comparison to the Second, in terms of both public interest and the significance ascribed to it by scholars in the shaping of modern Britain. This is especially so for the relationship between the Left and these two wars. For the Left, the Second World War can be seen as a time of triumph: a united stand against fascism followed by a landslide election win and a radical, reforming Labour government. The First World War is more complex. Given the gratuitous cost in lives, the failure of a 'fit country for heroes to live in' to materialise, the deep recessions and unemployment of the inter-war years, and the botched peace settlements which served only to precipitate another war, the Left has tended to view the conflict as an unmitigated disaster and unpardonable waste. This has led to a tendency on the Left to see the later conflict as the 'good' war, fought against an obvious evil, and the earlier conflict as an imperialist blunder; the result of backroom scheming, secret pacts and a thirst for colonies. This book hopes to move away from a concentration on machinations at the elite levels of the labour movement, on events inside Parliament and intellectual developments; there is a focus on less well-visited material.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786940025
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2017
Series: Studies in Labour History LUP
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

David Swift completed his PhD in 2014 and currently teaches history at Queen Mary, University of London.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Graphs vii

List of Illustrations viii

Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgements x

Introduction 1

1 If this is to be a jingo, then I am a jingo' - Labour Patriotism before 1914 13

2 'I'd sooner blackleg my union than blackleg my country' - Labour Patriotism, 1914-18 24

August 1914 25

The Workers' National Committee and Labour Support for the War 28

Who Were the Labour Patriots? 30

Workers and Trade Unions 34

Anti-Germanism 43

Labour Heroes 48

3 'Middle-class peace men?'- Labour and the Anti-War Agitation 56

Conscription, 1916-18 56

Wartime Strikes, 1915-18 62

The Anti-War Movement, 1915-18 67

The Leeds and Stockholm Conferences 77

4 'Our Platform is Broad Enough and our Movement Big Enough' - The War and Recruits to Labour 81

The Conversion of Liberal and Conservative Elites 82

Labour, Soldiers, and Ex-Servicemen 88

The War and the Appeal to the New Electorate 102

5 'The experiments are not found wanting' - Labour and the Wartime State 127

The Wartime Growth of the British State 128

Labour and the Workers during the War 137

The Impact of the War on the Relationship between the British Left and the State 158

6 'The greatest democratic force British politics have known' - Labour Cohesion and the War 171

The Trade Unions and the Labour Party 173

Labour and Women's Organisations 179

The Co-operative Movement and Labour 185

Socialist Societies and the Labour Party 192

The Rise and Decline of the Ultra-Patriors 194

Conclusion 201

Bibliography 207

Index 227

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