Approaches to Labour politics and history

This book is an attempt to take stock of how some of the British Labour Party's leading interpreters have analysed their subject, deriving as they do from contrasting political, theoretical, disciplinary and methodological backgrounds. It explores their often-hidden assumptions and subjects them to critical evaluation. The book outlines five strategies such as materialist; ideational; electoral; institutional; and synthetic strategies. Materialist, ideational and electoral explanatory strategies account for Labour's ideological trajectory in factors exogenous to the party. The 'new political history' is useful in understanding Labour within a less reductive framework than either the 'high' or 'from below' approaches and in more novel terms than the Left-Right positions adopted within Labour. The book assesses the contribution made to analysis of the Labour Party and labour history by thinkers of the British New Left. New Left critiques of labourism in fact represented and continued a strand of Marxist thinking on the party that can be traced back to its inception. If Ralph Miliband's role in relation to 'Bennism' is considered in comparison to his earlier attitudes, some striking points emerge about the interaction between the analytical and subjective aspects in his interpretive framework. Miliband tried to suggest that the downfall of communism was advantageous for the Left, given the extent to which the Soviet regimes had long embarrassed Western socialists such as himself. The Nairn-Anderson theses represented an ambitious attempt to pioneer a distinctive analysis of British capitalist development, its state, society and class structure.

Nick Randall

ITLP_C01.QXD 18/8/03 9:54 am Page 8 1 Understanding Labour’s ideological trajectory Nick Randall The Labour Party is habitually considered the most ideologically inclined of all British political parties, and ideological struggle has been endemic within the party since its foundation. It is no surprise, therefore, that studies of the party have endeavoured to understand why Labour’s ideology has shifted repeatedly throughout its history. This chapter considers those efforts. A large and varied literature is available to explain Labour’s ideological movements

in Interpreting the Labour Party
Steven Fielding

2 Labour’s organisational culture The purpose of this chapter is to establish the institutional context for Labour’s response to cultural change.1 It surveys the character of the party’s organisation and the nature of its membership on the verge of the 1960s, and in particular highlights the activities and assumptions of those most responsible for the party’s well-being. Before that can be done, however, it is necessary to outline Labour’s organisational structure and identify some of the issues to which it gave rise. The basic unit in all 618 constituency

in The Labour Governments 1964–70 volume 1
Madeleine Davis

ITLP_C03.QXD 18/8/03 9:55 am Page 39 3 ‘Labourism’ and the New Left Madeleine Davis This chapter assesses the contribution made to analysis of the Labour Party and labour history by thinkers of the British New Left. In part constituted in opposition to old left tendencies, including Labour, the British New Left took an independent, broadly Marxist, position. Its thinkers thus offered theoretically informed analyses of the party and its role – mainly, as will be seen, in terms of the category labourism – that were highly critical. They were preoccupied in

in Interpreting the Labour Party
Contextual, analytical and theoretical issues
Colin Hay

ITLP_C12.QXD 18/8/03 10:02 am Page 182 12 How to study the Labour Party: contextual, analytical and theoretical issues Colin Hay The political analysis and the political economy of the British Labour Party have tended to concern themselves principally with the concrete and the substantive. This is both unremarkable and entirely legitimate. Yet something is potentially lost. For while an aim of the present collection is to discuss the principal positions of some of the leading exponents in this literature, it cannot be doubted that the literature rests

in Interpreting the Labour Party
From Parliamentary Socialism to ‘Bennism’
Michael Newman

ITLP_C04.QXD 18/8/03 9:57 am Page 57 4 Ralph Miliband and the Labour Party: from Parliamentary Socialism to ‘Bennism’ Michael Newman Ralph Miliband completed Parliamentary Socialism at the end of 1960 and it was published in October 1961. This proved to be probably the most influential book on the Labour Party written during the post-war era – possibly the most significant of any period. As chapter 5 will confirm, the book helped shape a whole school of left-wing interpretations of the party (Coates 2002; Panitch and Leys 1997) and established an analytical

in Interpreting the Labour Party
Rhiannon Vickers

Vic04 10/15/03 2:10 PM Page 80 Chapter 4 The Labour minority governments The Labour Party saw an improvement in its electoral fortunes in the immediate post-war period. At the 1918 election Labour gained 22 per cent of the vote, a tremendous increase from 7 per cent at the last election held in 1910.1 During the war both the trade union and the Labour Party membership had doubled, and working-class militancy had increased in the first few years of peace.2 With the concomitant increase in class-consciousness, the working class now identified far more

in The Labour Party and the world, volume 1
Labour and cultural change
Author: Steven Fielding

This book is the first in the new series The Labour Governments 1964–70 and concentrates on Britain's domestic policy during Harold Wilson's tenure as Prime Minister. It deals, in particular, with how the Labour government and Labour party as a whole tried to come to terms with the 1960's cultural revolution. The book is grounded in original research, takes account of responses from Labour's grass roots and from Wilson's ministerial colleagues, and constructs a total history of the party at this critical moment in history. It situates Labour in its wider cultural context and focuses on how the party approached issues such as the apparent transformation of the class structure, the changing place of women in society, rising immigration, the widening generation gap, and increasing calls for direct participation in politics. Together with the other volumes in the series, on international policy and economic policy, the book provides an insight into the development of Britain under Harold Wilson's government.

Rhiannon Vickers

Vic03 10/15/03 2:10 PM Page 54 Chapter 3 Labour and the First World War The Labour Party grew only moderately in parliamentary strength following its 1906 election success of thirty seats, gaining forty seats in the election of January 1910, and forty-two seats in the election the following December.1 However, the labour movement in general was growing significantly in terms of its economic, social and political impact, with trade union membership increasing from just under two million in 1900 to over four million in 1914, at a time of rising union

in The Labour Party and the world, volume 1
The evolution of Labour’s foreign policy, 1900–51

This is the first book in a two-volume set that traces the evolution of the Labour Party's foreign policy throughout the twentieth century and into the early years of the new millennium. It is a comprehensive study of the political ideology and history of the Labour Party's world-view and foreign policy. The set argues that the development of Labour's foreign policy perspective should be seen not as the development of a socialist foreign policy, but as an application of the ideas of liberal internationalism. The first volume outlines and assesses the early development and evolution of Labour's world-view. It then follows the course of the Labour Party's foreign policy during a tumultuous period on the international stage, including the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the build-up to and violent reality of the Second World War, and the start of the Cold War. The book provides an analysis of Labour's foreign policy during this period, in which Labour experienced power for the first time.