Class and Party: The Historical Context of the Rise of the AES
This chapter discusses the historical context in which the Alternative Economic Strategy emerged, focusing on what was arguably the central development in 1970s British domestic politics—the breakdown of the relative stability of post-war industrial relations. This breakdown occurred amid a decline in working-class support for Labour. This decline was significant for Labour because the eruption of industrial conflict from the late 1960s increased the political importance of its working-class ties. By the time of Labour’s first AES-derived party programme in 1973, it had become clear that industrial relations would be a central issue around which governmental legitimacy would be sought. It was in this political context that the left developed its ideas to ‘re-class’ Labour, to reaffirm its identity as a working-class party, against the post-war revisionist drive to ‘de-class’ Labour and extirpate its ‘cloth cap’ image.