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Keir Hardie’s Conversion to Socialism

  • Fred Reid

Abstract

Much in the early life of James Keir Hardie is still shrouded in the mysteries of hagiography, nothing more so than the problem as to how and when he became a socialist.1 Two of his best-known biographers, Emrys Hughes and William Stewart, are agreed upon one point concerning his conversion: the ideas and propaganda of the organised socialists in Britain in the 1880s had nothing to do with it.2 According to Hughes, his father-in-law became a socialist at the age of 21, that is, in 1877, under the influence of Burns, Carlyle and Henry George and before the ideas of Marx could possibly have been known to him.3 Since George’s Progress and Poverty was not published in England until 1880, it is incredible that the American propagandist of the land tax could have had anything to do with Hardie’s political development at so early a stage, though the claim for the influence of George accords well enough with Hardie’s own account of conversion:

Some years later, Henry George came to Scotland and I read Progress and Poverty, which unlocked many of the industrial and economic difficulties which beset the mind of the worker trying to take an intelligent interest in his own affairs and led me, much to George’s horror in later life when we met personally, into Communism.4

Keywords

Labour Party Liberal Party Money Wage Coal Price Labour History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    E. Hughes, Keir Hardie (1956), p. 24.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    W. Stewart, James Keir Hardie (1925), pp. 24 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    J. Bruce Glasier, Keir Hardie, a Memorial (n.d.? 1915), p. 61.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    H. Pelling, Origins of the Labour Party (2nd edn., Oxford, 1965), p. 64.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    G.D.H. Cole, James Keir Hardie (1941), pp. 13 ff.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    J.G. Kellas, ‘The Mid-Lanark By-Election (1888), and the Scottish Labour Party (1888–94)’, Parliamentary Affairs, xviii (1965), pp. 318–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 14.
    D. Lowe, From Pit to Parliament (1923), pp. 10 ff.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    H. Fyfe, Keir Hardie (1935), p. 17.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    H.A. Clegg, A. Fox and A.F. Thompson, A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889, i (Oxford, 1964), p. 51.Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    R.P. Arnot, History of the Scottish Miners from the Earliest Times (1955), pp. 51 ff.Google Scholar
  11. 48.
    S. and B. Webb, History of Trade Unionism (1920), p. 303.Google Scholar
  12. 54.
    J. Neil, ‘Memoirs of an Ayrshire Agitator’, Forward, 4 July 1914.Google Scholar
  13. 61.
    E.P. Lawrence, Henry George in the British Isles (Lansing, Michigan, 1959), p. 35.Google Scholar
  14. 63.
    E.P. Thompson, William Morris, Romantic to Revolutionary (1961 edn.), p. 406.Google Scholar
  15. 64.
    J. Mavor, My Windows on the Street of the World (1923), p. 178.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Fred Reid 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred Reid
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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