Keir Hardie’s Conversion to Socialism

  • Fred Reid


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


Labour Party Liberal Party Money Wage Coal Price Labour History 
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Copyright information

© Fred Reid 1971

Authors and Affiliations

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

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