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The Anti-Socialist Union, 1908–49

  • Kenneth D. Brown

Abstract

The general election of 1906 was remarkable for the size of the swing that took place against the recently resigned conservative government, the liberals turning a substantial deficit into an overwhelming and overall majority of 130. Almost as noteworthy for contemporaries, however, was the first appearance in parliament of the Labour Representation Committee (soon renamed the Labour Party) as an independent and readily identifiable group. Even the usually imperturbable Arthur Balfour, prime minister in the late unionist administration, was moved to declare that ‘we are face to face (no doubt in a milder form) with the socialistic difficulties which loom so large on the continent’.1 Despite the fact that the new party held only twenty-nine seats of the 670 in the House of Commons, fears were widely expressed that it would exert considerable influence on the course and nature of parliamentary legislation. The editor of the Daily Express, Ralph D. Blumenfeld, predicted for example that there would ensue ‘a long list of labour legislation dictated by a powerful party whose voice the liberal leaders will not be able to ignore’.2 By the end of the 1906 parliamentary session he must have been impressed by his own powers of prophecy.

Keywords

Labour Movement Social Reform Labour Party Socialist Threat Conservative Party 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Quoted in E. Halévy, The Rule of Democracy, 1905–1914 (Benn edition, 1961) p. 92.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    H Pelling, A Short History of the Labour Party (1965) p. 134.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Labour Leader 11 October 1907. On this campaign see K. D. Brown, ‘The Labour Party and the Unemployment Question, 1906–1910’, Historical Journal XIV (1971) pp. 599–616;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  5. 8.
    H. Cox, Socialism in the House of Commons (1907) p. 7.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    S. Salvidge, Salvidge of Liverpool (1934) p. 76.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Quoted in J. Biggs-Davison, George Wyndham, a Study in Toryism (1951) p. 184.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    London Municipal Society, Will Socialism Benefit the English People: Debate between H. M. Hyndman and Gerald Arbuthnot, 9 February 1909 (1909) pp. 8–9.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
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  10. 20.
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    R. D. Blumenfeld, R.D.B.’s Diary (1930) pp. 224–5.Google Scholar
  16. 33.
    The I.F.L. acted in conjunction with the Poplar Municipal Alliance in the inquiry into the alleged mal-administration of the Poor Law by socialist guardians. One of the I.F.L.’s legal representatives conducted the Alliance’s case. See G. Haw, The Life Story of Will Crooks M.P. (1917) p. 274.Google Scholar
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  19. 68.
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  21. 89.
    In 1931 the A.S.U.’s publications did finally begin to advocate protection. See, for example, Information, 13 November 1931. But by this time the independent liberals had been reduced to an insignificant 33 seats in the Commons and the election campaign of 1931 saw the Labour Party defending free trade in the hope of attracting Liberal votes. See A. J. P. Taylor, English History, 1914–1945 (Oxford, 1965 ) pp. 324–7.Google Scholar
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  23. 94.
    Sir H. Brittain, interview. He and Sir Edward Ilifi’e served for a time on the executive of the Economic League. The league, founded in 1919, was dedicated to ‘the preservation of personal freedom and enterprise’ and to opposing ‘all subversive forces that seek to undermine the security of Britain in general and of British industry in particular’. Quoted in R. Benewick, The Fascist Movement in Britain (1972 edition) p. 42. I am grateful to Mr D. Jones of the Department of Politics at Queen’s for drawing my attention to this reference.Google Scholar
  24. 96.
    Figures taken from H. Pelling, Popular Politics and Society in Late Victorian Britain (1968) p. 117.Google Scholar
  25. 97.
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth D. Brown

There are no affiliations available

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