The Rise of Socialism

A review of the origins of the Labour Party.

The spectre of socialism had been powerful in Britain since the early 1880s. Works like the Fabians' Essays (1889) had familiarised the British public with the arguments for a socialist programme. The Trades Union Congress had increasingly shown the influence of its socialist mentors, with successive motions being passed in favour of public ownership of the means of production and distribution. 'Municipal socialism' was making headway in city government, notably in London and Glasgow. In 1892, Keir Hardie, an avowed socialist who spoke the language of class revolt, was elected to parliament, allegedly wearing a miner's 'cloth cap'. Eight years later, in 1900, the Labour Representation Committee was formed, the forerunner of the Labour Party, an alliance of political activists and trade unionists, in which socialists like Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald were dominant figures.

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