University of Leicester
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The impact of the labour unrest, 1910-14, on the british labour movement.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:13 authored by John. Fraser
This thesis examines the dynamics of the interrelation and interaction of the labour unrest, 1910-14, with the organised labour movement in Britain, and the material and ideological factors influencing class and historical consciousness among British workers of the period. The contribution and special problems of Marxist methodology in labour history are considered (Chapter l), and the concepts of spontaneity and consciousness as evaluated by Lenin in What is to be done. analysed and applied against the British experience. Chapter 2 explores the relationship between economic pressure on the working-class of the period and the resulting ideological and organisational forms. The process of rejection of revolutionary Marxism is considered (in Chapters 3 and 7) in relation to the growth and survivals of opportunism and revisionism, and to the adoption of pluralistic, gradualist, and reformist modes. The transformation of the dominant ideology in crisis, its response to working-class demands, and the militarisation of its modes and policies is analysed in Chapter 4. The morphology of Syndicalism is described in Chapter 5, with special reference to the reactions of Beatrice Webb and her critique of the doctrine, to her categories of bureaucrat and anarchist, and to her counter-proposal to capture the commanding heights of the administration to bureaucratise and radicalise the proletariat. Tom Mann's embodiment of a Marxist-based militancy is examined in Chapter 8, and the advantages and limitations of "aggressive tailism", considered in this context, as is his rejection of workers' state and party. The processes whereby a sudden expansion in working-class political consciousness, organisation, and efficacy was institutionalised and interpreted within the structure of the National Amalgamated Union of Labour in such terms as to frustrate the emergence of a broad-based revolutionary populism or Socialism, instead blending the union's policy into traditional political culture and the modes of dominance of an alien class, are distinguished in Chapter 6. The specificity, as well as the complexity, of such a dynamic movement, created fresh methodological problems - especially those arising from the interaction of methodology, ideology, and material conditions - which are recalled in the Conclusion. It is argued that the rejection of revolutionary socialism left the proletariat without the theoretical means and the consciousness required to depasser its role as a subject or residual class in liberal-democracy. The development of pluralist arguments and policies, as well as changes in the economic and social infrastructure sharpened the theoretical prevision of British Marxists especially under the influence of Lenin, while their political influence was increasingly restricted. The political impact of spontaneity, and the role of spontaneous movements in conferring legitimacy on socialist doctrines and leaders decreased rapidly after the pre-war unrest. The impacted revolutionism of 1910-14 remained in an occluded form within the pure consciousness of the proletariat in its historic role of revolutionary-class, but without the spontaneity, even, with which this consciousness might be raised to the level of political efficacy under favourable conditions.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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