British Workers League

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British Workers League
Chairman James Seddon
Secretary Victor Fisher
Founded 1916
Dissolved 1927
Preceded by Socialist National Defence Committee
Newspaper British Citizen and Empire Worker; Empire Citizen
Ideology Anti-socialism
Political position Right-wing

The British Workers League was a 'patriotic labour' group which was anti-socialist and pro-British Empire. The League operated from 1916 to 1927.

The league's origins lay in a split in the British Socialist Party in 1915, primarily over the need to win the First World War. A group, dissenting from the pacifism of the Labour Party, would be formed by Victor Fisher and supported "the eternal idea of nationality" and aimed to promote "socialist measures in the war effort". Fisher, and Alexander M. Thompson, would form the Socialist National Defence Committee.[1] This group, included H. G. Wells and Robert Blatchford .[2]

In 1916 the Committee transformed itself into the British Workers National League, subsequently shortened to the British Workers League. It executive included Edward Carson, Leo Maxse, H.G. Wells and fifteen Labour MPs including Will Crooks and John Hodge.[3] Hodge would preside as chairman, and James Andrew Seddon was chairman of the organization committee.[4] The Australian prime minister, Billy Hughes, spoke at the party's inaugural meeting.[5]

Now avowedly anti-socialist, it described itself as a "patriotic labour" group and focused on support for the war. Rev. A. W. Gough, Prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral, was chairman of the British Workers League for London and the Home Counties[citation needed]. Edward Robertshaw Hartley was also a member. The Labour MP Stephen Walsh and the Liberal (later Labour) MP Leo Chiozza Money were vice presidents.[6] During the war period the British Workers League sometimes threatened to break up pacifist meetings.[7]

The League received funding from Viscount Milner[8] and had links to the British Commonwealth Union.[9]

In 1918 the British Workers League stood candidates in the general election as the National Democratic and Labour Party. From 1921 to 1927 the League published a newspaper entitled The Empire Citizen.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Crick, Martin The History of the Social-Democratic Federation Keele University Press (1994) p271
  2. ^ John Callaghan, Socialism in Britain (1990), p74.
  3. ^ Scally, Robert James The Origins of the Lloyd George Coalition: The Politics of Social-Imperialism, 1900–1918 Princeton University Press (1975) p263
  4. ^ Hendley, Matthew C. Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War McGill-Queen's University Press (2012) note 189 p244
  5. ^ Tyler, Paul Labour's Lost Leader: The Life and Politics of Will Crooks Tauris (2007) p209
  6. ^ The British Workers League, Letter to the editor, Evening Post, January 16, 1918
  7. ^ The Radical Right in Britain: Social Imperialism to the BNP
  8. ^ Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley entry on British Workers League Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations Continuum International Publishing Group (2005) p274
  9. ^ Linehan, Thomas British Fascism, 1918–39: Parties, Ideology and Culture Manchester University Press (2000) p44