Hard left

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The 'hard left' is a specific tendency within the British Labour Party, as well as the Australian Labor Party. In the 1980s in the United Kingdom, the term hard left referred to supporters of Tony Benn, organised in the Socialist Campaign Group and Labour Briefing, as well as Trotskyist groups such as Militant tendency and Socialist Organiser. The hard left was more strongly influenced by Marxism, while the soft left had a more gradualist approach to building socialism. Politicians associated with the hard left in the Labour Party included Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone, Dennis Skinner and Eric Heffer.

Paul Anderson and Nyta Mann wrote:

Labour [in the early 1980s] was ... in the depths of the fratricidal blood-letting that had engulfed it after the defeat of Jim Callaghan's government. The activist left in the constituency parties and the trade unions, with support from some left MPs, most notably Tony Benn, was in revolt against what it saw as the failure of the 1974–9 government to put Labour's principles into practice. On policy, it was insistent that Labour adopt unambiguously radical positions, particularly withdrawal from the European Economic Community and unilateral nuclear disarmament ... But the activists' biggest priority was to make the Parliamentary Labour Party accountable to the party as a whole ... The left coalition [the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy] was a bizarre mix of radical democrats, Leninists old and new, traditional Labour leftists, feminists, libertarians and decentralists. It was notoriously unstable, not least because it could not agree on the detail of its proposed reforms to the party constitution, and was already beginning to divide into a hard left that wanted to push the revolt to its limit and a soft left that was prepared to compromise.[1]

In more recent times, John McDonnell and other MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group and the Labour Representation Committee are seen as constituting a hard left in contrast to a soft left represented by politicians like Jon Cruddas.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson and Mann, Safety First: The Making of New Labour, Granta, 1997, ISBN 1-86207-070-9 chapter 31. FAULTY LINK. http://www.granta.com/books/chapters/31
  2. ^ Comment is free: Elections should be fun

Further reading[edit]