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The Labour Party and the Politics of War and Peace, 1900-1924

The Labour Party and the Politics of War and Peace, 1900-1924

Paul Bridgen
Volume: 70
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    The Labour Party and the Politics of War and Peace, 1900-1924
    Book Description:

    This rich analytical account of the Labour party's foreign policy between the party's formation and the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 demonstrates that the party's policy development during this period was far more sophisticated than has pre

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-739-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Paul Bridgen
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Re-Thinking The Labour Party’s Approach To Foreign Policy, 1900–1924
    (pp. 1-22)

    The British Labour party has been the focus of considerable attention from historians and political scientists, but until recently¹ little of that attention has been directed towards the party’s approach to foreign affairs.² This is particularly true with respect to the early decades of the twentieth century. Scholars of this period of Labour’s history have focused on providing explanations for the emergence and nature of the Labour party, and its replacing the Liberal party on the left of British politics.³ Labour’s approach to foreign affairs has not generally been regarded as particularly important in explaining these developments and, mainly for...

  6. 2 Labour and International Affairs before the First World War
    (pp. 23-44)

    The formation in 1900 of the Labour party (initially as the Labour Representation Committee) took place at a time when debate about foreign affairs and Britain’s role in the world was becoming increasingly heated. The most immediate reason for this was the Boer War, which had been in progress since 1899. Britain, the greatest imperial power of the age, was experiencing severe difficulties in overcoming a small guerrilla army of Boers. Her resources were stretched and the tactics employed to quash the rebellion were becoming increasingly desperate. Among domestic ‘pro-Boer’ critics of British imperialism, the ‘immoral’ war was outspokenly condemned....

  7. 3 Labour and the Outbreak of War, August–October 1914
    (pp. 45-64)

    There had been intermittent crises in international relations since 1900, the most serious of which had been the 1912 Agadir dispute, but none had led to war. Many commentators believed that a major conflict between the European powers was unlikely ever to occur. It was in this context that the increased tension that followed the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serb and Croat nationalist rebels at the end of June 1914, was initially viewed. Few thought that the event would lead in less than a month to a general European war, let alone a conflict which would...

  8. 4 Thinking about International Affairs, 1914–1918
    (pp. 65-85)

    After declaring its total support for the war in October 1914, the Labour party almost completely ignored debates about international policy for the following two years. All attempts to discuss the causes of the conflict or the shape of the post-war world were resisted on the grounds that they were a distraction from the main goal – the military defeat of Germany – and probably inspired by ‘pacifism’. Even the War Emergency Committee, which after 1916 began to think creatively about domestic policy, deliberately kept off international affairs for most of its existence.¹

    In contrast, among other progressive politicians and intellectuals, the...

  9. 5 The Politics of the 1917 Memorandum on War Aims
    (pp. 86-108)

    The year 1917 was one of profound change. The first two-and-a-half years of the war had settled into a depressingly familiar pattern. The predictability of the stalemate on the Western Front had been mirrored by the stability of the diplomatic situation and the British home front. Any turbulence that had occurred was peripheral in that it had not threatened the status quo established by the end of November 1914.¹

    In contrast, in 1917, while the military situation remained static, diplomatic activity and the situation in Britain became dramatically more fluid. Much of the diplomatic fluidity was inextricably linked to international...

  10. 6 Labour and the Peace, 1918–1921
    (pp. 109-128)

    Germany’s apparently rapid collapse in the autumn of 1918 was the result of both its ill-judged offensive of the previous March, and a series of allied offensives in the summer in which the tactical lessons, learned in the previous four years, were finally used to good effect.¹ On 4 October President Wilson was formally asked by the German High Command to bring about a cease-fire on the basis of his ‘fourteen points’. Within five weeks, the Kaiser had abdicated and the armistice had been signed. By May 1919 the allies had agreed between themselves at Versailles a harsh peace treaty,...

  11. 7 The Co-ordination of Labour’s Approach to Foreign Affairs, 1921
    (pp. 129-146)

    The UDC radicals were thus only a peripheral influence on Labour’s response to the Versailles peace treaty in the early post-war years. Indeed, the main characteristics of Labour’s policy development were not extremism and dissent but a lack of interest among the bulk of the party and an absence of policy co-ordination. This has clear implications for any understanding of the evolution of Labour’s approach to European affairs in the period up to and including the 1924 government. Most commentators have argued that, as Labour moved closer to government, so its approach to the Versailles settlement became more moderate.¹ However,...

  12. 8 Labour and European Reconstruction, 1921–1924
    (pp. 147-166)

    Up to 1921 Labour had no detailed policy on reparations and European economic reconstruction. The general party line was to criticise the Versailles Treaty, insofar as it was inconsistent with the stipulations of the 1918 armistice, but insist that some reparations must be paid. No attempt was made to construct a detailed critique of the treaty. The party did not engage fully with the government in its handling of the post-Versailles negotiations. Keynes’s attack on the post-war settlement was debated by some in the advisory committee, but not by the party as a whole. Labour instead relied, in official statements,...

  13. 9 Labour and European Security, 1921–1924
    (pp. 167-185)

    Labour had committed itself in 1917/18 to a moderate internationalist approach to foreign affairs. It envisaged an international future where in a more open, interdependent world, countries would trade freely with each other and the salience of national boundaries would gradually diminish. In such a world, security would not be a concern; nations would be able to disarm with confidence and disputes that did arise would be capable of solution by arbitration.

    If this was the vision of the future, Labour remained much more divided over its approach to the world with which it was faced. International rivalries were intense,...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 186-200)

    This study has involved a detailed investigation of the development of the Labour party’s foreign policy between its formation and the end of its first period in government. It has explored the development and interaction of progressive ideas on foreign policy in this period and shown how these ideas fared in the Labour party. It has not been assumed that Labour was doctrinally united, nor that policy proposals were the result of a straightforward translation of ideas, be they socialist, radical or liberal, into a programme. Rather, the ideological divisions that existed within the Labour party have been delineated, and...

  15. APPENDIX The Union of Democratic Control’s Four Propositions, September 1914
    (pp. 201-202)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-218)
  17. Index
    (pp. 219-224)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)