Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Leaflet entitled 'What socialism really means', 1906

image thumbnail  image thumbnail  image thumbnail 

The development of Labour as a independent political force in Britain came about for a variety of reasons. Firstly, their was anger amongst socialists who had attached themselves to the Liberal party that the party was not doing enough to improve the living and working conditions of the working classes. Based on this perceived neglect of working class issues different socialist organisations came together in 1900 to form the Labour Representation Committee. The LRC stated aims were to “establish a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy…be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour”.

The LRC immediately began attracting the electoral support of some sections of the working class and won 2 parliamentary seats in the General Election of 1900. However, although Labour won support from a mainly working class constituency of voters most of the party's socialist ideas were feared by the middle classes. Socialism was perceived as a threat to their way of life and for many it was associated with revolution and the overthrow of the established political order.

Criticism of Socialism and the ideas of Karl Marx had always existed, although the growing electoral popularity of the Labour Party and other socialist organisations in Britain meant that these criticisms soon developed into concerted political campaigns, aimed at discrediting socialist political parties and the ideology they espoused.