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


Socialism: what it is and what it means, 1906

by R. Wells

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During the two decades preceding World War I, a period which saw the slow but inexorable rise of Labour and socialism, the Conservative party was marked by the establishment of an unprecedented number of anti-socialist pressure groups. These pressure groups included The British Navy League, the Tariff Reform League, the Anti-Socialist Union and the Middle Class Defence League.

It was the influence of these different groups which helped the Conservative Party to adapt to the political challenges presented by the Labour movement and which helped shape what many people understand today as core Conservative political values. It was as a direct result of their influence that the Conservative Party was ultimately able to convince a large proportion of the electorate that its views were more "national" and "patriotic" than those of the parties of the left.

What these groups had in common other than their adherence to a virulent strain of anti-socialism was that they were invariably established and funded by high ranking British military personnel, Conservative MPs and members of the British aristocracy.
These groups at different times from the late 19th century through to the 1920s and 1930s involved themselves in nationwide campaigns of anti-socialist propaganda aimed at discrediting socialist and Marxist political ideas and the Labour movement as a whole. Propaganda took the form of large public meetings, the publication of journals and articles and the widespread dissemination of pamphlets and leaflets.