The Science Work
Site is for sale:
Category: History

The Independent Workers' Party of Great Britain in 1899-1902: formation of an anti-war position

UDK 942.074

K.A. Korneev


Article is devoted to the analysis of anti-war activity of the British Independent Workers' Party during the Boer war. Evolution of the anti-war platform of party and also fight methods, such as resolutions, organization of strikes, civil disobedience actions are considered. In article attention is also paid to common problems of the British anti-war movement, its features and the social importance.

The anti-war movement has rich history, but up to the 70th of the 20th century among the British researchers disputes did not cease whether it is possible to consider this movement special, other than the others, way of fight for peace, or it is only one of numerous forms of pacifism.

A certain clarity in this question came thanks to the surge in researches of the British socialism which fell on the middle of the 60th - the beginning of the 70th of last century. Scientific researches of representatives of three higher British humanitarian schools largest at that time - Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester - cleared an essence of many historical delusions.

In Cambridge more attention was paid to a research of problems of pacifism, in Oxford and Manchester history of the British socialism and, as a result, the anti-war movement fixedly was considered. Actually, thanks to researches of such prominent British scientists as Henry Collins, Stan Shipli, Volter Kendall, Howard Veynrot, was succeeded to differentiate pacifism and the anti-war movement theoretically. It became clear that the anti-war movement in Great Britain - a product of exclusively socialist thought, and pacifism - the complex public phenomenon created under the influence of centuries-old peacekeeping practice and the general at them is less, than various [1, page 8].

Actually, consideration of the Independent Workers' Party (IWP) as large anti-war force during the Boer war of 1899-1902 allows to slightly open poorly studied aspect of activity of the British socialists known first of all for theoretical researches. Also the analysis of this problem promotes additional understanding ways and methods of impact on the course of events to which NRP for distribution of the views resorted.

Exactly thanks to the British socialists, and in particular NRP, at the beginning of the 20th century in Great Britain were created interaction mechanisms on a sheaf "the power - society". That is the role of public organizations grew, they became pain -

she to influence the decisions made by the party ruling at that time. Undoubtedly, these mechanisms work still, and not only in Great Britain therefore detailed consideration of features of their creation at the beginning of the 20th century allows to estimate more objectively developments of the anti-war movement at the present stage.

The Boer war was unpopular in a working environment first of all it was conducted for the sake of the purposes, absolutely unclear by the worker. If India - a pearl of the British crown - brought to the country considerable income and strongly strengthened strategic positions in Asia, then fight for colonies in far South Africa was represented by business doubtful. Besides steadily sympathies for drills which, from the point of view of the increasing number of workers, underwent outright aggression of the English capital grew [2, page 47]. The most most and poorest part of the population belonged to the government very cool, the interests of lords and peers were drawn in the form of the big rich person who is created to become even more - and here the end justifies the means.

We will notice that this deaf discontent with the policy of the authorities in South Africa demanded an exit, and gradually from the indignant talk some representatives of workers mainly united in trade unions began to pass to active actions. First the demands made on strikes had economic character: workers demanded reduction of working hours, saving salaries at the pre-war level, improvements of working conditions on production and so forth. But war dragged on, the prices grew, and in leaflets of workers appeals to the fastest completion of an adventure of the British government in South Africa began to appear [2, page 48].

Despite heterogeneity of the labor anti-war movement, in different corners of the country similar demands were made that spoke not only the general distress, but also actions of a certain coordinating forces. As these forces the Independent Workers' Party - the largest and the oldest acted (it is founded in 1893 in

time of rise of strike fight) during this period the political force expressing the interests of workers. The party had regional offices; it consisted as of representatives of trade unions, and was replenished at the expense of independent members. Party leaders - Keir Hardy and Ramsey Makdonald - in peace time supported introduction of social insurance and doles, and during the war made attempt of coordination of anti-war performances [1, page 22].

The foundation of active support by party of anti-war moods was laid by R. Makdonald's performance on a meeting in Sheffield. In the speech it concerned an anti-war perspective; it was necessary to designate, according to his performance, anti-war activity as one of main in party, to take out it on wide stands, to make this question property of public policy [3, page 32].

However party leaders understood that it is impossible to be limited to performances on meetings for fixing of party as the main anti-war force. Most of workers, without having sufficient education, judged the international events superficially. Besides their discontent was directed to the government of England which launched war, but not England as the nation advocating the national interests in a certain region of the world in any way.

At judgments and the statements of representatives of trade unions and other working organizations there was a considerable confusion. Excerpts of performances on meetings of workers demonstrate to it. For example, the representative of one of trade unions - Clyde - on a meeting on Zelyonaya Street in Glasgow in the first part of the performance demanded the fastest withdrawal of the English troops from South Africa; further, speaking about the national interests of England, he urged to advance entirely them in any regions of the planet [4, page 2].

Therefore NRP was faced by a task not only coordination of anti-war performances, but also creation of the accurate ideological field. In its framework it was necessary to introduce uniform rules and to develop a certain (standard) interpretation of the taking place events.

In April, 1900 at another annual conference of members of NRP the version of the resolution offered by Makdonald and Hardy in whom it was told about condemnation by party of the war in South Africa and the British government was by a majority vote adopted it was accused of unleashing of imperialistic aggression and destabilization of an international situation. The resolution began so: "Soldiers of Britain! We do not accuse you of criminal behavior; you are the same victims of military command, as well as civilians... Aude -

nako the destiny swept you on different sides of barricades. We ask you to interfere, according to the lights, with implementation of brutal orders of command not to make a contribution to business of the international enslavement and unnecessary aggression" [5, page 14].

It is unknown whether the address reached addressees - the British soldiers in South Africa. However within the country it had a resonance; it was read on meetings in Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, etc. Besides, representatives of the Independent Workers' Party considered loss of humanitarian values as a result of war the basis of the antigovernmental policy. Of course, for most of workers of a concept of humanitarian values as separate substance did not exist. They considered them more likely as private, even private means and NRP in the addresses to workers tried to avoid difficult formulations [3, page 34].

A great job was done by party for awakening of sympathy in the English working environment for the Boer population. Need of this work was that the workers convinced of depression of drills will be drawn to them rather. The ethnic question was not so important for working class of Great Britain the beginning of the 20th century. Much more he was concerned by internal problems, and an exit for their framework occurred under certain conditions, for example in the presence at specific social group of other country of similar difficulties - the low standard of living, unilateral (without involvement of workers) ways of management on production and so on [6, page 25].

The Independent Workers' Party also actively appealed to the international solidarity - feeling about which much Marxists will start talking later and which will be as a result only a frame fiction. But representatives of NRP were not so experienced in this question and actively developed the position of party leaders reflected in the political section of an annual conference (April, 1900): "During the present period of development of a civilization, huge responsibility lies on all of us. Complex problems of interaction in the public environment, on production, questions of war and peace, interracial opposition. have to decide thanks to feeling of solidarity. and with application of the unified ways of the decision" [5, page 17].

These ways were supposed to be developed in the long term, and at present it was recommended to use current situation. The benefit, it more than favored. In 1902, in the last year wars, unemployment considerably grew. Dismissals accepted big scope; the social discontent increased. At this time

the party passed to the next stage of anti-war activity.

If the peace victims and an adventure of the government were first condemned, then now political and economic aspects were added to purely anti-war subject. The grown unemployment rate was explained by inefficient economic policy of the authorities, plunders in the defensive sphere. The social prospect was represented foggy. However at this particular time NRP met the greatest difficulties in mobilization of the unemployed at demonstration. First, difficulties consisted in heterogeneity of this weight. Someone had small savings, and respectively, more real opportunity to look for work - at least in respect of the temporary extent of search, and did not hurry to go outside. Someone quickly enough got draft job, formally remaining the unemployed. Thus, NRP appeared it cannot convince more or less essential number of the unemployed that all troubles to them were brought by war and the inefficient government [3, page 35].

In what the world outlook basis on which the party sought to rely in the anti-war activity consisted? Partially this question was answered by Makdonald in the work "Labour and The Empire" devoted to the analysis of relationship of workers and forms of the state imperialism of Great Britain: "It is probable that search of means of coordination of operation of social mechanisms will be a basic problem of the begun twentieth century. All society will be peace and prospering if the governments learn to address the people as equal in the issues of peace and war. But for this purpose it is necessary that the people realized itself by force capable to make decisions. In it there is also a main task of socialism - to conduct the people to this purpose" [6, page 28].

It is indicative that in party exorcized about social mechanisms - in Britain the beginnings of the 20th century lyu-

fight public undertaking could not be developed enough owing to the developed social structure. It was noted also by the leader of NRP Keir Hardy: "A social framework, despite transformations, still too rigid. To go beyond their limits it is represented business very difficult now. It is connected with what class society already sputtered out, and contours new are only made out. On the other hand, having followed a way of socialism, we will quickly overcome the most essential distinctions" [7].

Thus, the Independent Workers' Party already that at its name there was a word "worker" could not count on broad support in society. Whatever fair reproaches the party showed the authorities, whatever effective measures of overcoming economic problems and political crises offered, the resonance arose mainly among workers - by the way, the smallest electoral group in the English society of the beginning of the 20th century

was not created by

during the Boer war in Great Britain the serious front of the anti-war movement. It was connected with absence in the country of uniform large socialist party, on the one hand, and remoteness of the conflict, on the other hand. Attempts which were made by the Independent Workers' Party did not make basic success, and the anti-war protest was not splashed out for a framework of the Left-wing radical press and meetings. But you should not underestimate that role which was played by NRP this attempt of coordination of the anti-war movement. Further, already being in the structure of the Labour Party (NRP joined it in 1906), the Independent Workers' Party did not change the anti-war positions, continuing to insist on inadmissibility of use of military force for submission and oppression of the people for the purpose of extraction of an economic benefit and political dividends.

List of references

1. Mc Briar A. Fabian Socialism and English Politics 1884-1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1962. 387 p.
2. Kendall W. The revolutionary movement in Britain 1900-1921. L.: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969. 252 p.
3. Price R. An Imperial War and the British Working Class: Working Class Attitudes and Reactions to the Boer War 1899-1902. L.: Routledge and

Kegan Paul, 1972. 132 p.

4. The Labour Leader: Tuesday, March 13, 1900. No. 10.
5. Independent Labour Party. Report of the 8th annual conference. L.: The Worker Press, 1900.
6. Macdonald J. R. Labour and the Empire. L.: George Allen, 1907. 137 p.
7. Hardie K. 1901 speech to the House of Commons on the need for socialism. URL:

— B5 —

K.A. Korneev, graduate student.

East Siberian state Academy of Education.

Nizhnyaya Embankment St., 6, Irkutsk, Irkutsk region, Russia, 664011.


Material came to edition 24.06.2010.

K. A. Korneev


The article is devoted to analysis of antiwar activity of British Independent Labour party in the period of Anglo-Boer War. It shows the evolution of party’s antiwar platform and deals with main IWP’s main political methods, such as resolutions, strikes, and actions of civil insubordination. Article also gives attention to common problems of antiwar movement in Great Britain, its specific features and social success.

East-Siberian State Academy of Education.

Ul. Nizhnyaya Naberezhnaya, 6, Irkutsk, Irkutsk region, Russia, 664011.


Manuel Smith
Other scientific works: