County Council will one day get a memorial as substantial and scholarly as that which Professor F. M. L. Thompson has lately given to the defunct borough of Hampstead. R. A. LEWIS Bangor. THE EVOLUTION OF THE LABOUR PARTY, 1910-1924. By Ross McKibbin. Oxford University Press, 1975. Pp. xviii, 261. £ 5.75. The decline of the Liberal Party, as Dr. Kenneth O. Morgan has remarked, seems to have replaced the rise of the gentry as a major preoccupation of modern historians. Despite its title, Dr. McKibbin's welcome addition to the Oxford Historical Monographs series will certainly add fuel to the flames of this controversy. For his discussion of the rise of the Labour Party between the 'Peers v. People' election and the first MacDonald government focuses on the crucial question, 'Why did Labour replace the Liberals as the second great party of State?' It also has two other principal objectives: to analyse the Labour Party as a mass organization; and to argue that the attempt to create in Britain a 'global' working-class movement, along the lines of the German SDP, was a failure. Implicit, too, in this engrossing book, based on largely uncatalogued archives and correspondence, is the further question 'Was the replace- ment of the Liberals by Labour inevitable?' At first sight, Dr. McKibbin's method may seem idiosyncratic, since he eschews discussion of Westminster politics and the impact of the First World War. He justifies the first omission by arguing that it has been tackled by others (notably Trevor Wilson), and that anyway it is irrelevant to the emergence of Labour which was due, first and foremost, to broad social and economic trends in the country as a whole. He omits dealing with the war on the grounds that it probably had little impact on these broad trends or on mass working-class attitudes. Not everyone will find these arguments convincing, and anyway they do lead to certain inconsistencies and problems, of which more in a moment. As it stands, Dr. McKibbin's book has three parts. The first reveals in fascinating regional detail Labour's ramshackle structure before 1914. The second describes how the many separate factions which made up this loose alliance clashed in 1918 when drafting the constitution which apparently committed the party to socialism. Finally, he discusses the evolution of a mass party, more haphazard yet more centralized than had been foreseen by the constitution-makers in 1918. Here Henderson, rather than MacDonald, emerges quite clearly as the key figure, party secretary from 1911 to 1934, whose ruthlessness when necessary belied his avuncular reputation-an intriguing comparison with another party leader, now prime minister, Mr. James Callaghan. The problem here, however, is to determine just how far the Labour Party still was in 1924 'at all levels a working-class organization a truly proletarian party', as Dr. McKibbin asserts. In 1918 trade unionists still dominated the Parliamentary party. By 1924 they constituted a bare majority.
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