Lecture Series

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Summer lecture series 2022

Online and Onsite lectures - Trade Unions and the Labour Party: The Influence of Economism, Imperialism and Syndicalism commencing 12 July


This series of three lectures/discussions, delivered by Alex Gordon and Mary Davis, will analyse the historic relationship between British trade unions and the Labour Party. It will examine the development of the uniquely labourist form of British social democracy and question why, unlike other European countries, this has led to reformism rather than Marxism as the dominant creed of the British Labour Movement. This analysis will be placed in the context of comprehending the role of British imperialism and the mass penetration of its racist and eugenicist ideology. Following this we will look at today’s debate relating to the trade union/Labour Party link and assess this in terms of an understanding of economism from both right- and left-wing perspectives. Finally, we assess the limits of economism and other impediments to the essential task of the development of class consciousness in the fight to end capitalist exploitation and oppression. 


1.    THE ORIGINS: TRADE UNIONS & CAPITALISM (Tuesday 12 July 2022)
a.    The historic role of trade unions: the fight against exploitation
b.    What is economism?
c.    British trade unions c1850-c1890 – an example of right-wing economism?
d.    Syndicalism in the British trade union context c1890- c1918: left wing economism? 

2.    TRADE UNIONS & IMPERIALISM (Tuesday 19 July 2022)
a.    Imperialism, ‘labour aristocracy’, eugenics & racist ideology
b.    Reformism vs socialism
c.    Why no mass Marxist party in Britain?
d.    The ‘Labourist’ compromise: the British Labour Party – origins & development

3.    TRADE UNIONS AND MASS SOCIALIST POLITICS (Tuesday 26 July 2022)
a.    Anti-politics: Syndicalism today
b.    Social partnership: economism today
c.    The TU/LP link
d.    Marxism & political class consciousness