Socialist Opposition to World War One

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The First World War accentuated the divisions between the left and right in the labour movement. The militancy of labour's rank and file continued unabated, whilst the exigencies of war gave labour's leaders the chance to become fully enmeshed within the State itself. The gulf between the two widened to such an extent that it was difficult for both to co-exist within the same organisations. The 'unofficial' opposition, reflecting the chasm between leaders and led, generated its own structures in the form of the Shop Stewards Movement and Workers' Committees. The shop stewards of today can trace their origins to this wartime period, during which rank and file workers kept effective trade unionism alive in the face of their leaders' preoccupation with the war effort. This is the story of those socialists and activists who opposed World War One, condemning it as imperialist and needless in the face of the power of the state and the majority of the mainstream press. This pamphlet made use of resources from the MML’s archives and financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to detail this, often under-appreciated, subject. It was part of a larger project, which included the launch of a new website, the delivery of lectures on the same topic and the publishing of educational material.

Professor Mary Davis
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Marx Memorial Library