The establishment of the Independent Labour Party in 1893 laid the foundation for the creation of a mass workers’ party in Britain. However, as we showed in the previous article (Part 5, from World Revolution 215), the possibility of realising this potential was severely weakened by the absence of an organised marxist fraction that could provide a clear political analysis and orientation.
During the 1890s, the mass workers' parties succeeded in gaining many reforms that improved the living conditions of the working class. While the struggle for such reforms was an important aspect of the class struggle in this period, the winning of reforms brought the danger of nurturing illusions in the possibility of capitalism peacefully evolving into socialism.
This series of articles began by outlining the resurgence of the working class movement in Britain at the end of the 1880s. It went on to deal with the particular roles of the Social Democratic Federation and the Socialist League, concluding that both failed to respond to the needs of the proletariat (see WR 198, 205 & 208). In this fourth part, we return to a more detailed consideration of the revival of struggle in the 1880s and 1890s, to show why and how it developed and to draw out both what it shared with the international workers' movement and what distinguished it.
Throughout the history of the Social Democratic Federation (see the second part of this series in World Revolution 205) opposition regularly developed to the policies and practices of the dominant Hyndman clique. At times this just resulted in the resignation of individual members - throughout its history many thousands passed through the SDF and it is clear that many of these were simply lost to the workers' cause. At other times organised left-wing factions emerged and were either expelled or left to found new organisations.
In the first part of this occasional series (World Revolution 198) we examined the gradual revival of the workers movement in Britain in the early 1880s. We sought to place this in both the general context of the development of the international proletarian movement and the specific conditions prevailing in Britain.
The development of the organisation of the working class
Here we publish the second of two texts expressing divergences on the resolution on the international situation from the 24th ICC Congress.