Social Democratic Politics in Britain 1881-1911: The Marxism of the Social Democratic Federation

Johnson, Graham
September 1990
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Fall90, Vol. 55 Issue 2, p64
Academic Journal
The article focuses on the thesis report, entitled "Social Democratic Politics in Britain 1881-1911: The Marxism of the Social Democratic Federation," about the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), a leading exponent of social democracy in Great Britain before the First World War. The thesis begins with an account of the origins of the SDF in the radical clubs of London in the early 1880s, its conversion to socialism and the ensuing responses to radicals and radical concerns. The 'iron law of wages' is found not to be the constraint it was once believed to be: it was interpreted flexibly and in a way compatible with a Marxist theory of wage labour. In general terms, in the economic sphere Great Britain was considered ripe for a transition to socialism in which peaceful change was feasible. Though the possibility of economic collapse existed, it was to be feared and avoided rather than welcomed. The broad issues of historical materialism form the subject matter of two chapters, the first a study of opinions on religion, religious bodies and connections with organized secularism, which radically reassesses the view of the SDF as militantly atheistic.


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