HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND
MML has been supported by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund that, thanks to National Lottery players, has enabled us to mount our unique project on the Socialist Opposition to the First World War. This included an exhibition and a special extension to our main site containing much detailed resources material in PDF format, along with digitised and searchable copies from 1916-18 of the Call, the British Socialist Party's newspaper. Our thanks also to Professor Mary Davis for leading the bid and co-ordinating the project and to Luke Evans for spending time with us in developing this work.
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.
The BSP was formed in 1911. It was not the only Socialist Party in Britain. There was a great deal of factional struggle between it and the Social Democratic Federation, formed by H.M. Hyndman in 1908. The two organisations maintained an uneasy co-existence until 1916 when the Hyndman faction was defeated and the BSP was left to pursue its anti-war policy unhindered. The SDF under Hyndman’s leadership
This organisation was established in 1916 when for the first time in British history, the government introduced conscription for all men. Over 3,000,000 men volunteered to serve in the British Armed Forces during the first two years of the war.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, between the new Bolshevik government of Russia (the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey).
Helen Crawfurd had been an enthusiastic member of the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), but had broken with that organisation in 1914 when its leadership abandoned the fight for the vote and enthusiastically supported the war effort – Helen was shocked at this volte face and hence together with her friend Agnes Dollen formed the Women’s Peace Crusade. This body campaigned throughout Scotland to end war and to oppose conscription when it was introduced in 1916. Crawfurd was also active in opposing the rent increases introduced early in the war especially for munitions workers. Together with Mary Barbour and others, they, supported by the Clyde Workers’ Committee, organised rent strikes.