Labour History Review

A ‘Brooding Oppressive Shadow’? The Labour Alliance, the ‘Trade Union Question’, and the Trajectory of Revisionist Social Democracy, c. 1969–1975

Labour History Review (2017), 82, (3), 251–276.

Abstract

Conventional accounts of the decision of a group of influential British Labour MPs to leave the party in 1981 to found the new Social Democratic Party (SDP) focus on more immediate intra-party constitutional reforms after 1979, or on party divisions over the single question of Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). This article suggests that a wider array of longer-term factors informed the decision to seek an alternative vehicle of social democracy, particularly the critical response to the so-called ‘trade union question’ in British and Labour politics from the late 1960s in a wider ‘post-revisionist’ critique of traditional social democracy. It identifies the centrality and cumulative role of a new ‘post-revisionist’ social democratic critique of the privileged position and influence of an increasingly assertive (left-wing) trade unionism after the failure of Labour’s In Place of Strife legislation in 1969 in the later schism of British social democracy.

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Author details

Meredith, Stephen