British Labourite Keir Hardie, old book, new edition


This 2013 video from Britain says about itself:

An exploration of the origins of the Labour Party, told through the story of Keir Hardie, Britain’s first working class MP.

By John Moore in Britain:

Keir Hardie: From Serfdom to Socialism. Lawrence and Wishart, £12.99

Friday 13th November 2015

With an introduction by John Callow

This edition of Keir Hardie’s eloquent statement of socialist principles appears in the centenary year of his death and happily coincides with a revival of his spirit of militancy, as illustrated by Jeremy Corbyn’s dramatic election as leader of the Labour Party.

After working at the age of seven as a messenger, and aged 10 in the mines, Hardie became a Christian, a pacifist, a trade union activist and the first Labour MP.

He was chair of his party in 1906 when Labour won seats in the General Election, though some of the candidates were closer to the Liberal Party than to socialism. He fought for the “new serfs,” the impoverished working class, and accepted much of the analysis of the Communist Manifesto.

Hardie speaks across the decades to today’s society, when he attacks the “barons of finance” and calls for land and industrial capital to be made common property.

He envisaged “free communism in which the rule of life will be — From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” He wrote that the Sermon on the Mount is “full of the spirit of pure communism.”

From 1908, when he stood down as Labour chairman, he devoted much time and energy to support for women’s rights and the Suffragette movement. He always stressed the necessity for women to have economic independence, rather than dependence on men for a livelihood.

In an insightful political introduction to the book, co-produced with the GMB union, John Callow covers the highlights of his career and the political decline of this great propagandist for social equality and justice.

The international socialist movement agreement before 1914 on hostility to militarism and to war as a means of settling differences between nations was shown to be worthless when the drumbeats sounded, the flags and white feathers fluttered and nationalist hysteria gripped the working class. Fenner Brockway said that Hardie was “killed by the war equally with any soldier on the front.”

For decades, from Ramsay MacDonald to new Labour, he was a marginalised figure in the Labour pantheon, downgraded as a seer and a prophet or at best a radical. But today there is a growing revulsion against bankers’ greed, soaring house prices, cuts in public services and the whole Tory strategy of transferring wealth from the mass of the people to the rich.

The labour movement, tired of muted Labour parliamentary opposition to the Tories, demands an end to the austerity programme. Keir Hardie, like Joe Hill, never died and can add momentum to that movement for change.

8 thoughts on “British Labourite Keir Hardie, old book, new edition

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