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New Left Review I/30, March-April 1965


Raymond Williams

The British Left

Any analysis of the state of the Left in Britain must begin with an analysis of the nature of the Labour Party. [1] This article was originally written for the French review Esprit—it has been slightly amended for publication in NLR. For here is a mass party, based on an essentially undivided trade union movement. For at least the last 20 years, it has been always a potential government, and in good times for the Left it is capable of governing alone. From its foundation, it has been a coalition of Left organizations, and the essential political battles of the Left have been fought out within it. The Independent Labour Party offered an alternative political organization until its merger with the Labour Party in the early 1930’s: one more strand was then added to the coalition. The Communist Party, since the early 1920’s, has worked as a militant wing of the Labour movement: often involved in local struggles against the Labour Party, often influential in particular trade unions, but never looking likely to become a mass party. A Labour Government, with the maintenance of a militant Communist minority, has in practice been its normal political aim.

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