By John Shepherd
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Extra resources for Britain’s First Labour Government
On foreign policy, the Labour manifesto advocated an international conference to settle the problems of reparations and disarmament – ‘the only security for nations’ – and trusted that an enlarged League of Nations would secure international peace. In the final analysis the Labour manifesto appealed to the electorate to support its party candidates in order to secure a ‘humane and more civilised society’. It was a powerful statement of the Labour position that was likely to enhance its parliamentary position, if not thrust it forward to power.
The main strand identifiable in the Labour Party is the ethical and spiritual one most associated with the early independent Labour organisations, drawing upon the pioneering socialism of William Morris and Edward Carpenter, as well as the ethical objection to inequality, to project the need for a ‘new social order’ in Britain. This, essentially ILP, strand was generally ambivalent about the First World War and wanted to bring Germany back into the European system, by removing the reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, and was also intent upon bringing the Soviet Union into the same system.
Abroad, Labour’s advent to office created expectations that, in part at any rate, have been fulfilled. Internationalism is indeed a more popular faith to-day, and the League of Nations a more favoured instrument of achievement and preservation of peace among young people than seemed possible a year ago. ’34 These observations were illustrated by numerous examples of resolutions of congratulations passed by the National Executive of the Labour Party to Labour MPs. 35 While in 1924, as we shall see, one of the first acts of the new Labour administration was to give official recognition to the Bolshevik regime in Russia, at home the Labour leadership displayed an uncompromising attitude towards British communism.