Jun 1, 1956
American Political Science Review
The rise of the Labor party is one of the most fascinating chapters of English political history. Within barely a quarter of a century the new party replaced the Liberals as one of the two major parties. Two more decades and the original home of political and economic liberalism became the classical example of the welfare state, now in its major premises accepted by the majority of the nation. Professor Reid gives the account of the formative period of the party between 1900 and 1918. Though the story has often been told in greater detail, two things come out especially well in Reid's book: the essentially moderate and constructive policy of the parliamentary group between 1906 and 1914, and the seeds of the discords which were to split Labor in the twenties and thirties. From its beginning the Labor party contained people for whom laborism was but a "left" extension of liberalism, and the more dogmatic socialists searching for a new social organization. The book documents once again the heightened interest in political and social radicalism which gripped English society as Great Britain's economic dynamism began to slow down in the 1880's. Some form of powerful social reform movement was clearly in the offing; it was a matter of fortuitous circumstances, of the destruction of the premises of European liberalism in World War I, that its main representative was to become the socialism of labor rather than a reformed and semisocialist Liberal party.