Raising the Red Flag

Marxism, Labourism, and the Roots of British Communism, 1884–1921


Raising the Red Flag explores the origins of the British Marxist movement from the creation of the Social Democratic Federation to the foundation of the Communist Party.

It tells a story of rising class struggle, the founding of the Labour Party, the fight against World War One, the Russian Revolution, and the explosive year of 1919.

The book also uses new archival sources to re-examine Marxist organisations such as the British Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party, and Sylvia Parkhurst’s Workers’ Socialist Federation.

Above all, this is the story of men and women who fought to liberate the working class from capitalism through socialist revolution.

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Tony Collins is Emeritus Professor of History at De Montfort University. He has published extensively on working-class culture and sport, including Sport in Capitalist Society (2013) and Rugby League: A People’s History (2020).
List of Figures


1 Mr Hyndman versus Comrade Engels: The Birth of the Social Democratic Federation
 1 The Birth of the Social Democratic Federation
 2 From the Socialist League to the Independent Labour Party

2 The Labour Party Question: Labourism, Leftism, and the Second International
 1 The Russian Influence
 2 The Labour Party and the Second International

3 Britain in Crisis: Labour’s Great Unrest and the Revolutionary Left
 1 Realignment on the Left and the British Socialist Party
 2 The Second International Steers towards the Labour Party
 3 The Rise of the Revolutionary Left
 4 The SLP and Revolutionary Syndicalism
 5 Beyond Suffragism

4 August 1914: British Marxists in the Face of War
 1 The BSP and SLP and the Test of War
 2 The Anti-war Left
 3 Revolutionary Opponents of War

5 The Clyde Turns Red: John Maclean and the Enemy at Home
 1 The War on the Home Front
 2 The Easter Rising and the British Left
 3 Nashe Slovo, the BSP and Revolutionary Internationalism
 4 The Zimmerwald Debate in Britain

6 ‘Lads Like Me Had Whacked the Bosses’: The Coming of the Russian Revolution
 1 Repression and Revolt
 2 Follow Russia! The Leeds Convention
 3 Labourism Responds to the Russian Revolution
 4 Bolshevism and the British Left

7 1919: The Question of Power
 1 ‘Are You Ready to Take Power?’
 2 The Police Strikes
 3 Leadership, the Lefts and the Left
 4 Racist Scourge in Europe
 5 Ireland’s Tragedy, Labour’s Disgrace

8 Between Labour and Bolshevism: Towards A Communist Party
 1 Towards Unity … and the Labour Party?
 2 The Coming of the Communist International
 3 Britain and the Amsterdam Bureau
 4 The Fate of John Maclean

9 ‘Long Live the Communist Party!’ Building a British Section of the Communist International
 1 The Second Congress of the Comintern
 2 The Birth of the Communist Party of Great Britain
 3 The Unification Conference
 4 A Stillborn Party?

 In Praise of Learning

Appendix 1: Timeline
Appendix 2: Figures
Students, undergraduate to doctoral level, and scholars of labour history, the history of communism and modern British history. Activists and others interested in the history of Marxist and revolutionary movements.
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