Monday, January 14, 2013

The ILP At Dronfield

ILP@120: Lessons from History

Jan 14th, 2013 | By willb | Category: Articles, Frontpage, News
WILL BROWN reports from the Dronfield Labour Discussion Group where more than 30 activists braved a wintery night to mark the ILP’s 120th birthday on Sunday 13 January.
  120 cake
Fuelled by a special surprise birthday cake made by Christine and Rosie Smith (pictured left), the audience heard the ILP NAC’s Barry Winter assess the contemporary lessons to be learned from the ILP’s history.

Barry began by reminding the audience just what a huge task the founders of the ILP faced. Hostility from the trade unions, from the Liberals and from much of the working class, meant that founding a party for labour – ‘a party that will’ – was a project that had to be argued for and fought for.

Even the later creation of the Labour Party necessitated compromises that many were unhappy with as the ILP’s commitment to socialism was tempered by the reformism and electoral priorities of others. Looking to achieve what is best under the constraints of the day, while never giving up on the longer-term aims we seek to achieve, has often been a hallmark of the ILP’s politics, Barry noted.

Looking to the present day, Barry focused on the interconnections between the necessary role of social democratic electoral parties, left groups like the ILP, and wider movements for change. While parties inevitably become focussed on short-term manoeuvring between tight electoral constraints, social movements can be more open and creative, he said. Although often short-lived, at their best movements create political space that social democratic parties can occupy.

In its history the ILP has played both roles, creating space and changing political landscapes while also engaging in electoral politics. Finding new ways for dialogue and cooperation between these two areas of political activity remains one of the most important challenges we face.
Many thanks to Christine and Rosie Smith for the cake and the photo.

More articles on the ILP’s 120th anniversary can be found here.

More on the ILP’s history is here.
Buy ILP 120th anniversary calendars here.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The ILP Reaches 120 at Dronfield

The ILP Reaches 120

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the ILP, a milestone in British political history which the current ILP aims to mark and celebrate over the next 12 months in a number of ways. Starting with our own Discussion Meeting as shown in our right-hand column.

The Independent Labour Party was founded on 13 January 1893 when some 120 delegates gathered at the Labour Institute in Bradford to create a national political party to represent working class people and strive towards a socialist society.

1893 conf rep
As well as some known figures, such as the chair, Keir Hardie – already an Independent Labour MP – most of the delegates were young, working class men and women, mainly from the industrial north of England and Scotland, who had been active in local ILPs, trade unions and trades councils.

They were pioneers, idealists in some ways, who knew they lived in an environment hostile to socialist ideas, yet believed it was possible to change people’s outlooks, to alter the political culture, and to create a fairer, more equal, more democratic world.

The organisation they created has remained in continuous existence ever since, surviving numerous ups and downs in political fortune, and living through many changed and challenging circumstances over the last 12 decades.

Now known as Independent Labour Publications. the ILP has a(slightly) different name, and it operates in vastly transformed political circumstances, yet in many ways the ILP today continues to embody the spirit and purpose of its founders.

Like them, it advocates an ‘ethical’ socialism, one based on essential humanitarian concerns. Like them, it has stated in Our Politics in 2011, “we hold fast to the ethics and principles relating to care and compassion, fellowship and fraternity, mutuality and cooperation, social, political and economic equity, and democracy”.

These have been the foundation of the ILP's politics for 120 years.

Throughout 2013, it aims to celebrate the birth and history of the ILP, to remember the people who made it and gave their lives to it, and to mark the survival of those political ideas by discussing their relevance and importance today.

Here are some of the events and activities the ILP hope to be involved in, either as authors and organisers, or as participants. They hope that you will be involved too.

13 January: The 120th anniversary of the founding conference of the ILP

From 13 January: Online profiles of ILPers
The start of a series of profiles of figures from ILP history, some well known, others unheralded, written by academics, historians, activists and politicians. The series will begin with Fred Jowett, profiled by Ian Bullock, and continue on the ILP website throughout the year.
13 January: Lessons of ILP history
Barry Winter, former ILP general secretary and author of The ILP: Past & Present, speaking to Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group on what today’s Labour movement can learn from ILP history. More details here.

2 March: ‘George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia 75 Years On’
An International Brigades Memorial Trust conference at Manchester Conference Centre focusing on George Orwell’s account of the Spanish Civil war and the contribution of the ILP volunteers. The ILP will have a stall. More details here.
May: The ILP School
The ILP’s annual conference event will focus on its 120th anniversary with the theme of ‘Ethical Socialism: Past and Present’. Details of date, time, length and venue are still to be confirmed.
May: Book launch – The ILP: Past & Present
Launch of a brand new edition of Barry Winter’s always popular pamphlet on the history of the ILP. Last updated 20 years ago on the ILP’s centenary, this is a newly re-written and re-published version. More details to come.
(Note: the 1993 version of The ILP: Past & Present can be read here.)
September: The ILP at Labour Party conference
Look out for ILP fringe meetings, including one on ethical socialism with MP Jon Cruddas, the man leading Labour’s policy review. Dates and details to be announced.
Also, keep your eyes open for events at Clarion House in Nelson (probably in the summer), and at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, hopefully in the autumn.
And don’t forget the limited edition 2013 ILP Wall Calendars, especially published to mark the ILP’s 120th anniversary, and illustrated by political cartoons from the 1890s and 1920s. Some still available. Order yours here.

Hat Tip - Matthew Brown