Socialist League (UK, 1932)
The Socialist League was an organisation inside the British Labour Party, 1932–37, which brought together about 3000 intellectuals to try to push the Labour Party to the left.
It formed in the October 1932 as a split from the Independent Labour Party, opposed to that organisation disaffiliating from the Labour Party. It was led by Stafford Cripps. The League argued for drastic action to be taken by a future Labour government to implement socialist policies. Among the leaders were Charles Trevelyan, G. D. H. Cole, Aneurin Bevan, and Harold Laski; other members included Michael Foot and Barbara Betts (later Barbara Castle).
In 1933 the League moved from research and propaganda to lobbying inside the Labour Party for particular policies. Its major effort, which failed, was to work with the ILP and the Communist Party for an anti-fascist "Popular Front" in 1937, with the Spanish Civil War as the mutual base. The Labour Party immediately expelled the League, and it dissolved in May 1937.
Looking to the future after victory at the polls, the Socialist League was obsessed by the fear that capitalists would fight back once they lost power. Laski repeatedly warned that socialist would have to use violence to get their way. The Socialist League demanded that a future socialist government should immediately pass an emergency powers act and establish a temporary dictatorship that would be ready to suppress the capitalist counterrevolution. The mainline Labour Party, however, believed firmly in parlamentarism at all times, and rejected any suggestion of a socialist emergency.
In 1937 its members established the Tribune magazine to support this campaign, which is still in existence to this day.
- Davies, A.J. To Build A New Jerusalem (Abacus, 1996)
- Mowat, Charles Loach. Britain between the Wars, 1918-1940 (1955) pp 547–50, 581-2
- Pimlott, Ben. "The Socialist League: Intellectuals and the Labour Left in the 1930s," Journal of Contemporary History (1971) 6#3 pp. 12–38 in JSTOR