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For Class and CountryThe Patriotic Left and the First World War$
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David Swift

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940025

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940025.001.0001

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date: 23 September 2018

‘I’d sooner blackleg my union than blackleg my country’ – Labour Patriotism, 1914–18

‘I’d sooner blackleg my union than blackleg my country’ – Labour Patriotism, 1914–18

Chapter:
(p.24) 2 ‘I’d sooner blackleg my union than blackleg my country’ – Labour Patriotism, 1914–18
Source:
For Class and Country
Author(s):

David Swift

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781786940025.003.0002

This chapter examines events in August 1914, including the Left’s acquiescence to the war, and how it managed to co-ordinate its response. It will discuss the principal characters in the ‘patriotic labour’ camp, and survey specific unions and ordinary workers who gave their support – and their lives – to the war effort. The progress of the war inevitably gave rise to anti-German hostility, and the motivations and implications of this will also be analysed. Finally, there will be a survey of ordinary trade unionists and labour activists who distinguished themselves during the conflict. In terms of both an elite and subaltern level, it will be argued that there was a decidedly united response from labour. Although enthusiasm for the war amongst the labour movement was rare, there was a general consensus that, once begun, it had to be seen through. Ultimately, this chapter argues that labour patriotism, rather than anti-war agitation, characterised the Left’s response to the war, and that the history of labour patriotism in this period has been unjustly neglected by historians.

Keywords:   First World War, Patriotism, Jingoism, Anti Germanism, Atrocities in Belgium

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