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The Global Challenge of Peace1919 as a Contested Threshold to a New World Order$
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Matt Perry

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781800857193

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781800857193.001.0001

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The Forward March of Reactionary Working-Class Politics?

The Forward March of Reactionary Working-Class Politics?

Democratic Authoritarianism and ‘Modernity’ in Britain and Ireland, 1919

(p.145) 8 The Forward March of Reactionary Working-Class Politics?
The Global Challenge of Peace

Christopher Loughlin

Liverpool University Press

The First World War precipitated the Irish Revolution, 1917-21, the strengthening of the labour movement via wartime production in the UK and the rise of ‘modern’ Britain and Ireland. However – alongside these radical developments – there was the development of reactionary and authoritarian working-class politics. For example, this period saw the development of mass reactionary, working-class Unionism in Ulster with the Ulster Unionist Labour Association (1918). There was the development of the National Democratic and Labour Party, 1918-22, (a right-wing and pro-war labour party) in the UK. Further, there were a number of populist, imperialist organisations which attempted to advance a right-wing popular movement: the Unionist Labour Movement, British Empire Union, British Empire League, and the Empire Day Movement. This chapter will attempt a history from below of popular authoritarianism in Britain and Ireland, 1919. It will question the concept of ‘modernity’ in relationship to reactionary working-class politics in Britain and Ireland. It will address how right-wing forces in Britain and Ireland adapted their politics to the era of mass democracy. Mass suffrage had been feared by many intellectuals on the right; yet, the inter-war period demonstrated that there was no simple correlation between economics and working-class political expression. The success of right-wing political parties and movements in mobilising the population was particularly noteworthy in Britain, but lessons, mistakes and fears all contributed to the trans-national re-development of reactionary and authoritarian politics.

Keywords:   Moral economy, Ulster unionism, Reaction, Loyalism, Empire

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