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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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‘If this is to be a jingo, then I am a jingo’ – Labour Patriotism before 1914

‘If this is to be a jingo, then I am a jingo’ – Labour Patriotism before 1914

(p.13) 1 ‘If this is to be a jingo, then I am a jingo’ – Labour Patriotism before 1914
For Class and Country

David Swift

Liverpool University Press

This chapter introduces some of the principle concepts and personalities that would dominate the Left during the years of the First World War, surveys the debate surrounding the Boer War, examines the history of ‘radical patriotism’ on the British Left, and notes the theoretical and actual commitments of the British Left to internationalism and pacifism. It aims to contribute to our understanding of the extent and nature of labour patriotism during the war by examining the continuity or otherwise between the decades immediately preceding 1914. The argument outlined here is two-fold. Firstly, across the labour movement as a whole there was an ambiguous attitude toward nationalism and patriotism. An uncertainty and contradiction resulted from abstract commitments to peace and camaraderie coupled with the realities of the European situation, popular nationalism and broader British culture, and this could sometimes be a problem for the Left. Nonetheless, for many across labour movement their commitments to internationalism and pacifism were superficial at best. Very often their left-wing views were based around an idea of community and nationhood that belied any internationalism. The fight for national survival against Imperial Germany allowed the façade of internationalism to slip, and confirmed the compatibility of left-wing and nationalist sentiment.

Keywords:   Socialism, Nationalism, Patriotism, Boer War, First World War

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