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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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‘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

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

David Swift

Liverpool University Press

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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