The search for socialism has no real beginning and no real end.
Even if you concentrate on socialism in the UK you have to figure out where it has come from, including when did it begin, and is it still evolving.
More than anything a socialist needs to find a home.
There are many choices in the UK but most see the Labour Party as the natural place to go and believe it to be the founder of the labour movement in this country.
In fact the British labour movement began long before the UK Labour Party was founded and had been around even before the previous incarnation as the Independent Labour Party.
In fact the first political party to espouse the cause of the working man (this came before women’s right to vote) and to represent the worker in Parliament was the Liberal Party, and although it it often referred to as a Lib-Lab pact there was no real party for the Liberals to form a pact with.
To find the real roots of socialism I had to go further back than this late 19th century political move on behalf of the workers.
One of the most important things is to define socialism and see how it compares to or differs from that other major political player in the late 19th century well into the 20th – communism.
If you go back to basics then socialism could be viewed as a political AND economic system with property and the means of production owned in common but usually controlled by the government representing the people. This is considered to be the best way to achieve equality for all.
Opposed to this is capitalism which is based on private ownership of property and the means of production with a free market setting the values of both labour and produce. Socialists see this as creating inequality in wealth and therefore inequality of power.
Communism believes in common ownership of property and the means of production in a society without class or government under the mantra: “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.”
As it happens socialism and communism were being considered by the working people of Britain in the 1840s but the discussion was not being led by British workers but by two German philosophers – Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, both of whom lived in England for some time (Engels’ father owned textile mills in Salford as well as in Germany) and worked on their individual and joint philosophies.
The two of them had a great influence on those looking for change in the way working people were accepted in the class system of England.
What appeared to be a simple search for the origins of socialism in the UK has already taken us back 200 years to a period before the Industrial Revolution and we are nowhere near to our source.
NEXT TIME: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman.
Comments on this search for socialism are welcome. Please be courteous and preferably brief.