Anti-socialism in British politics, c.1900-1922 : the emergence of a counter-ideology
The thesis, "Anti-Socialism in British Politics, 1900-1922," is an attempt to combine the approaches of intellectual and political history in explaining the development of Conservative Party politics at a crucial period of social and political change. It pays particular attention to the relationship between political thought and action through the medium of 'ideology.' It attempts to illuminate this process with an extended case-study of the ideological opposition to 'Socialism' between 1880s and 1920s; it then traces the impact of these ideas to the strategic calculations and policy programmes of the Conservative party. It concludes by arguing that the ideological character of inter-war Conservatism can be best understood by reference to its resistance to Socialism, and it is through this doctrinal prism that the transformation of the Party into one dedicated to protecting the interests of industrialists and the middle-class, suburban salariat can be best understood. The thesis examines the processes of ideological innovation and operationalisation by which these interests were appealed to, and also reveals the political constraints which prevented Conservatives making too overt an appeal to the property-owning classes. The first half of the thesis is concerned with various intellectual and ideological responses to 'Socialism'; the contents of these critiques are treated as interesting in their own right, but are also related to the demands of a wider political culture, particularly as they were constructed with political needs in mind. The second half examines the political impact of Anti-Socialism in British politics at local and national level after 1906. It concludes by arguing that the relationship between Conservatism and the free market, limited government ideal of 'liberal' Individualism was closer than sometimes argued, that 'Anti-Socialism' brought the two creeds together, but in the end it was the 'common sense' Conservative modification of the Individualist creed which dominated political rhetoric and helped overcome many of the hidden tensions present in creating a Party for the 'property-owning democracy.'