Political culture and the labour movement : a comparison between Poplar and West Ham, 1889-1914
This thesis compares two areas of East London, Poplar and West Ham,that ultimately became strongholds of the Labour Party. The thesis attemptsto answer the crucial question of why, prior to 1914, it seemed as if Labour had succeeded in South West Ham but had failed to achieve similar representation in Poplar. This thesis considers that although contemporaries had identified similar social and economic problems in both Poplar and West Ham in the early twentieth century, more detailed analysis reveals differences as well as similarities in the underlying economic and social structure, which had implications for political outcomes. The difference in attitude of local trade unionists and councillors was crucial as was the behaviour of the political leadership. The reason for this, it will be shown, lay in the characters of the individuals who led their respective activists, as well as in the social and economic structure of the two boroughs. Using the theoretical model of social movements and political parties it is hoped that an understanding may be reached as to why socialist politics in these two boroughs, apparently so similar, achieved different outcomes in the years prior to 1914. The initial chapters outline the social and economic conditions in the boroughs and the national attitudes to their problems. Chapters Three and Four consider the left wing activists and their leaders, exploring their differing attitudes to the social and economic problems and their different styles ofpolitical activity. Chapter Five discusses the difficulties experienced by activists in achieving local and national representation so as to effect social and political change. Chapters Six, Seven and Eight, by considering the issue of unemployment, the campaign for women' s suffrage and the history of the Great Unrest, exemplify the main argument of this thesis. Thus by assessing economic factors, employment patterns and trade unionism, problems with the franchise and elector registration, the quality of local party organisation and the different attitudes and aspirations of the local activists, this thesis will test the hypothesis that the reason for the difference in political fortunes in these two boroughs was that left wing activity in Poplar was more characteristic of a social movement and that of West Ham was more representative of a political party.