Social Democratic Federation

   The Social Democratic Federation was the first political group in the United Kingdom to openly advocate Marxism. Founded in 1881 as the Democratic Federation and changing its name to the SDF three years later, under the guidance of Henry Hyndman the organization emphasized the centrality of class struggle to attaining a Marxist revolution. The SDF numbered in its ranks Edward Aveling, Eleanor Marx, William Morris and John MacLean, and was instrumental in organizing widespread demonstrations against low wages and unemployment in 1886–87. Through encouraging such protests to develop into a state of riot, the SDF sought to move Great Britain toward revolution, a doctrine that provoked strong condemnation from Friedrich Engels who stressed the ill preparedness of Britain for such tumult. In advocating violence, Hyndman alienated some SDF members, and even before the demonstrations of 1886–87 Aveling, Marx and Morris had left to found the Socialist League. In 1900, along with the Independent Labour Party and trade union leaders, the SDF affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) to promote the cause of socialism within parliament. However, a year later the SDF broke away from the LRC, which eventually developed into the British Labour Party, as a result of its failure to force the group to recognize class struggle as the chief dynamic of societal change. In 1911 Hyndman founded the British Socialist Party to contest general elections on a mandate filled with SDF principles, though the party failed to win a single seat, and disbanded during World War I over Hyndman’s steadfast support for the Allies in the conflict. The SDF continued as an independent organization until 1939, though it was eventually swallowed up by the British Labour Party.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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