British Socialist Party

   The British Socialist Party (BSP) was formed in 1911 mainly drawing its members from the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and outside sympathizers who opposed the “Labour alliance,” and the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), whose veteran leader Henry M. Hyndman became chairman of the organization. It included many individual Labour Party rebels and even whole branches from the ILP, as well as other socialists, such as those belonging to the Clarion fellowship (sponsored by Robert Blatchford’s Clarion Newspaper). The BSP was launched in the immediate aftermath of the 1911 strike movement and at the end of its first year was claiming a membership of 15,000. Thereafter BSP membership dwindled until the outbreak of the war in 1914, by which time it had declined to about 300 members in 15 branches. There was conflict within the BSP, for example between those such as Leonard Hall, an ex-ILP stalwart, who saw the object of the party as to exploit the socialist potential of the labor unrest at the time, and others such as Hyndman and the “old guard” of the SDF, who retained control over the BSP, and who insisted the party had no cause to interfere with the industrial responsibility of the trade unions. Conflict between the pro- and anti-syndicalists was a cause of BSP membership decline, which fell by nearly two-thirds between 1912 and the outbreak of World War I. Hyndman and a minority of supporters continued to control the party until Hyndman was ousted in 1916 for his support for the war and replaced by Theodore Rothstein.
   Notable BSP members John MacLean and Will Gallacher were active in the Clydeside Workers Committees, which called for the organization of the workers and the continuation of struggle until the wage-labor system was abolished. This movement took on a national character through the National Committee of Shop Stewards established in 1917. When the Bolsheviks took power in the Soviet Union in October 1917 the BSP gave the Russian workers unconditional support and expressed its firm belief in the inevitability of world revolution in the immediate future. The BSP supported the “Hands off Russia Campaign” which was successful in halting British intervention. In 1919 the BSP affiliated with the Communist International after a party referendum (local organizations voted 98:4 to seek affiliation). The BSP, together with the Communist Unity Group (pro unity members of the Socialist Labour Party) and various other smaller left-wing groups, formed the core of the Communist Party of Britain in 1920, on the basis of support for the Russian Bolsheviks. At the first Unity Congress in 1920 almost all local BSP organizations entered the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), claiming to have contributed some 10,000 members (in reality they probably only contributed about 2,500).

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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