It was on this day, 13th January, 119 years ago that 120 or so young, working class, mainly male delegates gathered at the Labour Institute in Bradford to found the Independent Labour Party. It has been in continuous existence ever since.
The ILP has gone through several transformations during the intervening years, most recently in 1975 when it became Independent Labour Publications and opened membership to the Labour Party, but many of the concerns and objectives of those founding members remain today, albeit under radically changed circumstances:
- how to construct and sustain a living political community in a hostile world;
- how to combine fellowship in heated political debates;
- how to relate parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles;
- how to advance progressive causes in political culture unsympathetic to left ideas;
- and, later, how to respond to the Labour Party.
The conference was chaired by Keir Hardie and passed a resolution declaring the party’s aim to “secure the collective ownership of all the means of production, distribution and exchange”.
It also pledged to work for “independent Labour representation on all legislative, governing and administrative bodies”, thus adopting a dual perspective which embodied the tension between long-term social change and short-term electoral gain that remains problematic for all on the left today.
Beneath that tension, however, the early ILPers brought to their politics a passionate moral fervour, a sense of outrage at the injustices of capitalism that were all around them.
Those injustices are still all around us, and that very ethical kind of vision remains at the heart of the modern ILP’s perspective.
Next year the ILP will celebrate its 120th anniversary and we invite you to join us. Watch this space for details of how we plan to mark the occasion.
For a fuller account of the ILP’s history, click here.
For a statement of the modern ILP’s perspective, click here.