This year marks the 120th anniversary of the ILP, a milestone in British political history that we aim to mark and celebrate over the next 12 months in a number of ways.
The Independent Labour Party was founded on 13 January 1893 when some 120 delegates gathered at the Labour Institute in Bradford to create a national political party to represent working class people and strive towards a socialist society.
As well as some known figures, such as the chair, Keir Hardie – already an Independent Labour MP – most of the delegates were young, working class men and women, mainly from the industrial north of England and Scotland, who had been active in local ILPs, trade unions and trades councils.
They were pioneers, idealists in some ways, who knew they lived in an environment hostile to socialist ideas, yet believed it was possible to change people’s outlooks, to alter the political culture, and to create a fairer, more equal, more democratic world.
The organisation they created has remained in continuous existence ever since, surviving numerous ups and downs in political fortune, and living through many changed and challenging circumstances over the last 12 decades.
As Independent Labour Publications we have a (slightly) different name, and we operate in vastly transformed political circumstances, yet in many ways the ILP today continues to embody the spirit and purpose of its founders.
Like them, we are advocates of an ‘ethical’ socialism, one based on essential humanitarian concerns. Like them, as we wrote in Our Politics in 2011, “we hold fast to the ethics and principles relating to care and compassion, fellowship and fraternity, mutuality and cooperation, social, political and economic equity, and democracy”.
These have been the foundation of our politics for 120 years.
Throughout 2013, we aim to celebrate the birth and history of the ILP, to remember the people who made it and gave their lives to it, and to mark the survival of those political ideas by discussing their relevance and importance today.
Here are some of the events and activities we hope to be involved in, either as authors and organisers, or as participants. We hope you will be involved too.
13 January: The 120th anniversary of the founding conference of the ILP
From 13 January: Online profiles of ILPers
The start of a series of profiles of figures from ILP history, some well known, others unheralded, written by academics, historians, activists and politicians. The series will begin with Fred Jowett, profiled by Ian Bullock, and continue on the ILP website throughout the year.
13 January: Lessons of ILP history
Barry Winter, former ILP general secretary and author of The ILP: Past & Present, speaking to Dronfield Labour Party on what today’s Labour movement can learn from ILP history. More details here.
2 March: ‘George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia 75 Years On’
An International Brigades Memorial Trust conference at Manchester Conference Centre focusing on George Orwell’s account of the Spanish Civil war and the contribution of the ILP volunteers. The ILP will have a stall. More details here.
May: The ILP School
The ILP’s annual conference event will focus on its 120th anniversary with the theme of ‘Ethical Socialism: Past and Present’. Details of date, time, length and venue are still to be confirmed.
May: Book launch – The ILP: Past & Present
Launch of a brand new edition of Barry Winter’s always popular pamphlet on the history of the ILP. Last updated 20 years ago on the ILP’s centenary, this is a newly re-written and re-published version. More details to come.
(Note: the 1993 version of The ILP: Past & Present can be read here.)
September: The ILP at Labour Party conference
Look out for ILP fringe meetings, including one on ethical socialism with MP Jon Cruddas, the man leading Labour’s policy review. Dates and details to be announced.
And don’t forget the limited edition 2013 ILP Wall Calendars, especially published to mark the ILP’s 120th anniversary, and illustrated by political cartoons from the 1890s and 1920s. Some still available. Order yours here.