Roger Spalding’s new book, published by Cambridge Scholars, sets out a challenging re-interpretation of the politics of Labour’s left-wing. It shows how the Left developed a range of simplistic, self-sustaining narratives, rather than supported analyses, to guide its actions in the aftermath of the political crisis of 1931. This approach, it is argued, persisted down to the opening years of the present century; its employment in part explaining the decline of the pre-Corbyn Left.
The narratives developed by the Left reflected a belief in the existence of a working class waiting to be led in a radical direction. The leading figures of the Left often had limited direct contact with working people, but, within their narratives, the responses of their target audience were predictable and automatic. The Left created an idealised working class that behaved as the Left wished.
In addition, the book questions the popular view, often enhanced by biographers of many of these Labour Left leaders.