Domestic radicalism, such as the emergence of certain socialist groups, initially emerged in Britain as a result of the liberal politics unleashed by the French Revolution. Several new social activists, putatively representing the working classes of industrialized Britain, came to decry the abominable living situation and work conditions that the Industrial Revolution in England had created.
One such radical manifestation of socialist principles was the Luddite movement in Yorkshire, which thrived from 1811-1812. The Luddites sought to unbalance the nature of industrial change by destroying factory machinery and thus prevent the proliferation of industrial capital. However, they were not solely interested in destruction. The Luddites also wanted to strengthen the wage-bargaining abilities of trade unions, a goal that conservative Parliaments of the period were firmly against.
For this reason, even this social group did not represent the most radical expression of socialist ideology in Britain.Purist Marxist philosophers in later decades would reject the notion of trade unionism outright, as they believed that the unions were merely a strategy that the bourgeoisie utilized to force worker compliance.
In the late 1800’s, strikes and bitter labor relations brought more radical versions of socialism closer to Britain. Certain hyper-radicalized union workers, such as the dockers and gasworkers, prepared to fight for what they believed was a fair wage. Activists like Keir Hardie, the Secretary for the Scottish Miners’ Federation, pressed for fairer working conditions, an 8-hour day, and collective ownership of the means of production. The activism of union leaders like Hardie, combined with the efforts of the Trades Union Congress, led in 1900 to the formation of the Labour Representation Committee. The committee would be the basis of the future British Labour Party. More militant socialist groups, such as the Social-Democratic Federation, served as Britain’s first self-proclaimed Marxist party. That party advocated the complete overthrow of capitalist infrastructure altogether. All in all, such radicalism remained a fringe movement in Britain and exerted only minor organizational power.
By the end of the 1900’s, socialism was generally disregarded as a viable alternative to free-market capitalism in Britain. With Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, “New Labour” became the catchword for an economic system based upon a combination of reliance on the marketplace with state interventionism in regards to taxation and prices. Blair’s policies ultimately won out in the increasingly globalized and liberal economic environment of the late-twentieth century, but some minor, politically-socialist party’s have maintained their presence in the British Parliament.