The Labour Party founded in 1900 necessarily confronted the imperial nature of the British state, the empire as an economic and military entity, and the inequalities it contained. Yet Labour initially thought on the subject primarily in terms of the liberal objective of the advancement of self-government. It was only in the 1930s, in the writings of Lansbury and Attlee, that more systematic thinking about the empire in terms of global divisions of labour of which the British working class were among the beneficiaries, began to emerge. Tensions between the perceived interests of these beneficiaries and of the working classes of the empire as a whole remained in Attlee's postwar government. It did, however, begin to develop a reconceptionalisation of the empire as a multi-racial Commonwealth. This facilitated a Labour patriotism around the Commonwealth that reached its apogee in Gaitskell's weaponising of it as a means of resisting European entry in 1962. Yet the economic and military relations he evoked were already out of date, leaving his successor, Harold Wilson, to adjust to a multi-racial partnership.
|Keywords||Labour, Socialism, Commonwealth, internationalism, preferential trade, international aid, decolonisation, human rights, race relations|