Hugh Dalton and the Labour Party in the 1930s

Roberts, David Mervyn (1978) Hugh Dalton and the Labour Party in the 1930s. (PhD thesis), Kingston Polytechnic, .


The aim of this thesis is, by examining the various conflicts in the Labour Party in the 1930s, to explain and assess Hugh Dalton’s contribution to the Party during this period, and in particular his role in reshaping Labour's foreign policy by the outbreak of war. The opening chapters discuss the general condition of the Party after 1931, and trace the beginnings of its disagreements as events developed in Europe in 1933-34. The climax of the pacifist dispute in 1935 - when the Labour Party formally renounced any pacifist inclinations, and in which Dalton played a Subsidiary part - is related in chapter three. The fourth chapter examines the confusion and disunity in the Party in 1936. It shows the beginning of Dalton's support for rearmament at a time when it was opposed by the vast majority of the Party, and his rather individual response to the outbreak of war in Spain. The clash in 1937 between the Labour leadership (at a time when Dalton was chairman of the Party) and the left-wing Socialist League over its 'Unity Campaign', is elaborated in chapter five. Chapter six describes Dalton's work as Party chairman, and highlights his major contribution to Labour's change of mind on rearmament in 1937 - a crucial stage in the redefinition of its attitude to foreign questions. Labour's hostile criticism of the Government's policy towards Hitler in 1938, as shown in chapter seven, indicates the extent to which Labour opinion has moved. The eighth chapter recounts the curious and bitter dissension over the Popular Front in 1939 which was firmly rejected by Dalton and the leadership, and explains the Party's united attitude to the outbreak of war. The final chapter forms a conclusion to the thesis and argues that Dalton had made a significant contribution to reformulating the policy of the Party, and particularly to remoulding the attitude to war which Labour had adopted by 1939.

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