Henry M. Hyndman (1842-1921) was an early British Socialist and one of the founding fathers of the Labour Party. He was also one of the group of patriots who, when Labour began to drift away from being the party of the British working people into internationalism, stayed true to his patriotic principles.
He was repelled by the capitalism of the Tories and the internationalism of the Liberals and stood as an Independent in the 1880 General Election before being introduced to the ideas of socialism as a radical alternative to the global rule of greed.
In 1881, he founded the Social Democratic Federation, which was to become one of the groups that later merged to found the Labour Party.
Many leading radicals joined the SDF, including the artist and writer William Morris, the journalist Henry Hyde Champion, the dockworkers’ leader Ben Tillett, Transport and General Workers Union founding father Tom Mann, and George Lansbury, who was to lead the Labour Party after Ramsay MacDonald betrayed it to ally with the Tories in 1931.
The SDF was to the fore in the fight for British workers’ rights against the exploitation of late Victorian Capitalism and soon established itself as one of the major forces in this new Labour Movement.
Hyndman was also at the forefront in urging that the infant Labour Movement unify and establish itself as a serious electoral force in its own right, rather than, as some had urged, seeking to work with the existing Establishment parties.
These efforts bore fruit on 27th February 1900, at the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, London. Hyndman and the SDF agreed to combine with the Independent Labour Party, the Fabian Society and leading trade union figures to establish the Labour Representation Committee, which became the modern Labour Party.
However, Hyndman began to have growing doubts about the willingness of the new Labour Party’s leaders put internationalism, what was to become Political Correctness, ahead of the interests of British workers, whose national, as well as class, identity he felt was at the core of their being.
In 1911, Hyndman had finally had enough of Labour’s lack of patriotism and formed the British Socialist Party, which went on to support the Ulster Loyalists in the 1912 Home Rule crisis and the war effort in the First World War.
When revolution broke out in Russia in 1917, Hyndman supported the democrat Kerensky. But he detested the cosmopolitan clique around Lenin and described the Bolshevik regime that emerged as “autocratic, cruel and butcherly to the last degree”.
He supported British intervention in the Russian Civil War of 1919-21, but only if Britain backed the radical nationalist “Greens” who were fighting both Bolshevism and Czarism.
Hyndman’s combination of radicalism and patriotism impressed even the Tory Morning Post, which on 28 November 1918 described him as “a sound Patriot-an Englishman who does not allow his socialism or his democratic passion to produce anti-nationalism.”
Sadly, Hyndman died in November 1921. In March 1922 a Hyndman Memorial Committee was set up whose members included the playwright George Bernard Shaw and Wickham Steed, editor of The Times.
Bereft of its patriotic socialists like Hyndman, the Labour Party drifted into mindless pacifism, the effective defection of its first Prime Minister and much of the Party leadership to the Tories while in office, one decent but short-lived reforming government in 1945.
Via the unprincipled cynicism of the Wilson and Callaghan years, the party drifted through the infantile Leftism of the Eighties and ultimately to its final betrayal and defection to the camp of International Capitalism under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Henry Hyndman would undoubtedly have seen the radical patriotism and commitment to the interests of ordinary British working people for whom the Labour Movement was set up and carried forward a century later not by “New Labour” but by the British National Party – which is proud to follow in their footsteps.