By Henry Pelling (auth.)
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Extra info for A Short History of the Labour Party
For ideological reasons, they were quite as suspicious of Russia as of Germany, and they held that the best thing for Britain to do was to keep out of continental quarrels by a policy of isolation. Many of them regarded military expenditure as an unwelcome diversion of funds which might otherwise be spent on social reform. The Socialists were also inclined to oppose armaments because of their faith in the Socialist International, in which the German party was the largest single element. Successive congresses of the International had pledged the parties in 28 A Pressure-group under Pressure (1906- I 4) the various countries to agitate against war, and Keir Hardie in 1910 attempted to secure the acceptance of a proposal for an international general strike in the event of hostilities.
What was significant, however, was the change of attitude of the trade-union rank and file, which was also reflected in the official leadership of the Labour Party itself. At the suggestion of Lloyd George, who wanted to keep Russia in the war, Henderson was sent to visit Russia; and on his return he announced himself of the opinion that the best way to keep the Russians in line with the Western Allies was to explore in conjunction with them the basis for a negotiated peace. Henderson also favoured the despatch of delegates from Britain to a proposed International Socialist Congress at Stockholm, which it was expected that German Socialists would attend.
Further, he persuaded a special conference of the Labour Party to agree with him. This, however, precipitated a crisis with his colleagues in the War Cabinet. Summoned to a meeting of this body, of which he had been a member since the government was formed, Henderson was kept outside the door while its other members discussed his position. He was then formally rebuked by Lloyd George and accordingly resigned in a state of great indignation. I t was obvious that Lloyd George, who had originally been sympathetic to Henderson's views on relations with Russia, had had his hand forced by the other members of the Cabinet.