Ian Bullock on Socialism and Democracy in Britain
I am currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.
Since the 1970s I have been working – whenever I have had the time (and energy) – on what to me seems a question which is both fascinating and important – the relationship between socialism and democracy in Britain. I say, in Britain, because that's what I've worked on – but, of course, my interest, and the implications of my work are not confined by national boundaries. (see for example the 1987 article mentioned below.)
In 1981 I completed, as a part-time research student, the doctoral thesis, 'Socialists and Democratic Form in Britain, 1880-1914: Positions, debates and conflicts'. The D Phil at the University of Sussex was awarded in 1982.
I attempted in the '80s to get the work published Ð but lacked the necessary perseverance. Meanwhile, in 1987 a joint article with Sián Reynolds 'Direct Legislation and Socialism. How British and French Socialists viewed the Referendum in the 1890s' was published in History Workshop Journal 24 Autumn 1987.
I then edited, with Richard Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst. From Artist to Anti-Fascist (Macmillan, 1992). This includes my own chapter 'Sylvia Pankhurst and the Russian Revolution: The Making of a "Left-Wing" Communist.'
The substance of my thesis was finally published, together with chapters on the trade union aspect of democracy from Logie's work, in Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914 (CUP, 1996).
Since then I have been working on a book – provisionally entitled 'The Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left' which I hope to complete by 2010 at the latest. This site includes some seminar papers and one (unpublished) article that are tryouts of, or spin-offs from, this research. This is in some ways a sequel to the 1996 book – and to the Pankhurst piece.)
One always wants to know where historians are 'coming from' – particularly in the case of such politically sensitive and controversial areas as the ones I'm concerned with. This seems to me a very legitimate concern.
I have never considered myself a political activist. My only sustained – but low profile – activism was in my trade union, (then) NATFHE, in which, for example, I was one of the representatives of the South East Region at all – or nearly all – the annual conferences in the 1970s and 1980s. The only political organisations – leaving aside the usual single issue campaigns – that I have been a member of are the Labour Party (still … am I the only one left yet?) and the May Day Manifesto Group in the late 1960s and I was also involved with Voice of the Unions in the early 1970s. Currently, I am sympathetic to Compass. If I had to put a label on myself – something I've always resisted – I suppose I'd describe myself as a radical social-democrat; quickly qualifying that to say I mean an updated version of pre-World War I social-democracy. That should be enough for the purposes of this introduction. More biographical details – including political ones – will be found on the introductory page of my 'Trivia' site, See Links.