The clue’s in the name: the Labour party was founded to fight alongside the trade unions on behalf of the British working-class. You can see the roots of the alliance forming when a mining company in Scotland tried to import foreign workers at the beginning of the twentieth century. One of Labour’s greatest future heroes spoke up for the men whose wages were being undercut:
Trade Unions were openly hostile, claiming that the newcomers’ lack of English made them a danger at work; the Glasgow Trades Council declared the Lithuanians in Glengarnock as “an evil” and wrote to the TUC [Trades Union Congress] demanding immigration controls to keep them out.
Even a figure such as Keir Hardie, founding father of the Labour Party, led a fierce, xenophobic campaign against the Lithuanians. Hardie, as a leader of Ayrshire miners, wrote an article for the journal, The Miner, in which he stated that: “For the second time in their history Messrs. Merry and Cunninghame have introduced a number of Russian Poles [as the Lithuanians were described] to Glengarnock Ironworks. What object they have in doing so is beyond human ken unless it is, as stated by a speaker at Irvine, to teach men how to live on garlic and oil, or introduce the Black Death, so as to get rid of the surplus labourers.” (Lithuanians in Lanarkshire, BBC History, February 2004)
Keir Hardie wasn’t being “xenophobic.” He was doing exactly what a Lithuanian socialist would have done if the situation had been reversed: standing up for the workers he was elected to serve. By the time Tony Blair became Labour leader in 1994, all that old-fashioned socialist nonsense had been discarded. Now the Labour party champions the downtrodden bosses against the oppressive workers. Read more