chapter  VI
10 Pages


THERE has always been the assumption-often unspokenamong intellectuals that the working class as a social group is easily aroused to irrational actions, is easily influenced by unprincipled demagogues and can be manipulated for any bad purposes. It is very commonly held that the ignorance of the masses makes them untrustworthy, that they can usually be found supporting tyranny of one kind or another and are seldom to be found on the side of the enlightened. It has been very easy, therefore, for us to accept the idea that imperialism received fervent support from the working class; we have, after all, the word of that eminently rational Liberal, J. A. Hobson, that this was so. In fact, it was clearly not as simple as that. As with any period of history and especially with any problem that involved the inarticulate the myths and misconceptions are numerous. The age of the new imperialism is no exception, and the existence of a jingoistic working class has been so uncritically accepted that it has achieved the status of historical truth without being seriously examined. In essence this myth is very clearly derived from the failure of the anti-war agitation and from Radicals and Socialists who felt that they had been betrayed. The leaders of the cause of righteousness had been deserted by their army. Thus Robert Spence Watson, pro-Boer and President of the National Liberal Federation, believed that the absence of a 'new Midlothian' had been due, not to any inherent weakness of the

anti-war agitation, but to the failure of the working class to respond:1

The working men greatly disappointed those of us who believed when we were fighting for an extension of the franchise to the Boroughs and Counties we were taking a step which would go a considerable way towards a more peaceful method of dealing with international disputes than that which was usually adopted.