Unit 20: Britain, 1950-1990 - Decline of Social Democracy

This Unit aims to

  • Continue on from Unit 19, following the economic and political scene in Britain after the Second World War.
  • Investigate the failure of Keynesian demand management.
  • Examine the post-war shop stewards movement.
  • Look at the decline of the Communist Party and the emergence
  • of the ‘new left’ and rank and file movement.
  • Chart the onslaught of Thatcherism on the working class.

Terms and abbreviations

Keynesian Economics: An economic theory advocating government intervention, or demand side management of the economy, to achieve full employment and stable prices.
Macro-economic: The performance of the overall economy, inflation, unemployment, and industrial production.

Dreaming in the Downturn: will state intervention herald a new dawn for social democrats?

My, my…how times have changed. For thirty years the free market could do no wrong, then suddenly all change and it’s state intervention that’s now the one true faith. Even our own steadfast leader, Mr Brown, has undergone a St Paul-like conversion. Now Mr Prudence is to be found strutting his Keynesian stuff all over the world stage, championing the idea of state intervention on a grand scale. How easy our politicians glide from one set of principles to another, hardly pausing to adjust their moral compasses.

Class Struggle Not Social Partnership!

The collective nature of the British trade union movement is gradually disappearing. Where as in the past unions saw strength through unity as the means to confront the boss class, increasingly unions are now turning to the idea of union rights enshrined in law as the way to protect workers. These changes date back to the 1980's when union leaders, faced with rapid economic change, collapsing membership and a hostile Thatcher government, decided to abandon "outdated" notions such as class struggle and replacing capitalism with some form of socialism, in favour of social partnership.