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Archive for the ‘Social Democratic Federation’ Category

The Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was Britain’s first socialist political party and was established in 1881 (called the Democratic Federation). Members included Henry Hyde Champion, James Connelly, HM Hyndman, Tom Mann and William Morris. In 1884 the Federation split with others going to form the Socialist League. A key founding member of the SDF who influenced matters in Aberdeen well into the 1890s was Henry Hyde Champion.

In Aberdeen there was already a socialist group operating, the Aberdeen Socialist Society, led by James Leatham. In 1893 Leatham left Aberdeen for Manchester and the Society affiliated itself to the SDF. The SDF became increasingly influential and overshadowed the Independent Labour Party as the 1890s progressed. SDF members were involved throughout the period, as members of the Aberdeen Trades Council, as part of the various interations of joint trade union/labour organisation committees and also standing for municipal and general elections. The first SDF electoral success was William Cooper (former Aberdeen Socialist Society) in the town council elections for Woodside in 1895. In the 1906 and 1910 general elections for the Aberdeen North seat, Tom Kennedy was a candidate (Kennedy was Social Democratic Federation organiser in Aberdeen). Other members included Aberdeen Trades Council senior officers: James Fraser (Secretary), James Gordon (Vice President), John Macwaters (President) and David Palmer (President).

The Aberdeen branch had a hall at 144 Gallowgate, then moved to 41 Queen Street (in 1899). The branch published their own irregular newspaper called ‘The Comet’ and there were several issues from 1898 until about 1908. The newspaper was described as ‘a working class paper…a paper that will take cognisance of the existence of the class war going on in society’.

The SDF could not be affiliated to the newly formed Labour Party and in 1911 the SDF united with other groups to form the British Socialist Party (it lasted from 1911 – 1920).

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council and Aberdeen Socialist Society

References: History of the Trades Council and the Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen, (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939), Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955) and The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: branch newspapers called Comet (1898, 1899 and 1907) and Aberdeen Trades Union Council papers (references within) are both held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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