|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE GREAT WAR AND THE INTERWAR PERIOD
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The interwar years saw the continuation of vegetarianism's links with socialism and the left generally. With the rise of the parliamentary Labour Party, achieving power in 1924 and 1929, there comes to be a scattering of vegetarians in the House of Commons. Fenner Brockway, the radical, pacifist and leading figure of the ILP had been a vegetarian since just before the First World War. (1) The ILP was, in the twenties, no longer the grass-roots expression of the Labour Party that it was before the war, since direct membership was now possible, and it became instead a radical group within Labour, containing an alliance - sometimes uneasy - between radical intellectuals and the working-class-based Clydeside group, and aiming at a full socialist reconstruction of society rather than the reformism that dominated the Labour Party. The ILP in the twenties did retain some of the earlier sense of socialism as something that transformed all aspects of life, and Fenner Brockway wrote of their summer schools, where there were always vegetarian tables: 'At the schools we
enjoyed a comradeship which we rarely know now. Socialism was to us a personal relationship as well as an ideal for the future'. (2) Rennie Smith (3) - not a member of the ILP, though he shared Brockway's pacifist concerns - and Peter Freeman (4) – from a different background, a theosophist and enlightened business man, though a socialist - were also vegetarians in the House. Ellen Wilkinson - 'Red Ellen', the MP for Jarrow - though not completely vegetarian, was largely so.(5)
The link appears also in the socialist novelist Walter Greenwood whose best seller, Love on the Dole, exposed the human conditions of life in Salford, where Greenwood was a Labour councillor. (7)
In 1926, with the General Strike, we find the Vegetarian Society sending vegetarian food parcels to the distressed mining areas, though how they were received is not recorded. (8) Such activities, though of limited impact, do indicate broadly where sympathies lay.
Not all favoured the connection, and the Vegetarian Messenger records the continuation of the older criticism, now made by ‘socialists and communists' , that vegetarianism would only depress wages. (9)
There are also in the period some muted connections with Social Credit. Based on the theories of the Canadian Douglas, Social Credit was in the thirties a slightly ambiguous political movement including aspects of both left and right. Its diagnosis of the economic crisis was one of plentiful production but no purchasing power, and it sought to solve this by issuing a national dividend. There is a strong theme of individual responsibility in it, which was developed in relation to its health policy with its emphasis on preventative measures and individual self help. (10)
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