James Ramsay MacDonald: Politics and Influence
Baarson, Kristin F.
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James Ramsay MacDonald was undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures of his time. He was a. man who was to rise from poverty to Prime Minister. He was a romantically handsome, elusive, unfathomable creature who allegedly was to betray the Labour Party which he had built, in large part, by himself. Reactions to him were strong all of his life. These qualifications, it would seem, would merit Mr. MacDonald a half-decent biography. Probably one of the most disappointing aspects about the man is that no such biography exists. One may only speculate as to the reason. He may have been, and may still be, a taboo subject, destined to oblivion as retribution for his "crime against society". For he undoubtedly did, in the opinion of other Labour Party members, cut himself adrift during 1931, in order to ride out the storm, only to die at sea, alone, reviled, and ostracized. MacDonald was, however, also a character of such complexity that he may prove to be an historian's answer to hell. The latter appears to be more the case. Far all of his shortcomings, it. cannot be denied that Ramsay MacDonald was as important to the Labour Party as life itself. The statement has been made that "if it is difficult to explain to the later generation the importance of Keir Hardie, it is doubly difficult to explain that of Ramsay MacDonald. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to convince someone that Benedict Arnold was important to America. While the analogy may be a little stringent, it is, nonetheless, applicable. MacDonald's importance cannot, however, be ignored. His writing, arduous work, and, the greater part of his life went towards the foundation and buillding of the Labour Party. The years 1900 to 1914 are the most significant. His political. career, his environment, personal make-up, and ideas, his contemporaries' opinions, and finally, his writings are all important indicators of his influence. An examination of these areas is thus in order.