After Germany invaded Belgium, a wave of patriotism spread across Britain. Much of the working class which made up the rank and file of the Labour Movement supported the war.
Patriotism was also high amongst the trade unionists. The TUC formally agreed to an ‘industrial truce’ for the war’s duration. Restrictive practices in skilled trades were to be suspended as was any strike action.
Within the Labour leadership men such as Will Crooks did not see their patriotism as going against their socialist views. Crooks led a rendition of the National Anthem in the Commons in September 1914. He also travelled the country encouraging men to enlist.
For those not motivated by patriotism, the majority believed it would be a political mistake to try and undermine the war effort or associate Labour with the anti-war movement.
Arthur Henderson had been a vocal opponent of Britain going to war. When the war began however, he reluctantly gave it his support to keep the Party together. Divisions within the Labour Movement would not help British workers.
J R Clynes wrote in his memoirs that once war was declared most in the Party felt that they could better serve the country with ‘unswerving, if protesting, loyalty’.
Not everyone in the leadership could reconcile themselves with the position the Labour Party had taken. The Labour MPs Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald were part of the dissenting minority.