Saturday, February 17, 2018

Opposition to Mass Immigration in the British Labour Party of 1948

In 1948 after World War II, Britain started to receive low-level immigration from its colonies. But – even within the British Labour party of that era – there were those who sensed that this could be the beginning of mass immigration on a scale likely to cause serious problems in Britain.

For example, the Prime Minister Clement Attlee was sent a letter on 22 June, 1948 signed by eleven Labour members of parliament who opposed mass immigration into Britain.

This letter said the following:
“This country may become an open reception centre for immigrants not selected in respect to health, education, training, character, customs and above all, whether assimilation is possible or not.

The British people fortunately enjoy a profound unity without uniformity in their way of life, and are blest by the absence of a colour racial problem. An influx of coloured people domiciled here is likely to impair the harmony, strength and cohesion of our public and social life and to cause discord and unhappiness among all concerned.

In our opinion colonial governments are responsible for the welfare of their peoples and Britain is giving these governments great financial assistance to enable them to solve their population problems. We venture to suggest that the British Government should, like foreign countries, the dominions and even some of the colonies, by legislation if necessary, control immigration in the political, social, economic and fiscal interests of our people.

In our opinion such legislation or administrative action would be almost universally approved by our people.”

Letter to the Prime Minister, 22 June, 1948.
The notion that Liberals and Leftists have always accepted open borders and mass immigration into the West is a lie.

In reality, concern about mass immigration on political, social, economic, and even demographic grounds was firmly part of the pre-1960s Left, and there has even been a strong tradition of support for severe immigration restriction on sectors of the Left too.

The eleven dissident Labour members of parliament in 1948 were also correct that the British people were strongly against mass immigration. Much later when Enoch Powell, a Tory, came out against mass immigration into Britain after his “Rivers of Blood” speech of 20 April, 1968, Powell received massive popular support not only from the middle class, but also from the British working class (see Lindop 1998), as can be seen in this documentary:

It is likely that Brexit too was to a great extent the result of working class hostility to mass immigration.

In short, the British public never voted for Third World mass immigration, and never desired it. Instead, it was a policy implemented from above by both Labour and Conservative governments who did not have a mandate for a policy that would have such far-reaching economic, social and demographic effects on Britain.

See my posts here:
“James Keir Hardie’s Views on Mass Immigration,” August 26, 2017.

“The 1908 Resolution against Mass Immigration by the Socialist Party of America,” August 4, 2017.

“The Mass Immigration Debate within the Socialist Party of America from 1910–1912, Part 1,” August 2, 2017.

“The Mass Immigration Debate within the Socialist Party of America from 1910–1912, Part 2,” August 3, 2017.

“Keynes’ Early Views on Population and Immigration,” April 1, 2017.

“Henry Sidgwick on Open Borders and the Free Movement of People,” April 5, 2017.

“The Old Left and Mass Immigration,” August 17, 2016.

“Ha-Joon Chang on Wage Determination in First World Nations,” July 6, 2016.

“Mass Immigration is the Last Fraud of Neoliberalism,” March 24, 2016.
Lindop, Fred. 1998. “Racism and the Working Class: Strikes in Support of Enoch Powell in 1968,” Labour History Review 66.1: 79–100.


  1. Good to see you back, LK. So who were the 11 dissenting Labourites? In 1948, the Australian Labor Party and the still-active breakaway Lang Labor party supported the White Australia policy.

    It wasn’t until 20 years later that anyone in the ALP seriously considered moving away from the policy - and most rank and file members continued to support it well into the 1980’s.


  2. I think of open borders as the quintessential right-libertarian position. It’s interesting to see how it has taken hold on the left, as a kind of virtue signaling shibboleth. Just another example IMO of why you are no longer on the left LK.