Source: Marx Memorial Library (MML)
Born in Suffolk in 1859, Lansbury moved to the East End of London nine years later. Initially he was a member of the Liberal Party. He later joined the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) shortly after the 1889 Dock Strike, but nonetheless he remained a Christian (socialist) throughout his subsequent political life. By 1903 Lansbury, like many others, broke with H.M. Hyndman, the leader of the SDF and in the same year he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP).
In 1910 Lansbury was elected as a Labour MP for Bow and Bromley. Together with Keir Hardie, they both championed the cause of women’s suffrage. In 1912, however, Lansbury, supported by the leadership of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), resigned his seat in order to stand on a ‘Votes for Women’ platform in which he pledged not to support any legislation unless and until women were enfranchised. For this he earned the opprobrium of the local working-class women’s suffrage organisation, the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), founded and led by Sylvia Pankhurst. The ELFS had not been consulted and local women regarded it as a publicity stunt by the autocratic WSPU from which they were later expelled.
Needless to say, Lansbury was not elected in 1912 and he remained out of Parliament for the next ten years. He was thus able to devote more time to journalism, becoming editor of the ‘Daily Herald’ in 1913; a newspaper which he had helped to found in 1911. The ‘Daily Herald’ opposed World war 1 and supported the Russian Revolution and as a daily paper, it was very influential in popularising the socialist and anti-war causes.
Lansbury himself was very involved in Russian solidarity and anti-interventionist campaigns. He was an elected member of the National Council of Action when it was established in August 1920 by the leaderships of the TUC and the Labour Party. He personally visited Soviet Russia and published a book in 1920, ‘What I Saw in Russia’, sympathetically recounting the detail of his visit.