Henry Hyndman and the Social Democratic Federation


This plaque on a house in Colebrooke Row Islington, prompted me to look into the history of Henry Hyndman.
Was he perhaps a precursor of the Liberal Democrat tradition in Islington? In fact anything but.

Hyndman started off his political career as a pro-Imperialist independent in 1880; denounced by Gladstone as a Tory, he then converted to Marxism, founding the Social Democratic Federation in 1881. The SDF had some big names among its members, including William Morris and Eleanor Marx.

The ‘democratic’ seems to be a bit of a misnomer. According to Wikipedia Hyndman was ‘extremely authoritarian and tried to restrict internal debate about party policy’. He refused to quit as leader of his party despite losing a no confidence vote. In 1885, he took money from the Tories to stand candidates in Liberal seats to split the anti-Tory vote.

Hyndman split away leading his own party first as the British Socialist Party in 1911, and then splitting again to form the National Socialist Party in 1916. Meanwhile the SDF merged into the Independent Labour Party.

Hyndman’s personal blue plaque is at his former home in Well Walk, Hampstead. What I’ve not yet found out is why the SDF HQ was in Islington. If you know, please get in touch….

1 Comment »

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