“It is interesting that Marx never analyzed the debate within the ruling classes which accompanied the Second Reform Act, for, as Harrison’s account demonstrates (*), ‘this debate provided a valuable test of the perspicacity of the “class enemy”‘. The reactionaries saw the issue of enfranchising the working class through the spectacles of their own highly developed class consciousness. Thus Lowe in 1867: ‘The fact is that the great mass of those you are going to enfranchise are people who have no politics at all… But they will not always be without politics, and what will they be? What must be the politics of people who are struggling hard to keep themselves off the parish? … their politics must take one form – Socialism’. The ‘progressives’, with a more realistic picture of working-class life, grasped that it had become possible to take the upper strata of the urban working class into the Constitution without destroying it. And their acceptance of the ‘working class’ as ‘respectable’ did not go unheeded among the political representatives of that class. The Reform League qualified its demand for Manhood Suffrage with the criteria of ‘Registered and Residential’. No one seriously intended to enfranchise ‘the class of persons they saw at the corners of the streets of the Seven Dials… the stalwart navvies with red handkerchiefs who made our railways… the hordes of Irish labourers… that class which, in common Parliamentary language, was designated as the dangerous class’. In the course of the Reform struggle the leaders of the labour aristocracy had developed close contacts with the radical bourgeoisie. In examining the failure, after 1867, of independent labour representation, a further dimension of this ‘contact’ emerges- bribery. Marx’s charge that ‘almost all’ the recognized labour leaders were sold to Gladstone and Morley has usually been dismissed as the rhetoric of disillusion. Harrison shows, in relation to the election of 1868, how true it was. The leaders of the Reform League, Howell and Cremmer, were both in the pay of the Liberal Whips, and used their influence as labour leaders (with great success) to prevent genuine working class candidates from standing. Both were rewarded with ‘small independences’. To a greater o lesser extent most of the other leaders were bribed by the Liberals. The importance of this form of alliance with the radical bourgeoisie, as one of the major and most enduring features of Lib-Labism, should not be underestimated. As Harrison points out: ‘The intellectual dependence of the Labour leaders upon the Gladstonians was never so great as to make their financial dependence upon them unimportant or merely incidental’. The book is important for its treatment of the political development of the labour aristocracy, but Harrison also provides useful documentation of the intellectual life of period. The rather diffuse essay on the Positivists at least has the merit of revealing their great confusion, as well as their great influence” [James Hinton, ‘The Labour Aristocracy’] [(in) New Left Review NLR, n. 32, July-August 1965] [(*) Royden Harrison, ‘Before the Socialists. Studies in Labour and Politics, 1861-1881’, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1965]