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Brief history of Glasgow branch

To say times were hard when Glasgow branch was formed in 1924 would be a serious understatement. The branch consisted of working men, only some of whom had jobs, and money was so scarce that in the early days branch meetings were sometimes held in the open because members couldn’t afford to rent a hall.

If funds were lacking then energy and commitment were not, so members threw themselves into making the party known in the city. John Higgins, the first branch secretary, was particularly effective at this and his meetings Glasgow Green gave many Glaswegians their first introduction to the party’s case.

To branch members knowledge meant everything and they were determined to have as much of it as they could, so classes on Marxist theory, logic, etc, were an essential feature, but the main activity was always indoor and, especially, outdoor meetings. Glasgow branch always had a reputation for having first-class speakers and even our opponents, whatever else they thought of us, conceded that.

Two outstanding examples of this were Alex Shaw* and Tony Mulheron. Shaw was an old-time street corner orator with an ability to have his audiences in stitches – his lampooning of some of Glasgow’s left-wing folk heroes, especially the “Red Clydesiders”, was hilarious. Mulheron, by contrast, was in his element on the indoor platform. Tony was extremely articulate and had a witty, flamboyant speaking style that could turn even the driest-sounding theoretical subject into an entertainment.

During the war activities were stepped up. Ever more meetings were held and new, younger speakers came forward. The wartime scene was brightened by visits from London speakers taking a break from the Blitz and, later on, doodlebugs and V2 rockets.

After “peace” was declared the momentum was maintained and the branch’s biggest ever audiences attended meetings at the St. Andrew’s Halls and the Cosmo cinema. Membership increased and the branch even acquired its own premises. In 1949 a second branch was formed in the city and this lasted until 1961.

In the late 1950s an influx of younger members revitalised activities, and in the 1960s candidates were fielded in three parliamentary and five municipal elections. More outdoor speaking stances were opened and there were public debates aplenty with Labourites, Leninists and others.

Added to all this was a winter programme of Sunday evening indoor meetings which ran from October to April and continued for many years. This meant that members had to wrack their brains to come up with titles for around 30 meetings every winter!

Today the old propaganda methods, which were the branch’s strength, are all but finished. People will no longer come to indoor meetings or stop and listen to those held outdoors, and this means that the branch has had to adapt to the new situation. Now we organize day schools, discussion groups, hand out leaflets at demos, provide speakers and other assistance for party activities elsewhere in the country etc.

Glasgow branch has for over eighty years played its part in the party’s activities. Its members have, in the past, given generously of their time, effort and abilities, and today’s members, despite very different and difficult conditions, strive to maintain this record.
 V.V.
2004
* see here for a report on Alex Shaw in a 1931 debate with the SLP

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