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Orbiston –The New Babylon

Since the beginning of civilisation, men have repeatedly attempted to build better societies than the ones they have known. The industrial revolution had changed both the prospects and livelihoods of the majority of workers, and rather than increasing their opportunities, they had led to greater uncertainties. The earliest communitarian movements attempted to transform this by forming religious and secular communities with participatory governments and to produce an equilibrium between the private and common ownership of property and work.
The word ‘socialism’ originates with the followers of Robert Owen who is still popularly regarded as “the father of British socialism”. It is not always remembered, however, that the socialism he advocated was co-operative or community socialism. Owen did not think along the lines of the later socialists. His approach was basically apolitical and he rejected the notion of class struggle as a means of social change. Instead, he believed in communitar…

Glasgow Branch History

Letter to the Editors from the March 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
Dear Comrades,
I was born in 1900 and am four years older than the party. I became a socialist after hearing Alec Shaw destroy Peter Kerrigan [of the Communist Party] at an outdoor debate in Clydebank in 1928. Since then I have voted by writing Socialism across my ballot paper, although in recent years through old age I have not bothered. But recently I was able to vote for a socialist for the first time in my life. Although I had to be taken in a wheelchair and the effort may well have killed me, I feel as if I have finally hammered a nail into the coffin of Capitalism. I feel as if the ice age is over and the next century will be ours.
By voting and reading a comment in the Standard by Steve Coleman "we are a movement not a monument" I feel rejuvenated. Some time ago I was given a book called The Monument which claims to be a history of the SPGB. The author says this is not an official history as he …

The passing of a brain-sucker

From the September 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 12th of August the death of Andrew Carnegie was reported, and all the capitalist newspapers united to diffuse an odour of sanctity around the man whose fortune—like all other great fortunes—was built up by the sucking of other men's brains.

It was on the shoulders of others that Carnegie climbed to affluence. Unscrupulous, alike in his dealings with his fellow capitalists and his workmen, he crushed out all who stood in his path, until he came up against a more powerful combination than his own, then he stepped quietly down and out of business, leaving Morgan, Rockefeller & Co. a clear field.

Carnegie came at the first flush of the era of speculation and "high finance" in America, and the tide swept him along with it. The keystone of his success was his ability in appropriating the product of other men's brains (as well, of course, as the product of their hands), or, as he himself repeatedly expressed…

Remember Bruce at Bannockburn? What For?

June 24th 2014 will mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which was just one of many battles between competing Anglo-Norman dynasties for the Scottish crown.

 The de Brus family had ties both north and south of the border. The abbey of Guisborough in Northumberland was a Bruce foundation. Bruce "the competitor" was involved a great deal with the English court and held extensive lands in England. he acted as a justiciar for Edward in the north of England. His son also was involved in the English court and was keeper of Carlisle castle for a while. The young Robert Bruce was brought up at Edward's court and had extensive knowledge of it and was also a favorite of Edward.  He, along with most Scottish nobles, changed sides on more than one occasion depending upon how the wind blew.

Scotland and Scots have been central to the great humanising and democratising strands of British history but their stories are rarely told.

Beside St Andrew's House stands…

The Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel

Ethel MacDonald was born in Motherwell in 1909, into a large working class family. Politically active from a very early age, she was intensely opposed to the political and economic domination of women. She left school at 16 and  joined the Independent Labour Party. In 1931 she joined the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation and became its secretary.

When the APCF split in 1934, she and Guy Aldred left to form a new group, the Workers Open Forum. This subsequently merged with a branch of the ILP to form the United Socialist Movement.

In 1936, the USM sent her to Barcelona to report back for the organisation. There, she became the English-speaking propagandist for an anarchist radio station, listened to in Europe and America. She was behind some of the first reports on the 1937 May Riots, when the Communist Party turned against the POUM, resulting in death squads of Stalinists assassinating prominent anarchists and 400 people being killed in street fights in Barcelona.

MacDonald oft…

Peter Murray McDouall (1814-54)

Jenny Wormald in her biography “Mary Queen of Scots. A Study in Failure” describes a Scottish monarch who lacked an interest in Scotland and who posessed an obsession in aquiring the English throne. In 1548, at the age of just five, Mary left Scotland for France. She returned to Scotland in 1561 following the death of her husband and continued to still own and manage considerable French estates, the legacy of the dowry settled upon her as a consequence of her brief marriage to the the French king. In Scotland, and even during her long imprisonment in England, Mary maintained a predominantly French household and a pronounced interest in French affairs. French was to remain her first language.

The Marie Stuart Society have now begun a campaign to raise about £100,000 for a full-size bronze statue of Mary.

However, Socialist Courier is always surprised, although we shouldn’t be, by our own forgotten Scottish working class history. The Chartist activist and friend of Marx and Engels, G…

A Chartist Tour of Scotland

Robert Gammage was a Chartist activist and is best known for his History of the Chartist Movement, published in 1854. In 1843 he embarked on a speaking tour of Scotland, lecturing in many small towns. It makes an interesting read and an insight into the history of the working class in Scotland.

'Recollections of a Chartist'

Now I was about to go to Scotland —
“Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood."

I walked to Annan, a little town about half way between Carlisle and Dumfries, and addressed a well attended open air meeting, and I was congratulated at the close on my lecture and its reception. I stayed at an inn, at that time the principal inn in the town. I had but rarely seen such a 'spread' for supper as was set before me, brought on one of those old-fashioned mahogany trays which I had indeed seen in my boyhood, but never supped off. There was meat in abundance, bread and cheese, and a jug of 'good Scotch ale.' I slept well…

Remembering our history

The SNP would allow American bases on Scottish soil after independence – as long as they were non-nuclear. And just who would be doing an inventory check in a military escalation and crisis?

Salmond said the SNP’s support for entry into Nato was “to send a signal to our friends and partners that we wanted to assume responsibility as a responsible friend and partner.” Whats that about who sups with the Devil sups should have a long spoon? Salmond wants him in our back-yard.

On his visit to the United States Salmond spoke at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, a New York-based group set up in memory of Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (see here and here for this despicable man's history), and said: “Both the Declaration of Arbroath, with its search for a Scottish legitimacy, and the Declaration of Independence, with its affirmation of popular sovereignty, were sealed in the force of arms and struggle."

All nationalism is based on mythical history …

Scottish Nationalism

Due to a broken link Socialist Courier is re-posting Vic Vanni's 1975 articles on the history of Scottish nationalism

Scottish Nationalism

Nationalists believe that all classes in society should hold allegiance to "The Nation". Socialists do not and point out how nations have always been the creation of a ruling group having nothing to do with working-class interests.

What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations.

This is certainly true of Scotland and far from having a common history or anything else the population there are mainly the descendants of native Picts, invaders from Ireland (the original Scots), Western Europe and Scandinavia. After centuries of what were really tribal wars the whole land came u…

She-Town

In 1900 Dundee was associated with one product: jute. Jute was the cheapest of fibres, but it was tough. As such it was the ideal packing material. Jute bagging and jute sacks were used to carry cotton from the American South, grain from the Great Plains and Argentina, coffee from the East Indies and Brazil, wool from Australia, sugar from the Caribbean and nitrates from Chile. Dundee was ‘Juteopolis’ – synonymous with its main industry. This association of place and product was not unusual. We still link Clydebank with ships, Sheffield with steel, Stoke-on-Trent with pottery. Throughout the late nineteenth century, over half of Dundee's workforce worked in the textile sector, which, from the 1860s on, was dominated by jute. Migrant workers arrived in Dundee in thousands. By the end of the 19th century, the city had quadrupled in size. Many of the immigrants were from Ireland, poor and Catholic. Many Catholic Irish immigrants faced discrimination and bigotry in Presbyterian Scot…

We Are All Jock Tamson's Bairns

"Tell people that patriotism is bad and most of them will laugh and say: ‘Yes, bad patriotism is bad, but my patriotism is good!’ " - Leo Tolstoy

INTRODUCTION

Some accuse THE SOCIALIST PARTY members in Scotland of being unpatriotic. We are in fact proud to be anti-patriotic. But just because we are not prepared to back the efforts of Scottish nationalists to break away from the United Kingdom does not mean that we are a Unionist party. We don’t support the Union. We just put up with it! Socialists are just as much opposed to British nationalism as we are to Scottish. Our rulers have decided to ask us our opinion on the matter. We should be flattered, but don’t be fooled. Constitutional reform is of no benefit or relevance to us. So we won’t be voting “yes” or “no”. We’ll be writing the words “WORLD SOCIALISM” across the referendum voting paper.  

The Socialist Party, part of the World Socialist Movement, argue that every nation state is by its very nature anti-working class. W…

"Send them Back"

Professor Tom Devine, director of the Scottish Centre of Diaspora Studies at Edinburgh University, welcomed plans for a planned monument in Glasgow to commemerate the 100,000 who fled to the city to escape starvation in Ireland in the 1840s. But he warned that it must not be "founded on comforting myth and unproven beliefs".

Far from highlighting Glasgow's generosity, almost 50,000 immigrants were sent back to Ireland.

Joe Corrie - Rebel Poems

Joe Corrie (1894-1968), poet and playwright, was a Fife miner, and his early poems were published in the left-wing paper, the 'Forward'. He has been described as "a class-consious poet." T. S. Eliot described him as "the greatest Scots poet since Burns". Many of his poems have now been set to music by such as the Battlefield Band. The Corrie Centre in Cardenden was named after him as belated recognition of his talents.

Corrie's first plays, The Shillin' a Week-Man and The Poacher, were performed by his group of fellow miners, the Bowhill Village Players, during the 1926 General Strike. In Time o' Strife Corrie dramatised the subsequent lockout. He wrote the play about the strike (which was heading to a bitter, protracted defeat) because he was on strike. Had he not been on strike, he couldn’t have written a full length play of any kind. The play itself is a family argument about how to make the best out of defeat. The last line will resonate wit…

Without the Rose-tinted Glasses

This rather unsympathetic article by Gary Girod about Red Clydeside is of interest and a rich source of facts and details.

The Background

For many years, the Left have painted a picture of Glasgow and Red Clydeside as a revolution that almost was. Some have argued that the unrest in Glasgow during WWI and the immediate post-war period was a prelude to the establishment of a workers' republic in Scotland. Willie Gallacher's said of the 40 Hours' Movement that "we were carrying on a strike when we ought to have been making a revolution." Memoirs written decades after the 1914-1919 period and the government's hysteria paint a picture of Clydeside which was far more revolutionary in hindsight than it ever was in reality. In 1983 Iain McLean's "The Legend of the Red Clydeside" asserted that Red Clydeside was neither a revolution nor "a class movement; it was an interest-group movement." Glasgow was not Petrograd and it never could have bee…

How Clydebank stitched up Singers

The 1911 Clydebank Singers strike is considered the first battle between labour and international capital in Scotland if not in the UK. It was also the biggest single firm strike in Scotland up to 1914. The strike lasted three weeks.

In 1867/8 the American company Singer Sewing Machine Co. expanded into Scotland. It first opened a small sewing machine factory in Glasgow near John St. However growing demand forced the company to expand to a larger factory in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow. In 1882 they moved again, to a greenfield site at Kilbowie in Clydebank. It was a very anti-union company. Tom Bell, an activist during the 1911 strike, in his book “Pioneering Days” states; “The firm refuses to recognise any union, and those union men that were employed had to keep it quiet.”

Crimes of Carnegie

In the land of his birth Andrew Carnegie is commemorated by statues and grand buildings named in his honour. In Dunfermline, where he was born, there is a museum to remember him. This article expresses a different view of the Scottish "benefactor".

Condoning Crime in the Name of Philanthropy

Many thousands of misguided people are applauding the alleged philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie and of these by far the larger number are
workingmen. Manifestly they have forgotten, or they have never heard of the horrors of Homestead — or perhaps they are too ignorant to understand or too cowardly to profit by the bloody lesson.

The reckless prodigality of Carnegie with the plunder of his victims brings into boldest prominencethe crimes he committed when they protested
against his monstrous rapacity. Then what? An army of 300 Pinkerton mercenaries were hired by this bloody benefactor to kill the men whose
labor had made him a millionaire. He did not have the courage to execute his own murd…

Tom Bell - Industrial Unionist

What they said before they became Moscow's men and followed the Moscow line.

British Advocates of Industrial Unionism
Glasgow Branch


Extract

The above body has come into existence to advocate the principles of Industrial Unionism, i.e., an economic organisation embracing all wage-workers, irrespective of the trade or craft to which they belong, and having for its object the taking and holding “of all the means of production for the entire working class.” ...

...What we aim at is an Industrial Union broad enough to take all wage-workers into its ranks, thus making an injury to one the concern of all. As the old handicraft form, of production has been brushed aside in the march of economic development to make way for the modern machine industry with its sub-division of labour and complexity of form, so craft unionism, which is a reflex of the former, must make way for an industrial organisation of the workers to suit modern conditions....

...The Industrial Unionist stands firmly on the…

William Morris in Scotland (3)

Socialism Militant


Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 117, 7 April 1888, p.106-7

Since a year may make a good deal of difference in the position of a party, even when it is being carried on by quiet propaganda, I give a brief account of my lecturing tour in Scotland and my impressions of the position of Socialism there. On the 21st March I lectured at Kilmarnock, a not very important town on the edge of the mining district. The chief industry in the town itself is that of the railway works — a tolerably good indication, by the way, of labour being cheap in the neighbourhood; accordingly I was informed that the iron-miners in the neighbourhood are earning about nine shillings a-week working four days a-week, and that the coal-miners in the neighbourhood are not much better off. I spoke in the church of Mr Forrest, my inviter. The audience was fair as to numbers; they were not demonstrative, and it was found impossible to get them to ask any questions; they were, however, very attentive, and showed t…