Showing posts with label Scottish history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish history. Show all posts

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Orbiston –The New Babylon

Commemorating Orbiston in Strathclyde Park, the plaque reads
"The Babylon Community, Orbiston (1825-1828)
The first experiment in communal living in Britain" 
 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 communitarianism as a method of social reform. Society, he argued, was to be radically transformed by means of experimental communities, villages of cooperation, and this he regarded as a valid alternative to other methods of effecting change, such as revolution or legislation. The foundation of communities was not a series of more-or-less accidental happenings, but the attempt to put into practice a coherent theory of social change. One such project was a Orbiston, later nicknamed Babylon by the locals, near Motherwell and not too far from the reknown New Lanark site. Owen subscribed £10,000, but ultimately withdrew from the scheme because of differences of opinion with other promoters. Instead Owen himself commenced another at New Harmony, in Indiana, America which is surprisingly better known than the Scottish attempt. A  proposal by the British and Foreign Philanthropic Society for the first Owenite Community begn with the purchase of 600 acres of land, owned by Hamilton of Dalzell for the community. After 3 years of inactivity the Motherwell community never came into existence and the scheme was overtaken and in its place, in 1825, Archibald Hamilton and Abram Combe founded a community near Bellshill  at Orbiston, the estate of Hamilton’s father.

Abram Combe was born in Edinburgh on 15 January 1775. In 1826, Combe's health began to fail; he suffered from a serious lung disease, which killed him on 19 September 1827 (11th or 27th of  August according to other sources). His death spelled the end of the Orbiston co-operative. In 1820, Combe met Robert Owen and visited his co-operative community at New Lanark. Combe, a tanner by trade, was quickly converted to the cause of co-operation and became an advocate of Owen's principles. He wrote ‘Metaphorical Sketches of the Old and New Systems’ (1823), a critique of competition and exposition of co-operation. Combe influenced the Ricardian socialist economist John Gray, who paid tribute to him in an appendix of his book The Social System (1831).  In Edinburgh, Leather Workers Community was a short-lived community experiment set up in Combe's Edinburgh Tanyard - the leather workers lived communally and operated a profit sharing scheme. The Practical Society was a co-operative venture set up in 1821 by Archibald James Hamilton in partnership with Abram Combe. The Society aimed to improve the lives of members and opened a store for the sale of goods to 500 families. A school was established and members were required to sign a pledge to abstain from drink, tobacco and swearing. At first successful, the Practical Society foundered within a year when the storekeeper appropriated Society funds. Hamilton and Combe proceeded with plans for a grander, co-operative experiment at Orbiston. Archibald James Hamilton (1793-1834) was the eldest son of General John Hamilton, 11th of Orbiston and 6th of Dalzell. Archibald was an idealist and social reformer, and was chiefly responsible for the establishment of an experimental socialistic community on Orbiston Estate. Hamilton's prospectus for establishing a socialistic community at Orbiston was based on Robert Owen's "Report to the County of Lanark of a plan to relieve distress etc ", 1820. Owen's report had been rejected by Parliament as too idealistic, but Hamilton was determined to pursue his dream of creating a community in which "the poor and working classes .. provide themselves…with the necessaries and comforts of life." His prospectus invited wealthy individuals to apply for shares in the Orbiston Community. Share-holders would form a company and could expect in return "full interest and the satisfaction of seeing poverty, and ignorance disappear from their neighbourhood." Funds for the project were not initially forthcoming, and it was left to Hamilton and Abram Combe to bring the project to fruition.

Orbiston Community

The Orbiston Community, dreamt of introducing a new social order to the world and was situated on 290 acres of land. Separate from Owen, Combe purchased land in cooperation with John Hamilton with the help of a bond issued by a joint-stock company, The Orbiston Company. The community did not see the immediate success that had taken place at New Lanark, nor did it predicate its existence on that model. In fact, Owen did not learn of its existence until months after the community was founded. Orbiston was built around the ideals of liberty, security, and knowledge. Combe was to instill this in the membership from the beginning. The commune was constructed around a series of community buildings at its center along a running stream, with a school being central to this plan. As with Owen, Combe tied the idea of education to personal and economic advancement. The main building consisted of a large center building with two wings for living quarters, containing some 120 private rooms. The community also included a theater for cultural advancement, a foundry and forge, and a press for printing its newspaper, The Register. Everything was whitewashed with blue slate roofs. The pearl white community was surrounded by scenic hills and had the appearance of utopia, even if it may not have reached that goal. Combe would work himself to sickness to see its success.

Orbiston was built to earlier plans though with modifications. The main building resembled the design advocated earlier in Relief for the Poor and the Report to Lanark. A classically styled central block (somewhat akin to both the Institute and Mill No. 3 at New Lanark) was to be four storeys high and be intended for community use. It would house the kitchens, dining rooms (to accommodate up to 800 persons), drawing rooms, ball room, lecture hall and library. The vast symmetrical L-shaped wings on either side were to provide private living quarters for the communitarians, with Orbiston was therefore built to earlier plans though with modifications. The last consisted mainly of workers who had fallen victim to the on-going slump following the end of the wars, particularly a group of hand-loom weavers, casualties of mechanisation. As in the original scheme the poor and unemployed were being assisted much as Owen intended. Among the educationists were Catherine Whitwell, and, for a time, Joseph Applegarth, another Owenite teacher, who later participated in the New Harmony community. Economic foundations, in common with the majority of the Owenite communities, were shaky, though as the design suggests, considerable thought had been given to the social and educational aspects of life.

290 members of the community nicknamed 'Babylon' worked as weavers, blacksmiths, joiners, cabinet makers, wheelwrights, printers, painters, shoemakers, tailors, seamstresses and harness-makers. They ran a successful iron-foundery on the 291 acre site that included a 5 storey main communal building, school, apartments & communal dining facilities. 75 acres of the land was cultivated with vegetable garden & orchard. The land being manured with waste from the community sewage system.

 Orbiston community never became truly solvent and survived precariously as it constantly ran short of capital due to the little success it had in production and manufacturing in all areas of endeavor. This had to do with some of the inhabitants it initially attracted, more than a few of which were unsuited for the hard work and others who were idlers by nature. Locals came to call the place “Babylon” referring to the collection of rabble that flocked to the community from the surrounding area. The community spent its second year ridding itself of these and consolidating its membership around those that truly wanted to work toward the commune’s success. Orbiston’s internal government was a further trouble as the members were divided over the operation of the community. The division of income also became a matter of contention as well. The community originally was founded on a system of individual reward for labour, with economic equality to follow later. By integrating agriculture and industrial manufacturing it was believed that this would encourage outside capitalists to invest in the venture. When this did not materialize, the community was hard pressed to survive on its own capitalization.

Abram Combe produced a newsletter "The Register", which reported on progress being made within the community as well as on lectures, plays and other events organised for the edification of Society members. The first edition of the Register was issued on 10 November 1825. Abram Combe wrote of his perplexity at the pessimistic views on the commune's viability being expressed by two Orbiston Company members, who opposed moves to transfer proprietorship of the commune to the tenants, believing that the members were not up to the task. Combe was confident that a restructure of the community into departments was showing signs of success and that an audit of accounts for each department would produce a favourable outcome. Combe disapproved of the thoroughly communistic principles which were adopted in September 1826, after the scheme had been at work for a year. 1827 had begun as a period of hope and renewal at the Orbiston Community. The old payment system had been replaced by one of total communism: communal ownership of property, and equal distribution of wealth. The division of the community into 6 departments or companies was showing signs of success. Weavers were manufacturing cotton for shirts, trousers and jackets. Bookbinders and printers were gainfully employed, and the foundry and horticultural departments were planning to provide goods for the Glasgow market.

The community could satisfy certain personal goals, particularly of people who were in some way social misfits. It offered a solution to problems of personal deficiency or social maladjustment, and had an obvious appeal to those who sought security or escape from the world. Communities such as Orbiston collected their share of such types.  Combe’s views of the earliest members of Orbiston were recorded in the Orbiston Register of 19th August 1827:
“A worse selection of individuals, men, women and children, could scarcely have been made — a population made up for the most part of the worst part of Society. The adults were steeped in poverty ; lazy, dirty and thriftless : the smell of tobacco in almost every house, and a dunghill beginning to rise under almost every window. The children and youths were no better ; they were quarrelsome, unmannerly”
It is clear that Combe believed that the poor folk seeking refuge at Orbiston were fleeing the designs and misery of the Old System, “rather than to seek the advantages of the New.”

The death of Combe in 1827, the single point of commonality for the community was lost and signalled the beginning of the end for the socialistic community at Orbiston. With the loss of Combe came a loss of direction. Funding for the community was becoming scarce. Pressure for repayment of a loan forced William Combe to announce the abandonment of the bold social experiment in December 1827. In November 1828, Thomas Lawrie from Edinburgh compiled a report on behalf of General John Hamilton advising on the value of the lands, and on the best method of dividing the estate for a sell-off. The proprietors soon suspended all further proceedings and disposed of the property after two years and the buildings were pulled down. The demise of the community at Orbiston was attributed more to a lack of interest and desire by its residents in its success, than to its economic failure. More to the truth was its problem with under capitalization. Profits could not overcome the community’s early over expenditures. At least one of Orbiston’s investors was placed in “debtors prison” for advances made to the community, and this fact cannot be discounted as a detriment to future undertakings.

The last remnants of the "Orbiston Community" experiment in social reform can be found in Strathclyde Park, North Lanarkshire; close to the park's Visitor Centre on the Bellshill side of the park. Stone pillars or Key Stones mark a spot near where the Orbiston Community was sited. Known locally as "New Babylon" on account of the unorthodox views and behaviour of residents, the lands and buildings of the Orbiston Community were sold on 7 December 1830, bought by Mrs Douglas, a local landowner who ordered all trace of the community to be removed. A housing estate now covers part of the site and the community is remembered in street names such as Babylon Rd., Community Rd., Hamilcombe Rd. and Register Avenue.

The Influence

Pioneer socialist, John Gray, published a criticism of Combe's experiment, entitled: A Word of Advice to the Orbistonians, on the Principles Which Ought to Regulate their Present Proceedings. The co-operative, anti-capitalist nature of Owen's New System created tension between the administrators and the communitarian's themselves. And, although various trade persons and artisans were initially attracted to Orbiston, the community itself could not generate enough wealth to permit complete autarky and it began to borrow in order to remain buoyant. Internal factionalism and animosity began to tear Orbiston apart. His death marked the end of the scheme; the buildings were pulled down in 1828. Still, Orbiston came closer to success than some later communities would. But Robert Owen appeared blind to the eminent failure of Orbiston and in 1828 he wrote:
“It will gratify you to learn that the good cause is progressing substantially in all countries, and that your exertions, although not crowned with immediate success at Orbiston, have contributed essentially to make the principles known, and to prepare the way for their practice in many places.”

Some previously involved in the Orbiston project later become active in the trade union and Chartist movements, but most slipped back into what Owen had termed the Old Order.

Henry Jones, who was to become founder of Canada’s only Owenite community and perhaps the earliest avowed socialist in British North America, came to Scotland that year  making a loan of £5,000 (approximately a third of his assets) towards its funds that was given to Hamilton Jones was already sufficiently involved in the Owenite movement to become a member of the society’s committee and became one of its auditors.  In the summer of 1826, when Combe had to leave Orbiston temporarily because of illness, Jones took charge of it. But by 1827 the difficulties caused by the poor selection of members had made him apprehensive of its future. In a letter of 23 March he broached to Hamilton the matter of a return of his loan to the Motherwell community and accused him of an “Aristocracy of decision” in his “pronunciation respecting the identity of the friends of the New Views, – and the proper understanding of the principles of the System.” Nevertheless, Jones continued, “We may go on, separately, to exert ourselves in what we believe will best advance the object which we profess to have in view, and where we can, conjointly.” His forebodings were justified when the Orbiston community came to an end after Combe’s death in August. In later years the loan was to prove the cause of litigation that would consume much of Jones’s time and energy. Archibald James Hamilton had died in 1834 and for several years Jones was involved in complex litigation to get back from Hamilton’s estate the money he had advanced to the Motherwell community.

In 1827 Jones sailed to New York and travelled, mostly by water, to Lake Huron, where Jones found suitable land for a new cooperative community in Upper Canada near the mouth of Perch Creek, about 10 miles northeast of present-day Sarnia. Jones returned to Britain later that year. In 1828 he gathered together a group of settlers from the Glasgow area… the community, which he called Maxwell, reputedly after Robert Owen’s residence at New Lanark, Scotland. He hoped eventually to settle between 50 and 100 families. The first contingent of 20 people, which arrived early in 1829 accompanied by a surgeon, consisted mostly of former members of the Orbiston community, almost all of whom were Lowland Scots and unemployed hand-loom weavers. A log building was erected that year with Orbiston as a model, for there were individual family apartments and common kitchens and dining-rooms. A contemporary sketch shows the building, not entirely completed, occupying three sides of a rectangular green; there is a central, two-story block and the wings are single-storeyed. Jones also established a store and a school on Owenite principles.

In 1834 on 17 May after Jones had left on a trip to England and Scotland a fire started in the community house and, as Henry John Jones, his son, recorded, “in less than an hour Maxwell had disappeared – the greater part of the books and light furniture was saved.” The few people remaining in the community after the fire lived in the barn and above the stables until a new building was erected. Jones returned to Upper Canada some time after July 1843, he may have partly shed his Owenism and may have largely remained immune from phalansterianism. In 1840, after Owen’s presentation to Queen Victoria had resulted in vigorous criticism of his principles, Henry John Jones had noted that his father seemed “a little ashamed of ‘Socialism.’” He nevertheless appears to have remained a utopian thinker and planner and, in the sense of desiring a social change in the direction of voluntary association apart from the state, a kind of libertarian socialist. Henry John Jones, remarked in 1839, that his father became “further gone in Socialism than ever.” He bombarded his reluctant relatives in Canada with letters suggesting that they should form a kind of “family community” with the few settlers who remained at Maxwell. He talked “of bringing out another ragged regiment to form a community in case his own family shd fail to come to terms.” Jones’s days of activity ended. He found that the few people at Maxwell who remained from the original settlement had established their own households and had no interest in forming a new community. The family home at Maxwell had been burnt down in 1839 but was rebuilt in 1842 and there Jones lived the rest of his life. Nobody in Canada was influenced by his utopian ideas,


A study of Orbitson reveals the following:
The creation of a new community is likely to attract those who seek an immediate escape from the old order and interests are liable to conflict. And of course there can be no islands of socialism in an ocean of capitalism. The rules of finance still rule.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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 did not have access to the party's records. The book is therefore anecdotal and relies heavily on the writer's memory (or imagination). An example of the dubious nature of this information is the tale of Glasgow branch voting to expel John Higgins for bringing a gas mask to a branch meeting during the war.

This statement caricatures the men and women who were stalwarts in the struggle for socialism in those days. There is no other comment in the book about Glasgow comrades which leads me to think that Mr Barltrop has never been there.

Jimmy Brodie was a joiner, like myself, and he used to give history and economics classes during the lunch hour on whichever boat we were working on. The steel bulkhead was the blackboard (the location was changed daily to avoid the gestapo) and the socialist message remained on the walls for weeks. These classes were attended by hundreds of workers and the debates engendered carried on into worktime much to the consternation of foremen and managers. Not to speak of the Commie second fronters.

It took a lot of guts to advocate the socialist case in the emotional climate of the 1940s. Tommy Mulheron was prominent in the dock strike. Alec Shaw in Howdens. Joe Richmond an apprentice where I worked organised a strike in 1943 which brought the firm to its knees. In spite of Union opposition the apprentices won.

My branch of the union had lots of socialists, Willie Travers, Joe Richmond, Jimmy Craig, Eddie Hughes, John Fitton, Jimmy McGowan, Willie Henderson, so that it became known as the Socialist Sixth. These men were indefatigable exponents of the Socialist case, some of them were speakers for the party, but all of them were influential in the Union. The Socialist Party has never had leaders, it has no need of them. But it has had its heroes and been all the stronger and richer for them. This book, The Monument, diminishes these men whose worth is greater than all the Maxtons, Bevans, Pollitts and Gallachers, whose names are still revered by many workers today.

The present Socialist Party stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before and should give credit to the breadth and depth of those shoulders. Surely, approaching its centenary, the party can write an official history, not only of the party but the whole world wide Socialist movement.

Do not leave it to the Barltrops of this world. Do not let our heroes die without trace if left to word of mouth they will become as myth and legend, more fantasy than fact, and spawn books like The Monument which does the Movement a disservice.

I am now 94 years old and must be one of the last of my generation. I grieve that my old comrades have died unsung although they were heroes all.

Yours for the Revolution,
Paddy Small, Glasgow

Thanks for your comments. And thanks also to all the other Socialists - supporters and sympathisers as well as Socialist Party members - who contributed the money (£22,286, to be precise) that enabled us to put up a Socialist candidate in Glasgow and three other seats in last year's Euro-elections and to get a socialist leaflet distributed to one million households.

Monday, December 30, 2013

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 it in relation to his managers, finding better men to look after his interests.

The man who is set up as a model of "self-help" was helped by others all his life. The only direction in which he exercised self-help was in helping himself to the the product of the work of others.

A quotation from the full-page effusion on Carnegie's life in the "Daily Telegraph" (Aug. 12th) gives in a nutshell the story of his life and the cause of his success.
“He began the world without a penny. He retired from business sixty years after one of the richest men in the world—to put it no higher—with a fortune of some 90,000,000 . . . It was won by a man who had no training for his life-work. The greatest of iron masters knew nothing of metallurgy."(Italics mine.) No money—no knowledge of iron—yet the greatest iron master! How did he do it?
“To the progress of the industrial revolution, to the stupendous development of mechanical and scientific methods in manufacture, Andrew Carnegie owed his millions."

Here we have it. Carnegie's wealth was built up by the ingenious brains and hands of working men. In other words, the departed saint stole the product of others' toil. And what of the workers and thinkers whose discoveries brought about the industrial revolution? The main figures in it—Crompton, Cartwright, Stephenson, Kay, Jacquard, Harrington, Lavoisier, Koening, Roberts, Trevithick, Gutenburg, Cart, Bourseul, and a host of others, either died in poverty after lives of struggle against starvation, or—in the case of a very few—gained a niggardly recognition when they were on the brink of the grave.

Now let us see where the self-help came in. Carnegie's first "start" in life was due to another person. To quote again from the "Daily Telegraph":
“And now came the tide in Carnegie's life which, taken at the flood, led on to fortune . . . It was Col. Scott who first taught the youth how to make money earn more money . . . His mother mortgaged their house, into which had gone all the family savings. With the $600 thus raised Andrew bought Adams Express Stock, on his astute employer's advice."
Of course the stock paid well: Scott was in the "swim."

Carnegie's next step was to introduce to the Pennsylvania Railroad, through the agency of Scott (who was president of the company) T. T. Woodruff's invention of a sleeping berth (the forerunner of the Pullman car). He borrowed the money for his shares, and was "let in on the ground floor," "but the cars afterwards paid handsome dividends!" "Thus," he wrote, "did I get my foot on fortune's ladder. It was easy to climb after that."

Thus did he vindicate the glorious principle of self help! I may add that I find no record of Woodruff's name as one of those who got their feet on fortune's ladder. No doubt he went the usual way of inventors.

During the Civil War Carnegie's pal Scott (now Assistant Secretary for War) found him a lucrative job in the service of the Northern wage slave owners, and at the conclusion of the war he utilised the wealth he had acquired to go in for oil and "struck it rich."

Like Mr. Rockefeller, he was in at the start. In 1862, with several associates, he purchase the Storey Farm, on Oil Creek, Pennsylvania for $40,000. It proved what prospectors call a bonanza, and in one year paid $1,000,000 in cash dividends.

Having gained the early plums of the oil trade, the "self-made man" in the making turned his attention to steel. On a visit to England he saw the steel rails that were the result of the new Bessemer process (a process discovered by one of Bessemer's workmen whose name even is  not known!) introduced them into America, and another chunk was added to his fortune.

The process of the Trust in which Carnegie had the preponderating influence was largely due to the valuable patents which they controlled. The men who were responsible for the subjects of these patents, however, were but pawns in the hands of the financiers.

Working men have proverbially short memories, yet the name "Homestead" should suffice to recall to the mind the bludgeoning and shooting of working men that took place at Carnegie's works during the "Homestead" strike, when Pinkerton and his gunmen were called in. Though daily waxing richer Andrew the philanthropist (!) was not satisfied, and laid plans to increase the working hours. The men organised to resist the project, so he retaliated by refusing to employ any but non-union workers. According to the "Telegraph" "the strike was soon the crux of one of the ugliest scenes in all the bloodstained history of American labour quarrels." The military (to the number of some 8,000 soldiers) were eventually sent to the vampire's assistance "to restore order"! And such was the man who professed to be the ardent anti-militarist and apostle of peace, and who presented to the world the "Palaces of Peace." Like others of his kidney, he did not want war when it interfered with his accumulation of wealth, but when it suited his purse (as when he took part in the Civil War) his objections vanished.

By the irony of circumstance, the same day the papers were applauding the incarnation of self-help and genius in the shape of Carnegie, they devoted a few lines to recording the tragic death of poor Blakelocke, the American landscape painter. His life "was the story of genius doomed to poverty," says the "Evening News" (13.8.19). His greatest works were sold by him for a few paltry pounds to keep his wife and family from starvation. The same works were afterwards sold for hundreds of pounds. The same paper further states: "Worry and the hard struggle for existence eventually produced a break-down, and he was removed to an asylum."

Blakelocke is now looked upon as one of the greatest landscape painters of America, but his genius only brought him poverty and the lunatic asylum.

What a contrast! The unscrupulous and slimy Carnegie dies in the midst of vast riches, while the fine artist dies in the asylum! Self-help, forsooth!

After officially stepping out of business (although still drawing his dividends), Carnegie set out to make a name for himself in a new direction. He made arrangements to distribute libraries in various places to assist in the education of working men. It appears strange that one who was such a determined antagonist of his employees should suddenly blossom forth as their benefactor. The strangeness, however, disappears as soon as we look below the surface. Carnegie and his class require workpeople who have sharp brains and a good technical knowledge, as these make the most efficient wage-slaves—hence the library stunt.

Since 1901 Carnegie has been throwing millions away and doing his damnedest to spend his money, but all to no purpose: he dies worth nearly as much as in 1901! What a power of wealth this one man must have robbed the workers of, and yet they try to kid us that we do not produce enough!

Away with dreams and delusions; let us wake up and produce for ourselves. Perish the parasites and vampires.


To Socialist Courier, this sounds all too familiar.

Steve Jobs said of Bill Gates “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

See here for more on Carnegie

Monday, December 16, 2013

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 Old Calton Cemetery and in it, is an obelisk. It's a memorial to Thomas Muir, and colleagues, transported to Australia for campaigning for universal suffrage, who then escaped and participated in the French Revolution of “Liberty Equality and Fraternity”. Inscribed on it are his words:
"I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause - it shall ultimately prevail - it shall finally triumph."

If we need a founding myth, that's where to start, with and for the people, facing the future. Not remembering medieval noblemen squabbling over the right to rule the peasants. Bruce at Bannockburn never fought for the people - he fought to place a crown upon his head.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

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 often endangered her life in support of her cause. When anarchists and POUMists, were rounded Ethel MacDonald visited comrades in prison, smuggling in food and letters. She helped several foreign anarchists escape from Spain, borrowing clothes for their disguise and getting them on board foreign ships. She was finally captured and imprisoned herself. In prison she helped organise a hunger strike in every prison where there were anarchist prisoners.  She was imprisoned by Stalin's secret police, but while the world fretted about her disappearance, she organised hunger strikes among the anarchist prisoners and smuggled out letters. After questions about her absence in the Houses of Parliament and an American newspaper campaign, supporters formed the Ethel MacDonald Defence Committee. International pressure was applied and she was deported to France, eventually returning to Glasgow disillusioned. She told crowds of well-wishers:
 "I went to Spain full of hopes and dreams. It promised the utopia realised. I return full of sadness, dulled by the tragedy I have seen."

She lived in a menage-a-trois with other anarchists in Gibson Street in Glasgow. John Caldwell gives a remarkable testimony." Caldwell recalled: "We were separate individuals who sometimes had it off a wee bit. "When Ethel and I were in public, we were separate people ... sex had nothing to do with other people. "But she believed I could have as many friends as I liked and she could, too." He added: "Her broadcasts went down very well. Some of the American newspapers said how pleasant her Scottish voice was. But Ethel's mother disapproved of her being with [one of her companions] Aldred. Aldred the free lover, the atheist - she didn't want it. After Ethel died, none of the family came near us at all."

'The Word' was produced by Guy Aldred plus John Taylor Caldwell, Ethel MacDonald and Jenny Patrick in Glasgow post World War 2 to the late sixties.

Ethel MacDonald died on December the 1st in 1960 of multiple sclerosis.

Ethel MacDonald was not a member of the SPGB, nor do we claim her as one of our own. In many regards she and the SPGB disagreed but she is part of the history of the Scottish working class and deserves not to be forgotten.

Further Reading
An Anarchists Story: The Life of Ethel MacDonald - Chris Dolan
Ethel MacDonald:Glasgow Woman Anarchist - Rhona M Hodgart

A documentary film "Ethel Macdonald: An Anarchist's Story?" was broadcast by the BBC in 2006

Saturday, May 11, 2013

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, George Julian Harney was to recall, “no man in the Chartist movement was better known than Dr McDouall”.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ca' Canny

The Libcom website has an interesting working class history article on the Glasgow dockers "ca' canny" go slow campaign of 1889.

To break strikes the employers regularly brought in scabs from other cities. Workers had to devise another industrial struggle strategy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

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, a pretty good sign of a quiet conscience. Macbeth might murder sleep, but I did not, nor did sleep murder me, for I felt all alive on the following morning, and breakfasted on pre-served salmon and fresh egges . And what, it may be asked; did you pay for all this? I need not be ashamed to own it, seeing that I paid all that was charged, and that was the sum of 2s.! When I offered the servant a little gratuity for cleaning my boots, it was with evident reluctance that she received it. What think you of that, travellers of these faster days?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On this Day

April 17 in 618 -- On this day fifty-three monks were burned alive in their refectory by a gang of armed women seeking revenge for being cheated out of their pasture rights, on the island of Eigg.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

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 and nations have to create their ideologies from whatever scraps come to hand. Scotland is no exception and is perhaps luckier than most with its many tales of romance. The 6th April marks the anniversary of the signing of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath.

"Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself." - Declaration of Arbroath or properly titled "Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII".

Stirring patriotic stuff. That it had ever existed was soon entirely forgotten and it was only rediscovered when a version of it was published by Sir George Mackenzie in 1680. It then becomes influential, but not really as an expression of nationalism but as support for those who wished to curtail royal power. It was only later that the Declaration of Arbroath came to be seen in purely nationalistic terms.

Scotland in 1320 was a very different country to the Scotland we know today therefore we should not ahistorically give to a medieval mind-set the sensibilities of a later, modern age. So we should what did the signatories of the document actually mean by "we" and "freedom"? The "we" who attached their seals to the document were all noblemen. And it was their freedom that it concerned. The authors of the Arbroath declaration most likely used the word "people" to mean "people like us". There you have it. The “people” of Scotland were the nobles, the majority of whom at that time were still fairly much culturally Anglo-Norman, despite inter-marriage within the indigenous Scoto-Gaelic ruling families and their further integration in terms of land holding and property ownership. As for the common-folk of Scotland; they had no say in the matter. Or in anything for that matter. The idea that the peasant in the fields or labourer in the towns had any type of say is laughable. The Declaration signatories certainly had no concept of popular sovereignty.

Those medieval signatories to the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath were merely feudal barons asserting their claim to rule and lord it over their own tenants and serfs, not leading any "liberation struggle". In fact, John de Menteith, who turned William Wallace over to Edward of England put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath.

The claims that the Declaration challenged the traditional belief in the Divine Right of Kings and promoting in its place the notion that the nation itself was foremost and the monarch merely its steward, is argued solely to justify Bruce usurping the rightful king John Balliol, who it should be remembered Wallace acted as Guardian for. The section of the Declaration reading “if this prince [Bruce] shall leave these principles he hath so nobly pursued, and consent that we or our kingdom be subjected to the king or people of England, we will immediately endeavour to expel him, as our enemy and as the subverter both of his own and our rights, and we will make another king, who will defend our liberties” should be read as a cautionary warning and a veiled threat to Robert the Bruce himself for he had switched his allegence several times in previous years.

In a propaganda war, the Scots were at a disadvantage . The Pope in Rome had excommunicated Bruce who had decided to hell being just an English lord, I’d rather be a Scottish king and to achieve that goal murdered his chief rival in a church. He sent three letters to the Pope. The first was a letter from himself, the second from the Scots clergy, and the third from the nobles of Scotland that became known as the Declaration of Arbroath.

The lesser-known earlier 1310 Declaration of the Clergy (the clergy being usually the younger sons of the nobles) proclaimed the Kingship of Robert. It begins by stating that John Balliol was made King of Scots by Edward Longshanks of England, but goes on to criticise Balliol’s status, because an English King does not have any authority to determine who will be the King of Scots. Such authority rests with the Scots themselves and alone, ignoring the fact that the Scottish nobles had given up that right in negotiations with Edward over twenty years beforehand.

The Declaration stated: “The people, therefore, and commons of the foresaid Kingdom of Scotland, ...agreed upon the said Lord Robert, the King who now is, in whom the rights of his father and grandfather to the foresaid kingdom, in the judgement of the people, still exist and flourish entire; and with the concurrence and consent of the said people he was chosen to be King, that he might reform the deformities of the kingdom, correct what required correction, and direct what needed direction; and having been by their authority set over the kingdom, he was solemnly made King of Scots... And if any one on the contrary claim right to the foresaid kingdom in virtue of letters of time past, sealed and containing the consent of the people and the commons, know ye that all this took place in fact by force and violence which could not at the time be resisted.”
Like a lot of such grandiose statements we've seen down through the ages, the Clergy's declaration was nothing more than misleading propaganda, which sought to disguise the facts of history.

A more modern myth connects the Declaration of Arbroath with the American Declaration of Independence because both enshrined in their declarations the principle that sovereignty rests with the people. Firstly, as noted already it was not a "declaration" in the sense of the American Declaration of Independence or the French Declaration of the Rights of Man but a plea to the Pope. The Act of Abjuration (1581), where the Dutch deposed their Spanish ruler for having violated the social contract with his subjects could be just as easily cited as the influence on the American Declaration of Independence. Or even the English Declaration of Rights, which deposed King James II and brought to power William and Mary of Orange can be said to have had an influence on the Founding Fathers.
Nor should we over-look that although the Declaration of Arbroath says that the King of Scotland can be deposed if he abuses his power one hundred and five years earlier than the Declaration of Arbroath, at Runnymede, King John was forced to sign Magna Carta, giving his English subjects rights including the right to establish a monarchs rule. Nor should it be forgotten that between 1320 and 1603, Scotland had 11 monarchs. 3 of those (James I, James III, and Mary) were removed through assassination, civil war or deposition. In the same period, England had 18 monarchs. Of which no fewer than 7 (Edward II, Richard II, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Jane) were removed through civil war or deposition. So who, exactly, had the richer tradition of overthrowing monarchical power?

If heroes are required then instead of Wallace or Bruce, the Scottish workers should look to the likes of Wat Tyler and John Ball, commoners, who in the 1381 Peasants' Revolt took London and beheaded the Archbishop of Canterbury. The true history of the exploited is about the resistnce of the Levellers and Diggers and the Chartists not the winners and losers of aristocratic family feuds for the throne of Scotland.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

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 under one king by the middle of the ninth century and the nation was born –by the coercion of the people and in the interests of a class of bandit chieftains.

Right up until the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1707 there were really two distinct nations in Scotland. The Highlanders  spoke Gaelic and had a culture (way of life) very different from that of the dialect-English speaking Lowlanders. Indeed

“In rural districts, the Scottish dialect or dialects was barely intelligible even to a Scot of another district”
(James G. Kellas. Modern Scotland –the Nation Since1870. p. 7)

So the nationalist idea of a once united Scotland is just a myth. Yet no one can deny that despite over two hundred years of Scotland's incorporation within the United Kingdom most Scots feel themselves to be part of a separate nation. This can be explained by the fact that the Act of Union allowed Scotland to retain its own law, religion, and education system thus ensuring the continuation of national identity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Jeanie Spence (Jute and Flax workers, Dundee), Lamont (National Federation of Women Workers), Agnes Brown (National Federation of Women Workers), Mary McArthur (national leader and general secretary of the National Federation of Women Workers) and Rachel Devine (Jute and Flax Workers, Dundee).
 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 Scotland. They were attacked from the pulpit and in the street. The Irish women working in the jute mills of Dundee were an exception – they were widely accepted.

Raw jute was produced in significant quantities in only one region of the world: the deltas of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in Bengal in India. And for a short period – long finished by 1900 – Dundee and the surrounding district had a near monopoly on its manufacture. The Dundee jute industry was composed of many firms, most of them carrying out only one part of the process of buying, transporting, manufacturing and selling jute. Big profits were made in jute, but these were invested overseas rather than in the local economy. From the 1870s on, investment trusts launched by Dundee businessmen, channelled enormous sums into foreign investments and particularly into American railway, land and cattle companies. Dundee's ‘jute barons’ preferred to invest in American stocks rather than in developing new industries in Dundee. The result left Dundee dangerously dependent on the jute industry.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

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


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. While we certainly sympathise with those oppressed and displaced on national grounds, we refuse to simply identify with the many "solutions" offered up by the liberals and leftists in support of the victims. The “nation” is a myth as there can be no community of interests between two classes in antagonism with one another, the non-owners in society and the owners (the workers and the capitalists). The state ultimately exists only to defend the property interests of the owning class at any given point in history – which is why modern states across the world send the police and army in to break strikes and otherwise seek to protect the interests of the capitalists andtheir businesses at every turn.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

"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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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 with the defeated miners of the 84-85 strike. “Sing tho they hae ye crushed in the mire…you’ll win through yet, for there’s nae power on earth can crush the men who can sing on a day like this.”

Some of his poetry


I am the Common Man
I am the brute and the slave
I am the fool, the despised
From the cradle to the grave

I am the hewer of coal
I am the tiller of soil
I am serf of the seas
Born to bear and to toil

I am the builder of halls
I am the dweller of slums
I am the filfth and the scourge
When winter's depression comes

I am the fighter of wars
I am the killer of men
Not for a day or an age
But again and again and again

I am the Common Man
But Masters of mine take heed
For you have put into my head
Oh! many a wicked deed

For other poems click read more

Monday, December 10, 2012

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 been. Its goal to maintain the standard of living in Glasgow as the war strained the economy. According to the 1916 STUC report, the cost of living between July 1914 to July 1915 increased by 35% while food prices increased by 17% in small towns and 19% in cities.This would prove to be but a mere taste of the war's costs for the lower class. By December 1917, food prices had increased 106% while the cost of living increased by 85% to 90% as compared with pre-war levels. Workers' wages did not even come close to keeping up with this inflation. By April 1917, skilled laborers' wage increased by only 50%.

In 1913, for the first time in the history of Great Britain, a census of production catalogued the wealth of Great Britain. According to the report the £712,000,000 that formed the net output of Great Britain was divided between 6,984,976 workers, which would mean that if this wealth was divided evenly, each person would make  £102 per year. However, the average wage of workers in Great Britain was "officially stated to be not more than 24 shillings per week, or  £62 4/- per annum. Thus in 1907, the British worker was generous enough to pay the manufacturer  £40 per annum for the privilege of working to produce wealth. The Scottish Trades Union Congress uses the findings of the report to calculate the inequality amongst engineers and determined that the "net output per person employed [was]  £108." Meanwhile, the average annual wage of engineers was £67. "There is the simple answer, £41 per employed person to the capitalist." The 1920 Manifesto of the Socialist Labour Party notes that "of the wealth produced in this country, roughly £1,700,000,000 per annum, the workers' share is, according to capitalist authorities, less than £665,000,000 so that the working class gets little more than a third of the wealth produced." The manifesto would conclude that "this is wage-slavery."

Thursday, December 06, 2012

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.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

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 murderous designs so he commissioned another monster, Frick, by name, with bloodless veins and a heart of steel, to commit the crimes while he went to Europe and held high carnival with the titled snobs there until the ghastly work was done. It was one of the foulest conspiracies ever concocted against the working class and the very though of its atrocities, after nearly 10 years, fires the blood and crimsons the cheek with righteous indignation. Not only were the Pinkerton murderers hired by Carnegie to kill his employees, but he had his steel works surrounded by wires charged with deadly electric currents and by pipes filled with boiling water so that in the event of a strike or lockout he could shock the life out of their wretched bodies or scald the flesh from their miserable bones.

And this is the man who proposes to erect libraries for the benefit of the working class — and incidentally for the glory of Carnegie.

Will the workingmen of this country accept any gift from the hands of Andrew Carnegie, red with the blood of their slain comrades? That some of them have already done so is to their everlasting shame. The employees who a few days ago received, with expressions of gratitude, the bonded booty, to be held in trust for them until they become paupers, have debased themselves beyond expression. They may have to work for Carnegie, but they are not compelled to recognize as a gift the pennies he throws them in return for the dollars he stole from them, and when they do they are guilty of treason to their murdered brothers, and are better described as spineless poltroons than as self-respecting workingmen.

Some years ago, when Carnegie endowed the first library for the alleged benefit of workingmen, I objected. And I object now with increased

Such a library is monumental of the degeneracy of the working class. It is a lasting rebuke to their intelligence and their integrity.

 The workingmen of New Castle have led the revolt. Let their splendid example be followed wherever a Carnegie library is suggested. Let mass
meetings of workingmen be held and let the horrifying scenes of the Homestead massacre be sented to stir them to a sense of indignation at
the vulgar and insulting display of the spoil exploited from their class.

 Let honest workingmen everywhere protest against the acceptance of a gift which condones crime in the name of philanthropy. Let them put themselves upon record in terms that appeal to the honor of their class and the respect of all mankind.

 We want libraries and we will have them in glorious abundance when capitalism is abolished and the workingmen are no longer robbed by the philanthropic pirates of the Carnegie class.

Then the library will be as it should be, a noble temple dedicated to culture and symbolizing the virtues of the people.

Eugene Debs.

March 30, 1901. 
Taken from here 

For more on Carnegie see an earlier post on Socialist Courier

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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


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 bed-rock of the class struggle, and; declares, that so long as the means of production are in the hands of a numerically small class, the workers will be forced to sell their labour-power to them for a bare subsistence wage. Consequently, between these two classes a struggle must go on until the toilers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field and take over for themselves that which, being the result of their labour, justly belongs to them...

....Industrial Unionism in recognising that there never can been anything in common between the employing class and the working class, instils into the workers’ mind a sense of class solidarity on the economic field and promotes unity on the political field. With these two separate though complementary movements, the political to destroy the capitalist political State, and the Industrial to back up the political and form the Parliament of Industry in place of the defunct class State,— the workers could forthwith lock-out the employing class and accomplish their freedom...

333 Westmuir Road, Parkhead.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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 their interest in the subject by buying over 10s. worth of literature. A large proportion of the audience seemed to me to be of the middle-classes. A branch of the Scottish Land and Labour League has just been formed here, but I was told that the town was hard to move.

The following Friday produced a failure. Our Edinburgh comrades had taken a large hall for my lecture in Leith (not being able to get a smaller one), but only five persons turned up besides the branch, who showed up well; so the money was returned and we gave it up. However, seeing plenty of people hanging about in the street as we went homeward rather sadly, we started an open-air meeting, and got together upwards of 200 persons, who listened for an hour and a half to me and some of the members of the branch, though the snow presently began to come down fast.

The next day I went to West Calder, a mining village some half-hour’s railway ride from Edinburgh. We did not expect much of a meeting on a Saturday evening in such a place, especially as a very moderate amount of advertising had been used; but some of our Edinburgh comrades got down there, and did their best to get an audience by beginning in the open air; the bell-man — or rather, the bell-boy — was sent round also, and we got together some sixty persons, all work-men, into the room, which was thought very good considering the circumstances. They made an excellent audience as to attention and spirit. In the ensuing discussion, one person put forward as an objection a point which I see is made the most of by a well-known hand in To-day — to wit, that Socialism will produce wealth so abundantly and easily that we should not find work enough to do, and should deteriorate in consequence. The audience, mostly miners, obviously thought that this was an objection which might be passed over for the present, and were much tickled by the objector’s persistency in his threats of a life of ease.

The Edinburgh Whig rag, the Scotsman, by the way, paid me the compliment of publishing a paragraph on this meeting, which implied that I could not get an audience and came away with nothing done; and when I wrote to contradict its statement, favoured its readers with an explanation which was a model of the suppression of truth and suggestion of untruth. It is a matter of course that this journal goes out of its way to treat our friends unfairly.

On Sunday I went to Glasgow; and here I had every reason to damn ‘the nature of things’ as heartily as Porson did when he hit his head against the doorpost; for it came on to snow at about one o'clock and snowed till the time of meeting harder than I ever saw it snow, so that by 7.30 Glasgow streets were more than ankle-deep in half-frozen slush, and I made up my mind to an audience of fifty in a big hall; however it was not as bad as that, for it mustered over 500, who passed nem. con. a resolution in favour of Socialism. Owing to the weather, our comrades could not attempt the preliminary open-air meetings which they had intended to do; so I passed the day with them in their rooms in John Street, very much to my own pleasure, as without flattery they were, as I have always found them, hearty good fellows and thorough Socialists. All political parties in Glasgow have been depressed of late, they told me, and the Socialists have partly shared in this depression, though not as much as other bodies; but the knowledge of the movement and sympathy with it have grown very much, and our comrades are in good heart about it. The first novelty of the subject has worn off, and those who attend the meetings now are those who look upon the matter seriously. This is the view taken by our comrades wherever I went, and from all I could see I thought it the accurate one.

Perhaps the next day’s meeting (Monday) at Edinburgh tended to show this. It was a miserable night again, and we did not expect an audience of dilettanti — and did not get it. It was about as numerous as I got last year under better circumstances, but differed from that in having scarcely any middle-class persons in it. As to quality, it was one of the very best audiences I ever spoke to, and missed no point in the lecture. In fact in Edinburgh at least I seem to have exhausted the sympathies (?) of those who came at first to amuse themselves over the eccentricities of a literary man, and only those are left who really want to take counsel about the one question worth considering — how to free our minds and bodies from capitalistic tyranny. We had the usual treat afforded us by one Mr Job Bone, who attends and opposes all meetings, and who used to be thought a nuisance, but is now accepted as a convenient shoeing-horn to a discussion, and whose malicious folly is useful in drawing out the lecturer to explain matters that might otherwise remain unnoticed.

The next day I went to Dundee, where I had much the same kind of audience, except that there were more middle-class persons amongst it, who made themselves useful by asking questions easily answered, but (I hope) in a way not satisfactory to them, though very much so to the working-men present. One of the questioners was the sub-editor of the Radical paper, and I answered an unfair question of his with some warmth, so I was not surprised at getting a very curt report next morning; whereas the Tory journal reported us fairly and well. The audience was very hearty and appreciative. There is a branch here of the Scottish Land and Labour League, manned by energetic workers, whose work, however, is difficult, because ordinary party politics run high in Dundee, and the Radicals there have not got further than the Gladstoneite programme, if it can be called a programme.

From Dundee I went to Aberdeen, where I found another branch of the SLLL, including some energetic and intelligent men, a good deal kept down, as might be expected, by the ordinary Radicalism of the place, and some of whom, I think I may say consequently, are rather eager to try parliamentary agitation. Another stormy and wretched evening made me expect a thin audience; but the hall, which was a small one, was filled. The audience was mostly middle-class here, and rather heavy to lift, though attentive and not disposed to carp. The press reported the meeting carefully and well next morning.

If I could have, I would have visited Carnoustie, a mere village between Aberdeen and Dundee, but which has a good branch; but time was getting on, and I had promised to assist at a social gathering of our Edinburgh comrades on Thursday evening. I had a pleasant and interesting evening with them; and so finished what I came to do.

On the whole, in spite of some poor audiences (though the weather largely accounts for that), I was very favourably impressed by the outlook for Socialism in Scotland. There can be no doubt that much progress has been made since last year, in the teeth of great difficulties. As aforesaid, the novelty has worn off; respectability is beginning to see what Socialism really means, and doesn’t like the look of it at all; the press is deadly hostile, and not ashamed of any meanness in its treatment of the movement those who are dependent on ‘employers’ need expect no mercy from them if they are spotted as Socialists; the traditional puritanism of the country throws additional obstacles in the way of propaganda, — and with all this the movement is gaining ground steadily, and has an appearance of solidity about it which is most encouraging. I saw most of our Edinburgh comrades, and they seem to me to have entered on a new stage of the movement, and to promise to be as staunch as may be. The progress they have made since last year is remarkable.