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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…

Anarchism in Glasgow

Some may find this article on the history of anarchist and socialist activity in Glasgow of interest.

The earliest known Glasgow anarchist history centres around the figure of Duncan Dundonald, a Clydeside-based engineering worker who is said to have met Mikhail Bakunin in Geneva in 1869, translated the Revolutionary Catechism in 1870, and then returned to Scotland to carry out anarchist propaganda and revolutionary sabotage.His obscurity to later generations of Glasgow anarchists could be related to the fact that he emigrated to Australia, possibly in the 1890s, where he settled in Melbourne and continued his activities under the assumed name of Donald Duncan.

In 1884 was the founding of the Social Democratic Federation branch in Glasgow. Many of those involved in the SDF had been members of the Democratic Club and/or the Republican Club in the city, and were in the main ardently anti-parliamentarian. This caused divisions as happened elsewhere, and when William Morris broke away to f…

Anarchism in Aberdeen

"You sing about your bonnie Scotland and your heather hills. It's not your bonnie Scotland. It's not your heather hills. It’s the landlord’s Bonnie Scotland. It’s the landlord’s heather hills. And if you want enough earth to set a geranium in, you’ve got to pinch it"declared J.L Mahona socialist who visited Aberdeen in 1887 and started a series of open air meetings and helped in the setting up of the Aberdeen Socialist Society, a branch of the Scottish Land and Labour League. 

The anti-parliamentarians broke in early 1891 to form the Aberdeen Revolutionary Socialist Federation. In 1893 the group changed its name to the Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group.

The Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group hosted the third conference of Scottish anarchists on January 1st 1895 and welcomed the delegates from Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamilton and Motherwell.  Aberdeen had a membership of 100, with sympathisers “not less than one thousand” and was asserted to be the greatest sociali…

The difference between anarchists and the Socialist Party

“Intelligence enough to conceive, courage enough to will, power enough to compel. If our ideas of a new Society are anything more than a dream, these three qualities must animate the due effective majority of the working-people....” William Morris

To most people nowadays, anarchism conjures up the image of Molotov cocktail throwing protesters but it is as well to be reminded that anarchism has a tradition in the working-class movement as old as Marxism itself.  Although  the Socialist Party is not anarchist there are many points in where its ideas coincide with the anarchist attitude.

An educated and conscious working class will insist on democracy. And not the narrow, largely fictitious democracy of voting every four years but democracy in all social and cultural activities, in all spheres of communal life from A to Z. Members of the Social Party are agreed as to the general object for which we are striving – the ownership of all the means of production by the community; that commu…

Fife Anarchism

Socialist Courier continues its occasional account of Scotland's radical past. We do not lay claim to its working class history, or claim that it represented the views of the Socialist Party but feel that in many cases, our political history has been hidden away and needs to once again come into the open to spur debate and discussion.

Lawrence Storione
(1867–1922) was a Fife miner. He is best known for founding the Anarchist Communist League in Cowdenbeath.

Lawrence Storione was the son of the Italian stonemason, born in Italy in 1867. Storione later lived in Liege and participated in several miners' strikes in Belgium. It appears he was given pamphlets on anarchism in this period by the noted French anarchist Elisee Reclus, who was lecturing at the University of Brussels and Storione now began to identify as an anarchist. He ended up in Scotland in 1897 arriving in Muirhead, Ayrshire. He moved on to Hamilton in Lanarkshire where he was to marry Annie Cowan in 1900 and stayed u…