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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…

Scotland built on slavery

When the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 – 26 years after the trade itself had been done away with. it paid  the equivalent to £2 billion today which  was said to be equal to 40% of the government's entire budget in compensation to slave-owners.

Colonel John Gordon of Cluny, who in 1851 forced some 3000 of his tenants on the Outer Hebrides to emigrate to Canada. Cluny died in 185 received a total of £24,964 in compensation, relating to 1383 slaves across six plantations in Tobago, in the southern Caribbean.

Other Scots include James Cheyne, who cleared tenants from the Isle of Lismore in the 1840s and 1850s; the Malcolms of Poltalloch, who were involved in clearances in Argyll; Sir Archibald Alison, a noted social commentator; James McCall and Patrick Maxwell Stewart, who both had substantial holdings in railways; the Marquis of Breadalbane, and Sir William Forbes.

The figure was £6 for a child, an average of £50 for an able fieldworker, or between £18 a…

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…

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…

Big History - A History of All of Us

Socialist Courier found it interesting that three south Ayrshire schools – Ayr Academy, Kyle Academy and Marr College – have been working with schools in Canada Australia and America to promote a new approach to understanding world history. It is based on the idea that the academic study of the past can no longer be carried out from a nationalist perspective. It is argued that the discipline of history will progress only once it charts human activity with a global scope, looking at chains of cause and effect that do not respect national borders.

On a Big History course, the species Homo sapiens is not even mentioned until more than halfway through. It places geology and the climate at the centre of the subject, alongside other branches of science and technology. They believe it is essential to show that the course of human life has been altered by both natural and manmade factors. So Big History emphasises the significance of the fact that 4.6bn years ago an exploding star created a c…

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…

Past Reflections 3

It’s a pity that there is so little written information about the history of Glasgow branch. However,  when I joined in 1963 there were still two founder members of the branch  and some other members who knew stories about the branch’s early days while the old minute books contained some really fascinating tales, but be warned, what I can tell is mostly hearsay. 

There may have been individual members in Glasgow before the branch was formed because in 1907 the SOCIALIST STANDARD carried details of seven newsagents in the city where the S/S could be obtained.

The founding of the branch was reported in the December 1924 issue of the S/S, but branch details in the S/S vanished in August 1927 so there was no Glasgow branch until the details re-appeared in October 1928. Included among the early members were John Higgins, Tommy Egan, Harry Watson, “Professor” Barclay, W. Falconer and Alex Shaw.

I’ve already written about the contribution made by Alex Shaw but it was probably John Higgins wh…

As others see us 2

The late Paul Foot, the veteran SWPer, and nephew of the ex Labour Party leader, Michael Foot,  in an article in the Socialist Worker called "Why I became a Socialist" recalls hearing a member of the SPGB speaking on an outdoor platform where that member, who had worked in the shipyards, told of his disgust at the celebrations in Clydebank of the local yards getting a contract, because it meant more misery for workers on Tyneside and Belfast. He attended a lot of SPGB meetings when he worked in Glasgow for the Daily Record. He, of course, dismissed the Socialist Party as impossibilists.

An excerpt from a letter (15th January 2003) wrote of his memories of the SPGB in Glasgow in the early sixties, when he was living and working there as a journalist:

    "I went to Glasgow for my first job (a reporter on the Daily Record) in September 1961. I joined the Young Socialists and the Woodside Labour party. A highly influential figure in the Woodside YS at the time was Vic Vanni…

How other see us

How the the Small Party of Glesga' Bookies (as the local branch in Glasgow was known in its early days because, it turns out, a number of its members were bookies, an illegal occupation back then) has been seen by others.

At the Barras market in Glasgow about 25 years ago open air political meetings were not uncommon, and the best were conducted by a fiery brand of working-class revolutionaries called the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Founded about a hundred years ago (and still going, I’m glad to say) and proudly hostile to all other allegedly socialist or communist political parties, they had several fine speakers and in those less apathetic days could always raise a fair crowd of the starvelings whom they hoped to rouse from their slumber. Scorn for their hearers’ meek acceptance of poverty and satire upon the quality of goods and services supplied to the workers were prominent in their arguments, as when the speaker would draw our attention to an evil-looking greasyspoo…

Past Reflections 2

 Another installment in the recollections of members and once again from Glasgow member Victor Vanni.

The party’s heyday began with WW2 and lasted into the early 1950’s. During this period party activities and membership grew and this certainly applied to Glasgow branch. Huge audiences attended indoor and outdoor meetings and from 1945 to 1948 the branch even had a rented shop and eventually enough members to form a second branch in the city until 1961 when the two branches amalgamated.

By the time I joined in 1963 the branch’s activities were really expanding. Several parliamentary and council elections were contested while new, successful outdoor speaking stances were established, but the big day of the week was Sunday when two outdoor meetings were held in both Glasgow and at The Mound in Edinburgh. If Donnelly was the speaker in Glasgow then Shaw spoke in Edinburgh with the order reversed the following week.


These meetings at the Mound were my own favourites. The afternoon meeting …

Keep on walking

46 parades of up to 8,000 Orangemen will march through Glasgow's city centre today with a number of them converging on Cathedral Square. In all, 174 parades taking place throughout the Strathclyde police force area. Henry Dunbar, Grand Master of the Orange Order, said: "The annual Glasgow Boyne Celebrations is the city's biggest street event" An impressive event, perhaps, but highly divisive and sectarian in character. 

The Orange Order warned that Scotland is a "nation in turmoil" and raised concerns over the "separatist campaign". Grand Master Henry Dunbar urged members to back the Union. The Orange Order called on the Church of Scotland to stand up for the country's protestant heritage. "We are dismayed by the dismal failure of our national church, the Church of Scotland, to exert influential leadership in matters of faith and morality. It is a sad reflection that in today's society, many protestants now consider that the Orange O…

Red Clydeside's Racism

In previous blogs on the history of Scottish labour we have observed how religious bigotry often marred attempts to unite the working class. But racism has also existed and been exploited for sectional advantage by supposed internationalists.

In all the major sea-ports of Britain communities a non-white sea-farers arose, many marrying local women. In Glasgow they mostly settled around the harbour area, commonly known as Broomielaw.

Many Red Clydesiders have become Scottish national heroes, remembered for their fight for workers' rights. Seamen's leader, president of the Glasgow trades and labour council and chairman of the 40 hr workers’ strike committee, Emanuel – Manny – Shinwell gained fame for his part as a left-wing trades union official in 1919, finding himself thrown into jail on Bloody Friday. But Stirling University historian Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson, in her book "Black 1919", accuses Shinwell of encouraging Glasgow seamen to launch a series of attacks on bla…

Scotland and the Spanish Civil War

Steve Fullarton, Scotland's last surviving veteran of the International Brigade passed away at 87 in May 2008. The last Scottish veteran of Spanish Civil War, 99 yr old Thomas Watters, an ex-Glasgow bus driver who went to Spain with the Scottish Ambulance Unit died in February 2012. We, the working class, should always remember our history. But the heroism of individual members of the working class is not always enough. The Spanish civil war involved bravery and  imagination mixed with calculated cruelty, murder, mayhem and, not a few times, stupidity.

In the 30s fascism had already made huge advances in Europe with dictators established both in Germany and Italy. A demonstration in Hyde Park in London by the British Union of Fascists in November 1936  was attended by some 100,000 people. The BUF were controlled in Scotland by William Chalmers-Hunter of Tillery, which was a country house just outside the village of Udny.

On July 18 1936, right wing nationalist forces attempted to…

Engels on Edinburgh and Glasgow

Edinburgh

Dr. Alison describes a similar state of things in Edinburgh, whose superb situation, which has won it the title of the modern Athens, and whose brilliant aristocratic quarter in the New Town, contrast strongly with the foul wretchedness of the poor in the Old Town. Alison asserts that this extensive quarter is as filthy and horrible as the worst districts of Dublin, while the Mendicity Association would have as great a proportion of needy persons to assist in Edinburgh as in the Irish capital. He asserts, indeed, that the poor in Scotland, especially in Edinburgh and Glasgow, are worse off than in any other region of the three kingdoms, and that the poorest are not Irish, but Scotch. The preacher of the Old Church of Edinburgh, Dr. Lee, testified in 1836, before the Commission of Religious Instruction, that:

"I have never seen such a concentration of misery as in this parish," where the people are without furniture, without everything. "I frequently see the same…