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Showing posts with the label red clydeside

Rhymeating lion tamer (1978)

Book Review from the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard
John S. Clarke: Parliamentarian, Poet, Lion-Tamer by Raymond Challinor (Pluto Press)
This little book, published a couple of years ago, is well worth reading containing, as it does, illuminating sidelights on the genesis of the British Communist Party and its later left-wing off-shoots.
Clarke was an extraordinary character, leading a colourful life as a lion tamer (he came of circus stock) and merchant seaman. He travelled all over the world but, although entirely self-taught, showed remarkable gifts as a writer and Scottish "rhymeater" in the Burns tradition. He gravitated to the Socialist Labour Party where his journalistic talents soon made him the actual editor of The Socialist during the first World War. With the advent of the Bolshevik seizure in Russia, Clarke was the first (with Willie Gallacher) to make the Moscow trip. Whereas Gallacher (a muddlehead if ever there was one) swallowed the Russian bait,…

The "Friends" of Scottish Workers (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard
Since the working class was granted the vote there has never been a shortage of busy-bodies who—hand-on-heart, have declared their ardent sympathy and interest in workers' problems.
When elected, of course, the workers become the "constituency" and each M.P. "looks after his constituency" and looks ahead to the next election. W. GallacherA. WoodburnD. Kirkwood and other Parliamentary luminaries are engaged at the moment—amid other equally laudable pursuits—in pressing the post-war claims of Prestwick Aerodrome. All three are campaigning for the "Forth Road Transport Bridge and have endorsed Hector McNeil, Labour M.P.'s efforts to modernize the Clyde so that the largest ships can be docked at Greenock and Glasgow"
Other Scottish M.P.'s—with an eye on their constituency—are eloquently expatiating on Scottish needs and problems. The "Daily Express," February 15th, gave considerable…

The Myth of Red Clydeside

From the April/June 1976 issues of the Socialist Standard
The "Red Clydeside" first put itself on the map in the agitated years of the First World War. Since then, it has received plenty of examination. It has been portrayed as a possible revolution in the making; one that could have formed a link with the Bolsheviks and the Spartacists. The Clyde Workers' Committee was the main body in the agitation of the period. It was an unofficial industrial organization of the type that is today favoured by various claimants to the Bolshevik title.
When Britain entered the war in August 1914, the Clyde area joined in the nationwide enthusiasm. Yet soon after, it proved to be an area that would tolerate opponents of the war who were elsewhere reviled. John MacLean, in particular, soon became noted for his pugnacious attitude. A member of the British Socialist Party,[1] the local members shared his stand along with Independent Labour Party and Socialist Labour Party members. All thre…

James Maxton

Book Review from the August 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard
"If it were not such a dreadful thing to say of anybody, I should say he meant well" The Way of All Flesh

A biography can be written in one of two ways. It may be an "objective" study, an attempt at critically assessing the man, his work and his place in history. On the other hand, it may be a personal piece—an extended obituary notice, wherein the author pays his tribute to the departed. John McNair's James Maxton, the Beloved Rebel (Allen and Unwin, 12s. 6d.) is unashamedly the latter: a chronicle and eulogy of a leader whose faults, if he had them, are allowed no place.
Maxton is presented as a man of deep, passionate sincerity, devoted to the welfare of the poor, earning the affection even of opponents by his integrity and his refusal to compromise. He opposed the two world wars which his Labour colleagues supported; in the first he was imprisoned, in the second he led the tiny I.L.P. group of …

THE CONFESSIONS OF A CLYDE "RED."

From the September 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard "The only time in my life that I have allied myself with the enemies of the workers has been since I came to the House of Commons, and that is by the order of the Labour Government. Almost every time I go into the Division Lobby I join such tried and trusted friends of the Labour Party as Lloyd George, his daughter, Sir Herbert Samuel, etc. They are keeping the Labour Party in office on condition that the workers and the Labour Party programme are deserted." Thus writes the Labour M.P. for Shettleston ("Forward," August 2nd). He was, however, the official Labour candidate, and stood for the official Labour Party Programme. He was attacked during the election by another Labourite, Mr. C. Diamond, who has been on three occasions official Labour candidate, and who stated that he has supported the Labour Party because it is not committed to Socialism.
The Party that the Member for Shettleston—McGovern—stands for, …

The Clydesiders - Book Review

Book Review from the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Clydesiders by R. K. Middlemas
In the general election of 1922 twenty Independent Labour Party members were elected from Glasgow and the West of Scotland alone. As a vast, hymn-singing crowd saw the new MPs onto the London train one of them, Emmanuel Shinwell, was aware that "they had a frightening faith is us . . . we had been elected because it was believed we could perform miracles and miracles were needed to relieve the tragedy of Clydeside in 1922." (Conflict Without Malice by E. Shinwell) The miracles, of course, failed to come. Capitalism proved more than a match for the reforms of the Independent Labour Party. Mr. Middlemas traces the gradual decline of that organisation.
The cover announces his book as "an important contribution to contemporary political history." This claim would not be so wide of the mark if he had got a few more of his facts right. Take, for example, his confusion of …

Quote of the Day

“Self-determination under capitalism is therefore an impossibility, and demands for its realisation a preceding social revolution. Such a fundamental change of the internal structure of society liberates the social aspirations of the peoples of the world, shatters the exploiting factions, and rising from the age-long struggles free citizens of the world combine.” - Arthur Macmanus, Red Clydesider, 1918

The ILP Poodle

The Independent Labour Party in 1922 returned several MPs, among them James Maxton, David Kirkwood, John Wheatley and John McGovern, who had provided Clydeside with the nick-name “Red Clydeside”. They were sent to Westminster in a wave of left-wing enthusiasm. Some had been imprisoned either, like Maxton, for sedition (interfering with army recruitment in wartime) or for involvement what became known as “The Battle of George’s Square”. They had taken part in some of the most bitter class struggles experienced by Britain in the early20th century and they had garnered a credible working class following.


However, they were dominated by ideas of the reform of capitalism rather than by the determination to destroy capitalism. We need not accept Engels overly enthusiastic optimism of the founding of the ILP that it was “the very party which the old members of the International desired to see formed” (Workmans Times, 25 March 1893)

The I.L.P. may have used the language of radicals but inste…

Not so red

Ideas of reaction and bigotry can often be just as powerful as those of solidarity and class unity. The celebrated Forty Hours Strike in 1919, when English tanks occupied the centre of Glasgow and which culminated at the ‘Battle of George Square’ also witnessed violent anti-black rioting. On 23 January 1919, tensions among dock workers at the Broomielaw over the ‘employment of Chinese and alien coloured seamen on British ships’ spilled over into a battle with sailors from Sierra Leone, with ‘revolvers and knifes’ used. The role of the two seamen’s unions on the Broomielaw was essentially of deep seated hostility to immigrant labour, which they saw as driving down wages and conditions. Shipping companies did exploit the differentiation in wages between white and African workers, yet it’s unclear if much attempt was made to challenge this by the organised Left or from within the labour movement. The racist riots were ignored by Forward and the Socialist Labour Party’s The Socialist.


Da…

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…

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…

Quote of the Day

"Written right across every page of human history is the declaration that no people can be free so long as the private ownership of the means of production and distribution endures. Self-determination under capitalism is therefore an impossibility, and demands for its realisation a preceding social revolution. Such a fundamental change of the internal structure of society liberates the social aspirations of the peoples of the world, shatters the exploiting factions, and rising from the age-long struggles free citizens of the world combine. Thus the League of capitalist groups sinks out of sight, joins the barbaric ages, to which it rightfully belongs, and on the basis of the social ownership and control of the means of life there rises the new order—the self-determining combined in the great Federative Republic of the Workers of the World."

 Arthur. MacManus, Red Clydesider,(1889 – 1927)

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…