Showing posts with label world war one. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world war one. Show all posts

Monday, August 05, 2013


Sixteen million people died in the First World War. No fewer than  one in 40 of the nine million British and  Commonwealth troops came from the single city of Glasgow. 200,000 men from Glasgow fought, 17,695 were killed and many many more were wounded with lasting injuries and lost limbs. We should remember the futility of their deaths in “the war to end wars”

16,000  British  men are recorded as being conscientious  objectors. The Richmond Sixteen  were 16 men taken from  Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire where the Non-Combatant Corps was based, to an  army camp in northern France, refused to  unload supplies. They were court-martialled  and, as an example to others, sentenced to  death by Lord Kitchener. They were  only saved from this fate by Kitchener’s own sudden death and the prime minister,  Asquith, who  their sentence to  10 years’ hard labour. We should remember the social stigma these heroes had to bear for the rest of  their lives.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Socialist Standard and Red Clyde

The First World War saw Clydeside gain its Red reputation, and the Socialist Standard at the time supported them but cautioned that their actions were not sufficent. It should be noted that "patriotic" printers refused to re-produce an article about Lloyd George and the Clyde.

The Socialist Standard challenged the engineer union workers' faith in their leaders writing it was those " trusted and prominent men, both parliamentarians and trade union officials, [who] were associated with every piece of legislation that fettered the workers more... too slowly, the workers are finding out their true friends and true principles, their cunning enemies and their delusive ways...Instead of abandoning the political machine to ambitious wiseacres and unscrupulous plotters, and letting them, in the secrecy of Cabinet conclaves, everlastingly scheme to set the social changes on you, see to it that those who are now proven the enemies of your class are no longer sent to represent you. Fill their places with class-conscious men of your own ranks, controlled and guaranteed by the political organisation of your own class." The biggest danger that confronted them, in the opinion of the Socialist Standard, – the biggest mistake they could make – " to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing Society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to socialism."

At first, outbreaks of industrial unrest were only spasmodic they were easily over-ridden by the ruling class. The Clyde trouble of Christmas 1915 is perhaps the best specimen of these sectional and local revolts. The principle of the men was strong, but they were driven down by lies, hunger, victimisation, deportation of their leaders, and, what is more important still, because the strike was local. The Socialist Standard advised the strikers to escalate and spread the strikes. "It is the mass of engineers only, and not a locality of engineers, who can successfully fight. Ten thousand engineers on strike in a town may gain something in a month for that town's men—or they may not; fifty thousand spread over one industrial area may force amendments to an objectionable Bill from a reluctant Cabinet, while one hundred and fifty thousand men who leave their engines, with all their force concentrated on one particular principle, striking at a vitally important time, stand a good chance of getting what they ask for."

Conscription by the military authorities, usually referred to under the misleading but catchy title of the “Man Power Bill.” One reason why the ASE. officials were not so ready to follow their old methods of persuading their members to accept the changes without trouble or friction is the growth of the “Shop Stewards Movement" up and down the country. This movement has helped to undermine the influence of the “official” cliques in the trade unions, as shown by the numerous “unauthorised” strikes, and with the loss of this influence over the rank and file the officials realised that their chance of bargaining for jobs with the master class would be gone.

An anti-war movement was spreading and strikes were not only in progress, but many more were threatened.

Resolutions in the following terms: “That the British Government should enter into immediate negotiations with the other belligerent Powers for an armistice on all fronts, with a view to a general peace on the basis of self-determination of all nations and no annexations and no indemnities. Should such action demonstrate that German Imperialism was the only obstacle to peace they would co-operate in the prosecution of the war until the objects mentioned in the first part of the resolution were achieved. Failing this they would continue their opposition to the man-power proposals” had been passed in various meetings. The Socialist Standard was critical of the wording. "Does their claim for “self-determination” apply to Ireland, India and Egypt? If so, do they really imagine the British capitalist Government will agree to such application? Certainly they must be simple if they believe a threat to strike would bring such a result."

A resolution moved at Glasgow struck a firmer note in the following terms:

“That having heard the case of the Government, as stated by Sir Auckland Geddes, this meeting pledges itself to oppose to the very uttermost the Government in its call for more men. We insist and pledge ourselves to take action to enforce the declaration of an immediate armistice on all fronts; and that the expressed opinion of the workers of Glasgow is that from now on, and so far as this business is concerned our attitude all the time and every time is to do nothing in support of carrying on the war, but to bring the war to a conclusion.”

The Socialist Standard concludes "Read our Declaration of Principles; earnestly consider them; join with us and help to establish them. Then will slave and master be abolished, and a real peace come, to all"

Extracted from here and here