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Reference: McLean, Iain., (1972). The labour movement in Clydeside politics, 1914-1922. DPhil. University of Oxford.Citable link to this page:


The labour movement in Clydeside politics, 1914-1922

Abstract: The history of the Labour movement in the Clyde valley between theoutbreak of the First World War and the General Election of 1922 has alwaysattracted great interest. On at least three occasions - the dilution crisisof 1915-16, the Forty Hours' Strike of 1919, and the 1922 election itself -the Clyde appeared to be distinguished by the militancy of its socialism,and the tradition of Red Clydeside was born, to be maintained after the electionby the Clyde group of I.L.P. left-wingers in Parliament. These eventsattracted a good deal of attention at the time, and have continued to do soever since. There has, however, been surprisingly little academic writingon the subject. The work of contemporary economists or social scientists,such as Professors W.R. Scott and A.W. Kirkaldy, or G.D.H. Cole, has providedus with valuable eye-witness accounts which are somewhat more detached thanthose given by the main participants in events; but between their generationand the present there is an unexpected lack of serious work on Red Clydeside.The first modern study to look at it as a whole makes an interesting attemptto view the parliamentary careers of the Clydesiders after 1922 in thelight of their earlier careers, but it is marred by a distressingly largenumber of factual inaccuracies. Other recent research of a more rigorouskind has opened up small areas of the subject, but no comprehensive treatmenthas yet been attempted. It is the purpose of this thesis to examine theyears 1914 to 1922 in depth, from a standpoint independent of that of anyof the participants.The thesis is divided into two parts, the first dealing with wartimeunrest, and the second with the fortunes of the local Labour movement betweenthe 1918 and 1922 general elections. The first unofficial wartime strikeamong Clydeside engineers was in February 1915; the background to this isanalysed in terms of the paradoxical combination of socialist militancy and craft conservatism in the engineers' union. Conditions peculiar toengineering produced this combination, and wartime munitions productionconcentrated its effects most notably in a small number of engineering plants.The February 1915 strike was followed by the protests against rentincreases which occupied the latter half of 1915. The influence of labourbodies, official and unofficial, in bringing about a governmental expedient(the 1915 Rent Act) which became, by default, the basis of later policy, isassessed. The end of the rent strike coincided with the first peak ofagitation against the Ministry of Munitions and wartime munitions legislation.The origins of this Ministry, and the conflicts it set up in Whitehall,are examined, as are the amendment of leaving certificates legislation aftershipyard strikes between July and November 1915, and the beginnings of thestruggle over dilution - the efforts by the Ministry to introduce unskilledmen and women into parts of munitions production which were traditionally thepreserve of craftsmen. One highlight in the process was the visit of Lloyd George to Glasgow at Christmas and the suppression of the socialistForward for the damage it was doing to dilution - including a full report ofLloyd George's hostile reception. Another was the appointment, in January1916, of Commissioners to effect dilution. Their efforts, which were successful,were directed primarily against craft conservatism and only secondarilyagainst the militant socialists of the Clyde Workers' Committee, although thelatter have always attracted much more attention. After March 1916 there was no more unofficial unrest on the Clyde for the rest of the war, in spiteof an increase in both industrial militancy elsewhere and political radicalismlocally. This accords with the contention that revolutionary socialism wasinseparable from craft conservatism. Clydeside in wartime was not ripe forrevolution, because the issues which drove the craftsmen to unofficial militancyactually increased the historic divisions and hostility between then and theunskilled.The last upsurge of unrest occurred immediately after the end of thewar; fear of loss of jobs united official and unofficial labour organisationsin demanding a shorter working week to spread the available work. But thelack of national support severely weakened the Forty Hours' Strike, whoseentire failure was only masked by the over-reaction against it of theG-overnment and by the misconduct of the police in handling the Bloody Fridaydemonstration. This strike marked the end of the industrial influence of therevolutionary socialists; their political influence vanished into sectarianism,or into unsuccessful organisational efforts on behalf of the new Communist PartyThe influence of John Llaclean over the working class also vanished, partlybecause of the growth of his paranoia. Some explanation other than thepostulate of a continuous revolutionary tradition has therefore to be soughtfor the deviance to Labour of Glasgow and the West of Scotland in the 1922General Election, when Labour won ten out of the fifteen seats in Glasgow.Two basic explanations may be suggested - housing and the Irish. When thelocal Labour movement arose from the depression of 1919, it was in the formof a crusading opposition to rent increases, which culminated in a striking House of Lords judgment in favour of a tenant on the very eve of the 1922 election.And the years 1918-1922 covered a realignment in local affairs, whenthose in charge of Irish ward politics transferred their allegiance to Labourin national and local politics. Statistical analysis of local election resultscan be used to buttress literary sources in trying to demonstrate this point.A conclusion to the thesis tries, inter alia, to assess the legacy,industrial, political, and social, of Red Clydeside between 1934 and 1922.It finds that the principal points are the polarisation on class lines oflocal politics and the influence of Red Clydeside, through the rent agitationsof these years, on the structure of the Scottish housing market in both publicand private sectors.Efforts to use the widest possible variety of sources are nowheremore important than in labour history, where one-sidedness is a perennialdanger. In a complicated conflict such as that over dilution, which involvedthe Ministry of Munitions, other ministries, the officials of the engineers'union, and their rebellious Clydeside members, only the last (and to a certainextent the first) published accounts of their actions and intentions. It istherefore essential to have recourse to unpublished sources in order to redressthe balance. Minutes of labour organisations are of importance here, andcover the whole period from 1914 to 1922. But bodies like the Clyde Workers'Committee, which were unofficial and anti-bureaucratic, have of their very natureleft few records of this kind. What has survived is of great interest, but isinevitably somewhat haphazard. Many gaps must be filled from close study ofcontemporary newspapers. Forward, the principal socialist journal of theWest of Scotland, is of the first importance, and every weekly issue fromAugust 1914- to December 1922 has been consulted. Other socialist journals,several of them the products of small left-wing groups, provide insights intoconflicts within the labour movement. As a journal of record, the GlasgowHerald (which is indexed) has been used. I am confident that its politicalviews do not diminish the accuracy of its news reporting, a comment which cannot be made of other contemporaries, such as the Daily Record and theEvening Times, whose evidence must be treated with more care.At various times between February 1915 and January 1919 labour unreston the Clyde was a cause of great concern to authority, and public archivesare rich in relevant material. Cabinet minutes and supporting papers are themost important of the documents to have been released under the 30 yearsrule at the Public Record Office. Both are scanty for the period up toDecember 1916, but very full thereafter; and by January 1919 the practiceof giving very full reports of Cabinet discussions, with attribution of pointsof view, had still not been abandoned in favour of a mere list of Cabinetconclusions. With regard to departmental records, those of the Scottish Office provide some new material; but they are rather thin, partly becauseof defective filing practices and partly because the Scottish authoritiesappear to take a nore comprehensive view than those in London of what oughtto be kept from researchers for a period longer than thirty years. Therecords of the Ministry of Munitions are a goldmine. They include theenormous unpublished History of the Ministry of Munitions and the survivingdepartmental archives which were collected in preparation for it. Theseare supplemented by the unique collection of policy documents which wereassembled and kept by Sir William Beveridge during his time at the Ministry,and by the political correspondence of Lloyd George, the Minister. None ofthe other surviving ministerial archives, unfortunately, has yielded anythingof importance, and the papers of Christopher Addison, the Parliamentary Undersecretaryat the Ministry,are not available to researchers.The records of other departments have been consulted on more technicalmatters such as rent control and educational legislation.The nature of the sources used changes, perforce, after January 1919-Clyde labour was no longer a matter of concern to the Government, and thesupply of information from public archives dries up. A very great proportionof the material for the last three chapters of the thesis is thereforedrawn from the contemporary press - the newspapers and socialist periodicalsbeing supplemented by reference to the Catholic press, which was generousin political advice to the Glasgow Irish. The only Clydeside labour leaderto have left substantial archive material was John Maclean, and this has beendrawn upon in assessing his career.Most writing about Red Clydeside has come from writers overtly sympatheticto revolutionary ideals - whether the Clydesiders themselves or lateracademic admirers. It is hoped that a wider use of outside sources will helpto provide a more detached view.

Type of Award:DPhil Level of Award:Doctoral Awarding Institution: University of Oxford Notes:The digital copy of this thesis has been made available thanks to the generosity of Dr Leonard Polonsky

Bibliographic Details

Issue Date: 1972Identifiers

Urn: uuid:e9100bd8-e0b8-4a62-b81e-9df4d93d4b14

Source identifier: 602326727 Item Description

Type: Thesis;

Language: eng Subjects: Scotland Clydeside 20th century Clydeside (Scotland) Industrial relations History Labor movement Social conflict Socialism Strikes and lockouts Tiny URL: td:602326727


Autor: McLean, Iain. - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyFaculty of Social Studies oxfordCollegeNuffield College - - - - Bibliograp



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