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Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

The Scottish Labour College was founded in Glasgow in 1916 (by Glasgow socialist John Maclean and others) to provide independent working class Marxian education. There were many branches across Scotland and although Aberdeen Trades Union Council was invited to send delegates to the provisional meeting in 1916, it does not appear that happened. In December 1919 though after a visit by John Maclean, a branch was formed. The Chairman was Alfred Balfour (National Union of Railwaymen) and Secretary/Treasurer was William Morrison (Painters, who had been in the Socialist Labour Party and then the Aberdeen Communist Party). The first tutor was Joseph Payne, a Communist who remained until 1922, and then it was Aitken Ferguson, another Communist, who later stood twice in general elections in Aberdeen (in 1928/1929). There were constant concerns about the viability of the scheme and in 1924 Morrison reported that the Aberdeen branch was in trouble financially as it only had the support of 20 out of a 70 possible local trade union branches. The scheme did survive though and later tutors included Communist Bob Cooney. The Aberdeen & District branch remained active it would seem until the late 1940s.

There was also a Central Labour College in England which has been founded earlier in 1909. The College had been founded after a strike at Ruskin College, Oxford, when a group of Marxist students formed The Plebs League. In 1915 the College was officially recognised by the Trades’ Union Congress. In 1921 a National Council of Labour Colleges was created to co-ordinate the college network and the Scottish Labour College was absorbed. In 1964 the National Council merged with the Workers’ Educational Trade Union Committee to form the Trades’ Union Congress Education Department.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party and Robert Cooney.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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The national Fabian Society was founded in 1884 with the aim of developing political ideas and public policy on the political left. The Society is still active and affiliated to the Labour Party.

There is a vague reference to a local Fabian Society existing in 1892 but it has not been proved. An Aberdeen branch though was established in 1924 and a key member was Robert Raffan (he was a trade unionist and Labour councillor) who was Secretary for 40 years, from the late 1920s. It was reported that in the late 1930s Aberdeen was the largest branch in Scotland. The branch was very active organising meetings, many with visiting speakers.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Fabian Society.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: papers of the national Fabian Society are held at the London School of Economics.

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William Leslie was born in Elgin and his father Alexander was a shoemaker. Prior to World War One, from 1908 – 1913, he was a professional footballer playing for Elgin City and Manchester City. He was a carpenter by trade, later becoming an active trade unionist in the Elgin area.

During World War One he was a conscientious objector appearing before a Military Service Tribunal in July 1916. He left Elgin for Glasgow in September 1916, presumably driven out for his anti-militarist views and for not signing up for non-combatant work. He went to Glasgow in 1917, working in John Brown’s shipyard, and it is possible he was then imprisoned for ignoring the decision of the tribunal.

Leslie was a member of the Independent Labour Party, No-Conscription Fellowship, Socialist Labour Party (from September 1918 until September 1919) and then he was one of the founders of the Aberdeen Communist Group in September 1919. He was also actively involved in the ‘Hands of Russia’ campaign in Aberdeen, co-ordinated by Aberdeen Trades Council.

In July 1920 Leslie set off for Moscow, via Finland and Petrograd, as a stowaway and without a passport, to attend the Third Comintern Congress. He declared himself to be a British delegate of the British Communist Party, along with Sylvia Pankhurst. It is not clear though whether he was in fact an ‘official’ delegate, like Pankhurst.

He left to return to Scotland via Norway but was arrested and imprisoned. After a hunger strike, he made it back to Scotland, and in November 1920 spoke to an audience about his adventures at the Aberdeen Picturedrome.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party and Socialist Labour Party.

References: Conscientious Objectors Register 1914 – 1918 at Imperial War Museum website, ‘Aberdeen Was More Red Than Glasgow: The Impact of the First World War and the Russian Revolution beyond Red Clydeside’ (William Kenefick, in Scotland and the Slavs: Cultures in Contact: 1500 – 2000 (Mark Cornwall & Murray Frames (eds.), Newtonville, 2001) and Red Scotland: The Rise and Fall of the Radical Left c.1872 – 1932 (William Kenefick, Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

Sources: Letters from Leslie are housed in Moscow in the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History.

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John Paton was born in Aberdeen, his father a master baker and his mother a paper factory worker. In his life he was employed in a bewildering number of occupations: apprentice compositor, warehouseman, apprentice baker, hairdresser, milkman and salesman of false teeth. He became involved in politics as a teenager through membership of the Clarion Club and the Shop Assistants’ Union. He joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) around 1906, often going to the Clarion Club room beside Marischal College to meet other like minded individuals. He was interested in socialist propaganda and often spoke in public around the usual gathering points such as the Castlegate.

He had some troubles in his work because of his vocal socialist viewpoints, and he moved to Glasgow around 1910. He became disillusioned with the ILP and became interested in the writings of Mikhail Bakunin and with others re-formed the Glasgow Anarchist Group. He returned to Aberdeen around 1912 becoming heavily involved again with the ILP. He became ILP representative on Aberdeen Trades Council, often putting forward anti-war resolutions and was the ILP nomination for North Aberdeen in 1918, but his anti-war stance worked against him. In 1920/1921 he was ILP Northern Organiser, and then until 1924 party organiser for all of Scotland. He stood for election in South Aberdeen in 1923, and was near to standing for Parliament again in 1928 but was unable to do so alongside his new role as General Secretary of the ILP. He left the ILP in 1933 over his opposition to what he regarded as its pro-communist policies.

He was also secretary of the International Committee of Independent Revolutionary Socialist Parties, secretary of the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, editor of The New Leader and also The Penal Reformer. He eventually became a Labour M.P. for Norwich from 1945 to 1964.

He wrote a 2 volume autobiography: volume 1 covers early life until 1919, whilst volume 2 (1919 – 1933) is mainly about his professional work with the ILP, after he leaves Aberdeen. The volumes are very detailed describing his formative years learning about socialism and atheism, the Aberdeen Clarion Club, Aberdeen ILP, his pacifist work in World War One (including a few occasions of conflict, such as when Ramsay MacDonald spoke in the city), the role of the ILP Northern Organiser and also the re-founding of the anarchist group in Glasgow.

Related entries: Aberdeen Clarion Club and Musings: Daily acts of rebellion no:1

References: 2 volumes of autobiography: Proletarian Pilgrimage (John Paton, George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1935) and Left Turn! (John Paton, Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., London, 1936). Entry in Biographical Dictionary of European Labour Leaders (2 volumes, A Lane, Westport Greenwood Publishing Co., 1995)

Sources: 2 volumes of autobiography noted above. Some items of correspondence are held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (People’s History Museum), Manchester.

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Dave Campbell was born in Aberdeen and worked at the Stoneywood Paper Mill in Dyce. He was Chairman of the Donside Paper Workers Union and led the Mugiemoss workers out on strike in the 1930s, with the consequence that he was blacklisted. He was then employed in the construction industry and became union officer in the Constructional Engineering Union. In 1946 he moved with his family to Birmingham and became a full time local organiser for the union.

He was an active member of Aberdeen Trades Council, specifically with the local Trade Union Organising Committee, which was set up by the Scottish Trades Union Congress in the 1930s, to build up union branches. He was also a local leader of hunger marches (to London in 1938) and Council Vice-President in 1938.

A life-long member of the Communist Party, he was a friend of fellow communist Bob Cooney, who stayed with him in Birmingham, and shared an interest in folk music.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party.

References: Aberdeen Trades Union Council annual report 1989 and website of Graham Stevenson which features hundred of biographies of Communist Party members.

Sources: unknown.

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The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was formed nationally in 1892/1893 and the first conference was held at Bradford in January 1893. The first national party Chairman was Keir Hardy. Aberdeen ILP had asked Henry Hyde Champion (formerly of the Social Democratic Federation) to attend on their behalf but he was too ill to attend (he did become the Honorary President of the Aberdeen branch). The ILP as an organisation was a crucial stepping stone on the road to the creation of The Labour Party. It was key to the creation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which then became The Labour Party in 1906 (the ILP becoming an affiliated body).

The Aberdeen ILP formed directly from The Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party (which had formed in May 1892) and was more or less a simple name change. The genesis of the Aberdeen ILP though was longer, formed from the Aberdeen Labour Committee, which had been in existence from 1888 – 1892 and which itself had been formed from members of the Aberdeen Junior Liberal Association and The Aberdeen Radical Association. There was remarkable continuity between the first Aberdeen ILP executive committee and the Aberdeen Labour Committee, as it included A.T.G. Beveridge (he was Chairman), A. Birse, George Bisset, George Gerrie, A.P. Glass and William Mitchell (Joint-Secretary). The formation of the Aberdeen ILP was assisted as a result of the coming together of Aberdeen Trades Council, Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party (STCLP) and the Aberdeen Labour Committee, in the promotion of the candidacy of the first ever ‘Labour’ candidate Henry Hyde Champion in Aberdeen South earlier in 1892. Champion lost but it was a very important first step to have been taken.

The membership of the ILP was quite diverse, the bulk being trade unionists and some were also members of the Aberdeen Socialist Society. Many of the key party officers though were middle class and formerly of the Aberdeen Labour Committee (Beveridge, Bisset, Gerrie etc.). Other officers were John Keir (Vice-Chairman), J.I. Mundie (Joint-Secretary) and James Philip (Treasurer). Committee members included Aberdeen Socialist Society members and trade unionists, William Cooper and William Rennie.

The labour movement issued a weekly newspaper in 1893 and 1894 called ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ (later called the ‘Aberdeen Standard’). It cost a penny and was initially sold alongside the London edition simply called ‘Labour Elector’ (the newspaper was a vehicle for the views of Henry Hyde Champion and had first appeared in London in 1888 – 1890, but was revived again in 1893 – 1894). The Aberdeen Labour Elector was a fairly forthright publication and the first issue proudly proclaimed its power as a party and that George Bisset was recognised in the town council as the Labour Leader. The first issue also stated that the ILP manifesto was circulating very widely indeed.

The branch reached a peak very quickly in 1893 but from then on never regained its strength. The leadership of Champion had gone as he had fallen out dramatically with the national ILP leadership and Keir Hardie, and had returned to Australia in early 1894. The Aberdeen branch remained loyal to Champion (not affiliating with the national ILP until 1896) meaning the branch remained rather isolated from the national labour movement. In 1896 though there was a flurry of activity as the labour movement promoted the candidacy of Tom Mann (he was the national ILP Secretary) for the Aberdeen North seat. This was the first ever Labour candidate in Aberdeen North and Mann came within a whisker of winning against the Liberal candidate. After this though the Aberdeen ILP became somewhat overshadowed by a strong Social Democratic Federation (SDF) branch in Aberdeen and appears to have become more or less dormant in the late 1890s.

The branch was resurrected in 1905, active in the 1907 Aberdeen South by-election, and became increasingly stronger in the city as the influence of the SDF waned. Yet, after many disagreements with the Labour Party, in 1932, the ILP disaffiliated from The Labour Party, and Arthur Fraser Macintosh stood as an ILP candidate in Aberdeen North in 1935, against the (winning) Labour candidate. Macintosh was a councillor for the ILP though for many years from 1919.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Council, Aberdeen Labour Committee and The Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party.

References: ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ and its succeeding publication ‘Aberdeen Standard’ (Aberdeen, January 1893 – February 1894), Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ and its succeeding publication ‘Aberdeen Standard’ (Aberdeen, January 1893 – February 1894) are held at University of Aberdeen Library. The papers of Joseph Duncan, Aberdeen ILP member and trade unionist are held at the National Library of Scotland.

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Aberdeen Unemployment Association was one of a number of associations set up after a request from the national Trades Union Congress, which had the intention of countering the influence that was exercised by the Communist Party in another related organisation, The National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM). The Aberdeen Association was run under the auspices of the Aberdeen Trades & Labour Council (later known as the Aberdeen Trades Council) and was only one of two in Scotland. Although the associations across the country had been set up to counter the NUWM, in Aberdeen, both organisations worked together latterly.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

References: see below. Also ‘Unity from below: the impact of the Spanish Civil War on Labour and the left in Aberdeen and Dundee 1936 – 1939’ (Malcolm Petrie, Labour History Review, 2014).

Sources: minutes from 1936 – 1941 are held as part of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council archives at the University of Aberdeen Library.

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