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Posts Tagged ‘1960s’

A society formed in Aberdeen around 1958 with University of Aberdeen lecturer Margaret Knight as the driving force (she was President). She was a speaker at many group events alongside guest speakers such as Dr Dugald Baird and Labour M.P. Robert Hughes.

There was also at the same time a society at Aberdeen University.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Humanist Society and Margaret Knight.

References: Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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The Committee for Peace in Vietnam (Aberdeen) was formed in 1965, following the formation of the national British Council (later Campaign) for Peace in Vietnam (it was active from 1964 until 1976).

The local Committee was a broad group supported by the Labour Party, Liberal Party, Communist Party and trade unions.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Committee for Peace in Vietnam and Aberdeen Youth for Peace in Vietnam.

References: Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Sources: unknown, but some of the national organisation papers are held at University of Cambridge Library.

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A group of staff and students from the University, College of Education and other institutions of higher education and research in Aberdeen, which gathered a petition, and alongside the Aberdeen Committee for Peace in Vietnam, made a deputation to the Government in London in June 1965.

Related entries: Aberdeen Youth for Peace in Vietnam and Committee for Peace in Vietnam (Aberdeen).

References: Aberdeen Press and Journal (June 1965).

Sources: unknown.

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A group that took direct action such as interrupting the city Remembrance Day events in November 1966 and 1967. The group also held a nine hour peace vigil in Union Terrace Gardens in February 1967. The vigil was attended by other groups such as the local Aberdeen Anarchists, Aberdeen University Socialist Society, Youth Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament and the Young Communist League.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Committee for Peace in Vietnam and Committee for Peace in Vietnam (Aberdeen).

References: Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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A Rents Rise Committee was formed in 1968 to fight a proposed council rent increase. The Committee marched down Union Street and held a meeting of council tenants in the Music Hall. As a result, a number of supporting tenant defence committees were set up in the wards of Mastrick, Northfield, St Machar, Torry and Woodside. The Secretary of the Committee was Aberdeen Communist Party Area Secretary Margaret Rose.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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Following revolution in Russia, shockwaves reverberated around the world, and Aberdeen felt that impact as well. Following moves in late 1918 and 1919, the national Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was formally founded at a Unity Conference held in London in late July/early August 1920 (prior to the founding of the national party, in late 1919, there had been moves to form an Aberdeen Communist Group, but those efforts were short lived).

The core of the British Socialist Party merged into the new party as well as smaller groups such as the Socialist Labour Party (SLP). The driving force in Scotland was the SLP in Glasgow and leaders such as Tom Bell, Willie Gallagher, Arthur McManus and Neil McLean. The CPGB tried for many years to affiliate itself to the Labour Party with a view to seeking control of the organisation. This ‘infiltration’ was also the case with trade union branches and also Trades Councils and in 1924 there was a concerted attempt to draw all communist members into trade union activity with the formation of the National Minority Movement. Increasingly the communists were barred from being individual members of the Labour Party and any Trade Councils that affiliated with the National Minority Movement were to be disaffiliated by the British Trades Union Congress. In 1928 communists were finally expelled from the Aberdeen Trades and Labour Council. Yet, despite national policy, there was much cooperation between local Communist branches and Trades Councils on issues such as unemployment and anti-fascism. The Communist Party nationally was always a small party, membership spiking nationally during the General Strike of 1926, after the collapse of the Labour government of 1931 and then during World War Two when there was support for Russia as an allied force. Membership was strongest in London and in Scotland, and these were the only two areas to elect a Communist M.P.

Early members of the Aberdeen Party had been members of the Socialist Labour Party: James Gordon and William Morrison. Notable later members were Party organiser for North-East Scotland, Bob Cooney, and Margaret Rose, local Party Secretary. The group’s first proper room (from May 1921) was at 17 St Nicholas Street. There were also rooms in the 1930s in Loch Street (‘The All Power Hall’) and later in Uquhart Road. The party was very active in the city during specific periods: the General Strike of 1926, anti-fascist activity in the 1930s, the hunger marches in the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War when members fought with the International Brigades in Spain (including Bob Cooney) and in the 1940s squatting movement.

The national party first took part in parliamentary elections in 1922 but it was not until 1928 that Aberdeen had its first candidate: Aitken Ferguson standing in Aberdeen North, against the Labour Party candidate. He polled a respectable 2,618 votes which was over 12% of the total votes cast (which stood as the highest ever percentage received for a Communist candidate in Aberdeen). There were only to be a further 5 attempts at national elections (all in Aberdeen North): Ferguson again in 1929 (where his vote percentage more than halved), Helen Crawfurd in 1931, Bob Cooney in 1950, Margaret Rose in 1966 and finally AJ Ingram in 1970).

There was also a very active Young Communist League in the city.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Group, Aberdeen University Communist Party Group, British Socialist Party, Dave Campbell, Communist Party of Britain (Aberdeen), Robert (Bob) Cooney, Labour College (Aberdeen), League Against Imperialism, Socialist Labour Party and William Leslie.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal, ‘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), Red Scotland: The Rise and Fall of the Radical Left c.1872 – 1932 (William Kenefick, Edinburgh University Press, 2007), The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980), Remembering the Spanish Civil War 1936 – 1939 (chapter ‘The Story of Aberdeen’s Communists’ by Bob Cooney, in ed. George Scott, Aberdeen Trades Council, 1996) and ‘The Membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1920 – 1945’ (by Andrew Thorpe, The Historical Journal, 43, 3 (2000).

Sources: there are some printed items at the University Library (as part of the Aberdeen People’s Press archive and Bob Cooney’s songbooks from the late 1970s/early 1980s are held as part of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council archive). The national party papers are held at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

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There was an anarchist group in Aberdeen in the 1890s but there does not appear to have been a formal group again until the late 1960s. The Aberdeen Anarchist Group was active by 1966, and by 1968 there were 2 groups (Aberdeen Anarchists and Aberdeen Anarchist Federation (a branch of the national group, The Syndicalists Workers’ Federation), as well as a student group at Aberdeen University. Local anarchists were involved in other campaigns as well such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Youth), Committee of 100, the anti-Vietnam war movement and tenants’ rights groups. Also of note is that the Scottish Anarchist Conference was held in Aberdeen in March 1969 and the Anarchist Federation of Scotland branch Scottish Secretary was based in Montrose.

The Aberdeen groups appear to have dissolved by 1970. From the late 1960s as well, local anarchists were now forming new groups, and calling themselves libertarian socialists: Solidarity (Aberdeen Group) (1967 – 1972), Aberdeen Libertarian Socialist Group (c.1973 – c.1982) and Social Revolution/Solidarity (c.1975 – c.1982). These groups were very active for many years, locally and nationally, and the Social Revolution group of the late 1970s was part of the Scottish Libertarian Federation.

There was an active anarchist group by the late 1980s and they issued a news-sheet titled ‘Titanic: Aberdeen Anarchist Monthly’. There have been numerous groupings active since then (such as Aberdeen Anarchist Resistance in the early 2000s), yet groups have often been short-lived and prone to lapse (the latest incarnation of a group was set up in 2016). There are strong connections with other groups such as Aberdeen Against Austerity and the Aberdeen Anti-Fascist Alliance.

Related entries: Aberdeen Against Austerity, Aberdeen Anti-Fascist Alliance, Aberdeen Libertarian Socialist Group, Aberdeen University Anarchist Group, Social Revolution/Solidarity and Solidarity (Aberdeen Group).

References: Aberdeen Press and Journal and Freedom newspaper sourced online.

Sources: some printed material (a copy of ‘Titanic: Aberdeen Anarchist Monthly’, c.1988, is held at the Scottish Radical Library/ACE archive in Edinburgh).

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