Posts Tagged ‘1980s’

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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The national group was formed by University students and graduates who were expelled and/or left the Socialist Party of Great Britain around 1973. There were a number of splinter groups in Britain, including one in Aberdeen (see the Aberdeen Libertarian Socialist Group, who also called themselves Aberdeen Anarchists). The national group issued publications such as ‘Libertarian Communism’, ‘Workers’ Power – for social revolution’ and ‘Social Revolution’. The Aberdeen group were very active and edited an issue in 1976 and also hosted a key conference that same year. In 1977 the movement merged with another group called Solidarity which had been formed in 1960 by former members of the Socialist Labour League (note: there had been an earlier Solidarity Group in Aberdeen between 1967 and 1972). Following the merger the new group published a journal called ‘Solidarity: for Social Revolution’.

The Aberdeen group was also part of the Scottish Libertarian Federation in the late 1970s. Members of the group were also involved in a host of local campaigns throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign/The Other Army Information Centre, Aberdeen Campaign Against The Cuts and the Stuff The Jubilee! campaign in 1977.

Related entries: Aberdeen Anarchists, Aberdeen Libertarian Socialist Group, The Big Print Collective and Solidarity.

References: information and issues of the national group magazines are available via website http://www.libcom.org. Aberdeen Group report in Scottish Libertarian Federation newsletter (1976).

Sources: there are copies of some printed material as part of Aberdeen Peoples Press archive at Aberdeen University Library.

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A branch of the national organisation which had been founded in 1950 (as the Socialist Review Group), which became the International Socialists in 1962 and finally the Socialist Workers Party in 1977. Members are very active in campaigns in the city and selling the Socialist Worker newspaper.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Socialist Worker Student Society.

References: adverts in International Socialism newspaper.

Sources: national archive is held at Warwick University, Modern Records Centre.

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The United Troops Out Movement advertised in The Big Print in the late 1970s – early 1980s (although it is not clear whether this was just a contact point or if there was a formal active group in the city).

The national Troops Out Movement campaigned for the withdrawal of British soldiers from Northern Ireland. It was formed in 1973 and is still active today.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Troops Out Society.

References: advert in the Big Print, 1979/1980.

Sources: unknown.

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The International Marxist Group (British Section of the Fourth International) advertised in Aberdeen People’s Press and The Big Print in the mid-1970s – early 1980s.

The Group was a national Trotskyist organisation and emerged in the mid-1960s. It changed its name in 1982 to the Socialist League.

References: adverts in Aberdeen People’s Press (1975) and The Big Print (June 1978 – early 1980s).

Sources: unknown, but papers of the national body are held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick and also at the London School of Economics.

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The Subversive Graffiti Collective produced a free news sheet (around 8 issues in 1981/1982), with for example, reports on male violence, strikes and direct action by communities and workers.

The aims as stated in the news sheet were: (1) to support, seek solidarity for and be involved in struggles for the needs of the vast majority of people, against the elite of businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats. This includes activities at the workplace, by the unemployed, by tenants, against oppression on the grounds of sex or sexual orientation, (2) to urge that all involved control these actions, not leaders such as Union officials or political parties, (3) to aim at the overthrow of all governments, bosses and leaders by the conscious action of the majority of the people. We want a world without any relationships of domination and submission, where all have an equal say in how things are run, and where production is for human need not profit.

As well as producing the news sheet, the Collective held informal discussions in Summer Street Community Centre. The 1st issue states the new sheet was produced by people in the group Solidarity (Aberdeen) and ‘other revolutionaries in Aberdeen and the North East’. The Collective address was c/o Boom Town Books, 167 King Street, Aberdeen.

There was also a similar news sheet in Peterhead, ‘Bloo Toon Graffiti’, produced by the Bloo Toon Graffiti Collective (also c/o of Boomtown Books).

Related entries: Aberdeen People’s Press and Social Revolution/Solidarity.

References: see below.

Sources: copies are held at the Scottish Radical Library/ACE archive in Edinburgh and also at the Spirit of Revolt archive in Glasgow.

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