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Posts Tagged ‘1980s’

The Scottish Labour Party was a party of socialist independence, founded in late 1975/early 1976, by a revolt of Jim Sillars M.P. and a group of his colleagues against the Labour Party. The background was the 1974 elections, with the upsurge in Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) votes, and the reaction of the Labour Party thereafter, which struggled to come to a solution on what kind of devolution it wanted (if any). The view of the new party was that the Labour party was no longer socialist and that the S.N.P. would never be socialist. The initial aims of the Party was to secure the establishment of a powerful Scottish Parliament to work in full democratic partnership with the rest of the UK and represent Scotland in Europe. The other man aim was to ensure that the Scottish Parliament was capable of applying socialist solutions to the problems of modern Scotland.

The new party attracted many members in a very short time, from the Labour Party, the S.N.P. and from Trotskyist groups such as the Scottish Aggregate of the International Marxist Group (IMG) and the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party (SWRP). The party attracted members from all over Scotland, including in Aberdeen, where there were 2 branches: city and university. The city branch was based in Aberdeen Trade Union Council offices and membership was recorded as 31 in June 1976 (it was 46 by October 1976).

The Party had some local council electoral success, but in the 1979 General Election lost all 3 of its M.P.s. The party did not last long and experienced internal squabbles, expulsions and splits – meaning it was all over by 1981.

Related entries: Aberdeen University Scottish Labour Party

References: Breakaway: The Scottish Labour Party (Henry Drucker, EUSPB, Edinburgh, 1978). Also, see below.

Sources: there are some ephemeral items in the papers of Dr Michael Dyer at University of Aberdeen Library.

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‘This note is as phony as the Government’

Spoof banknotes from the time of the Wapping Strike in 1986/1987. I am not sure who created these but I presume it was the printers themselves. The usual suspects are there including Thatcher (as the Queen) and Rupert Murdoch. Pictured here are front and back and an alternative which is one sided.

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£1 banknote with red stamp ‘Home Rule for Scotland’ (which was originally sold as a rubber stamp by the publishers Scottish Secretariat), black stamp with ‘Free Scotland Now’ (in Gaelic, and also with ‘Siol Nan Gaidheal’, which was the name of a Scottish nationalist group) and also in ink is written SNP with the party logo. The banknote is 1987 so presumably this piece of protest is late 1980s/early 1990s. This could date from potentially the 1987 election, more likely the 1992 election, or around the time when the Scottish Constitutional Convention was founded in 1989.

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In the 1970s and early 1980s, St Katherine’s Centre was a hub of community support activities such as the Welfare Rights Project and pressure groups such as The Right to Fuel Action Group and a branch of the Child Poverty Action Group. The Centre also housed a Women’s Centre, the Council of Tenants Association, Shelter and Jaw’s Wholefood Cafeteria.

St Katherine’s Club had originally been founded as a girls’ club in 1917 providing domestic, educational, recreational and religious activities. The club was initially based in a Shiprow tenement but soon moved to Broad Street and then in 1937 to a purpose built building in West North Street. After the Second World War the club became more of a community centre open to all, addressing the needs of working class communities. The Centre closed down in 1985 and was bought by the Council. It is now the Lemon Tree cultural venue.

References: “Education Through Recreation”: A History of St Katherine’s Club and Community Centre 1917 – 1985 (Lisa G Savijn , undated, c.1990s)

Sources: unknown but there will be related City Council papers in Aberdeen City Archives.

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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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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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