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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 Socialist Labour Party was founded in 1903 after a split of (mainly) Scottish members from the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). A similar split occurred in England as well, resulting in the formation of the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain. The Scottish party was heavily influenced by the industrial unionism of the Socialist Labor Party of America and was led by socialists in Glasgow such as: Tom Bell, Arthur McManus and Neil McLean.

Although speakers such as national party Secretary Neil McLean visited Aberdeen in 1907, and there is notice of a meeting under the auspices of the party addressed by Aberdeen socialist A.S. Wheeler in 1913, it is not clear if a branch was active at that time. Yet a branch was officially founded in September 1917 when a meeting was called with a guest speaker from the national party in Glasgow (it was to be either Tom Bell or Arthur McManus). Local individuals involved included William Morrison and James W. Gordon (who were former members of the Northern Socialist Society and later to be members of the Aberdeen Communist Group). Another member was William Leslie who was also later to become part of the Aberdeen Communist group. The Party met at the Socialist Hall, Mealmarket Street, where the Northern Society previously used to hold their meetings. The local branch does not appear to have been active after December 1919.

Following revolution in Russia there were moves to work with the British Socialist Party and other groups to form a British Communist Party. Some members did join the new Communist Party but the national party did not and continued along its own path for a number of years.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party, Social Democratic Federation 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) and 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).

Sources: unknown.

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The start of World War One proved a crisis for the British Socialist Party as it split into pro-war and anti-war factions. The pro-war faction split in 1915/16 led by former SDF leader Henry Hyndman, calling the new group the National Socialist Party.

Individuals involved in the Aberdeen branch included William King and Christian-Farquharson Kennedy. Another prominent individual in the NSP was Tom Kennedy, who was husband of Christian, former SDF organiser in Aberdeen and who stood for Parliament in North Aberdeen on two occasions. After service in World War One he became General Secretary of the party.

The national party affiliated to the Labour Party in 1918 and gradually became absorbed into that Party. The party had also changed its name back to the old Social Democratic Federation in 1919. The local branch remained active into the early 1920s.

Related entries: British Socialist Party, Christian Farquharson-Kennedy and Social Democratic Federation.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal and The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: unknown. Some papers of the national party are held at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

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The national British Socialist Party (BSP) was founded in late 1911, after a Socialist Unity Conference, and out of the ashes of the Marxist Social Democratic Party (previously called Social Democratic Federation (SDF)). The Aberdeen party had its first meeting in January 1912 when Glasgow socialist John Maclean spoke at the Picturedrome on behalf of the BSP leadership.

There were initially 2 branches in Aberdeen (north and south following the Parliamentary divisions). The local party rooms were at 173a Union Street. Individuals involved included William King (President), George Cooper (Secretary) and members included John Crombie Christie, John Donald, Christian Farquharson-Kennedy, John Mathieson Fraser and Alexander Skakle. Another prominent individual in the BSP was Tom Kennedy, who was husband of Christian, former SDF organiser in Aberdeen, and who stood for Parliament in North Aberdeen on two occasions.

The party’s local election programme in 1913 stated the aims of the party: evening meetings, direct employment, taxation of land values, stop expenditure on public money on useless deputations, municipalisation of liquor traffic, supply of coal and milk and erection of municipal slaughterhouses, public baths and laundries.

The start of World War One proved a crisis for the national party as it split into pro-war and anti-war factions. The pro-war faction split in 1915/16 led by former SDF leader Henry Hyndman, calling the new group the National Socialist Party. The BSP remained active and following the revolution in Russia, the party became one of the founding organisations of the new British Communist Party in 1920.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party, Christian Farquharson-Kennedy, National Socialist Party and Social Democratic Federation.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal and The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: unknown. Some papers of the national party are held at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

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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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A Northern Socialist Society was active between January 1916 and April 1917 and had a hall (‘The Socialist Hall’) in Mealmarket Street. The Society hosted many discussions and guest speakers included the veteran socialist James Leatham, Helen Crawfurd (former member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, member of the Independent Labour Party and soon to be part of the new Communist Party), Joseph Forbes Duncan (trade unionist and former President of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council), Robert Stewart (from Dundee and soon to play a key role in the Communist Party), and also men who had been deported from Glasgow for involvement in strikes on the Clyde (April 1916). There were discussions on The Military Service Act and conscientious objection, amongst others. Presiding were: George A. Cooper, Andrew Gay, James W Gordon, parish councillor William McIntyre and William Morrison. Attending meetings were Mr Beattie, Mr Greig (perhaps William Greig) and William Sim. Many of these members went onto become involved in the Socialist Labour Party and Aberdeen Communist Party.

The last meeting appears to be in April 1917 and by September of that year the hall at Mealmarket Street was being used by the newly formed Socialist Labour Party.

Related entries: Aberdeen Communist Party and Socialist Labour Party.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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A group mentioned in a press report about May Day in 1905. There were Marxian clubs in the rest of Britain around this time, often hosting speakers from the Social Democratic Federation.

References: Aberdeen Daily Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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