First Published: The
Vanguard, May 1920
Transcription\HTML Markup: Revolutionary Communist Group, 30 March 1998 and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (www.marx.org)1999, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Irishmen say that Ireland is unbeatable; we say that The Vanguard is irrepressible. It is appropriate that it be resurrected on May Day 1920 to hail the dawn of the world revolution that may break out any time and anywhere. We consecrate The Vanguard to the cause of the workers’ revolution.
Some may remember that when Hyndman and Justice betrayed the British Socialist Party and the International by taking the side of the British capitalist class in the “Great War”, we of the BSP along with Forward steadied the socialist movement and prepared the way for the strikes that will ever make famous the class-conscious workers of the Clyde Valley.
We started our modest little paper in September 1915 and had just put into the hands of the Civic Press our fifth issue, January 1916, when we learned that the police had raided that Press to stop Forward for its fine report of Lloyd George’s trouncing in St Andrew’s Hall, 25 December 1915, by the nine hundred delegates from the engineering works on the Clydeside. Naturally, our paper was seized also as we had two articles on the same “Christmas pantomime” of which Lloyd George was the “knock-out”. When the seizure was raised in the Commons, Lloyd George stated that The Vanguard was the worst paper in the country. At the time, we went to printer after printer, but were told time and again that the authorities had sent out a circular forbidding anyone to print the paper. Before this I had (November 1915) been sentenced to five days or five pounds by Sheriff Lee, and then dismissed by the Govan School Board. Immediately thereafter the BSP was turned out of the Panopticon, and on 26 December 1915 was refused entry into the Good Templars’ Hall by a cordon of police drawn round the entrance. Then our Russian comrade, Peter Petroff, was arrested and thrust into prison after a farce of a trial, in which Petroff defended himself and defeated the furious old humbug of a sheriff in the interpretation of the section of the Defence of the Realm Act used to indict him.
In due course came the arrest of James D. MacDougall and myself and our imprisonment for one year and three years respectively. The government intended to so cripple us that we would be effectively disposed of as agents in the class war. The preparations in Russia and the outbreak of the first revolution saved us after a degradation and drugging that we might call devilish, but for the more monstrous deeds of the war and the slow deathpressure Britain is applying to Central Europe, Russia, and Ireland.
The continuance of the war during 1917 and the issue of The Call by the BSP, purged of the social patriots headed by Hyndman, made it impossible and unnecessary to restart The Vanguard. MacDougall went to work in the mines in Lanarkshire, and started amongst the miners there the finest piece of socialist propaganda ever conducted in Scotland. Forward carefully suppressed references to MacDougall’s work as his policy of revolutionary direct action was antagonistic to that of the editor and the fossil types inside the ILP. Nonetheless, the work was done, and that explains the fervent support Lanarkshire gave to the premature forty-hour strike, and to the policy of aggression last year that lifted the British miners into the forefront of the workers’ movement throughout the world.
The skill and cuteness of the government prevented a strike of the miners, who might have received the support of the rest of the workers to the detriment of the British proposals at the Peace Conference, to the defeat of Britain’s antiRussian policy, and to the endangerment of British capitalism itself. Whilst giving free scope to Smillie and his colleagues at the Coal Commission -- now seen to be a farce to stave off revolt—the government set itself to the task of breaking up the miners’ reform movement and driving MacDougall out of public life. This accomplished, it then faced up to the Miners’ Federation itself, and has now succceeded in driving Smillie out of the fighting ranks, has defeated direct action for nationalisation of the mines, and has isolated the miners from the other trade unions.
At the same time it has paralysed the BSP and the SLP, and may do so to the ILP as well, so as to clear the ground for a safe and sane Labourism; safe and sane, because dominated by ideas of the reform of capitalism rather than by the determination to destroy capitalism and inaugurate the workers’ republic.
Dissatisfaction with the plight of the BSP, maimed by the year’s onslaught of capitalism, has compelled us to resurrect The Vanguard in the hope that we may concentrate the minds of the workers on the revolution to be gone through in this country as well as on the one gone through already in Russia. The main use of the Russian workers’ success is the inspiration we ought to derive from it for the accomplishment of a similar feat within the bounds of Britain.
John Maclean Archive