The Origins of British Bolshevism. Raymond Challinor 1977

Chapter VI: The First World War

The declaration of war in August 1914 was greeted with widespread jubilation. Crowds thronged the streets, cheering and dancing; a carnival atmosphere prevailed. ‘Rule Britannia’ and the National Anthem were heard on every street corner, and men flocked to the recruiting centres. Enthusiasm for war — so difficult for the present-day mind to comprehend — can, at least in part, be attributed to the drabness and monotony of workers’ lives. They had little conception of what was meant by modern war. They imagined a few glorious battles, replete with heroic deeds, and a quick return home. By the Christmas fireside, they would be able to regale families and friends with stories of their exciting exploits.

Another influence stimulated this chauvinistic dance of death: capitalist ideology possessed a very much greater hold over the working class than it does today. Many people passionately believed in King and Country. Told the war was being fought to safeguard civilisation, they accepted every word that came from politicians’ lips. A fever gripped young men, irrespective of class or political view. Of the Oxford University Socialist Society’s 125 members, all but 15 volunteered. [1] In the coal industry 191,170 trade unionists, almost a fifth of the total labour force, had joined the armed forces by February 1915. [2] Altogether, by 1916 a total of two and a half million men had answered Lord Kitchener’s call, ‘Your Country Needs You’. That such a large number behaved in this way is without historical precedent: it is a testimony to the power and pervasiveness of patriotism.

Labour and trade-union politicians, accustomed to accommodating themselves to the prevailing capitalist ideology, swam with the tide. They backed the war by speaking at recruitment rallies and urged workers to rise to the national crisis. They told trade unionists to forget demands for higher wages, to buckle down to the task of increasing production. Their appeals met with wide success. Before the outbreak of hostilities, it had seemed likely that the second half of 1914 would have witnessed many major industrial disputes. As it was, these vanished: in the last month before the war began, July 1914, nearly 100,000 days had been lost in industrial disputes; by December 1914 the figure had dropped to a mere 3000 days. [3] The cooperation of the workers made the government exceedingly pleased. Sir Walter Rundiman, President of the Board of Trade, expressed satisfaction: ‘They are working longer hours and more regularly than ever before, and it is all done of their own free will — no conscription or compulsion.’ [4]

In attaining this object, the government had the active support of many avowed socialists. Men who had previously preached internationalism, albeit in a soggy and sentimental fashion, were transformed overnight into raving jingoists. Ramsay MacDonald, MP for Leicester, wrote to the Mayor of Leicester six days after the outbreak of war expressing his fervent desire to help in every way possible:

Should an opportunity arise to enable me to appeal to the pure love of country — which I know is a precious sentiment in all our hearts, keeping it clear of thoughts which I believe to be alien to real patriotism — I shall gladly take that opportunity. If need be I shall make it for myself. I want the serious men of the Trade Union, the Brotherhood, and similar movements to face their duty. To such men it is enough to say ‘England has need of you’. [5]

Keir Hardie took the same line in his constituency of Merthyr:

A nation at war must be united... With the boom of the enemy’s guns within earshot the lads who have gone forth to fight their country’s battles must not be disheartened by any discordant note at home. [6]

Like Keir Hardie, George Lansbury, the editor of the Daily Herald, was a well-known pacifist — until war actually broke out. Then he even refused to print resolutions opposing the war in the paper. [7]

A tiny minority took an anti-war stand. Most of the individuals who did so based their objections on pacifist or religious grounds. Some of them were members of the Independent Labour Party. But there was also a handful of socialists, small groups like those led by John Maclean in Glasgow and Sylvia Pankhurst in London. And the Socialist Labour Party never wavered from its stand of proletarian internationalism. Issue after issue of its journal attacked the warmongers. A leading article in September 1914 ridiculed the notion that it was necessary to fight to preserve civilisation:

No explanation is offered as to what civilisation has done for the workers that they should fight for it. To the majority, civilisation means 10 or 12 hours a day in a factory or on a railway, or eight hours in a coal mine, with a hovel to sleep in and the prospect of being clubbed by the police or shot down by the military if they make too much fuss about it. We had some ‘civilisation’ recently in Dublin, we experienced it at Featherstone and elsewhere.

The same article ended:

A class that can contemplate unmoved the sufferings of the workers, their wretched conditions and pauper deaths, is not civilised. A class that can callously consign millions of their fellow creatures to mutilation and death for the furtherance of their own ends is not civilised. The world will never be civilised so long as capitalism endures.

The SLP saw the First World War as a consequence of mounting rivalry between the big powers. Imperialist wars were a necessary and inevitable result of the functioning of capitalism. Unlike the ILP, which thought that greater tolerance and understanding could lead to a negotiated peace, the SLP considered that no peace could be properly secured within the framework of the present system and drew revolutionary conclusions from its analysis:

Our attitude is neither pro-German nor pro-British, but anti-capitalist and all that it stands for in every country of the world. The capitalist class of all nations are our real enemies, and it is against them that we direct all our attacks. [8]

Unwittingly, the editor of The Socialist was using almost the same words as Karl Liebknecht, the German socialist, who told German workers that their real enemies were not British workers but the German capitalist class — ‘the real enemy is at home’.

In the first few weeks of the hostilities, the British press carried reports that Liebknecht and Luxemburg had been killed. When subsequently these were proved to be false rumours, newspapers praised them for their courageous opposition to Prussian militarism. They presumably thought that, by sowing the seeds of dissension inside Germany, Liebknecht and his comrades helped the Allied cause. Support of German international socialists did not mean supporting their principles: the press combined applause for German Liebknechts with detestation of their British equivalents.

The SLP displayed greater consistency. It rejoiced ‘to see that Dr Liebknecht had given his powerful support to the “Stop the War” movement’. His bravery should spur British socialists to similar action in this country:

If Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and others have the courage, at such a time and in a country that is said to be under the heel of militarism and tyrannically governed, to demand in the name of humanity that the slaughter shall cease, can we do less than meet him half way?

The example of Liebknecht and others vindicated the SLP’s belief in international solidarity. Beneath the seemingly hopeless situation, The Socialist saw tremendous opportunities were developing:

That a revolutionary element exists in the French, German and Russian armies, there is no reason to doubt... I believe there is a large revolutionary element in the British army also, particularly the new army under training. The widespread industrial unrest in Great Britain during the last few years was symptomatic of deep-seated dissatisfaction... As revolutionary socialists, we are bound to make the most of whatever opportunities present themselves for carrying our revolutionary principles into effect, and this war, involving as it does the working class of the leading countries in Europe in common disaster, may prove a blessing in disguise by providing them with the opportunity of throwing off the yoke of their common oppressor. [9]

The need, in the SLP’s opinion, was to turn a capitalist war into a socialist revolution:

For this reason, and because every member of the working class should be in possession of arms and trained in their use, the workers should enrol themselves... that they may be in a position to play a part in the great task that is before them — their own emancipation — should the opportunity present itself. Remember the war of 1870 gave birth to the Paris Commune; who knows what the future holds in its womb. [10]

But difficulties did arise in applying this tactic. With a small number of branches and members, the SLP’s top priority remained to keep the party alive. Often, in many towns, a handful of men were all there was to spread socialist ideas: take a few key men away and vital industrial work would go by default. Where, as often occurred, a militant had secured for himself a position of influence within a factory, it would be foolish to discard this and volunteer for the army. Trained and experienced cadres were more precious than gold — future development depended upon them. Of particular importance was the small group who, despite colossal pressures, kept the party’s central organisation functioning.

It is hard to imagine how great the strain upon certain individuals must have been. For example, Arthur MacManus was editor of The Socialist, and in 1915, when the Clyde Workers Committee was formed, he became its Chairman. As spokesman for this rank-and-file organisation, the most powerful of its kind in the country, he played a leading role in the creation of a National Workers and Shop Stewards Movement. All this was done in his spare time: he also had a full-time job as an engineer at G and J Weir’s Cathcart works, where he was the most well-known militant. Besides these commitments, which would have been more than enough for half a dozen men with only a normal amount of energy, MacManus found time to help in the struggle in Ireland. In 1915, James Connolly visited Glasgow and told his old SLP comrades that the authorities had suppressed their journal, the Irish Worker. So the SLP undertook to print it clandestinely on the party’s press at Renfrew Street. In his autobiography Tom Bell stated: ‘Comrade Arthur MacManus was especially keen on doing this; working night and day to get it out, and arranged for the shipment of the paper, which he took over personally to Dublin.’ [11] He regularly carried the issues over to Ireland, wrapped in a parcel marked ‘Glass’, until the authorities discovered the ruse. [12] So determined was MacManus that he even made the journey one stormy night after he had fallen off his bike and broken his collar bone.

But MacManus’ dedication was far from unique. Willie Paul, John S Clarke, Tom Bell and a number of others subordinated all personal considerations to the task of keeping the SLP going and spreading socialist ideas. Without the bravery and self-sacrifice of its members, the party would have collapsed. Selling The Socialist and holding public meetings were hazardous undertakings, which could result in being beaten up by young patriots or arrested by the police. ‘The police court is becoming quite a familiar place with members of the Glasgow branch’, The Socialist stoically reported. [13] Despite this persecution, propaganda work continued and, partly as a consequence, the mood of the public began to change.

But the Asquith government’s own actions were much more important in changing public attitudes. People’s war euphoria began to evaporate when they experienced long hours of work for low wages, with rapidly rising prices. Inevitably, war places an added burden on a country’s economy, but this was magnified in Britain by governmental mistakes. Asquith miscalculated both the duration of the conflict and the extent to which it would devour economic resources. He compounded these errors by relying on market forces rather than direct state control to attain a sufficient level of war production. The laws of supply and demand, as most economists will admit, are appropriate for making marginal adjustments, not for massive reallocation of a country’s economic forces. A large increase in demand, such as took place in the initial period of the First World War, is likely to send prices shooting up. Higher profits encourage industrialists to increase output. While this procedure may appear admirable to capitalists, others may have a rather different idea, wondering why a few people should wax rich at the public’s expense. As soldiers fell, the profits of the Merchants of Death rose. What made matters worse, in the opinion of the sizeable section of the general public, was another aspect of the operation of market forces: for demand to exceed supply under normal circumstances may be none too calamitous, but when the supply is ammunition — and enemy troops are advancing — then one is liable to be slightly less sanguine. The ‘great shell scandal’ of 1915, when some British troops ran perilously short of explosives, aroused considerable indignation.

Gradually, the truth began to percolate through. From their own experiences and occasional stories appearing in the press, a lot of people began to realise that many employers were benefiting from the mass slaughter. War might be terrible — but it was terribly profitable! Referring to shipping, the Daily Mail said:

The net earnings of the trade are estimated to have risen from 20 million in 1913 to 250 million in 1916. The profits are so great that a steamer is reported to pay for her entire cost in two voyages. [14]

In the House of Commons on 23 December 1915, Frank Goldstone MP capped this story by instancing a ship that had paid for itself in a single voyage. In 1915, two Tyneside shipping companies, Cairn Line and Moor Line, actually made profits that exceeded their capital value. Profits were equally astronomical in the manufacture of military supplies. Soon after the declaration of war, the Daily News reported that revolvers that had hitherto cost the government two guineas each were now being bought for four guineas, while those that had cost five guineas had now been raised to ten. [15] WW Ashley MP told Parliament that the War Office had purchased a million wooden ammunition boxes at 13s 6d when the production cost was only 1s 2d. [16] Arms manufacturers like Projectile Co Ltd, which only made a profit of 18,880 in 1914, made 194,136 after tax in 1916.

Any intelligent person was liable to contrast the treatment of the never-had-it-so-good industrialists with the less favourable treatment accorded to the men who actually did the fighting. The Daily Express reported that a soldier who had lost the use of limbs due to frostbite would receive no pension since it could not be directly attributed to enemy action. [17] Similarly, the Daily Chronicle said 300 widows would receive no pension since, according to the War Office, their husbands’ illnesses had ‘only developed in the course of service’. [18] The Manchester Guardian carried the story of a soldier’s wife, the mother of six, on the meagre allowance she received, was unable to pay the increased rent. She was ‘dragged partially dressed from her bedroom landing on to the street, and there beaten with an umbrella’. The court fined the landlord — her assailant — a mere 10. [19]

Women were particularly vulnerable to exploitation as a result of the pressures of the war. Unskilled and unorganised, millions of them were drafted into factories to take the place of men who had gone to fight. Female labour was cheap labour. Employers could make women work long hours for much lower pay than men. At G and J Weir’s Glasgow foundry women were paid 15s a week making big shells. At Lusty’s soup factory wages were even worse — twopence an hour plus an extra twopence an hour for overtime:

The basement in which the women work is wet and steaming. In one morning 24 women plucked and cleaned 500 fowls, some of which are said to be crawling with maggots.

According to Sylvia Pankhurst’s paper, the Workers Dreadnought, there were many places where women worked 70 hours a week for only 22 shillings. [20] The long hours plus the inexperience resulted in frequent accidents, some fatal. What was more, working in an explosives factory turned women’s hands, face and hair yellow. Obviously, the long hours of work and the conditions under which it took place were liable to lead to physical deterioration. It was probably no coincidence that in Sheffield, where large numbers of women were employed in the engineering factories, infant mortality figures almost doubled: from 11,912 deaths in 1913 to 22,281 deaths in 1915.

But it was not merely women: no section of the working class could remain immune to the harmful effects of the war. The cost of living rose sharply without an equivalent rise in wages. The price rises were particularly marked in the case of food. Official figures show that retail food prices rose in the first 12 months of the war by an average of 32 per cent in large towns and 29 per cent in small towns and villages. [21] Most disturbing to the poor and those with large families was the increase in the price of bread — it rose from 51/2d to 8d or more. Yet, when the Prime Minister was questioned in Parliament about these increases, he displayed remarkable complacency. Attempting to justify the government’s failure to take countermeasures, he said that these price rises had been no worse than those brought on by the Franco-Prussian war. [22]

Not surprisingly in the circumstances, industrial unrest began to grow. Faced with an erosion of their real wages and a worsening of their working conditions, workers bestirred themselves and began to resist.

The first major industrial revolt came from the Clyde. There tensions were felt more acutely then elsewhere. It was the area that had many large factories where workers, crowded together, gained a sense of unity. The introduction of modern production techniques had made men conscious of the methods used by management to economise at their expense. A tradition of militancy had developed. The war tended to reinforce the sense of grievance. From many parts of Britain, people flocked into Glasgow to work in the munitions factories. This simply worsened the appalling housing shortage in the city, where half the population lived in two-room houses and an eighth in single rooms. The newcomers, according to the official historian of the Ministry of Munitions, were compelled to endure ‘the inclemency of the weather, the overcrowding, and the indifferent cooking in such lodgings as were available’. [23]

The engineers’ pay claim provided the spark. In January 1912, the Clyde ASE District Committee signed a three-year agreement that gave men a rate of 81/2d an hour. Since then, both profits and prices had risen considerably. The District Committee felt it was justified in making a formal claim for an extra twopence an hour, payable after the existing agreement expired. But the engineering employers sought to delay negotiations. Only the ASE’s threat of a stoppage led them to make an offer. Then it was merely for a farthing, with a further halfpenny three months later. Irate engineers at Weir’s banned overtime. Meanwhile, socialists — mainly SLP members and the group around John Maclean — held factory-gate meetings, relating the immediate struggle to the general question of capitalism. While ASE officials, anxious to avert a stoppage, desperately tried to seek a compromise, to cool the situation and restore normal working, the tendency was in the opposite direction. At factory after factory throughout Clydeside, engineers went on strike: the attitude of their union officials had simply served to exasperate them all the more. ‘The one fact that struck home’, MacManus later remarked, when referring to the dispute, ‘was the necessity of the workers doing for themselves what the officials were too cowardly to attempt.’ [24] Opposed by the employers, government and their own union machinery, the Clydesdale workers resolved to set up their own rank-and-file organisation, which eventually became known as the Clyde Workers Committee. Two special features characterised this newly-formed body: first, it embraced people from a variety of trades, and therefore could not be controlled by the officials of any one union; and, second, it was democratic:

By pledging themselves to accept no decision other than that arrived through the Unofficial Central Committee and endorsed by all the workers in the District Meetings, a possible split in the ranks was averted. [25]

Union officials did everything possible to divide the men. JT Brownlie, the ASE’s General Secretary, delivered a patriotic address to a rowdy meeting at the Palace Theatre, Glasgow, but the engineers told him they were determined to stay out — regardless of what their union said — until the full twopence had been conceded. On 24 February 1915, the employers’ offer was rejected in a ballot of the men by a ten to one majority. Finally, the government’s intervention, offering arbitration, and threatening serious counter-measures if it were refused, brought the first faltering within the strikers’ ranks. Seizing the opportunity, the union officials called for a return to work on 3 March; to assert its own authority, the CWC called for a united return the following day, and that was what happened.

This first strike ended in failure. The strikers did not achieve their objective, gaining only a temporary bonus of a penny. Since this was exactly the amount gained by Glasgow dockers, without resorting to a stoppage, it seems probable that the strike did not increase the final size of the award. Moreover, after the dispute had ended, the CWC — at that time known as the Central Labour Withholding Committee — went out of existence. A few of the leading figures did, however, continue to meet informally.

The significance of this first industrial battle was that it frayed the tempers of both employers and workers, producing a climate encouraging conflict. One can only make surmises about the reasons for the various attitudes adopted. Perhaps employers, having won the strike and seemingly smashed the Central Labour Withholding Committee, thought they were in a good bargaining position. They may well have wanted to teach the militants a lesson. Or maybe the exigencies of war, the need to boost production, compelled them to give the screw another twist, further increasing output without equivalent pay increases. Whatever it was that propelled employers into this activity, they did not see that the workers, too, had changed. Far from being demoralised by defeat, it had acted as a spur to strengthening organisation on the shop-floor. In the key Clydeside factories, militancy reached fresh heights after the return to work. Instead of regarding the strike as a catastrophic defeat, it was seen as a temporary setback, soon to be avenged.

In these circumstances, employers and trade unionists were clearly on a collision course. Managements decided to probe the enemy’s positions. In July 1915, a shop steward named Marshall at Parkhead Forge, a stronghold of militancy, was dismissed and arraigned before the courts, accused of ‘slacking and causing others to slack’. A three-month sentence was imposed upon him. Immediately, workers made collections for Marshall’s dependents and threatened to strike unless the sentence was withdrawn. Rather tardily, the authorities released Marshall and he returned to Parkhead. [26] Soon after this incident, the courts fined 17 workers from Fairfield shipyard for going on strike. Three of the men chose prison rather than pay the fine. Maclean launched a campaign to secure their release, but his efforts gained little response. They had to do their time. Then came the case of Robert Bridges, a shop steward at Weir’s, who was charged with ‘molesting’ a worker by asking him for his union card. Two hundred of Bridges’ workmates accompanied him to the proceedings and made their position abundantly clear: no fine would be paid and imprisonment would cause an immediate stoppage. [27]

Grievances about rent increases accompanied this industrial unrest. ILP members around Councillor John Wheatley strove unsuccessfully to obtain a legal prohibition of rent rises. Agitation on the issue was conducted by Maclean, MacDougall, MacBride and other socialists. [28] They used the same technique of factory-gate meetings as had been employed a few months earlier as the prelude to the Clyde engineers’ strike. A Women’s Housing Association, led by an energetic housewife, Mrs Barbour, formed tenant committees. In May 1915, it felt sufficiently strong to call for a rent strike. Soon 15,000 tenants had refused to pay. Would-be rent collectors received rough treatment, being smeared with flour and refuse before being kicked out.

An amazing aspect of the rent strike was the attitude of many employers to it. The managing director of Harland and Wolff’s Govan Shipyards said: ‘We are very pleased to hear that the tenants of Govan are refusing to pay these rent increases, and we sympathise entirely with them.’ [29] Likewise, ‘the manager of Fairfield told a deputation that they would allow no workmen of theirs to occupy any house of any person victimised for refusing to pay a rent increase’. [30] Employers may have adopted this stand as it was popular, an attempt to curry favour with the men. Another reason could have been the cold calculation that a rent increase would inevitably steel workers in their demand for higher wages: keeping rents down helped to keep down labour costs.

In October 1915, a massive demonstrations in St Enoch’s Square, Glasgow, demanded the government curb rent-racketeers. The following month an official Commission of Enquiry was appointed. Meanwhile, the rent strike continued in many parts of the city, while elsewhere landlords, anticipating controls, hurried through further rent rises, a fact that only served to exacerbate tenants’ feelings. On 17 November 1915, 18 munition workers were summoned for the non-payment of rent. As a result, several local shipyards, including Harland and Wolff and Fairfield, immediately downed tools and marched to the court. En route, they stopped at the school where Maclean was a teacher, and he joined in the procession. Maclean addressed a 10,000-strong demonstration outside the court, and this was really the occasion on which he first came into prominence: it was he who spoke for the strikers, making it plain that no return to work would take place until the charges were dropped. They were. [31] It was also Maclean who wrote to Asquith, the Prime Minister, saying what would happen if rents were permitted to rise:

That this meeting of Clyde Munition Workers requests the government definitely to state not later than Saturday first, that it forbids any increase of rent during the period of the war and that, this failing, a general strike will be declared on first Monday, 22 November. [32]

Hurriedly, the government, fearful of the consequences of strikes spreading throughout the munitions industry, introduced the Rent Restriction Act. This tied rents all over Britain to the prewar level. Both locally and nationally, the agitation had been spectacularly successful.

As the rent struggle had approached its climax, another sign of mounting discontent appeared — the revival of the CWC. Its newly-appointed leaders issued a leaflet, explaining that the committee had been formed ‘for the purpose of concentrating the whole forces of the Clyde Area against the Munitions Act’. The aim was ‘simply and purely defensive’: the defence of precious and hard-won rights — essential for the preservation of trade-union strength — from erosion by wartime legislation. Union officials, anxious to maintain full productive effort, had signed agreements that gravely weakened labour’s bargaining power. It was ‘an act of Treachery to the Working Class’, declared the leaflet:

Those of us who have refused to be sold have organised... determined to retain what liberties we have, and to take the first opportunity of forcing the repeal of all the pernicious legislation that has recently been imposed upon us. [33]

The ultimate object was to achieve a much greater unity and strength of the working class, sufficiently powerful to put ‘the workers in complete control of industry’.

The CWC held regular meetings in a hall at Ingram Street, Glasgow, customarily attended by up to 300 workers, some representing strong shop-floor organisations in their factories, others only a small nucleus of colleagues. Despite weak links with some factories, the committee could claim to voice the opinions of a large section of Clydeside workers. It was a body with a revolutionary potential. Except for its Secretary, James Messer, and later David Kirkwood, both of whom were ILPers, all the other leaders could claim to be revolutionaries — Muir, MacManus, T Clark and many others from the SLP; Gallacher, its Chairman, belonging to the group around Maclean, was in the British Socialist Party.

The first challenge to the CWC was dilution, the substitution of unskilled — sometimes female — labour for skilled. Policy on this issue, drawn up in a document written by Muir, was agreed by the committee in December 1915, just before Lloyd George, the Minister of Munitions, visited Glasgow to discuss the topic. In his policy statement, Muir accepted dilution as a necessary and progressive step, an inevitable move in capitalist development. Yet, at the same time, dilution represented a menace to organised labour. Government could renege on its promise to restore prewar trade-union conditions; women, paid much less than men, would by that time have become proficient, and it would be in the employers’ interests not to replace them. The CWC’s policy was nationalisation of all industry, with workers having a direct and equal share in the running along with management. When it became obvious to the CWC that such sweeping changes would not be introduced by the government, nor could they be forced upon the government, it laid down guidelines for plant bargaining. The two most important principles enunciated in the document compiled by Muir were, first, that income should not be determined by sex, previous training or experience, but upon the amount of work performed; and, second, that a workers’ committee should be empowered to see this stipulation was carried out.

Armed with its policy, the CWC prepared its tactics for Lloyd George’s visit. It was agreed that negotiation with him would not be on a piecemeal basis, factory by factory, but conducted by the committee as a whole. So, on 23 December Lloyd George visited Weir’s and Albion Motors — only to find no workers prepared to talk with him; only at Parkhead Forge did he gain a hearing. On the following day, he met the CWC. No agreement was reached. Lloyd George hoped that Glasgow workers generally would adopt a more favourable attitude to his proposals. He planned to address a big meeting of trade unionists on Christmas day, then not a Scottish public holiday, in St Andrew’s Hall.

Arthur Henderson, the Labour leader and member of the Coalition Government, took the chair. From the outset, it was plain there would be difficulties from an overwhelmingly hostile audience. The Glasgow Forward reported Henderson’s introductory remarks:

I am delighted to have the opportunity of appearing in this hall with the Minister of Munitions — (What about the hall for the workers?) — to lay before you the great issue of the present moment so far as the war is concerned. (Ay! And profits) You are all aware of the fact that we are probably engaged in the greatest war — (At home) — that ever the old country has been concerned with. The issue that was raised in August 1914, when the neutrality — (Oh, heavens, how long have we to suffer this?) — of a brave and independent people was trodden on in a most shameful way. (That’s enough)

When we began the war — (We don’t want to hear that. Get to the Munitions Act) — I am endeavouring to show you the country was not prepared, and the fact that we were not prepared (Loud interruption: Cut it short! Come away wi’ Davy!) — Mr Lloyd George (loud hissing and booing) will presently address you — (more booing and hissing and some cheering) — on the dilution of labour.

The scheme of dilution that Mr Lloyd George will recommend to you did not come from any employer. It came from a Committee — (interruption) — upon which there were seven trade unionists. (Traitors. Give us their names. Was John Hodge one o’ them?)

I am quite prepared to give you their names. I do not want to hold anything back. The first name I will give you is the Chairman of the ASE. (Booing and hissing) My friends may jeer at his name, but he has been elected Chairman since the scheme of dilution came up. (Dirty) Another member of the committee was Mr Kaylor — re-elected to the Executive. (Away with him!) [34]

The rest of Henderson’s introduction was punctuated in the same style. When he sat down, the Minister for Munitions rose to speak amid catcalls and the singing of the ‘Red Flag’. Lloyd George attempted to ingratiate himself with his audience. He referred to Labour leaders like Ramsay MacDonald as ‘my greatest personal friends’ and described the state-run munition works as ‘great socialist factories’. But it was to no avail. The situation grew more and more out of hand, and eventually, the meeting broke up in disorder when Johnny Muir rose from the middle of the hall and started to state the workers’ case in reply to Lloyd George. ‘Seldom has a prominent politician, a leading representative of the governing class, been treated with so little respect.’ This verdict, which appeared in Maclean’s journal, Vanguard, is almost certainly correct. [35]

The exigencies of war compelled the government to acquire increasing control over the economy, and the vast battery of regulations and restrictions had a built-in anti-working-class bias. This became clear not merely on the Clyde, but to people elsewhere. Even a paper like the Sunday Chronicle admitted:

The Munitions Act, ostensibly and probably genuinely meant for the sole purpose of getting rapid production of shells, is in effect an act to limit wages. Every engineer in the land knows that. [36]

The Sunday Chronicle hoped that engineers, imbued with a spirit of self-sacrifice, would willingly forego higher wages in the national interest. But patriotic appeals were becoming threadbare. Workers saw that burdens were increasingly being placed on their shoulders, not those of other classes in society. When the journal Motor Trader cited instances of landlords preventing war work being done on their premises because it was outside the terms of their leases, no government action was taken. [37] Nor did the authorities do anything to stop well-to-do young men evading the army by posing as key figures in family businesses, who should therefore have exemption. [38] In fact, many of them did nothing but loaf about — the Munitions Act was not used against them — whereas trade unionists were liable to be fined or imprisoned: traditional workers’ rights could easily be construed as impediments to production. The Munitions Courts, supposedly impartial, had, by 27 November 1915, convicted 2012 workers and only 86 employers. [39] That the Munitions Act had a built-in bias in favour of capital and against labour was being increasingly realised. Farmers petitioned for agricultural labourers to be included under the provisions of the act: unless farmworkers were legally compelled to remain on the land, their employers would have to pay them higher wages to counteract the attraction of higher rates in industry. [40]

In an attempt to sell state controls and regulations to workers, some government apologists argued that they were progressive. Traditionally, Labour Party politicians had seen the extension of state activity, curbing private enterprise’s ambit of operation, as a step forward, and it was on this notion that the appeal was based. But, more and more, workers were beginning to understand the fallacy inherent in this position:

In economic home policy the old State Socialism of the Fabian Society is somewhat discredited. There were socialists who rejoiced, in the early days of the war, that now Socialism had come. The government controlled banks, railways, prices, everything. Now they have carried Socialism to the point of punishing all who will not take part in the war. If this is Socialism, the less we have of it the better. What is desirable is not increased power of the state, as an end in itself, but greater justice in distribution and, still more, better opportunities for initiative and self-direction on the part of those who do not happen to be capitalist. We need economic democracy as well as political democracy; we need the complete abolition of the system of working for wages. Something of the youthful revolutionary ardour of syndicalism is needed if labour is to have a free life. The men who do the work ought to control the policy of their industry. [41]

These remarks, written by Bertrand Russell, touched a responsive chord in the minds of many workers.

In the early stages of the war, the authorities could regard socialists as harmless eccentrics, people whose weird message had no impact on the public. But the situation changed as industrial unrest grew and socialists became the spokesmen for the expanding army of discontented people. In these circumstances, the state abandoned its attitude of grudging tolerance, and resolved to use its full arsenal of weapons against the enemies from within. Repression was the answer to the growing socialist menace.

Leading individuals were singled out for persecution. The first important instance was that of William Holliday. Described as ‘a very reserved man, modest and unassuming’, he nevertheless was a bold and uncompromising platform speaker. During the Boer War, he had defied jingoistic crowds in Birmingham Bull Ring, and had become well known in the Midlands as an out-door speaker. He chaired the first conference of the Advocates of Industrial Unionism in 1906, and subsequently played an important part in the Birmingham SLP. From the beginning of the First World War, he spoke against it in the Bull Ring with increasing success. One Sunday night, speaking from his usual platform, Holliday declared: ‘Freedom’s battle has not to be fought on the blood-drenched soil of France, but nearer home. Our enemy is within the gates.’ As he went on to say, he was not concerned with the outcome of the battle at Hill 60 but what happened to the striking miners of the Black Country — ‘They are men. They have my sympathies.’ — he was pulled off the rostrum and taken to jail. On 28 May 1915, he was sentenced to three months’ hard labour under the Defence of the Realm Act. Largely as a result of the initiative of William Paul, a William Holliday Defence Fund was set up. It received support from trades councils, NUT branches, Socialist Sunday Schools, Daily Herald League, ILP and SLP branches, Scottish BSP branches and many other sources. Money was raised for an appeal, and at Birmingham Quarter Sessions on 5 July 1915, Holliday was acquitted. [42]

Success was short-lived. Labour leaders spoke at an army recruiting rally in Birmingham Town Hall on 17 October 1915 and the SLP replied by holding a protest meeting in the Bull Ring. Holliday was speaking when he was again stopped and taken to the police station. This time the authorities made no mistake. Holliday was jailed. He died in prison, aged 46. Rowdies unsuccessfully attempted to break up a Holliday memorial meeting, addressed by William Paul and Jimmy Stewart, in the Bull Ring on 28 May 1916. Although a large number of policemen were there at the time — The Socialist says ‘many of them were disguised as men’ — the forces of law and order did not stop the violent disruption. ‘What better tribute could they pay to the dead warrior of Labour than break up the demonstration held to honour his work.’ [43] Money had to be borrowed to pay for Holliday’s funeral. He left a wife and eight children.

Like Holliday, John Maclean first fell foul of the authorities for making statements prejudicial to recruitment. He, too, was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act on 27 October 1915. The charge against him arose from remarks made during his speeches. Replying to a persistent heckler, who kept shouting, ‘Why don’t you enlist?’, Maclean replied: ‘I have been enlisted for 15 years in the socialist army, which is the only army worth fighting for. God damn all other armies.’ [44] In the course of his trial, evidence from prosecution witnesses unwittingly revealed the extent to which anti-war feeling had developed on the Clyde. The Sheriff asked a policeman: ‘What was the size of the audience at the time?’ ‘About three hundred’, came the reply. ‘You mean to say’, demanded the astonished Sheriff, ‘that three hundred citizens of Glasgow heard a man say, “God damn the King’s army,” and did not resent it?’ ‘No one spoke’, replied the policeman. Referring to another occasion, a detective was asked why he did not take action while the meeting was taking place. He answered: ‘Our interference would have resulted in a riot.’ [45] What worsened matters was that Maclean used the court to explain and justify his revolutionary principles. At the end of the trial there were shouts of ‘Three cheers for the Revolution’ from the public gallery and a large crowd outside sung ‘The Red Flag’. [46]

The case was heard in the aftermath of the victorious rent strike. With this still clear in people’s minds, the authorities had to act with discretion. If they had made Maclean, the hero of that struggle, into a martyr there might well have been grave repercussions on Clydeside. So the Sheriff contented himself with passing a mild sentence. Faced with a 5 fine or five days’ imprisonment, Maclean chose the latter. The punishment did not gag him long nor act as a deterrent.

Unable to silence its critics, the government sought to deprive them of a platform. Meeting halls were cancelled, sometimes at the last minute, when alternative arrangements could not be made. Also, magistrates could ban meetings. One of the first times this happened was in November 1915. Two thousand handbills had been issued advertising a lecture at Glasgow Lyric Theatre, ‘Glorious Episodes in British History’. Suddenly, it was prohibited. That the authorities should take this severe step over a lecture with such an innocuous-sounding title may appear surprising. But the speaker was to have been John S Clarke. He normally began his ‘glorious episodes from British history’ with the beheading of Charles the First, graphically illustrated with lantern slides, and went on to inspiring events like trade unionists defying the Combination Acts and other laws to win the right to organise. Once when Clarke was addressing a meeting, the police stood outside, waiting to arrest him. He foiled them with a simple ‘disguise’, as David Kirkwood explains:

He left the hall, passing on his way a bunch of detectives. He walked through them all easily by carrying his own hat. I know nobody who is so different without a hat. When John S Clarke wears a hat, he is like a douce Glasgow business man; but he is so bald that, when he removes his hat, he looks like Grock the clown! [47]

This kind of victory, while good for morale, was short-lived. Soon Clarke was forced to go into hiding. By March 1916, the journal Plebs said suppression had become a common occurrence: ‘Meetings have been cancelled by the score, and even where meetings have been held, summonses against speakers have been issued and fines imposed.’

When even these measures proved insufficient, the government turned its attention to the working-class press. It banned Forward, a mildly left journal, for publishing a report of the Lloyd George meeting in Glasgow. Maclean’s Vanguard was also seized for having the audacity to reprint Forward’s report. On 2 February 1916, the police raided the SLP headquarters. They smashed the printing machinery and confiscated the forthcoming issue of the CWC paper, The Worker. Next day two CWC officials, Gallacher and Muir, were arrested along with Walter Bell, the SLP’s business manager. They were charged under DORA with attempting ‘to cause mutiny, sedition or disaffection among the civilian population and to impede, delay or restrict the production of war material by producing, printing and circulating amongst workers in and around Glasgow The Worker’. Depicted as dangerous enemy agents, the three men initially were refused bail. But this aroused a massive response: 10,000 ‘workers decided to have a holiday in honour of the occasion’. After a day’s stoppage, the court relented and the three were released on bail.

Resistance from workers did not deter the state from continuing its offensive. On 11 April 1916, Maclean faced indictment on six charges, which ranged from inciting soldiers to lay down their arms to willing workers ‘to sell or pawn their alarm clocks, sleep in in the morning and not go to work’. Maclean received a three-year sentence. Then came the turn of those associated with The Worker’s production: Muir and Gallacher each got 12 months, Bell was imprisoned for three. Meanwhile, the authorities continued their activities outside the courts. The leading militants at Weir’s, MacManus, Bridges, Kennedy and Glass, were dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and deported from Glasgow. The same treatment was accorded to Kirkwood, Haggerty, Shields and Clarke, the leaders of the men at Parkhead Forge. Jack Smith, the convenor at Weir’s, received an 18-month sentence. On 11 May 1916, Jimmy Maxton and James MacDougall, Maclean’s right-hand man, were both sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. [48]

This repression robbed the CWC of its leadership, and of the political services of accomplished men like Maclean. Undoubtedly, by doing this, the government succeeded in making the introduction of dilution much smoother than it might otherwise have been. At the same time, the government achieved it at a cost to itself. On Clydeside, socialist organisations grew in numbers and, at least at shop-floor level, workers continued the struggle. Moreover, by its action, the government gave a gratuitous lesson in political understanding: workers could clearly see that the state was not a neutral body; it squarely backed the employers in every battle. Indeed, William Weir, who had gained the reputation of being one of the worst types of employers in Scotland, devised the assault plan used by the government against the CWC. [49]

In the opinion of Cabinet Ministers, the position had become so grave that all weapons, no matter how dirty and sinister, were deployed to crush the opposition. Some people, accustomed to the British state acting in a reasonably liberal and tolerant manner, were shocked when the mask was stripped off and all the ugly features of a totalitarian regime revealed — the mass use of agents provocateurs and police spies, the concoction of false evidence, and the holding of individuals without trial. At most, very mild protests against repressive measures came from Labour MPs; much more outspoken were a handful of radical Liberals who opposed Lloyd George. For example, J King, the MP for North Somerset, spoke in the Commons on 8 March 1917, criticising the expenditure of 620,000 in the year 1916 on these activities. He talked about the ‘employment of immoral, disreputable and ungentlemanly means’ by police agents. He cited Carl Graves, a convicted criminal. When he had come before the courts, R Munro, the prosecutor, described him as a dangerous man and asked for an exemplary sentence. Within two months of completing his prison term, Graves was approached by Munro, by then Secretary of State for Scotland, and employed to spy on militants in Glasgow.

Another Liberal MP, WMR Pringle, complained that the Ministry of Munitions used another way of gleaning information:

I have personal knowledge of cases where important leaders in the trade-union movement in this country have been approached for the purpose of spying upon their fellows and making secret reports in regard to their actions to the government. [50]

The introduction of conscription in 1916 provided the state with a further club with which to beat its opponents. Some socialists, like pacifists and religious objectors, refused to fight. There was initially no provision for conscientious objection, and therefore such people could find themselves forcibly taken into army barracks, ordered to don military uniform, and charged with mutiny for disobeying a command. Scenes of terrible brutality would often ensue. Henry Sara, later to become one of the founders of British Trotskyism, was dragged into the barracks at Harrow Road, London, had his clothes ripped off him, and was then beaten by soldiers. Afterwards he was taken to Hurdcott camp, where he was told to form fours. Again he refused, and was sent to Parkhurst prison. [51] JP Kay received even worse treatment: at Winchester camp, when he refused to obey orders, an officer bayoneted him three times. [52] In his book on war resisters, David Boulton gives the names of 73 men who died as a direct result of the treatment they suffered at the hands of the military or in prison. [53]

Probably the cruelty exercised was indicative of the growth of anti-war feelings among the young, and of the authorities finding themselves under pressures. There had been an indication that some British soldiers did not regard their German counterparts as filthy Huns on Christmas Day 1915. Troops from the opposing armies met in no-man’s-land, chatted, played cards, and even had a game of football. Among those who took part in this memorable meeting was Herbie Bell, a lifelong socialist from Wallsend. He describes how both British and German soldiers said they were heartily sick of the war and realised it was not being fought in their interests but on behalf of the rich. [54] Occasionally draconian action was taken against soldiers who did not display sufficient enthusiasm for fighting. Three Durham miners were executed at Boullecourt, France, in 1916, and subsequent attempts to get the army to divulge the full details proved to be unsuccessful. [55]

Once the government resolved to permit conscientious objection, some socialists applied for exemption. A tribunal, after rigorous questioning, decided whether to uphold their claim, send them into an industry vital to the war effort, or reject their claim, in which case, assuming they still refused to go in the army, they were liable to be imprisoned. Usually tribunal proceedings were sombre affairs — so much depended upon their outcome — but there were sometimes moments of wry humour, such as when a military representative asked an SLPer: ‘Are you engaged on work of national importance?’ To which the SLPer replied: ‘No, I'm engaged on work of international importance.’ [56]

When Karl Liebknecht appeared before a German army court martial on 3 May 1916, a verbatim account of his courageous speech against the war appeared in The Socialist. As a gesture of international solidarity, as well as to promote anti-war sentiment here in Britain, many SLPers made similar speeches. George Hutchinson, of Bolton, after serving a four-month sentence, was brought before the court a second time. He declared:

I would be failing in my duty to the international working class if I do not oppose, with all my strength, the institutions of militarism and capitalism. To me, they are inseparable. I believe that the action I am now taking is in the best interests of the wage earners of this and every other country, and believing so, I am fully prepared to accept punishment. As Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and other anti-militarists of Germany are being severely punished for their part in the struggle for international solidarity, so I and my comrades have been, and are being, cruelly punished for what we consider absolutely necessary for the principles of industrial liberty and political freedom.

When Hutchinson was sentenced to a further two years’ imprisonment, he shouted: ‘Long live the International.’ [57]

Many SLPers, wishing to avoid prison if possible, did not register as conscientious objectors but instead joined the ‘flying corps’ — so named because this intrepid band of men spent most of their time flying away from the police and the military. They would visit a town, sell socialist literature, perhaps hold a public meeting, and rush off to evade capture. A network of places throughout Britain grew up which would harbour socialists on the run. Even in remote spots like the Lake District staging-posts existed: at Hill Top Farm, near Lake Windermere, a number of wanted men, grateful for hospitality provided, carved their names on a big boulder. [58] In Leicester, a small room near the Clock Tower provided a haven. When this became common knowledge, the Leicester Mail fulminated about this ‘veritable hotbed of sedition... a disgrace to the town’. In these premises, the newspaper continued, absentees were ‘given a good time, being well supplied with food, playing cards, literature and music’. One man whom the police had been seeking for months regularly went cycling round the district at dusk. He was said to possess two revolvers. Another two men had tramped 80 miles to reach the city: ‘They slept out at nights in barns and fields, and unwashed, ragged and nearly bootless arrived in Leicester.’ The newspaper story ended by warning:

That the SLP is a direct menace to society is proved by the fact that its leaders are at present in prison for sedition, and that its activities were mainly responsible for the serious labour troubles in the Clyde district some little time back. [59]

The Leicester Mail was not entirely correct. Admittedly, some SLP leaders were in prison, but others were still on the run. The regular appearance of The Socialist owed much to members of the ‘flying corps’. Among those primarily responsible were John S Clarke and William Paul. Clarke spent most of his time at Turner’s farm, Arleston, near Derby, where he earned his keep working as a labourer and spent his spare time writing articles. [60] Willie Paul was far more ingenious. Being a theoretician of some eminence, he seems to have asked himself: ‘What would Karl Marx have done in such circumstances?’, and to have taken himself off to the Reading Room of the British Museum. There, he not only wrote for The Socialist but completed a book, The State: Its Origins and Functions, which is today a neglected Marxist classic. Paul remained undisturbed in the BM, presumably because the British Museum was not a haunt of the Special Branch. [61]

The secret police strove hard to infiltrate militant organisations and to smash the network of people who befriended the ‘flying corps’. Sometimes it gained success, as in the SLP stronghold of Derby. [62] Mrs Wheeldon was a kind-hearted middle-aged woman, active in the Suffragettes before the First World War. One of her daughters, Hetty, was engaged to Arthur MacManus. He, of course, often visited her home at 907 London Road, and so did many others since Mrs Wheeldon arranged accommodation in Derby for members of the ‘flying corps’. A police spy, calling himself Alex Gordon, called on her, posing as a man on the run. She fixed him up with lodgings. Previously, he had attempted to ensnare militants from a number of parts of the country in his plot. Nobody was prepared to fall into the trap, but eventually Mrs Wheeldon showed interest.

Her trial opened at the Central Criminal Court, London, on 11 March 1917. She claimed that she possessed four phials of poison because Alex Gordon had persuaded her to join in his scheme, which was to secure a mass break-out of war resisters by poisoning the guard-dogs at a detention centre near Liverpool. The prosecution, on the other hand, claimed Mrs Wheeldon possessed the poison because she wanted to assassinate the Prime Minister and Arthur Henderson. According to the Attorney-General, she intended ‘to get a position in a hotel where the Prime Minister stayed and drive through his boot a nail that had been dipped in poison’. [63]

In his Last Memoirs, Willie Gallacher described the prosecution’s case as ‘melodramatic nonsense’, while Tom Bell expressed the verdict of left-wingers about the case:

The trial was a most disgraceful frame-up. The prosecution point-blank refused to put ‘Gordon’, their chief witness, into the witness box for cross-examination. The mother got ten years and the other members of the family five years’ imprisonment each. [64]

In prison, Mrs Wheeldon suffered terribly. She was released after she had served only two years of her sentence and died a few weeks later. She was buried, her coffin draped with a red flag, in Nottingham Road Cemetery, Derby. The Derby Daily Express reported the proceedings under the headline ‘Sensational Incidents at Graveside: Rhetorical Sneers at Prime Minister’. [65] The reason for this was that, although still on the run himself, John S Clarke turned up at the funeral and gave a

graveside oration. He accused Lloyd George and Henderson of being responsible for Mrs Wheeldon’s death through their employment of agents provocateurs. Clarke went on to say:

There are several ways of murdering our valiant women fighters. There is a straightforward, brutal way of sheer murder, which killed Rosa Luxemburg. And there is the secret, sinister, cowardly and slower method, which killed Mrs Wheeldon. [66]

Clarke, who was already well-known as a poet, resolved to express his feelings in another way. He had an unfortunate knack of writing the epitaphs of people he detested before they were actually dead, perhaps as an encouragement to them to shuffle off this mortal coil, and he penned:

Epitaph on Alex Gordon
Agent Provocateur of the British Government during the Great War to Safeguard Democracy

Stop! Stranger, thou art near the spot
Marked by this cross metallic,
Where buried deep doth lie and rot,
The corpse of filthy Alex.
And maggot-worms in swarms below
Compete with one another,
In shedding tears of bitter woe,
To mourn — not eat — a brother. [67]

This poem became well known among class-conscious workers. It was a popular recitation at social gatherings. The feeling of repulsion was so strong that, according to Bell: ‘Gordon was shipped to South Africa for a time to save his skin.’

When things calmed down, Gordon returned to Britain. The bad publicity had apparently created severe mental strain. He entered a Derby newspaper office, brandishing a gun, and had to be removed by the police. [68] Then he tried to clear his name by giving an interview to the Daily Herald on 28 December 1919. He told the paper his real name was F Vivian. He had worked for the government as a labour spy for quite a time. He received 2 10s a week plus an occasional 2 bonus. The headquarters of the International Workers of the World in Whitechapel Road and the Communist Club in Charlotte Street had been raided after he had visited them. Gordon attempted to justify himself:

I was not consciously a secret service man. By the time I was told that the government had got me... the government agents had a hold over me which made it absolutely impossible for me to break away from them.

This did not satisfy his critics. Clarke, by this time editor of The Worker, launched a further attack on ‘dirty Alex’, and Gordon replied by threatening a libel action. But this failed to materialise. A court case, with the glare of publicity about its methods, was probably the last thing the Secret Service wanted to happen. Nothing further was heard of Alex Gordon. It seems reasonable to conclude that, in some way or another, the Secret Service silenced him.

Speaking in Parliament, J King stated he knew three other instances of the use of agents provocateurs similar to Alex Gordon. Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour leader, also pointed to dangers inherent in the employment of ‘agents provocateurs, who make their money by the manufacture of crime’. [69] The same opinion was expressed, in retrospect, by the Manchester Guardian:

During the war a system of industrial espionage was established in the Ministry of Munitions. That Department learnt in course of time what a dangerous instrument it was. The system, introduced under cover of war, has now been established as part of our domestic machinery as a branch of the Home Office... Spying of this kind at the worst produces plots and conspiracies manufactured or stimulated by the spies themselves: at the best it drives discontent underground and makes it more dangerous. The men who employ these spies are credulous, and the spies themselves have every motive for finding trouble. They are men who do dirty work which no man of character would touch. [70]

After likening the position to that prevailing during the Napoleonic Wars, when the government employed large numbers of spies and agents provocateurs, the Manchester Guardian said that ‘such methods are peculiarly repulsive to Englishmen’. It then went on to ask for the full facts about these activities to be revealed: ‘Someday the whole truth of the proceedings of this kind that did so much to embitter the munition workshops during the war, will be made public, and the sooner the better.’

Of course, what the Manchester Guardian wanted has never happened. Successive governments, zealous to guard as secrets the techniques employed against working-class organisations, have refused to reveal the facts. But one thing is clear: when the British state feels threatened by a class foe, and it did feel threatened during the First World War, it will use any method, no matter how despicable and dirty, in the struggle.

Trade unionists as well as opponents of the war had to endure a repression more vicious than at any period since Chartist times. But despite all the state’s actions, they continued to function and achieved considerable successes.


Notes

1. Statement by R Page Arnot in the Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, Autumn 1966, p 11.

2. GDH Cole, Labour in War Time (np, 1915), p 62.

3. GDH Cole, Labour in War Time (np, 1915), p 138.

4. Daily Express, 22 November 1915.

5. Daily Chronicle, 14 August 1914.

6. Merthyr Pioneer, 14 August 1914.

7. RM Fox, Smoky Crusade (London, 1938), p 193.

8. The Socialist, September 1914.

9. The Socialist, January 1915.

10. The Socialist, November 1914.

11. Thomas Bell, Pioneering Days (London, 1941), p 49.

12. Thomas Bell, Pioneering Days (London, 1941), p 49. Also, The Socialist, September 1915.

13. The Socialist, September 1914.

14. Daily Mail, 5 February 1916.

15. Daily News, 20 November 1914.

16. House of Commons, 30 May 1916.

17. Pamphlets exposing war profiteering included Profits and Prices (BSP, 1916); Profits and Patriotism (ILP, 1916); and The Conscription of Wealth (National Labour Press, 1917).

18. Daily Chronicle, 7 February 1916.

19. Manchester Guardian, 30 September 1915.

20. Workers Dreadnought, 21 August 1915, 9 September 1915, and 4 December 1915.

21. Board of Trade Labour Gazette, quoted in GDH Cole, Labour in War Time (np, 1915), p 119.

22. H Asquith, House of Commons, 11 February 1915.

23. History of the Ministry of Munitions, Volume 4 (np, nd), pp 29-44. IS Mclean’s The Labour Movement in Clydeside Politics 1914-1922 (DPhil, Oxford, 1970) emphasises the environmental reasons for discontent.

24. The Socialist, January 1915.

25. A MacManus, ‘On the Clyde: A Study in Solidarity’, Plebs, March 1916.

26. Glasgow Herald, 19 February 1915.

27. Vanguard, November 1915; William Gallacher, Revolt on the Clyde (London, 1949), p 62.

28. Nan Milton, John Maclean (Bristol, 1973), p 93.

29. Forward, 5 June 1915.

30. Forward, 12 June 1915.

31. Nan Milton, John Maclean (Bristol, 1973), p 90.

32. William Gallacher, Revolt on the Clyde (London, 1949), pp 54-55.

33. Beveridge Collection on Munitions, Volume 3, p 95.

34. Forward, 1 January 1916.

35. Dr James Hinton’s essay, ‘The Clyde Workers Committee and the Dilution Struggle’, in A Briggs and J Saville, Essays in Labour History, 1886-1923 (London, 1971), reaches the same conclusion.

36. Sunday Chronicle, 28 November 1915.

37. Motor Trader, 6 October 1915.

38. Manchester Evening News, 17 April 1916.

39. Daily Express, 29 December 1916.

40. Daily News, 18 December 1916.

41. Ploughshare, August 1916. Bertrand Russell was imprisoned in Brixton jail for writing an article saying troops would be used to intimidate strikers.

42. The Socialist, August 1915.

43. The Socialist, May 1915.

44. Nan Milton, John Maclean (Bristol, 1973), p 100.

45. Tom Bell, John Maclean (Glasgow, 1944), p 45.

46. Nan Milton, John Maclean (Bristol, 1973), pp 100-01.

47. David Kirkwood, My Life of Struggle (London, 1935), p 134.

48. J McNair and James Maxton, The Beloved Rebel (London, 1955), p 65.

49. PRO Mun 5/70. David Kirkwood described Weir as ‘one of the worst types of employers’ in the Glasgow Sunday Mail, 7 October 1934.

50. House of Commons, 5 August 1917.

51. The Socialist, May 1916.

52. Workers Dreadnought, 7 April 1917.

53. David Boulton, Objection Overruled (London, 1967), p 266.

54. BBC Radio Newcastle has an interview with Herbie Bell in its archives.

55. The attempts were made by CH Norman and reported in Railway Review, 3 February 1922, and Forward, 15 April 1922.

56. The Socialist, October 1916.

57. The Socialist, July 1917.

58. Interview with Lester Hutchinson, former MP for Rusholme, on 18 March 1972. Lester’s father, Richard Hutchinson, provided one of the havens for the ‘flying corps’ near to Blackpool.

59. Leicester Mail, 9 June 1916.

60. Interview with Joe Crispin, an ex-NCLC lecturer, 16 June 1972. Frank Burton and Tom Crispin, Joe’s brother, also took refuge at Turner’s farm.

61. Interviews with Archie Henry, 7 August 1972, and Lester Hutchinson, 18 March 1972. Fortunately William Paul’s classic has been reprinted by Proletarian Publishers of Edinburgh.

62. For full account see my article in Socialist Worker, 10 June 1972.

63. FW Chandler, Police Spies and Provocative Agents (Sheffield, 1936), pp 109-10. For a police version of the Wheeldon case, see Sir Basil Thomson’s article in Sheffield Weekly Telegraph, 7 March 1923.

64. Thomas Bell, Pioneering Days (London, 1941), p 126. Also, William Gallacher, The Last Memoirs (London, 1966), p 139.

65. Derby Daily Express, 21 February 1919.

66. The Socialist, 27 February 1919.

67. The poem is reprinted in John S Clarke’s book, Poems, Satires and Lyrics (Glasgow, 1919).

68. Workers Dreadnought, 3 January 1920.

69. House of Commons, 8 March 1917.

70. Manchester Guardian, 6 August 1919.