William Gallacher 1916

The Clyde Workers’ Committee

Source: page 1 The Worker no.4 29 January 1916;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

“For what purpose was the C.W.C. brought into existence?” is a question so often asked that we feel it necessary to explain our object in such a way that all workers in the Clyde area will easily understand it, and, we hope, readily step forward to assist us in achieving it.

Don’t be misled by those who, in many cases, wilfully misunderstand and misrepresent the Committee, accusing its members of being out to create friction and hindering the production of munitions for the mere sake of making trouble. That sort of criticism is good enough, or bad enough, for the silly Record and Mail, but it isn’t good enough for you.

For the unsatisfactory situation that exists on the Clyde the Committee is in no way responsible. The yellow press, and especially the above mentioned scare-mongering rag, has been very assiduous in its attacks on a “certain group of Syndicalists,” “Red tie Socialists,” “few men who are prepared to Oppose the Government on every occasion,” etc., in order to create the impression that the C.W.C. has been the cause of the disturbance so prevalent in the district. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead of the Committee having created the trouble it was the trouble, the very serious trouble, that followed on the passing of the Munitions Act, that brought the Committee into existence. The Act had not long started on its enslaving career when it became obvious that some form of organisation would have to be brought into existence to unite the workers in defending themselves against it.

Two or three members of the old Labour Withholding Committee, who had kept in touch with one another since the strike in February last, decided to call a meeting of all shop stewards or delegates interested with a view to forming an organisation and formulating a policy.

At the meeting, which was a large and representative one, there was scarcely a delegate present but had a more or less serious grievance to report as a result of the operation of the Munition Act. Talk about causing friction. If the Right Hon. David had framed the Act with the ostensible object of doing so, he couldn’t have succeeded better. But we must not blame the Right Hon. Gentleman, not if there are workers any where around. They can always be used as scapegoats. Thank Heaven, there were none of us anywhere near Antwerp or Suvla Bay. The Munitions Act had to be fought. That was the unanimous decision of the meeting and the G.W.C. was formed for the purpose of concentrating the whole forces of the Clyde area against it whenever an opportunity presented itself.

Let it be clearly understood that we made no claim to power of any kind. Our policy was simply and purely defensive. If a worker, or workers, in any particular yard or shop got into trouble through this industrial invasion, and that yard or shop decided to defend him or them. By “downing-tools” then we were pledged to do all in our power to get the other yards in the Clyde area to “down tools” along with them. So is there anything wrong with that? Surely not. A policy of this kind with half decent organisation, so far from creating trouble will effectively prevent it. For proof of that we need only say that since the Committee has got “well under way” there has been no repetition of the brutal and cowardly attack that was made on the workers when the Fairfield Shipwrights were thrown into prison. The men at the back of the Act know they cannot operate it while the workers are prepared to stand by one another. Therefore we say never hesitate for a moment to line up with any of your comrades who are in difficulties. You never know when your own turn may come.

Again, on the question of conscription, when the joint committee organised a demonstration for the Glasgow Green, and we gave what assistance we could to make that demonstration a success. And undoubtedly it was a success, in as much as it satisfied us that there are sufficient workers alive to the danger to make the operation of the Military Service (No. 2) Bill impossible.

When the compulsory levy for the War Loan comes around we will be ready to assist in defeating that. The task will be more difficult if the workers submit to the Military Bill. Having given them the right to claim your body there will be little use protesting against interference with your wages. Kill the first, and the other will be still-born. Don’t he fooled when they chant about economy. Let the “higher ups” do the economising. They'll be the better for it. You need all you get and a bit more. Mr. Asquith, for instance, is a very fluent talker on economy; very fluent. But Mr. Asquith is having his country house completely gutted out and renovated even while he’s “fluenting” and it will cost a good many thousands to do it, while we, the extravagants, will go home to our imposing residence some night in the early spring, wrap ourselves around with the domestic partner’s old apron, mount the table, and bespatter the roof with sulphurous language and whitewash. Yes, we can see the worker of the Clyde passing over a slice of their wages to Henry H. and the Lawyer Gang he has around him.

But if we are to defeat them the workers must stand solidly together. If they can fight together now, why shouldn’t they do, so always? Is it sensible to allow ourselves to be split up into sections? Each section working on its own, and as often as not one section working against the other. If the workers are to win out when the war is over sectionalism must go. One organisation for the workers of an industry means strength, and strength means victory. The present multiplicity of Unions spells weakness and the ultimate aim of the Clyde Workers’ Committee is to weld these unions into one powerful organisation that will place the workers in complete control of the industry. Let every worker play his part, and the goal will soon be attained. Support the Clyde Workers’ Committee. The Clyde Workers’ Committee stands for Unity on the Clyde and Unity on the Clyde means freedom for workers.