John Maclean August 1919
Source: “John Maclean in Dublin,” The Voice of Labour – Official Organ of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, 2 August 1919, p. 5;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
We had a rare pleasure last week in entertaining Mr. John MacLean, M.A., an honorary president of the Soviet Republics of Russia and Hungary, and Consul at Glasgow for the Russian Republic.
MacLean is not yet forty years of age. He has spent the past fifteen years working for Scottish Labour and has acquired a world-wide fame for the strength and vigour of his views, and consistence with which he has maintained them.
His war record is one sentence of five days’ imprisonment, one of three years’ penal servitude, and another of five years. His first term of penal servitude was ended by pressure from the Russian Revolutionary Government; the second because of the growing agitation for his release in British industrial centres, and the approach of the General Election, in which he was pitted against G.N. Barnes.
A reception to MacLean was held in Liberty Cafe, Eden Quay, on Monday; 21st ult., when he had the opportunity of exchanging views with representative people of various schools of thought in Irish Ireland. The public meeting advertised for the previous three days to be held in the Mansion House on 2nd ult. had to be held in the garden behind 42. Nth Gt. George’s Street – as the D.M.P. blockaded the Mansion House. The Socialist Party is not inclined to complain of the Castle’s interference in this case. John MacLean’s suppression will supply him with actual experience of normal British rule in Ireland, and he may be relied upon to point the moral to the many thousands of British workers whom he will address in the next few weeks.
Comrade Maclean was delighted to learn of the Shop Stewards Movement in No. 1 Branch I.T. & G.W.U, and on Wednesday night he responded to their invitation to address the fortnightly meeting.
In a powerful speech he recalled his association with Jim Larkin in the Belfast strike of 1907, from which he dates the uprising of Irish Labour. Men of all trades, and of all sects, then beseeched Larkin to organise them, but his hands were tied by the narrow craft basis of the National Union of Deck Labourers.
The O.B.U. idea preached in America, and accepted by Connolly, was forced on Irish Labour then. Since the start of the I.T. & G.W.U., the One Big Union has become victorious in Russia, and is sweeping Australia, Canada and U.S.
The craft union narrowness must be swept away. No more demarkation disputes. The O.B.U. was out to organise every man on the job. It did not ask how he came there. It saw that he got the pay and the conditions.
So long as capitalists take the responsibility for organising industry they must be prepared to find a place for every available man. If they could only provide the man with ten hours’ work every week, the employers must find him a full week’s wages.
It was the business of the Shop Stewards Committee to formulate the policy of the union “Let them adopt their programme, and see that it was carried out. Don’t leave it till Jim Larkin comes back. Don’t leave it to the officials. Make your own plans, fight your battle, and prepare for the next.
He wanted them to be an educational force, “Support the Connolly Memorial College, join the classes, and see that the men you represent do likewise.” In his classes in Glasgow, he had as students the keenest brains in the Trades Council and the shop Stewards Movement. As lecturer, he could explain the theories of action to them. It was their business to put the theories into practice. The Shop Stewards did not allow him to interfere with their workshop policy. If they thought he was stepping outside his province they gently pushed him aside. He liked that. It proved that his teaching of self-reliance by the man on the job was being put into practice.
The miners’ reform committees in Lanarkshire, Lancashire, Durham, and Yorkshire were modelled on the same lines as the Shop Stewards’ committees, They, too, had their programme; £1 a day, five days a week, and six hours a day.
The present Yorkshire strike was an attempt by the miners to save the community from a new tax of 6s. on ton. There was no shadow of need for higher prices. The Government wanted to divide the Community, consumers of coal against producers, artisans against miners. If the miners could be beaten, then Russia would be crushed, and the military forces kept there now would be made available for further service against Ireland.
The miners had to fight this issue, and he was glad they were making it a war against Capital. A few weeks ago Herbert Smith, the Yorkshire Miners’ Agent, told his Union members “You must choose between John MacLean and Herbert Smith.” Now, Herbert Smith had his back against the wall, fighting side by side with his men against the most cowardly and treacherous government that even England ever produced.
A resolution was adopted unanimously by the meeting for communication to the English miners, as follows:—
Recognising. that the Yorkshire miners are striking to save the consumers of coal from the British Government’s tax of 6s. per ton, this meeting of Dublin Shop Stewards sends its fraternal greetings and congratulations; and further requests John MacLean to convey to the miners of Durham our solidarity with them in the fight against capitalism.
Mr. MacLean left Ireland on Thursday en route for the Durham Miners’ Gala, held on 26th ult.
At the Shop Stewards’ meeting the Chairman, Peter Osborne, said he had learned with some concern that John MacLean had been told the Shop Stewards Committee at Liberty Hall was a fake, that the members did not choose the Shop Stewards who were appointed by the executive. He asked if there was one man present who was not chosen by the men in his own workshop. There were cries of “No, No,” “It’s a lie,” and thus one calculated falsehood was nailed.