Open Learning

Free University Open Learning

“Workers City; the subversive past”. 45 mins duration.
A documentary chronicling some ideas around radical Scottish working class history.
Interviews with:

Farquhar McLay, poet, editor of “the Voices of Dissent” and “Workers City” anthology of prose and writing, subtitled the Real Glasgow Stands Up’.
John Taylor Caldwell, archivist, biographer of Guy Aldred and author of “Come Dungeons Dark” recently published by Luath Press.
James D. Young, historian and republican socialist, author of “The Rousing of the Scottish Working Class” and others. Recently working on major biography of Red Clydesider, John Maclean.
Hamish Henderson, Folk collector, songwriter and founder of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University. Writer of such ballads as “Freedom Come All Ye”. Variant Video


Spirit of Revolt Archive Glasgow from City Strolls on Vimeo.

April Third Movement  – Father and Sons

In Fall Quarter of 1968 and the Winter Quarter of 1969, a Public Broadcasting Laboratories team led by filmmaker Don Lenzer followed members of the Stanford Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society to meetings, parties, rallies, and protests. Their 90-minute documentary, Fathers and Sons, was broadcast in the Spring of 1969. While many of us criticized the film for its focus on four male undergraduates, the movie offers unusual behind-the-scenes glimpses of activists in that era. A video of this film is available on YouTube. Due to its length, it has been posted in seven parts:

Go to

The April Third Movement WEBSITE • PSC • 278A Hope Street • Mountain View, CA 94041

Boggs Educational Center Detroit

Re-Imagining Education. Children who attend the Boggs Educational Center walk to school each morning. Some walk with their parents, some with their siblings. This is easy to do; their school is located in their neighborhood.They play on the way, meet up with friends. They say hello to the adults they have come to know while walking this route since kindergarten. They pass gardens that they help senior citizens tend. They may stop to pick a weed or to filch a ripe cherry tomato. They pass art installations that double as functional play equipment and swing or jump or climb. They know all the tricks; they have helped design and build them.From the kids who have attended this school since its inception to the very new arrivals, everyone feels safe. They are surrounded by people who love them and who will look out for them and they know this to be true. They have risen to the high level of academic and social expectations asked of them at their school. The community has also risen to the level of support they need to be whole, healthy, and strong.

Their school does not open at 7am and close at 3pm. Instead there is activity all day and all year round. The school is known for its beauty. Flowers, murals and sculptures decorate the grounds. It is also known for developing the potential of both the children and the adults involved. It has helped to stabilize the neighborhood. Jobs at the school have drawn carpenters, electricians, and artists–who in turn, have wanted their own children to attend. Because of the school, families seek to stay in the neighborhood, passing along news of apartments with decent rents. Once vacant houses are being renovated as community projects to improve the safety and viability of the neighborhood. And there are after-school and summer apprenticeships for older students to participate in its revitalization. The school has improved the quality of life in Detroit.

Math and science concepts are learned from activities that serve the community, from the pond designed and built by the biology classes to the baseball diamond designed in geometry and built by the students. The community is the classroom and the classroom serves the community: trucks from restaurants come to pick up produce the children have grown in the working farm next to the school; peer tutoring sessions are being conducted in the outside classroom built by the students; local teenagers run a day care program so that parents can attend a resume workshop and look for jobs online in the parent resource room. Some kids are getting haircuts at the neighborhood barbershop that was started by a former high school dropout who took entrepreneurial classes at the school. Students and their teachers are finishing up a mural designed by the art class. This mural decorates the playground that was built by members of the community over a series of weekends. Bikes are being repaired in the neighborhood bike exchange garage. Older students teach classes in bike-ethics and safety. Students petition the city for bike lanes and safety curbs on major streets near the school. In the auditorium, kids are rehearsing for the school play. Outside, music is blaring as dancers prepare a routine for a morning assembly.

All around are examples of real-world learning and student engagement, laughter and camaraderie. When there is conflict, the kids are not just told not to fight; they are taught how to work through their emotions and solve conflicts peacefully. The school honors voices, from the youngest student to the oldest, and seeks their input in all decisions that affect the school.

Our students have the academic and emotional tools to create meaningful lives. We graduate young men and women who feel successful whether they attend elite universities or begin self-run businesses in their neighborhood. They view their careers not as a means toward building individual wealth, but as a way of actively creating a just and equitable society.

The school’s students and graduates feel successful because they believe that their existence alone entitles them to be respected; they learn their lives have meaning. Student’s lives reflect an education that respects their unique contribution to building our society. They are not seeking an education as a means to get out of Detroit; they see their education as a means to make Detroit a wonderful place to live.
Place-Based Education

To fulfill our goals, we have selected to implement a Place-Based Education (PBE) program. PBE is a nationally renowned and research-based model that has facilitated high student achievement in areas like Oakland, Louisville, Boston, Portland, and New York City. BEC will pioneer PBE for low-income students in Detroit. PBE immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum. PBE emphasizes learning through participation in service projects for the school and local community.
Place-Based Education

The following are the principles of the Place-Based Education model:

Learning takes place on-site, in the schoolyard, and in the local community and environment.
Learning focuses on local themes, systems, and content.
Learning is personally relevant to each learner.
Learning experiences contribute to the community’s vitality and environmental quality and support the community’s role in fostering global environmental quality.
Learning is supported by strong and varied partnerships with local residents, organizations, businesses, and government.
Learning is interdisciplinary.
Learning experiences are tailored to the local audience.
Learning is grounded in and supports the development of a love for one’s place.
Local learning serves as the foundation for understanding and participating in regional and global issues.

Back to Education page

 

Website

–BACK

About

City Strolls has been hopefully serving a useful community function for the last 10 years. During that time the site has hosted events, updates and community activities.

A quote has sat at the top of City Strolls from the start. “This is the city and I am one of its citizens. Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools, the mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.” Walt Whitman. It still encompasses to me what are the essential ingredients to life in the city (or anywhere).

If you do not get out and engage with other human beings you will not have much to say about them. City Strolls was, back in the day, when I had time to organise strolls and participate in them, about doing just that – strolling in your city. Not walking to go someplace with your head down, but looking up like a tourist and looking at, sometimes even well known things afresh. There was no planned root to a stroll. Time varied from 2 hours to 6 or so. Kids would be bored for the first bit but soon would be off exploring where they wanted, because we were free to wander anywhere, it wasn’t important. The conversation went where it needed to go. There were no leaders we were all tour guides.

Like other aspects of our lives, we need to put ourselves in the moment, to understand the connections. We learn by walking, by observing, by juxtaposing elements, how things overlay, interact, relate to each other. Looking at things from different angles, reserving judgment till we know all of the facts –till we look ourselves.

Peoples lives today are filled with endless farcical anomalies and deviations that folk are forced to worry about. We can only offer or highlight a few alternative paths through this debris, that may shine some light on the things we should really be worrying about. And on things that can offer some reflection on more human ways to live.

City Strolls Is dedicated to:

• Common Good awareness and the commons in general.
• Creating critical connections towards movement building.
• Encouraging organising social change towards institutional change.
• Creating events to encourage solidarity, learning and understanding.
• Encouraging skill sharing, networking and the avoidance of reinventing the wheel.
• Including: Encouraging the use of what we have that is free and available.
• Encouraging the use of free software and computer programming.
• Encouraging education and learning, Free University, Open Education…
• Encouraging growing, gardening, Understanding food sovereignty and permaculture.
• Transferring the organisational skills learned in the garden to the community.
• Participatory Action Research and the production of community documentation.
• Encourage young folk to organise and encourage their responsibility through self run projects.
• Relearning the city and taking it back from commerce, traffic and corporate blight.
• Carry out tasks and events with imagination to encourage participation.
• Broadening awareness of wider political activity.
• Using any medium available to express these ideas.

August 22nd

Booklist

From August 22nd Upton Sinclair

saccovan_manif

THE CITY OF FEAR
“THIS is our career and our triumph,” Bart had proclaimed; and assuredly never had “a good shoemaker and a poor fish-peddler” caused such excitement in the world.

On Saturday, two days before the execution, there was an order for a general strike in Buenos Aires; in Berlin a protest from the trade unions, and the first radical meeting ever held in the former House of Lords of the Kingdom of Prussia; in London a mob of ten thousand in front of the American embassy; in Geneva a call for the boycotting of American goods; in Russia enormous protest meetings in every city; in Paris a hundred thousand workers parading, carrying red flags and huge placards denouncing American justice; tourists being greeted with shouts from thousands of throats, “Pardon! Pardon!” and as a rule finding it prudent to reply, “Vive Sacco et Vanzetti!”

The workers were bewildered by the spectacle of Puritan severity, and helpless in the face of it. Pierre Leon, editing a French communist paper, cabled to Joe Randall: “What can we do?” Joe’s answer was: “Repudiate the debts.” But that, alas, was not an immediate program; the best the French could do was to fail to pay them.
Only in Massachusetts itself was silence. Boston under ) the iron heel, and civil rights subject to revocation. One simple rule, easy for all to understand: do what the police tell you and keep your mouth shut.

Superintendent Crowley had requested the mayor to cancel all the eighteen speaking permits on the Common, and thus free speech was dumped out of the “cradle of liberty.”
Bugles in the streets; a regiment of the state militia marching, with grim set faces—the answer of the Commonwealth to the challenge of anarchy. Airplanes flying overhead, watching for bombers in the sky. Military squads on duty at every public building, suspicious of every foreign face, and now and then stopping a passerby to search a bundle or open a suitcase.

Every policeman on twenty-four hour duty again; sitting in the station-houses, and now and then called out for a wild ride or a gallop, on account of a bomb-scare. The firemen also on twenty-four hour duty, and all armed. The American Legion mobilized to guard the homes of the rich and the great. Every judge, juror, prosecutor, witness, or official who had ever had anything to do with the Sacco-Vanzetti case was being protected, and there was no foolishness about the protection.
A man hopped out of an automobile at the home of President Lowell, and started towards the rear entrance, carrying a heavy black bag. They did not stop to ask him who he was or what he wanted, they hit him over the head and laid him out—and then ascertained that he was delivering a load of that heavy aluminum ware which is the latest fad in fancy cookery for the rich.

A young Catholic priest stepped off the train in South Station, arriving from the west for a holiday; he went to the information bureau and said, “Will you please tell me the way to the State House?” “Certainly,” replied the clerk, and called a policeman, saying, “This man wants to know the way to the State House.” The kind-hearted policeman said he would escort him, and led him to a patrol-wagon, and drove him to the nearest station-house, where they held him “incommunicado” for twenty-four hours.
The great Commonwealth had told ten thousand lies; and now for every he there was a club and a bayonet. If you wished to oppose the lies, there was just one way —put your head under the crashing clubs, throw your body onto the gleaming bayonets. This was not merely the law of Massachusetts, this was the law of life, the way by which lies have been killed throughout history. The friends of the defense confronted this crisis, and either went forward and took the punishment, or shrunk back and sneaked away with a whole skin and a damaged conscience.
August 22nd Upton Sinclair P438

Booklist

A Peoples History of the United States

Booklist

Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress page 1.
Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned. . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. . . . They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for 1 showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. . . . They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.
Columbus wrote:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic—the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like…

Booklist

JAMES D. YOUNG Culture and Socialism: Working-Class Glasgow, 1778-1978

Culture and Socialism: Working-Class
Glasgow, 1778-1978
Sexless, ageless, classless, nationless he/she is the all-important nothing of middle-class wisdom.

Royden Harrison

WE ARE GATHERED at the People’s Palace, Glasgow, on Thursday, 3 September, to inaugurate Ken Currie’s magnificent pictorial ode to all rebels, martyrs, fugitives and anti-capitalist saints and sinners in Glasgow between 1778 and 1978. The inauguration of this mural history of Glasgow ranging over a period of two hundred years is a unique occasion for creative, poetic, artistic, intellectual, and radical Scotland: an occasion for celebration and resurrection. Because the Left in Scotland has usually had to function in a hostile and philistine environment for a prolonged historical period, the radicals and socialists have always responded to massive poverty, inequality and class-engendered injustice by girning and flyting. But this is not an occasion for girning or flyting. It is rather an occasion for celebrating what the Scottish working-class movement has achieved, what it is achieving and what it will achieve in the years to come, Thatcher or no Thatcher.
Although the result of the general election in June, 1987, means that the Scots are now standing at a crossroads-crisis marked ‘national extinction’ at the hands of the multinational corporations or ‘national re-birth’ under the inspiration of our centuries-old radical tradition and outward-looking internationalism, Ken Currie’s mural history of working-class Glasgow is another major sign of our growing confidence and self-confidence. It is also a permanent landmark in the ongoing cultural revolution in late-twentieth-century Scotland.
What Ken Currie has achieved as an artist cannot be separated from political development in contemporary Scotland, though the relationships between the two are neither simple nor immediately obvious. This is important because in a recent article in the Sunday Telegraph entitled ‘Can the Tories govern Scotland?’, Norman Stone, the Glaswegian Thatcherite, attributed the Scottish Tories electorial annihilation to ‘the decline of Imperial consciousness’.1 Yet he deliberately ignored the cultural, spiritual and intellectual resurgence in this small corner of the modern world.
But if the connections between the resurgence in contemporary culture and politics are not obvious, there are identifiable links between what is happening in Scotland today and Scottish history. From the Reformation onwards, there were powerful negative and positive factors operating within Scottish society. The country was very poor by comparison with England; and the Scottish ruling class did not really encourage artistic or cultural endeavour. This specific, concrete material environment and heritage had a profound influence on the development of the history of radicalism in Scotland between 1778 and 1978.
As Frederick Engels always insisted: ‘There is no great historical evil without a compensating historical progress’. And the Scots’ centuries-old material poverty gave them an intense interest in theology and philosophy, a passion for the 3 Rs, and an argumentative, disputatious disposition. In the eighteenth century, this intellectual and cultural heritage allowed them to become the pioneers of modern economics, sociology, a rudimentary psychology and Utopian socialism. The ‘contradictions’ of modern capitalism were very sharp in the City of Glasgow. By the late nineteenth century, Scottish socialists were more successful than their English or French counterparts in disseminating and popularising Marxian economics among working-class men and women.
In surveying the history of socialist movements throughout the world before the First World War, Edward Roux, the South African socialist, said that Glasgow and Chicago had produced more socialist literature than any other cities in the world.2 In an article published in an American socialist magazine in 1941, it was asserted that Glasgow had been ‘the intellectual centre of British labour’ in the 1930s.3 The Scottish workers’ movement was, in fact, reflecting the national environment in which it had been shaped from 1778 onwards.
In the 1930s the Scottish working-class movement produced important socialist novelists and poets – James Barke, James Welsh, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Hugh MacDiarmid. The socialists in Scotland were now encouraging and fostering socialist poetry and doggerel. And out of the working-class struggle for better wages and better social conditions a market – a huge market – was created for the chapbooks and doggerel of John S. Clarke and Tom Anderson. There were also attempts to develop a workers’ theatre and a left-wing cinema.
Yet despite the first significant artistic and cultural stirrings in Glasgow in the 1920s and 1930s, the labour movement did not have the material resources to encourage, assist or commission a Scottish Diego Rivera. Indeed in 1938, when Hugh MacDiarmid first published ‘The Red Scotland Thesis’, he complained quite bitterly about ‘the philistine ‘common sense”, and the ‘self-satisfied antu-intellectualism in the Scottish working-class movement. In Hugh MacDiarmid’s opinion, Guy Aldred – and this in spite of Aldred’s anti-Stalinism and agitation for a Fourth International – was the only socialist writer in Glasgow who was worth reading. As MacDiarmid summed up: ‘His (Aldred’s) ‘Bakunin House’ has long been a tower of liberty and justice in the otherwise unredeemed cultural chaos of Glasgow.’4
When he published Scottish Studies in 1926, Hugh MacDiarmid had argued that ‘in music as in drama we (the Scots) are unique in the fact that we have practically failed to develop any worth considering at all’. He attributed the absence of a national tradition of any great music or drama to Calvinism and ‘the comparative material poverty of our country’.5 He did not say anything at all about painting or the pictorial arts.
Mexico was a much more poverty-stricken country than Scotland in the 1930s, and yet the Mexicans produced the great painter and revolutionary socialist, Diego Rivera. In producing magnificent murals of scenes from Mexican history – of the bitter and bloody struggles of the peasants and workers – Rivera became one of the great painters of the twentieth century. But there were two concrete reasons for the emergence of Diego Rivera. In the first place, there was a long tradition of painting murals in Mexico long before this all-round, multi-talented, almost renaissance man, came on the scene. Secondly, he could not have achieved what he did without the moral, spiritual and financial support of the workers’ movement in Mexico and America. Furthermore, the crucial importance of socialist institutions and a supportive culture did not detract from – or belittle – Rivera’s genius.
To the best of my knowledge Hugh MacDiarmid and Diego Rivera never met or corresponded with each other. Yet they both understood the revolutionary role of art, culture and poetry in the struggle for democracy, justice and socialism. In explaining the connection between the workers’ struggle for better material conditions and culture, Walter Benjamin, the German socialist and victim of fascism, wrote: ‘The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist’.6 And yet Benjamin fought as few socialists have fought for an appreciation of the finer spiritual things in life.
A major reason for the absence of a Scottish Diego Rivera was the terrible mass unemployment, poverty, malnutrition, deprivation and ill-health. As socialists have always argued, the imaginative faculty depends on a reasonable material and spiritual environment. In 1938 Hugh MacDiarmid also wrote about ‘the disproportionately terrible social and economic conditions of Scotland compared with England and of the absolute needlessness of anything of the sort’.7 Capitalism was always more harsh, rapacious and brutal in Scotland than in England. Because they existed within a much poorer country, the Scots were more preoccupied with a struggle for the crude material things.
By the 1930s the first serious stirrings of working-class and socialist activity in drama and music were evident in Glasgow. The philistine bourgeoisie in Glasgow were much more interested in making profits and arms and in encouraging the dictators in Italy, Spain and Germany than in assisting artists, poets or prophets. Those who tried to make a living by writing novels or biographies had a very tough time; and the poverty-haunted Grassic Gibbon depended on Americans to buy the novels in which he portrayed working-class Scotland. But Gibbon did at least stimulate the middle-class dunces in Aberdeen to coin one immortal phrase: ‘Him write a book. I kent his faither’.
The cultural chaos that Hugh MacDiarmid saw in Glasgow in the 1930s has now gone; and it has been replaced by a socialist- inspired cultural revival, a resurgence and a vitality in historiography, poetry, literature, drama, the cinema, painting and the arts. Modern capitalism is coming to an end in the Western world; and the working classes from Nicaragua to Scotland are displaying a new self-confidence despite the brutality of the Thatchers and the Reagans. As Grassic Gibbon said in one of the last essays he wrote before his death in 1934: ‘Towards the culmination of a civilisation the arts, so far from decaying, always reach their greatest efflorescence’.8
Pat Lally, the leader of the Glasgow District Council, has described Ken Currie’s mural history as a major work of popular art. Moreover, this major work of popular art does not just represent a comparatively new and major talent in Scottish painting, although it does that vividly, graphically and visually in a permanent form. It is also a much deeper national expression of the forces of change and the voices of revolt against philistine money-grubbing at the expense of human dignity, creativity, curiosity, individual vitality and autonomy.
The good book tells us that ‘where there is no vision, the people perish’. Yet despite the Scots’ historic deficiences in music, drama and the pictorial arts, the Scots portrayed in Ken Currie’s mural history of Glasgow did not lack vision. The vision was there in the speeches, writings and agitations of Thomas Muir of Huntershill, in the struggles of the Black weaver, Mathew Bogie, who was one of the leaders of the Radical War of 1820, and in the superb pedagogy of ‘the great John MacLean’. And in our own times, the vision of a better society was seen in the UCS sit-in.
When I had the privilege of living in the home of Eugene V. Debs, the great American socialist described by Guy Aldred as ‘America’s vision-maker’, in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1980,1 encountered and enjoyed the murals dedicated to Debs’ fruitful life of struggle for justice and socialism. But Ken Currie has not just portrayed the lives of great individuals. He has, in fact, portrayed the lives and struggles of the working class in Glasgow – a magnificent class in a magnificent City – over a period of two hundred years.
To appreciate the unique scale and scope of Ken Currie’s artistic achievement and vision from a socialist perspective, we must yet again glance at what Walter Benjamin, the German authority on art and culture, had to say about the most important aspect of developing socialist images of the world around us:

Not man or men but the struggling, oppressed class itself is the
depository of historical knowledge. In Marx it appears as the last enslaved class, as the avenger that completes the liberation in the name of generations of the downtrodden.

Furthermore, in describing what separated socialists from Social Democrats, Benjamin criticised the right-wing elements in the labour movement for portraying the working class as ‘the redeemer of the future generations’. In summing up, he said: ‘This training made the (German) working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of the enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren’.9 The dominant socialist image in this mural history of Glasgow is the unbroken image of our ‘enslaved ancestors’ within a specific national setting.
In 1957 John McLeish, a brilliant psychologist from Glasgow, contributed an article to the magazine, Universities and Left Review. The article culminated with an unanswered but not rhetorical question: ‘Scotland a nation once again or the workers’ international?’ But in 1987 the forces of socialist internationalism outside of Scotland are telling us that the survival of the Scottish nation is the pre-condition for a socialist-humanist society in this small part of the world. And the most intelligent, imaginative, creative and radical Scots have always given a sympathetic ear to the democratic forces in the outside world from the French Revolution in 1789, right through to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Revolution in Nicaragua today.
What Ken Currie’s mural history of Glasgow conveys to us is that the Scots have been exiled inside their own country. For when a people have no access to their own real history, they are exiles. However, this mural history of Glasgow between 1778 and 1978 is proof of the profound changes occurring in Scottish artistic, cultural and political life. By forcing their way into the national culture, the murals of Ken Currie depicting the historic struggles of working-class men and women, together with other facets of contemporary working-class cultural activity, are feeding back into Scottish life and impinging on the political consciousness of socialists and trade unionists.
This was brought home to me when I visited my friend Harry McShane, the veteran Clydeside socialist, at Baxter House, exactly a week ago. Within minutes of my arrival, he showed me a letter that he was sending to Mrs. Thatcher. In this historic letter, he told Thatcher-Victoria that a Scottish Assembly was the very minimum change being demanded by the working-class movement. In informing me that he now favoured national independence rather than mere Devolution, Harry was expressing something much deeper than himself. This is simply another expression of ‘the new passions and the new forces’ represented in the new mural history of working-class Glasgow.
In the recent article in the Sunday Telegraph, Norman Stone observed with some sadness and nostalgia for the days of the Empire that the Tories in Scotland are now a ‘foreign’, ‘patrician’ group of outsiders. He might have added that they are full of bare-faced cheek. But this is not a new development at all. The real culture of the Scottish nation – not just the fight for crude material things, but the deep unconquerable spirituality of the producers of wealth – is depicted by Ken Currie. As Scotland increasingly moves towards self-determination, the new attempts to rehabilitate such reactionary obscurantists as Henry Dundas, the Dictator of the 1790s, will fail because the Tories in Scotland are now naked, exposed and indecent.
Contemporary Scotland is not just beginning to come of age as it moves towards self-government. It is simultaneously reaching out to ‘the Age of Reason’ anticipated by Tom Paine and Thomas Muir of Huntershill. What is happening in Scotland is a part of the international revolt that we have seen in Nicaragua and South Africa. But even in the heartlands of capitalism, the ‘new passions and new forces’ are agitating for a People’s art, a People’s history and a People’s culture.
In recent years I have been privileged to attend conferences on working-class history in Austria, West Germany and America. Despite the formidable obstacles facing socialists in those countries, they have done much to promote left-wing films, poetry, literature, drama and murals portraying the history of the really important people in their own societies – the producers of wealth, not the parasites.
But in Austria the Labour Party has created its own choirs and choral societies. Despite the enormous number of influential fascist sympathisers in the ruling circles in Vienna, local Labour administrations have had streets and squares named after such famous socialists as Otto Bauer. In the Austrian universities the socialists’ intellectual, artistic and cultural achievements and anti-fascist struggles are acknowledged and recognised as a part of the national culture. As I was preparing this talk, it occurred to me that the most accurate guide to the degree of democracy in any contemporary society is the continuous presence – or the continuous absence – of working-class struggles in drama, films, street-names and murals.
Although the socialists in West Germany have agitated and worked in a less sympathetic and favourable environment than their Austrian counterparts, they have begun to make some impression on the dominant culture. In 1968 the government of the West German Federal Republic asserted that the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg in 1919 had been in accordance with martial law, though no charges had been made against her and no trial had taken place. Rosa was – even in death – ‘the enemy within’. Yet West Germany with its terrible fascist legacy is changing; and militant, democratic socialists are saying what socialists have to say in the universities and research institutes.
In 1985 an international cultural festival celebrating the contribution of Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg to human knowledge, culture and advancement was held in Hamburg. It attracted artists, painters, historians and film-makers from all over the world; and it was funded by official sources and, in turn, generated profit and stimulated other cultural projects. Next year a group of socialist scholars are hosting an international congress on the work of Upton Sinclair, the American novelist and author of The Jungle, in order to discuss and assess the relationship between socialism, literature and the arts,
In America socialists and radicals have published major biographies of Daniel De Leon and Eugene V. Debs. Just as the Scots and the West Germans have forced the authorities to confront the issue of the systematic persecution of John Maclean and Roso Luxemburg, so the Americans are succeeding in securing the gradual rehabilitation of Gene Debs. By 1979 John Joseph Laska had completed his murals celebrating the achievements of the man who on five different occasions stood for election as the Socialist Party’s Presidential candidate. The murals paying tribute to Debs’ life and martyrdom in the cause of American and international Labour are in the attic of the Debs’ home in Terre Haute. Moreover, the Debs’ home is now classified as ‘a National Parks Department Historic Site’. As Glasgow prepares to become the cultural capital of Europe in 1990, perhaps we could do something to secure Labour’s ‘martyred dead’ even greater recognition in the schools and culture of Scotland’s most energetic City. One of the questions I have asked myself during the last few days is this: ‘What united the multitude of individuals portrayed in the murals painted by Ken Currie?’ It would be comforting to suggest that they were all socialists. However, it simply would not be true. In the technical language of academic historians, the working class in Scotland before 1832 belonged to ‘the pre-industrial’ working class. But what the Scottish men and women portrayed in the eight panels of murals had in common was a passion for justice and freedom – a preoccupation more often than not with the crude material things as a pre-condition for art, culture and dignity. What they also had in common was a hatred of Absolutism, arbitrary authority, tyranny, injustice and hierarchy.
To understand the importance of the contribution to human advancement made by the individuals portrayed in Ken Currie’s murals between 1778 and 1850, we should remember that it was an era of rising ‘bourgeois individualism’ when ordinary people were regarded by ruling classes everywhere as un-persons whose poverty was a part of the natural order of things. In the eighteenth century, for example, the ‘great’ Samuel Johnson told James Boswell: ‘You are to consider that it is our duty to maintain the subordination of civil society; and where there is a gross or shameful deviation from rank, it should be punished so as to deter others from making the same perversion’.’1 In the late 1840s Thomas Carlyle attacked working people for asking questions about the ‘natural’ hierarchy in the world. As he expressed it: ‘Recognised or not, a man has his superiors, a regular hierarchy above him, extending upwards, degree by degree, to Heaven itself and God the maker, Who made this world not for anarchy but for rule and order’.12
From the 1880s, when modern socialism was born, to the UCS sit-in in 1971, the presence of the socialist vision of the better world to come has been a constant factor in Scottish – and English, German, French, Italian and American – working-class struggles. In what is perhaps the best available definition of socialism in any language, Theodor Shanin says: ‘Socialism is about ending the domination of people by other people, about collectivism which is nobody’s prison, about social justice and equality, about making people conscious of their power and ability to control their destinies here and now’. This is the vision which united all of the colourful individuals portrayed by Ken Currie over a period of two hundred years; and this is what we are celebrating tonight as we look in the direction of what Antonio Gramsci, the Italian socialist, described as ‘the City of the future’.
We should acknowledge the determination and the hard, sustained work undertaken by Elspeth King and Michael Donnelly in helping in the birth of this work of popular art; and we should not be afraid to trumpet our socialist opinions from the rooftops, the squares and the market-places of this hard­working, honest and very cheeky City. And is doing so, it is appropriate to recall the words of the young American novelist, Norman Mailer:

We want a socialist world not because we have the conceit that men would therefore be happy…but because we feel the moral imperative in life itself to raise the human condition, even if this should ultimately mean no more than that man’s suffering has been lifted to a higher level.

FOOTNOTES
1. Norman Stone, ‘Can the Tories govern Scotland?’, Sunday Telegraph, 14 June 1987.
2. Eddie and Win Roux, Rebel Pity (London, 1970), p.7.
3. Britannicus, ‘The ‘New International’ in England’, The New International, July 1941.
4. Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘The Red Scotland Thesis’, The Voice of Scotland, Vol.1, No.l, 1938.
5. Hugh MacDiarmid, Scottish Studies (Edinburgh, 1926).
6. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (London, 1977).
7. MacDiarmid, ‘The Red Scotland Thesis’, op. cit.
8. Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Lewis Grassic Gibbon’, Little Reviews Anthology 1946(London, 1946).
9. Benjamin, op. cit.
10. John McLeish, ‘The Uses of Literacy’, Universities and Left Review, Summer 1957.
11. James Boswell’s Life of Johnson, edited J. Brady (New York, 1968).
12. Thomas Carlyle, Chartism (London, 1960).

 

 

top

JOHN TAYLOR CALDWELL The Battle For The Green

The Battle For The Green
THE SUMMER OF 1931 was a riotous season in Glasgow. There were demonstrations involving anything from forty-five thousand to one hundred thousand angry protesters, in scenes which Police Superintendent Sweeny of the Central Division described as “a disgrace to any civilised community”. The focal point of these demonstrations was Glasgow Green. Much of the disturbances took place just outside the Green, in the space called Jocelyn Square, but traditionally and persistently called Jail Square by Glaswegians, because of the proximity of the High Court and its incarceratory facilities. To most of those who took part in these demonstrations the issues were unemployment, the Means Test, and the Right to Work, but these popular causes were developments from the original grievance, which was the right to hold public meetings in the Green without a permit from the Parks Department.
This traditional right had recently been taken away by a Labour Town Council.
The Glasgow Green lies in the heart of the City, on the north bank of the River Clyde. It is the oldest of the city’s parks, and is rated more than a park. It owes its origin to the common lands of the Burgh. A historian of the Green, writing in 1894, notes a civic function of this Open Space:

One of the old customs of the Green remains almost as vigorous as of old… From time immemorial it has been the custom for all classes of preachers and debaters to air their eloquence upon the masses who frequent the Green; and on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons numerous knots of people are to be found listening to discussions on all varieties of topics.1

Another writer of the eighteen-nineties declares:

But there are other shows which have long characterised the space between the Court Houses and Nelson’s Monument, and which still continue with unabated vigour. From time immemorial it has been classical ground to the east-end controvertionalists. There Orangemen and Romanists fought bloodless battles by the thousand… There the stupid Tory, and the lofty-souled socialist…annihilates with ease all shades of orthodox political opinion. On the Green the atheist readily confutes the arguments of the earnest Salvation Army; while the total abstainer has it all his own way in preaching the mission of temperance… Let it not be thought that the whole matter is bubble and froth, the phenomenon represents a vast aggregate of serious purpose, if not of deep thought, and it forms a most efficient safety valve for blowing off social, political, and religious sentiments, which might otherwise attain explosive force.2

The records of Glasgow Green are among the oldest existing records of Glasgow. The earliest known document is the Notitia, or Inquest of David, attested before the judges in the year 1120. It contains the result of the inquiry made by the command of David, Prince of Cumbria or Strathclyde (afterwards David the First of Scotland) as to the lands which had formerly belonged to the Church of Saint Mungo, and which he proceeded to restore to the new bishop of Glasgow. The bishop’s property probably included the present Broomielaw, the old Green, or Docal Green of Glasgow, from present-day Jamaica Street eastwards, and the present Jail Square.3
After the Reformation these lands became civic property administered by the City Council. They were used for the cutting of peat, the pasturing and slaughtering of cattle, the execution of malefactors and martyrs, and for playing, strolling and talking. In the People’s Palace, centrepiece of the Green, there is a painting which shows a crowd around a Glasgow character of Victorian days, Old Malabar. A later hand has painted into the crowd a little Charlie Chaplin, familiar in his bowler hat, cane, and big boots.
On April 13, 1916 the Glasgow Corporation repealed a bye-law passed on April 25, 1896 for the regulation of the City Parks and Open Spaces, and replaced it with the controversial Bye-law 20, restricting the right of free assembly. It was this which led to the riotous scenes of the twenties and thirties; and it was this that Guy Aldred challenged in the Green, on the streets, and finally in the High Court. The Bye-law, passed in 1916, was not invoked until 1922, when a Labour Council was in office. It read:

20. No person shall, in any of the parks, sing, preach, lecture, or take part in any service, discussion, meeting, or demonstration, or hold any exhibition or public show, for any purpose whatsoever, or play any musical instrument, except with the written authority of the Corporation, or the Superintendent, and then only on such places as may be from time to time set aside by the Corporation or Superintendent, by Notice, for such purpose.

On July 30 1923 this Bye-law was amended to make an exception of the space outside the gates of the Green, known as Jail Square. This concession was a recognition of the traditional usage of the Square. Meetings were being cleared from the gates of all other parks. Aldred was contesting the right to speak outside Botanic Gardens. But he considered Glasgow Green as a special case because of its historical associations. On July 6th 1924 he addressed an Open Letter, in the columns of The Commune, to the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Council of the City of Glasgow in respect of the right of unlicensed liberty of speech on Glasgow Green, “as secured by long tradition, and respected by the Common Law of Scotland…”
The letter read in part:

Sirs and Citizens,
Today I shall be one of seventy speakers participating in a quiet and orderly meeting, duly advertised, which will be held at 3pm at the monument, Glasgow Green…
At the present moment Edward Rennie is serving a sentence of fifty days as an ordinary criminal in Barlinnie Prison for speaking in Glasgow Green without a permit. Peter Marshall, Peter Mclntyre, John Ball,4 are waiting arrest for not paying fines. Seventy cases are pending… Meantime, a Labour Government being in power – for the offence of addressing a lawful meeting Rennie is being treated as a criminal…
These Bye-laws were passed in 1916. Were they advertised as required? If so, how comes it that neither police nor public regarded them as applying to the Green? So much is this the case that in 1921, Mr Adamson, the present Secretary of State for Scotland, spoke on Glasgow Green without a permit. During the following years Maxton, Kirkwood, and Robertson5 all did so. I submit that it is contrary to law to lapse Bye-laws, and then capriciously reimpose them.
But the Glasgow Parks Act of 1878 confers no power on you to prohibit meetings… Section 37, the very section under which you act, concludes with this provision: Provided that such Bye-laws shall not be repugnant to the laws of Scotland.
…I submit that Bye-laws which send men to prison as common criminals for exercising the lawful right of assembly on a highway -and Glasgow Green is a highway as well as an Open Space – a^re repugnant to the laws of Scotland…

This Meeting was held as advertised, and meetings were held for several weeks thereafter. At all of them names were taken and charges made. The speakers were either from the Antiparliamentary Communist Federation or from the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party, which had been founded by John MacLean. The Communist Party sneered at the “anti-pantis”, and the “Claymore Communists” – reference to MacLean’s attempt to form a Scottish Communist Party. In The Worker the free speech campaign was described as a “stunt, pure and simple”, and the Green described as a “bedlam of racing tipsters, medicine men, religious fanatics and political oddities.”6
At a meeting of the Glasgow Parks Committee a report was read from the Town Clerk’s Office, detailing complaints from the Magistrates’ Committee. This referred to the abuse of Jail Square by racing tipsters, and other undesirable persons who had, since the speaking ban had been lifted from the Square, crowded into the place, attracting a rowdy and troublesome element, making “the place like a fair”. The Magistrates’ Committee recommended that steps be taken to prevent the use of the Square by such persons. The motion was therefore put to the Parks Sub-committee that the proviso exempting the Square from the restrictions which applied to the Green should be repealed, and that therefore unlicensed speaking on the Square should be an offence. There was an opposing amendement that ‘no Action’ be taken on the Magistrates’ Report.7 The vote showed eleven for the motion and eight for the amendment.
Guy Aldred was spending much of his time in London where he was conducting a campaign for the right to sell socialist literature, and to take collections at meetings in Hyde Park. In the course of this activity he had a brush with the police because he said disrespectful things about God. On Sunday 15th 1925 he was arrested from the platform and charged with blasphemy and sedition. Considerable press publicity was given to the charges, and Aldred was featured as an outstanding blasphemer. He conducted his own defence at a trial which ended on March 10th, and was found not guilty on all counts, except a minor one for which a fine of £2 was imposed.
These and other activities kept him away from the Green, but when he heard that the Glasgow Corporation had made application to the Sheriff Principle A. O. M. Mackenzie for deletion of the clause in the Bye-law which exempted Jail Square from the restrictions which applied to the Green, he lodged notice of objection. The date of the Hearing was advanced a week and on March 29th 1925 Guy Aldred appeared in person to state his objections. The Corporation was represented by Mr R. J. Campbell of the Town Clerk’s Office.
Aldred quoted Acts of Parliament and legal authorities to support his view that the Bye-law was repugnant to the laws of Scotland and ultra vires of the Corporation. It was a gross abuse of terms to place tipsters in the same class as public speakers. In London the authorities had extended certain laws which prevented tipsters from going into Hyde Park, but public meetings still went on. Glasgow Corporation had no right to close down the Green unless they were prepared to provide another meeting place. The Corporation’s proposal was contrary to the good government of the city, for this act of regulation was in reality an act of prohibition.
He was interrupted while he was drawing a distinction between tipsters and public speakers by the Sheriff-Principle who remarked (amid laughter) – “You mean that free speech is more important than free tips.”
Mr Campbell said that it was not within the contemplation of the Corporation that the repeal of the proviso would interfere with free speech as far as it was enjoyed in 1916. If a meeting was conducted in an orderly manner, and there was no suggestion that it would lead to disorder, or obstruction, in all probability permits would be granted to speakers.
The Sheriff: “The question is whether it is reasonable to cure an evil by depriving citizens of their power of free speech except with permits from the magistrates.”
Mr Campbell said there was no complaint in 1916, and right up until 1923, or at the passing of any other Bye-laws. Sheriff Mackenzie took the matter to avizandum. On April 1st 1927 he confirmed the reverted Bye-law. Guy Aldred’s statement was reported at length in the Glasgow Press, and on April 2nd The Glasgow Herald in a lengthy editorial approved the Sheriffs decision, concluding:8

The Bye-law in question, however, only applies to parks, and it can be made applicable to this Jail Square pitch because it is technically part of Glasgow Green, which is a public park. Having established the principle that this area is to be subject to the control of the magistrates, we hope the Corporation may be stirred up to make use of such powers as they may have, or if they have them not, to take steps to get such powers as may be necessary to enable them to regulate street-corner oratory anywhere within the City.

The Reverend Richard Lee, then minister of Ross Street Unitarian Church, in the East End, and sometime Glasgow Labour Councillor, and active public figure in the city, wrote to the Glasgow Evening News for March 31st 1927 –

It is lamentable that the citizens of Glasgow should treat so lightly the passing away of the freedom of Glasgow Green. How strange it is that the main defence of free speech should be left to a Sassenach, Mr Guy Aldred, who made such an impressive case on Tuesday from the point of view of ancient usage, legal right, and public interest!
…When Socrates laid down the foundations of the philosophy of rational research he had no official caucus to back him up. When Jesus established the principles of spiritual religion, he had no support from official ecclesiasticism. Today there is little hope from any body of hidebound ecclesiastics or politicians.
This proposal of the authorities means the choking up of the foundations of rational liberty and social justice.
The Daily Herald for the same date carried the headline:

SILENT GLASGOW GREEN All Meetings banned on Jail Square

The letter-press concluded:

The ban on meetings takes immediate effect, so that tomorrow the Green will be silent, almost for the first time in many years.

And for several years it remained so. Then it was broken by the worn boots and holy voices of the Brotherhood of the Way who arrived with wooden crosses and evangelical zeal on the forbidden ground of secular dictate in the June of 1931. The Brothers tramped through the United Kingdom – and were therefore known more commonly as The Tramp Preachers – as they conceived Jesus to have tramped through ancient Judea, preaching the Gospel of Brotherhood and Love. They lived only on the collections gathered at their meetings, usually of the poor and unemployed, and had – always in theory, sometimes in actuality – nowhere to lay their heads. They were not much concerned about Caesar’s Bye-laws. They were arrested, lodged in police cells, brought before the magistrate, and fined £5 – two weeks’ wages. As they were persons of no fixed abode, no time was allowed to pay the fine – which they didn’t intend to pay anyway. They were therefore sent to prison for thirty days in a city the motto of which was ‘Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of the Word” – for doing just that.
John McGovern, I.L.P. Member for Shettleston, raised the matter in the House of Commons. He asked the Secretary of State (W. Adams, Labour) if he would release these men. Mr Adamson said he “would make enquiries” which meant he would do nothing. McGovern pressed the point till “disgraceful scenes ensued” according to the press. The Daily Express for July 3rd 1931, playing on the fact that there had been a championship boxing match the previous evening, gave a witty heading:


LAST NIGHT’S BIG FIGHT – IN THE HOUSE Glasgow Member dragged out.

Space does not allow us to enjoy the full account, but we may have a snippet from the heart of the story. McGovern refused to leave the Chamber as ordered by the Speaker, and refused to go quietly when asked to do so by four stout, but elderly, doorkeepers, in morning dress, with white shirt fronts and golden chains. So:
One attendant took Mr McGovern’s hands. Mr Becket, M.P., pulled the hands off. Others arrived and seized Mr McGovern by the legs and shoulders. Messrs Becket and Kinley threw themselves on the attendants. Mr Maxton, sitting immediately behind, leaned forward, his long locks dangling over his face, and joined in.

…Slowly the struggling heap moved towards the door. As each successive pillar supporting the gallery was reached Mr Maxton was dislodged, but renewed his hold on the other side of the pillar. Mr Becket, seeing that his side was losing, took a leap on an attendant’s back. Down they went in a heap on top of the others. Miss Jenny Lee, hardly a couple of yards away from the ring, shrank back a little. Messrs Brockway and Campbell Stephen (I.L.P.) played an unhappy part. They were neutral. They neither moved out of the way of the attendants, nor attempted to obstruct them…and were thoroughly ruffled by the wave which swept over them…

So the struggling mass reached the door and John McGovern was ejected, and was suspended for the remainder of the session. He had received nation-wide publicity and made it known to the press that he would speak on Glasgow Green without a permit. Guy Aldred and Harry McShane were among others who were taking up the matter of free meetings in the Green. A Free Speech Council had been set up and Guy Aldred, Harry McShane, Tom Pickering (Tramp Preacher) and Edward Rennie (Scottish Workers’ Republican Party) had been fined (but not paid)
£5.
Two days after his ejection from the House, Sunday 5th July, McGovern arrived at the Green where a crowd of six thousand had gathered. The police allowed the meeting to proceed, but took the names of the speakers. These were Aldred, McGovern, McShane, Pickering, John Heenan (I.L.P.), Willie MacDougall (Anti-parliamentary Communist Federation), Andrew Reilly (Irish Workers’ Party) and Joseph McGlinchly (Distributist). These made two Court appearances. Guy Aldred gave notice of appeal on behalf of all the accused, and asked for a Stated Case.

Harry McShane was a member of the Communist Party, but at this stage the Party was not involved in the protests. McShane had to “drag them in”.9 This is not surprising when it is remembered that Moscow did not think much of free speech, and would not have welcomed a Report in which the Party not only campaigned for free speech but did so in association with the bourgeois I.L.P., the anarchist Aldred, and the evangelical Tramp Preachers. But when the demonstrations began to spill over into protests against the high level of unemployment, and the introduction of the Means Test, the Party had to take an interest. But the national figures stayed away, leaving McShane to organise the Communist Party activity. His interest in free speech was genuine and he refused to soft-pedal it in conformity with Party policy. His work for the unemployed was equally serious. He was Secretary of the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and, later, Secretary of Glasgow C.P.

Aldred was not greatly interested in demands for the Right to Work. That wage slaves should demand burdens for their backs in no way matched his definition of socialism. The more youthful members of his group, the Antiparliamentary Communist Federation and of the group founded by John MacLean (then deceased), the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party, used to answer the slogan-shouters, crying WE WANT WORK with the counter-cry WE WANT’ NOURISHMENT, and to calls for a shilling more on Parish Relief they would add sardonically: AND A BAG OF COAL AND WOOLLYDRA WERS! I

To meet this new dimension of the demonstrations the Free Speech Committee was turned into a permanent Council of Action at a meeting of two hundred delegates from several organisations held in Central Halls on Saturday September 19th 1931. The Council passed a resolution by the APCF delegate that the Council evolve the necessary machinery to cope with the “chronic economic condition which is the normal state of capitalist society”; and to promote the transfer of political power to representative Councils of Action.
It would be a naive historian who saw in this gathering of honest upright proletarians in revolt the beginnings of an age of brotherly love, the germination of a new society. The general atmosphere was of disharmony. Every Group hated and villified every other. Antagonisms abounded. Agreements were reached with ill-natured reluctance, not in sympathetic understanding. Only the Tramp Preachers hated nobody (actively) in private; loved everybody in principle, and defied everybody in practice. In Court they raised high their wooden crosses, and bawled forth ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, confounding the raucous-voiced ushers, and nonplussing the Stipendary Magistrate.
It was the confused motives and fragmented leadership that led to the riots of the First of October 1931. Aldred maintained that continued mass confrontation would get nowhere, except hospital or jail. He was in favour of meeting the Corporation on their own ground, in the Court of Law. They had violated a principle of the Laws of Scotland. He would prove it, and force the removal of the offending Bye-law. Then, with the right to meet in public assembly in the public parks, the people should use that right to meet in concourse and debate the next moves in the struggle against the system which bred unemployment and exploitation. McShane thought that Court action would meet with failure, and that no further advance could be made along that road.

McGovern, writing thirty years later, said that the Communists (i.e. McShane) wanted to take over the unemployed movement,10 and that he (McGovern) wanted to prevent them from staging a riot. A laudable motive, but his method of doing so was curiously inconsistent. He and Harry McShane had, the very afternoon of the evening debate on the matter, addressed a meeting in North Hanover Street, at George Square, the municipal heart of the city, urging the audience to rally to the Green that evening. The previous evening McShane had led a procession of unemployed from Warwick Street, in the south side of the city, in the direction of the Green, but had stopped short of forbidden ground on Albert Bridge where, mounted on the parapet, he had urged his followers to gather on the Green the following evening, and to “bring your sticks”. The crowd took up the cry.11

So on the first of October McGovern led the East End contingent of unemployed to Glasgow Green, where a hundred thousand persons were gathered (police estimate, 40,000). But there were no Communist Party leaders, because the police had sent word to the Party Headquarters earlier in the day that no marching to the Green would be allowed, but the Communists had not passed the information on to McGovern, hence his arrival with the East End demonstrators. The police sergeant later confirmed that such a warning had been conveyed, with the concession that the leaders could organise those who had unknowingly gathered on the Green into small companies and lead them away. Thus Harry McShane who had urged his followers to gather on the Green did not arrive there himself till it was (as he later described it) “pitch dark, and we couldn’t see a thing”.12
He, and his comrade, Bob McLellan, were getting a section of the crowd into marching order for the return journey, as suggested by the sergeant earlier in the day, when McGovern “appeared from nowhere” and put himself at the head of the demonstration – and that decided the police to act.13 Police evidence at the trials which followed, said that there were “several thousand evilly disposed persons, armed with chisels, bottles, hammers and sticks, organised by the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement – (McShane’s adherents, as distinct from his communist comrades) and two hundred policemen”.14 McGovern was assaulted by the police and arrested at once. McShane found himself behind the charging police. He met a crowd which wanted to “have a go at the police”. He told them they would be slaughtered, and led them through the Green, over the suspension bridge into the Gorbals and safety.15
McGovern later accused the Communist leaders of deliberately withholding the police information,16 of not having arrived at the Green themselves, leaving it to McShane, who arrive only to run away.17 The representative of the Comintern who was in Glasgow, monitoring the actions of the Communist Party, was not pleased. He sent for McShane and ordered him to go and get arrested “because McGovern had been arrested”. In abject obedience, characteristic of the Communist Party leaders of the time, McShane was putting on his shoes to go out and get himself arrested, when the Representative heard that two policemen had been thrown over a bridge into the Clyde and killed. The Representative thought that under such circumstances it would be better if Harry did not get himself arrested but went to Moscow instead. Fortunately the rumour proved false, and Harry was allowed to stay at home.18
The rioting and general disturbance which had started on Jail Square on the Thursday continued over the weekend. The doctor who examined McGovern’s bruised back in a police cell told him: “The city is in a grip of terror. The boys are smashing windows and stealing in every street. They are playing merry hell.”
On the Monday Guy Aldred held a meeting in the Green, once more defying the authorities. He trounced both McGovern and McShane. They had stirred up the people, he said, for no other reason but to lead them, or to seem to lead them. There was doubt in the I.L.P.’s Selection Committee as to McGovern’s suitability as parliamentary candidate at the forthcoming election. His behaviour in the House had embarrassed the Party. Now McGovern wanted to establish himself as a heroic public working-class champion, so that to replace him would be unwise. McShane was using this occasion to establish himself as the leader of the unemployed. There had -been no logic in their actions, the purpose of which was blatant self-aggrandisement.
Harry McShane was at this meeting and heard Aldred’s denunciation. He asked to mount the platform. He said to the great crowd assembled at this illegal gathering: “We have had the demonstration. A number of people are in hospital, a number of people have been arrested. The casualties are all on our side. Next time we will be better prepared.”19
Aldred said that this was the kind of rabble-rousing he had condemned. Having induced a hundred thousand persons to assemble on the Green – when it was “almost pitch dark” neither McGovern or McShane had any idea what to do with them, or with themselves. A violent confrontation with the authorities may be desirable and necessary, and would most likely be a part of the ultimate confrontation, but this ill-timed violence was self-defeating. It only resulted in men being taken to hospital, or landing in jail. Several days later McShane was arrested.
It was not till January the following year, 1932, that McGovern, McShane, and ten others were brought before the Sheriff charged with assault, mobbing and rioting – McShane was excluded from the assault charge. Superintendent Sweeny of the Central Division confirmed that he had sent word to the Communist Party headquarters that a demonstration would not be allowed to march through the streets, but that persons gathering at the Green would be allowed to return home in separate processions.
McShane was acquitted, for evidently it had been his intention to conform to this arrangement. McGovern was acquitted because he had been in custody when the violence erupted. The ten others, rank and filers, who had “brought their sticks” were each sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. There is no firm statement as to the number of demonstrators injured. Four policemen were hurt. Seventy-seven plate glass windows were smashed.20
Meantime Aldred continued with his own line of action. The Appeal by Stated Case against the convictions of Aldred, McGovern, McShane and others for speaking in the Green on July 5th 1931, came before the High Court of Justiciary on October 17th 1931.21 The Appeal was unsuccessful, but observations made by the Lord Justice General in disposing of it were brought to the notice of the Parks Committee, and on March 3rd 1932 the offending Bye-law was repealed, and replaced with an amended Bye-law. This gave right of public speaking, literature sales, and collections on such places as would be set aside by Notice for that purpose.

Sheriff Principle Mackenzie confirmed this amendment of the Bye-law on June 8th 1932. He explained the difference in a note to his interlocuters:

…After the right of holding meetings in the portion of Glasgow Green situated in Jail Square (even he did not call it by its official name: Jocelyn Square) without a written permit, had been taken away, largely attended protest meetings were held in the Green without permits having been obtained and a number of prosecutions followed. In one of these the accused, a Mr Guy Aldred, after convictions, appealed to the High Court of Justiciary. The case – Aldred v Langmuir – is reported in The Scots Law Times Reports for 1931, at page 603. The Appeal was unsuccessful, but certain observations made by the Lord Justice General in disposing of it were brought to the notice of the Parks Committee, and that Committee had these observations in view in passing the Bye-law which I am now asked to confirm…
The existing Bye-law prohibits all preaching, lecturing, or holding of meetings without leave of the Corporation, or Director of Parks. The Bye-law proposed impliedly authorises the Corporation to set aside by Notice places where preaching and lecturing may proceed and meetings be held without permits being first obtained. It seems to me that this provision constitutes a very material distinction between the two Bye-laws.”22

The part of the Green set aside for public meetings was known as the Old Bandstand. The Council of Action accepted this arrangement, except for the Communist Party. Evidently forgetting that the Party had not officially taken part in the campaign, and had described the gatherings in the Green as a “bedlam of tipsters and medicine men”, they now said that they would have demanded the “right to speak from Jail Square to Nelson’s Column”, which would have increased the “bedlam of tipsters and medicine men”, and curtailed the right of the young to stroll, and the elderly to sit in the Green.
The Council of Action broke up. John Meenan went into the Town Council, McGovern was re-elected to the Commons, McShane went, obediently and reluctantly to Moscow. His heart was in Glasgow with the unemployed. Aldred continued the struggle for free speech. He maintained that the amended Bye-law applied to every city park, and that the Corporation was failing in its duty if it did not set aside by Notice an area in every park where the citizens might freely meet and freely discuss.
Now that the right to speak at a selected site in the Green had been established, nobody wanted to do so. The new site – the Green itself- lay deserted once more. The new attraction was the Hunger March. The Green was forgotten. Everybody with daring and adventurous propensity and little else felt the urge to join the threadbare horde on the great trek to London. Aldred went against the stream in condemning this exploit. It was a ruse of the leaders to confirm their alleged leadership, and advance their careers. They were mis-leading the workers. To march to London was to acknowledge the authority of London. To stand and shiver in rags before the House of Commons, begging for work, was to accept and affirm their status as wage slaves. He wanted places to be set aside in the parks where the people could gather and discuss social problems and gather strength to defy their exploiters not, like the marchers, acknowledge them. But he was asking too much common sense from common people. Banner-waving and slogan-shouting were more glamorous, so free speech was forgotten, and the Hunger Marchers tramped their way into the mainstream of history, where their abjection is held in high regard.
NOTES
1. See Glasgow Public Parks (John Smith, 1894); by Duncan McLellan. (Mitchell Library).
2. Glasgow: Its Municipal Organisation and Administration Sir John Ball, University Publishers 1896. Woodside Library, Glasgow.
3. The Council ed. Guy A. Aldred. July/August, 1932.
4. Rennie, Marshall and Mclntyre were members of the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party.
5. Guy Aldred, Rose Witcop and Margaret Sanger addressed a crowd of two thousand on Birth Control in the Green in 1922.
6. The Worker Aug. 9 & 16 1924 and July 25 1925.
7. Minute of the Glasgow Corporation Sub-Committee on Parks, etc. 29th Oct. 1926.
8. Press reports, summarised in The Council July/August 1932.
9. No Mean Fighter by Harry McShane. Pluto Press 1978, p. 173.
10. Neither Fear Nor Favour John McGovern. Blandforth Press 1960, p. 73 & 75.
11. Glasgow Evening Times Jan. 18 1932. Guy Aldred’s press cutting books in Mitchell Library give wide coverage of the Glasgow Green campaign.
12. No Mean Fighter p. 175.
13. ibid, p. 176.
14. Glasgow Evening Times Jan. 18 1932.
15. No Mean Fighter p. 176.
16. Neither Fear Nor Favour p. 73.
17. ibid, p. 75.
18. No Mean Fighter p. 176.
19. ibid, p. 176.
20. Glasgow Evening Times Jan. 18 1932.
21. Aldred stated objections to relevancy and competency of Complaint in respect that 1) Species facti libelled do not amount to a contravention of the Acts and Bye-laws libelled. 2) Written authority of the Corporation or the Director of Parks ultra vires and do not conform to the Statute. 3) Bye-laws, and amended Bye-laws repugnant to the Laws of Scotland. 4)
A mended Bye-law not confirmed by the Sheriff of Lanarkshire. 5) Form of application and A tkms of permit ultra vires of the Corporation. 6) No Bye-law exists spec.fymg Tnd ion unde’r which persons may speak in Glasgow Green; and 7) Comp.amt mvo ved queens of civil right which cannot be disposed of in a Court of Summary Junsd.cUon. 22. Quoted from The Council July/August 1932.

From:
Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Prt.Clydeside Press

 

top

History

Recognizing achievements

History, in school, we are usually taught from the top down. Wars, Battles, Victories, Kings and Queens, charismatic leaders. The history of ordinary people tends to be rewritten to fit the established view or misinterpreted, sidelined, and sometimes ignored by the mainstream educational establishments. The study of history from the bottom up emphasizes the real and positive progressive changes in our culture and communities by the struggle of ordinary people not by the gift of governments and authorities. Workshops will highlight and illustrate history from this perspective

Changes

If we at the victories win by common people in preserving liberty and so forth, we find that they have been absorbed into the ‘established’ notion of the history of our culture and perhaps in some cases taken for granted as government led change. In most cases of socially progressive change, it is government that has bent to the will of the people and have had to be forced into making such changes, not the other way round as official accounts of history would suggest.

Noam Chomsky illustrates how in the 60s, dissent leading to social progress is absorbed into the mainstream official view or denied as relevant altogether.

It’s always going to tell you you failed.

“Partly it’s that there’s nothing in the official culture that’s ever going to tell you you succeeded. It’s always going to tell you you failed. The official view of the sixties is it’s a bunch of crazies running around burning down universities and making noise because they were hysterics or were afraid to go to Vietnam or something. That’s the official story. That’s what people hear. They may know in their lives and experience that that’s not what happened. But they don’t hear anybody say it, unless they’re in activist groups. That change is possible, that it has been won, is not the message that the system is pouring into you through television and radio and newspapers and books and histories and so on. It’s sort of beating into your head another story.

The other story is you failed, and you should have failed, because you were just a bunch of crazies. And it’s natural that the official culture should take that view. It does not want people to understand that you can make changes. That’s the last thing it wants people to understand. So, what the mainstream media conveys is that if there have been changes, it’s because we, the elites, are so great that we carried through the changes”.

 

Understanding Power Noam Chomsky

 

top