From an activist notebook

The term activist is a bit odd as it implies everybody else is inactive, which is far from the case. But for this we will imagine an activist as someone engaged in public life, in political life, is interested in things outside of the private. Should that not be everybody? Is there such a thing as inactivism? After all, to do nothing has as big an impact on things as whatever else happens.

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Today maybe more than ever. So what is meant by activist, or activism, here is a marker to describe those odd people, to varying extents, that have some kind of political obsession. I guess what is meant by politics here needs some clarification to. Politics, in this sense, is what we do together; by discussing things, coming up with ideas consensually, by inclusion and by keeping as many people happy as possible, before making final decisions and acting on them. Politics is the act of engaging in public life. This description for the purposes here, should not be confused with “party politics”, which is something completely different.

So what is activism here, in terms of what has being described above? Well specifically, activities towards implementing ideas that will force institutional change. The banking institutions; corporate institutions, state institutions and the powerful conglomerates, who for profit, ensure that many live in poverty. This is the high end of what needs to be achieved. If we can understand a bit about what is going on up there, we can understand what we need to do down here. This is the bit, apart from the obsessed, where peoples eyes start to glaze over. Attempting to explain to folk who are politically disengaged for many reasons, what is going on up there, in the corporate stratosphere . All they can see is the mad rush of their lives flashing past. All the things they need to do, or would rather think about, apart from, (to them) the abstract and intimidating world of the “activist”. What’s this got to do with me?  A question constantly posed and rarely answered.

The general problem with the activist, (self included) is that they usually know a lot more about what is going on up there, than they do about what is going on down here. This isn’t a criticism of the need for better understanding, more a question of context, more a question of what is needed at this point in time. The question is not only about getting folk away from the television, consumerism and private life into public life, into the community, but also about getting the activist away from academia, social media, esoteric groups, the protest culture and the constant defense of their own righteous position, into the same community. We all need to have things we enjoy doing and that interests us. The point is. If that is all that we are doing, no matter how important we feel it is, we also need to ask. Who, and what purpose is it serving?

“If you look over the developments in recent years, there’s been severe retrogression on economic and political issues, but considerable progress on cultural and social issues.” Noam Chomsky

In other words we are making much progress in cultural change and around social issues. There are a mass of wonderful things going on. But there are two things. Where is the infrastructure work growing out of this progress that will be powerful enough to challenge institutional power, i.e. the banks? Where is the work going on to engage the many ordinary folk we will need to raise to that challenge? In the world of the activist, we can usually fill rooms to listen to and watch how others, in other countries build and raise the kind of awareness and solidarity needed to challenge corporate power. Which is ok in itself. But in our own communities the same handful of folk will turn up when the problem is our own social housing, or such like, that is at stake. Sure there is commendable stuff going on on the ground and much to admire that we should be thankful for.  But it is enough to shift the might of the powerful? To hurt as Michael Albert says, what they hold dear? That will take a massive mind shift in the population, but will still have more to do with practicalities than philosophy. A bit less peer to peering on the network and a bit more education to where it is needed most. By us getting out more, by showing up, by being active, in all the right places.

The following offers some ideas for going forward. Yet again not much is mentioned of building grass roots networks that relate to peoples day to day lives. Maybe that could be part of a shared program?

People for a Shared Program
People for a Shared Program is a place to explore, develop and organise around left programmatic ideas.!faq/ryp9j

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.

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The importance of small things and the need to expand and further the movement for change in working class communities

If what started as a small group of people, with a vision of a free world had not been determined to change things – how many of us would still be chained in slavery? How many children would still suffer the abuse of forced labour?

From the time a man took it into his head to put some stakes in the ground, to section off the land in order to collect rent – there has been ever since, dissenting groups of people, large and small who have fought to denied the landlords right to do so. If the Luddites had not refused to become part of the industrial “human” machine – the eight hour day and the advancements in workers rights might not have happened.

If the collective effort of – the anti Vietnam war movement hadn’t inspired our young people to revolt; if the woman’s movement hadn’t learned from the history of suffrage. – if the whistle blowers of environmental destruction did not speak up 40 years ago on the effects on environmental damage, the world would be a more violent, unhealthy, unequal and socially oppressed place. Furthermore. If a certain Russian submarine commander had not refused the order to set of a nuclear warhead during the Cuban missile crisis, the “world” as we know it might not exist. Bertrand Russell reminds us of this last point, when we wonder how small things are capable of creating great change.

History is made up of what seems like insignificant action and activities that have changed the world. This knowledge is either not recorded in official translations of history, or most of the progress achieved by ordinary people is absorbed and credited to the “official” historical interpretation.

In a politically engaged life, sometimes, if not most of the time, we never get to know what we have personally achieved – but we need to remember that what we “do”, no matter how little, adds to the rich design of major changes that have happened through-out history. Small struggles working together create great change – They do not come about by having blind faith in political parties.

We have plenty of historical proof that this is the case.

Dawn raids in Kingsway
The story of how Jean Donnachie and Noreen Real took on the might of the Home Office and stopped dawn raids on their asylum seeker neighbours is part of our community history. Noreen Real and Jean Donnachie, who rallied the residents of the Kingsway high rise, into a direct action campaign which more or less put a stop to the government’s community terror tactics of dawn raids on asylum seekers in Glasgow.

Which echoes another part of working class history of the Clydeside rent strikes. Women-led. “We shall not be removed” (removal being the official home office term for deportation, as well as the slogan of the WW1 rent strikers)

Keeping sport in the community
An eight year long campaign to save the St. Augustine’s football pitches in Milton, Glasgow has finally triumphed, with a £2.4m investment in community facilities. That should mark an end to Council attempts to sell the entire site for private housing development, first halted by a public local planning inquiry.

Never say never
Kenny McLachlan, late chairperson of Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, who made council bosses agreed to re-open Maryhill’s Burgh Halls and Swimming Baths. All this comes after 20 years of closure, when council bosses swore the halls and baths would never be re-opened for ordinary people to use. Private property developers were poised to turn the buildings into yuppie flats. But the local peoples campaign triumphed.

Edinburgh stock transfer
A small core group of perhaps 15-20 people, supporting small but committed groups of tenants on the estates, managed to pull together a campaign which provided the information hidden by the council that tenants needed to make a balanced decision on the transfer. A well-organised campaign of direct democracy supporting council housing against privatisation.

Soot Campaign
The Save Our Old town campaign in Edinburgh has and is doing masses of work on protecting their housing and old town from developers. Creating community forums, events and awareness in common good issues and much more in educating and inspiring local people – as well as many other projects and people out-with their own city.

Common Good
As Glasgow parks come under constant pressure from business interests with city council backing – local people can still send them packing The attack on Glasgow Botanical Gardens, a plan that can only be construed as madness but an example to the extremes a city council backed by business will go to to commandeer public property – for the use of private profiteering.
The Go Ape mess in Pollock park was another arrogant attack on common good property. Both of these schemes were kicked out of the parks by community campaigns that are testimony to the power of ordinary folk against council bullies who refuse to work in the publics interests.

Community land ownership to the Isle of Rum.
All over, land and assets are being taken back by communities – not as a gift from authorities but by the determination of communities who demand to be in control of their environment and assets

Rossport 5
We had the Rossport 5 – Small family farms fighting big oil Interests In June 2005, after refusing Shell access to their property, Willie Corduff and four other men were jailed. Known as the “Rossport Five,” they were released after spending 94 days in jail. After much campaigning and protest – construction on the pipeline was halted. In August 2006 Shell agreed to re-route the pipeline…

All of these things (and this is only a tiny fraction) create a knock on effect to outlying communities and we all in some way benefit from these achievements. The importance of this kind of work is, it is connected and rooted in the communities involved. People can see it working – it encourages solidarity and determination – especially for some, who see everything else in life encouraging the opposite.

Schools campaign
The recent schools campaign against closures, saw parents who a month or two before the campaign would be saying. “Oh I don’t know anything about politics”. When their kids school was threatened with closure, they soon found out what they “did” know about politics. The way they were dealing with the media, doing research, constructing arguments, events and organisation, was testimony to why more “working class” people need to be involved in their own struggles. Yes the schools were closed but the seeds of determination was sown – and there are still plenty of issues left in places like the Wyndford, Maryhill, Glasgow – for locals to deal with.

Common Good
We have just heard that the Glasgow city council has admitted something we have all known for years – that “Pollok Park” is indeed part of Glasgow’s common good. It only took 2 years of campaigning by local people, up against the city councils powerful business Public Relations machine – but it is a very important victory and will encourage others to believe that the machine can be stopped by the will of the people.

Working class communities all across this city are baring the full brunt of the neoliberal gentrifying catastrophe. And as well as destroying their neighbourhoods – is kicking the hope out of folk. Creating solidarity and understanding in fighting these issues if we are to win anything big, is an imperative, in an increasingly atomised society.

In disconnected communities the displaced and poor are not hungry for more strategies, political analysis, party politics and sympathy – they need some practical solutions; contact, solidarity and maybe some help to organise themselves. The rest they can do for themselves. Well that’s what the history of successful working class struggle seems to be saying – if you look at it.

From the Spanish civil war to the US black civil rights movement – From the miners and dockers against the tyranny of Thatcher to the present neoliberal, colonisation of our cities there has never been a greater need to organise – because in the present struggle – we all have so much more to lose. But we need to remember even in the hay-day of the 60s the student revolt was inspired by the struggle of the working class’s.

The policies of isolation and the breaking down of organisational structures forced on working class communities, is what we are, or should be fighting today – and the common good should be our war cry – Because the common good is anathema to every destabilising, financial, and social issue, that is presented to working class people by the rentier society. – We will not frighten these people to much with identity politics – in a class struggle. We will only really begin to scare them – if we start to organise within the class war, that is raging around us, by creating solidarity, support, and a responsibility of association around some kind of “common goals” with working class people – Or at least shouldn’t we trying to encouraging such possibilities?

Bridge connecting communities everywhere.

Links – campaign quotes

Past articles archive

August 22nd


From August 22nd Upton Sinclair


“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


The Jungle

Upton Sinclair

There were the wool-pluckers, whose hands went to pieces even sooner than the hands of the pickle men; for the pelts of the sheep has to be painted with acid to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off. There were those who made the tins for the canned meat; and their hands, too, were a maze of cuts, and each cut represented a chance for blood poisoning. Some worked at the stamping machines, and it was seldom that one could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and forget himself, and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the ‘hoisters’, as they were called, whose task it was to press the lever which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter, peering down through the damp and the steam; and as old Durham’s architects had not built the killing room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every few feet they would have to stoop under a beam, say four feet above the one they ran on; which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few years they would be walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer-men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown to the visitor, for the odour of a fertilizer-man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards; and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting – sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard


ROBERT LYNN Not a Life Story, Just a Leaf From It


Not a Life Story, Just a Leaf From It

The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour: we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently… One day it will be realised that Socialism is not the invention of anything new but the discovery of something that was always present, of something that has grown.

Gustav Landauer

WHEN I WAS an apprentice engineer in Yarrow’s I was already reading Marx. At the time I started my apprenticeship I was very naive. The Catholic Church and State indoctrination had done their usual mischief. But industry freed me from all that and it didn’t take too long. Industry became my university. There was a good class-conscious and political education running alongside my engineering training. Whilst serving my time I had the good fortune to encounter some engineers and other grades of workers who were quite erudite. These people read important books and argued about what they read. There was always some social or political or philosophical controversy going on. Listening to these, and indeed taking part in them as far as I was able at the time, soon annihilated my shallow metaphysical religiosity. I began to question everything and examine things for myself and the scientific analysis of religion led on to the scientific analysis of the economic and political system. It was a logical step. If the first was a fraud, the other might be as well. I was introduced to a lot of literature on economics, mostly short popular works and pamphlets. I soon grew dissatisfied with these because they kept referring back and taking their authority from major works in the past. I decided to go in at the deep end and take on the major works for myself. That’s how I started reading Marx. It was a long hard slog but well worth it. I had to acquire a whole new vocabulary. But if you have to struggle a bit at the outset, things usually take better hold in the understanding. It’s better than just making do with other people’s commentaries and second-hand interpretations.
I was certainly drawn to Communism but not the Communist Party. There were many ex-Catholics in the CP at that time. I knew plenty of them. It was I suppose a kind of home from home for a lot of them. It had the same kind of rigid hierarchical structure after all, with a few people at the top doing all the thinking, making all the decisions and keeping all the control. I saw through that all right. Perhaps I should say I was drawn to Socialism. But the terms Communism and Socialism are really interchangeable. It was Lenin who falsely differentiated between them.
When Lenin was advocating State Capitalism in Russia he claimed that this was ‘Socialism’ which would, in time, with the development of production and technology, finally transform into ‘true red-blooded Communism’. This was just doubletalk. And if you became a member of the CP you went about parroting this doubletalk. This was what they called Party discipline. I suppose it was my resistance to this kind of discipline which kept me out of the CP. Probably at that time it was more a matter of temperament than anything else. But then came the Apprentices’ Strike, which the Communist Party opposed, and that was enough for me. This was during the last year of my apprenticeship, round about 1943-44. I was on the strike committee representing Yarrow’s apprentices. The strike was against the Bevin Ballot Scheme. Ernest Bevin was the minister of labour and social services. He’d made the blunder of sending too many miners into the armed forces. To remedy this he came up with the idea of suspending some lads’ apprenticeships so he could then conscript them into the coal mines. Patriotism fell on stony ground in this instance. The apprentices struck. It was the first major protest I was involved in and it was completely successful. In something like three weeks Bevin caved in. The Communist Party had opposed the strike because Russia was by that time into the war on the side of the allies. Their opposition alienated me and numerous other young people.
It was Eddie Shaw who introduced me to the Egoist philosophy of Max Stirner. The history of human progress seen as the history of rebellion and disobedience, with the individual debased by subservience to authority in its many forms and able to retain his/her dignity only through rebellion and disobedience. Eddie was a brilliant Anarchist orator who drew vast crowds to the meetings, whether indoors or in the open air. Another popular speaker was Jimmy Raeside. In the Central Halls and at various other venues throughout the city the Anarchist meetings were jam-packed. I might add that, during World War II and for several years thereafter, the Glasgow Anarchist Group was easily the most active and vociferous of all the Left groupings in this country. There were of course regional contacts with staunch comrades in other groups. We had platform speakers from Burnbank, Hamilton, Paisley, Edinburgh and Dundee. Over any single weekend there must have been a few thousand people attending Anarchist meetings. I first came across the Anarchists at an outdoor meeting in Brunswick Street, towards the end of my apprenticeship.
The group had about sixty active members at this time. Not everybody had an aptitude for platform speaking. One would feel like doing such and such but not another. One might write but be disinclined to speak in public but perhaps would do so on occasion. Naturally most members had a shot at everything. I remember, for example, old Tommy Layden (he was old relatively speaking within the group). Tommy loved to chalk the streets advertising the meetings; he took great pride in his print and nobody could do it better. He also tirelessly sold the literature. Old Tommy breathed Anarchism. He always remember the Commie and Trotskyite thugs who had often resorted to violence when they caught him chalking on his own. But he always spoke of them as if they were more to be pitied than despised. He was a refined, pleasant man and deserves to be remembered.
There were several shop stewards in the group. Eddie Fenwick was the convener in Hillington (you had to be in the union in a closed shop). Eddie, like most in the group, had a Syndicalist orientation. He was somewhat shy of the platform but more than made up for this on a personal man-to-man level in the workshop where he spread the Anarcho-Syndicalist case freely. We also had a lot of stewards in the heavy engineering and shipbuilding industries.
There was a small group in the Royal Ordinance Factory in Dalmuir who were most definitely Syndicalist in character. Although Jimmy Raeside and Frank Leech of the central Glasgow Anarchist Group spoke frequently at the Ordinance Factory gate, I’m certain this group had roots in Anarchism independent of this, for a lot of them were a good few years older than Leech and Raeside. I remember them coming to Brunswick Street to arrange for the production of a pamphlet called ‘Equity’. It was powerfully and indubitantly Syndicalist.
Charlie Baird was the secretary of the Glasgow Anarchist Group. We held business meetings in the hall in Wilson Street, ironically adjacent to the pub called ‘The Hangman’s Rest’. It was here, each week, the propaganda meetings were arranged, all on a voluntary basis. Some would elect to travel to Edinburgh or Paisley or Hamilton. Edinburgh meetings were held in the Mound. In Paisley the meetings were held in the Square at Gilmour Street railway station. Occasionally meetings were held on weekdays in Paisley, and also in Glasgow in Drury Street and Rose Street. Every week meetings were held outside work gates: outside Yarrow’s and Elderslie Dry Dock; outside John Brown’s shipyard; Blythswood shipyard; Dalmuir Ordinance Factory; Fairfield’s shipyard. Dennis McGlynn, a Clydebank comrade, was well accepted at John Brown’s, he being a local lad. Eddie Shaw was always well received at Yarrow’s.
Eddie resided in Bridgeton and there were many of Yarrow’s workers who came from Bridgeton, Gallon, Partick and Govan: they could understand and always delighted in Eddie’s brand of humour put over in the real speech of the Glasgow streets. This was Anarchism in the language they were best acquainted with and they loved it.


Jimmy Dick speaking at an anarchist meeting Brunswick Street 1945

Eddie was one of the ‘old School’ who never went to jail for opposing the war. He was apprehended for failing to attend for medical examination (medical assassination, Eddie called it) and when he was out on bail he consulted Guy Aldred who advised him that there was a difference between being ordered to report on a specified day and being ordered to report on a specified day at a specified time. No specified time had been stated. On the day Eddie had been ordered to report, the authorities, knowing their man, had jumped the gun. They had apprehended him whilst in theory he still had time to report. Eddie appealed at the High Court and incredibly his appeal was upheld. He was acquitted and awarded £10 expenses. In a matter of months the upper age-limit for conscription was lowered, so Eddie escaped his ‘medical assassination’. Jimmy Raeside, Charlie Baird, Roger Carr, Dennis McGlynn, Jimmy Dick and others had all been forced to accept the hospitality of the Crown in Barlinnie. It was no deterrent to them. And on their release their zeal for the cause was undiminished. The Anarchist hall in Wilson Street was a refuge for conscientious objectors and soldiers absent without leave who claimed to be Anarchist sympathisers. We didn’t care whether they were genuine sympathisers or not. They were working-class and trying to escape the war. That was enough. A key hung on a string from inside the letter box and anybody could get access any time by just inserting a hand and raising the key.
Four of us linked ourselves to the Glasgow Anarchist Group after the Apprentices’ Strike. A while later I joined a ship at Rothesay Dock in Yoker as an engineer.
When I got back home after that first voyage two of my old friends had drifted away but one was still with the group. That Bill Johnson. After a year or so he began to dabble more in trade union activities. He was becoming ambitious for a place in the trade union hierarchy. He is now and has been for some years Lord Provost of Clydebank. This is not any condemnation of Anarchism. It is a condemnation of Bill Johnson. Even people calling themselves Anarchists can be opportunists. You have to look at the man as well as the ‘ism’.
In a certain sense the Glasgow Anarchists of that period made a unique contribution to the broad Anarchist movement in Britain. Most of the comrades could accept the philosophy of Egoism and dovetail it into the Syndicalist tendency within the movement. For my part I was quite strong about this fusion. In fact I think I was a firmer adherent of this school than was Eddie Shaw although, as I say, initially Eddie was the teacher and I was the pupil. Many were admirers of Kropotkin as I was. Kropotkin did of course criticise the philosophy of Egoism. In spite of this, I do not think Kropotkin’s ‘Mutual Aid’ really contradicts Stirner’s argument. It is at least obvious to me that those who practice mutual aid are in fact the best egoists. This view is not a reconciliation; it is a fusion. Kropotkin is not I, and I am not Kropotkin. Stirner is not I nor am I Stirner. Both are dead: I subdue their arguments if they want to argue. I dominate my thought: I am not its slave. I am neither a Kropotkinite nor a Stirnerite nor any other ‘he’ or ‘ist’. This, in the main, was the healthy attitude of most of the Glasgow Anarchists of the period.
Guy Aldred was not exactly endeared to the Syndicalists, although many of the Wilson Street Anarchists, such as Rab Lyle from Burnbank, were frequent visitors to the Strickland Press and had a lot of time for Guy. Nevertheless the industrial expression of Anarchish was conspicuous by its absence in Guy’s paper ‘The Word’. Most of the content of The Word’ was anti-parliamentarian, anti-militarist and pacifist. Guy was an intellectual. His background was clerical and he had no real contact with, or profound knowledge of, the industrial workplace. He failed to recognise that those Syndicalists who worked during the war in industries producing war potential did not live in a social vacuum. What about farmers and land workers in general? They were also sucked into the war effort. Even Napoleon knew an army only marches on a full belly.
A strong Syndicalist movement could have taken over the fields, factories and workshops and all the means of communication, for the benefit of the mass of the people. That’s what we were about. The only place it was ever likely to happen was at the point of production. We were certain of that much. Then the horizontal war and the vertical war could have been ended. What do I mean? The horizontal war is war between different so-called nations. When this war ends, the vertical war continues: the war between the haves and the have-nots. Horizontal wars are only State-promoted diversions from the real war which is always vertical.
Guy had had long-standing problems, probably more to do with clashes of personality than anything else, with the Freedom Press group in London. During the war the Anarchist paper ‘Freedom’ changed its name to ‘War Commentary’. In 1945 four comrades from the editorial board were charged with sedition: attempting to cause disaffection within the armed services. It stemmed from an article in ‘War Commentary’ in which it was urged that the armed forces should retain their weapons after the war to assist in the revolutionary struggle – the vertical war. The Glasgow Anarchists organised protest meetings in defence of the four. We rented the Cosmo cinema and another – I think it was called the Grand – which was next door to the Locarno Ballroom. Both cinemas were packed to capacity.
Speakers came along from other organisations to lend their support. Oliver Brown from the Scottish Nationalists was there. Jimmy Raeside, representing the Glasgow Anarchists spoke in the Grand. Eddie Shaw was on the platform, or stage if you like, in the Cosmo. I remember Eddie making a joke about this. “The Commical Party” (the Communist Party), he quipped, “always said I should be a comedian on the stage: now they at least should be happy to see me up here.” The CP, needless to say, hated Eddie’s guts, he having humiliated them in debate too many times.
Sadly, Guy Aldred gave no support whatsoever. He was still unable to put aside his deep-rooted personal conflict with some members of the Freedom Press group. Well, everybody has shortcomings in the eyes of someone. Guy was no exception, great fighter for social justice though he was.
Three of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. The fourth, Italian-born Marie Louise Berneri, was discharged. She and one of her co-accused, Vernon Richards, had entered into a marriage of convenience to save her being interned as an alien. In the eyes of the law this made Vernon responsible for his wife’s conduct, and she was discharged on these grounds.
I would like to apologise to all comrades still living who were involved with the group at that period. I am conscious that I haven’t given the group its just reward either individually or collectively. I earnestly hope some truly honest working-class historian will one day render to posterity a greater insight into the important contribution made by the Glasgow Anarchists. There is no greater wealth than knowing the story of how some people sincerely endeavoured to demolish the insane asylum the State has penned us in. I leave this as a signpost only, indicating the road we took and some of the thoughts we had on the way.
Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Clydeside Press

Basic needs

Max Neef sets out a table of topics, that looks at Basic Human Needs, it makes a lot of sense and worth looking at. When you look through the list, apart from food and shelter, there is not a lot else we really need to keep ourselves happy. (That we are not capable of doing ourselves) Here there is no mention of billionaires; nuclear bombs, massive armies, celebrities, leaders, savours, television, cars, multiplexes, retail outlets, and the thousands of other distractions that blots out our ability to think normally, day in, day out.

What Neef is suggesting, is not that we all go back and live in caves – but for instance understanding the idea of pleasure, through, thought and awakening our own creative urge can reduces the belief in the myth, that we constantly need to find money to gain happiness. (which is the position most of us are trapped in) Lets face it – having a billion pounds in the bank is more to do with having power over others, than it is to do with happiness or needs. While having material things to some extent can bring happiness – but happiness is more to do with a chemical reaction in the brain that induces well-being and the same pleasure can be experienced whether you are a billionaire or you own nothing – Since a minuscule amount of us will be, or will have the opportunity to be even millionaires, why should we worry about it, or even care, or sit and watch endless TV programs about stuff and people that are not even near our lives?

Much of corporate business distraction is in place to stop people thinking about the idea that they can be happy through their own efforts. For instance – in a job that offers some creative challenge; a wage that meets the effort and sacrifice to make it – time after work spent in hobbies and activities rather than exhaustion and television – a rent or mortgage that doesn’t absorb most of what you earn – a place for your kids to play and places where teenagers can take-on and learn some of the responsibility of future adulthood – where they can grow and develop. This is far more achievable and I would argue more appealing to most people than the brain melt of television and the futility of the unattainable.

Manfred Max-Neef and his colleagues developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their “wealth’s” and “poverty’s” according to how their fundamental human needs are satisfied. As you can see below our needs are not that difficult to serve

Need Being (qualities) Having (things) Doing (actions) Interacting (settings)
subsistence physical and mental health food, shelter, work feed, clothe, rest, work living environment, social setting
protection care, adaptability, autonomy social security, health systems, work co-operate, plan, take care of, help social environment, dwelling
affection respect, sense of humour, generosity, sensuality friendships, family, relationships with nature share, take care of, make love, express emotions privacy, intimate spaces of togetherness
understanding critical capacity, curiosity, intuition literature, teachers, policies, educational analyse, study, meditate, investigate, schools, families, universities, communities,
participation receptiveness, dedication, sense of humour responsibilities, duties, work, rights cooperate, dissent, express opinions associations, parties, churches, neighbourhoods
leisure imagination, tranquility, spontaneity games, parties, peace of mind day-dream, remember, relax, have fun landscapes, intimate spaces, places to be alone
creation imagination, boldness, inventiveness, curiosity abilities, skills, work, techniques invent, build, design, work, compose, interpret spaces for expression, workshops, audiences
identity sense of belonging, self-esteem, consistency language, religions, work, customs, values, norms get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself places one belongs to, everyday settings
freedom autonomy, passion, self-esteem, open-mindedness equal rights dissent, choose, run risks, develop awareness anywhere


RUTHERGLEN DRAMA GROUP Caterpillar Talking Blues

Caterpillar Talking Blues
Eeni meeni miney mo your factory has gotta go paranoia in Peoria…
(Spoken to guitar accompaniment, roughly 16 bar blues in G.)
Well we’re sittin over here in Illinoya,
We got a real good story for ya,
We’re a multie national corporation,
Got factories in every nation.

All except one, and that’s in Scotland, and that’s in England.
At least ah thinks so.

See we looked at the economic factors
an we don’ need that many tractors
so we threw a dart an guess where it landed?
Sorry boys, your factory’s disbanded.

At least ah thinks so.
Sons of bitches are still in there.

Next time I looked at the situation,
them bastards had started an occupation,
just tryin to keep their jobs alive,
workin for nothin from nine to five.

Why that’s next to communism
At last ah thinks so

S’what ma granpappy tol me, and he should know
He was Polish.

They sure showed their Commie link,
they built this tractor and painted it pink.
They said it was a symbol, but that was just a front,
they gave the damn thing to War on Want.

Me, I gave at the office. Or was that Bob Geldof?
He’s a Russian too!
Geldoff, Smirnoff, Comiloff, Pissoff, Fuckoff,
It’s all the same thing.

This thing was becomin’ an awful drag
So we put an Ad in the local rag
Sayin’, “You better toe the line now sonny,
Or you won’t git no redundancy money –

An that would just break ma heart.”

YeeeeeeHaaaahhh! Round ’em on up
And move ’em on out!

They might think they got us beat,
but we’re OK in our hotel suite.
Wine and women and caviar,
unlimited drink at the hotel bar.

(Drunk) Sho occupy shhuh goddamm fact’ry
Who givshes a shit?

We offered them money but they wouldn’t take it.
Now c’mon boys, you ain’t gonna make it.
We got the power of international finance,
come on boys, you don’t have a chance.

Just what have you got?
You got backing from whole trade union movement,
the support of the whole nation,
international solidarity with workers in Belgium and Holland,
this song from the Rutherglen Centre for the Unemployed Writer’s Group
…………….Shee-it! Let’s get out of here, boys, the
Goddamm pinkos are takin over.

Well, we wrote this song cos it’s what we think.
Cos we like tractors that are painted pink.
There’s a whole lot more we could’ve said,
we might even have painted the tractor red.

With brown polka dots,
pink fluffy dice hangin on the window,
curtains, maybe a CB
Ten four Caterpillar good buddy.
Anything we want – after all, it’s our goddamn factory.

We had to add this here extra verse.
Things might be gettin better, might be gettin worse,
but I didn’t put no cash in a tin
so a hundred guys could get back in.

All or nothin.
That’s what you said in the speeches.
So Uddingston or Illinois, what’s it gonna be?

(Sung) What’s it gonna be?

Written by the Rutherglen Centre for the Unemployed Writers’ Group, March 1987, last verse Mayday 1987, when offers where accepted for the factory by a consortium.

Mary Friel, Eric Brennan, Gerry Murphy, Aileen Andrew, Peter Arnott, Alan Morrison.

Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Clydeside Press