Accuser of capitalism 1. Introduction

ACCUSER OF CAPITALISM. John Maclean’s speech from the dock, 9 May, 1918. Edited, with an Introduction and a new Afterword, by TERRY BROTHERSTONE[1]

1. Introduction – 2. the speech from the dock3. Afterword

Download Accuser of Capitalism as a PDF

On 9 May, 1918, John Maclean, former schoolteacher, and, since the previous January, consul at Glasgow to the revolutionary socialist regime in Russia, was brought to trial at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.[2] He was charged – under the Defence of the Realm Regulations – with having, on eleven occasions between 20 January and 4 April, 1918, addressed audiences in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Fife, consisting in part of munitions workers, in terms likely to prejudice recruitment to His Majesty’s armed forces and to cause mutiny, sedition and disaffection among the civilian population, thereby impeding the production, transport and repair of materials necessary for the prosecution of the war. Maclean chose to conduct his own case, and he refused to recognise the authority of the court by pleading either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. The Lord Justice General, Lord Strathclyde, instructed that a plea of ‘not guilty’ be entered. Informed of his right to object to any of the men selected by ballot to serve on the jury, Maclean raised a laugh when he replied: ‘I object to the whole of them.’[3]

The statements alleged to have been made by Maclean included: ‘that the Clyde district had helped to win the Russian revolution’; that ‘the revolutionary spirit on the Clyde was at present ten times as strong as it was two years ago’; that ‘the workers on the Clyde should take control of the City Chambers and retain hostages, and take control of the Post Offices and the banks’; that ‘the present House of Commons should be superseded by a soviet, and that he did not care whether they met in the usual place or in Buckingham Palace’; and that ‘the workers in the munition works should be advised to restrict their output’. He was also alleged to have suggested that the offices of the Glasgow Herald and other newspapers, and food stores, should be seized; and to have stated that he was prepared to run any risk if he could bring about a social revolution in Glasgow.

There were 28 prosecution witnesses, mainly policemen, special constables and shorthand writers employed by the police. Prosecuting counsel, led by Lord Advocate Clyde, took them through their evidence seeking to establish that the statements alleged had been made by Maclean, that the witnesses had either made notes at the time or soon afterwards, and that the meetings had been attended mainly by working people.

Maclean’s principal ‘defence’ was to be an hour and a quarter-long speech, delivered from the dock; but in brief cross-examinations, he sought to query the credibility of some witness’s memories on points of detail, and, especially, to establish that – where the remarks alleged had indeed been made – they had been in the context of a Marxist political analysis of capitalism and the war. For such an analysis, and for fighting for the principles on which it depended, he had no apology to make.

For example, Maclean cross-examined one witness, a businessman, on the issue of the restriction of output (go-slow, or, in the Scots term, ‘ca’canny’). He was to deal with this at some length in his speech, but sought here to establish the context in which his remarks had been made. He had quoted the works magazine of the engineering firm Beardmore’s to the effect that production had been increased three times, and had stated that wages had not increased by anything like as much. The witness agreed. So, said Maclean, his point had been ‘that the workers were being robbed the same as before the war’, and that they ‘would have to take steps to prevent this robbery’. ‘I remember you used the word “robbery”,’ said the witness. ‘And quite frequently too!’ rejoined Maclean.

A detective-sergeant gave evidence concerning a meeting in the Shettleston district of Glasgow, at which, he said, there were over a thousand present, including many munitions workers. He reported that the accused had called for an immediate peace,

Maclean family photo

John Maclean with his wife Agnes and daughter Nan. Photo from the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement web site

but ‘one with a revolution in it’. He had claimed that the Government’s only way of taming the workers was to starve them, and that, in the event of revolution, no one would starve as there was ‘plenty of food in Glasgow’. Maclean, said the officer, had contrasted ‘Russian freedom’ with ‘British slavery’; and recommended that the police should be put in the jails. Asked about the conduct of the doctors who had dealt with him in prison, Maclean had allegedly said that he wanted to take his own revenge on those ‘dirty devils’.

At a meeting of about five hundred in Cambuslang, a police witness with shorthand testified, Maclean had said that the ‘capitalist class don’t care how many women and children are destroyed as long as they belong to the working class’; and that women were dying of cold outside food shops, ‘not killed by Germans, but by your British government’. The USA, in entering the war, the accused had claimed, were out only for their own interests. The workers should force the government to join peace talks at Brest Litovsk or down tools if they refused. They should ‘profit by the experience of their Russian comrades.’ They should capture the City Chambers, the General Post Office, the police stations and cargo ships in the Clyde, and take over the food stores.[4]

A Fife police superintendent was forced to acknowledge that his evidence was based not on his own notes but on those of a press reporter, supplied to him after a meeting Maclean had addressed in the mining village of Bowhill. The accused took the superintendent through parts of the speech that had not appeared in the evidence he had given. ‘I spent a good deal of time on the economic question and the government’s issuing of paper money, and the government making it difficult for people to live?’ ‘Yes, you did,’ agreed the superintendent. ‘This is what I want to get at’, insisted Maclean. ‘You take wee bits out of my speeches here and there.’ He went on to point out that he had argued that women and children in Fife were starving as a result of government policy, and that the main drift of the speech had been ‘to expose the trickery of the British government and the police and the lawyers and so on.’ The whole thing was designed to deploy this argument. ‘The consequence of any man’s speech is always based on what goes before, but what has been read out [in court] comes at the tail end, at the fourteenth page of those sixteen pages.’

‘Do you think it is a correct report of what I said at Harthill’, Maclean asked a witness to a meeting in Lanarkshire, ‘to say that I talked about bringing about a social revolution in Glasgow?’ The witness, a shorthand writer, insisted it was. ‘It seems to be a very bad slip,’ insisted Maclean, ‘because a social revolution cannot be brought about in a city. It is either a slip on your part or a slip on my part.’ The witness qualified his evidence.  ‘You spoke about seizing the Municipal Buildings in Glasgow, and it seems to me that you meant that the revolution would have its beginning in Glasgow.’ ‘There is a difference’, concluded Maclean, ‘between a social revolution in Glasgow and beginning a social revolution in Glasgow’ (editorial emphasis).

Maclean also sought to establish the proper context for alleged comments on the necessity of violent revolution. A mining inspector, who acknowledged that he had attended a meeting of Maclean’s as a ‘spy’ for the Fife Coal Company, was asked: ‘You are not aware that the land in the past has been violently seized from the people by force?’ He replied that he might not approve of that, but the question at stake was one of method. Maclean had been asked at the meeting: ‘Could we get these things by peaceful action?’ He had replied: ‘I am here to develop a revolution’. ‘Do you infer that a revolution means violence?’ asked Maclean. ‘You could not put any other construction on your words after you had said that revolution here was to be on the same lines as in Russia’, replied the Coal Company’s employee. ‘I understand that the Russian revolution was a violent revolution.’ Maclean was to take up this theme later, but remarked here that the Bolshevik revolution ‘is the most peaceful revolution the world has ever seen, and it is the biggest.’ The capitalist war that had been killing millions since August 1914, on the other hand, ‘was the most bloody that has ever taken place’.[5]

Re-examining the witness, junior counsel for the prosecution extracted from him the information that Maclean had called for the formation of miners’ committees on the model of the soviets in Russia. The mining inspector was sure that this was liable to ‘unsettle’ the audience, the youth in particular, who might have got ‘carried away’. But he later agreed with Maclean that Fife was a ‘canny place’, which would need a lot of ‘working up’ for revolution. He did not think very much harm had been done.

The authorities, however, had decided at the highest level to act against Maclean. His case had been discussed by the war cabinet on 12 March, 1918, and the Secretary for Scotland, Robert Munro, had reported that he and Lord Advocate Clyde had been reluctant to prosecute Maclean, preferring to regard him as ‘more or less a lunatic’.[6] Yet Munro’s further remarks, and a background paper he circulated to the cabinet, make it clear that, despite this, he did think Maclean had to be taken seriously.

Maclean was already on a ‘ticket-of-leave’, having been conditionally released from the last year-and-a-half of a three-year sentence imposed in 1916, when the government’s actions against the shop stewards’ movement, co-ordinated by the shop stewards’ Clyde Workers’ Committee, were at their height.[7] His release had been agreed following a wide campaign in his support, fuelled in part by reports of his mounting ill-health, induced by Scottish prison conditions, which one former prisoner compared unfavourably to those in Tsarist Russia.[8] Munro acknowledged that a further spell in prison would make Maclean ill and would lead to a campaign for his release. He sought cabinet approval ‘as political considerations might be involved’.

The Commander-in-Chief, Scottish Command, Lieutenant General Sir Spencer Ewart, had no hesitations proposing action, not only against Maclean, but against his colleagues James McDougall and Lewis Shammes as well.[9] The Liberal President of the Board of Education, the historian H.A.L. Fisher, chimed in to warn that he had heard of dangerous connections between ‘the more extreme leaders in Glasgow and similar labour leaders at St Etienne’ in France. The cabinet authorised the Scottish ministers to proceed as they saw fit.

Munro’s report to the cabinet had been based on a lengthy memorandum by Clyde, the man who was to confront Maclean in the courtroom two months later. In May, he was to address to the jury the argument that Maclean had passed over the line at which ‘discussion of social questions’ turned into ‘the deliberate and persistent attempt . . . to plant the seeds of disunion, disaffection, sedition and mutiny among our people.’[10] He concluded:

If they were going to turn society upside down by means of a general refusal to work, if they were going to turn society upside down by violent efforts devoted to the ruin of the existing structure instead of its repair … there faced them at once in this country the same catastrophe – the same betrayal – as overtook Russia. They must protect themselves against that kind of thing.[11]

Clyde’s confidential report in March had claimed that a ‘small but active group of extreme revolutionary socialists’ had been actively intervening in industrial unrest associated with war-time conditions since 1915. The temporary ‘deportation’ of a group of leading shop stewards from the Glasgow area in 1916, and the imprisonment of John Maclean and others, had not ended the problem. Lieutenant-General Ewart had expressed the view that Maclean was ‘a man of considerable influence among the malcontent population of Glasgow’, that he had ‘an influence in the mining districts of Lanarkshire and Fifeshire’, and, he believed, was also ‘well-known in England.’

Maclean with school class

John Maclean with one of his school classes, before the first world war. Photo from the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement web site.

Clyde judged that, at times of working-class unrest, and particularly during the engineers’ agitation for a wage increase of twelve-and-a-half per cent and the opposition to the Man Power Bill in 1917, the speeches of the ‘extremist’ group ‘appeared to me worthy of consideration with a view to prosecution under the Defence of the Realm Regulations’.[12]

The hostile reception accorded Auckland Geddes, Minister for National Service, when he visited Glasgow increased the need for action, indicated Clyde, but also made the choosing of the right moment and selecting the right target for a successful prosecution all the more vital. A threatened food shortage promised fertile ground for the revolutionaries to increase their influence.[13] What singled out Maclean from the others was his appointment as Soviet consul in Glasgow, but this also raised the question of proceeding against him to a matter involving Government policy towards the Bolshevik regime. However (writing on 5 March, 1918), Clyde felt the moment had now arrived since his estimation of ‘public opinion’ on Clydeside was that it was then ‘in a sense generally adverse to the agitation recently conducted by the group, and the agitation itself has for the time being died down’.

When it came to the trial itself, following the evidence and examination of the witnesses, and an account by a senior Glasgow detective of how he had arrested Maclean at the office from which he had been operating as Soviet consul, Clyde had his opportunity to make publicly the case for the prosecution. No one, he stated, could ‘see into the dark recesses of the human heart.’ They could not know Maclean’s motives – the motives that could ‘tempt a man at home to destroy the liberty and freedom which were being defended abroad’. All the more reason, declared the Lord Advocate, to judge the man ‘by what he did’.

What the prisoner has done his best to do is to create sedition and disaffection amongst the civilian population. [In this situation] it becomes the duty of the state to protect … brave young working men from such insidious teaching, although, for myself, I do not believe influences of his kind are likely to smirch the honesty and integrity of our young men.[14]

The court, said Clyde:

had heard … a good many references to socialism, social revolution and the like. However appropriate these subjects might be to the moment, there is nothing in this country, or in the law – even as that law has had to be framed to meet the emergency with which we are faced – to prevent any man … talking about politics or about socialism. If the prisoner had been content to expound what he knew, or what he thought he knew, about socialistic theories, if he had been content to try to persuade other people of the soundness and expediency of the plans of socialistic reconstruction in which he believes, nobody could have laid a finger on him. But there comes a point at which discussion of socialistic questions, or discussion of any question, changes its character. At that point [comes] the deliberate and persistent attempt to plant seeds of disunion, disloyalty, sedition among the people. [We can not] afford, at the present time, to have the people incited to active … rebellion, while the enemy is at our gates.

The case against the accused, claimed the Lord Advocate – fully confident of that the middle-class Edinburgh jurymen would regard his remarks as obvious common sense – was proved.[15]

Maclean, for his part, was content to take the Lord Advocate’s assertion of the ruling-class view of the war as his starting-point, his opportunity to act as spokesperson for the interests of the working class. He shared with his opponent the view that his special role – having been appointed a representative of the Bolshevik revolution – was as both a real and a symbolic link with the new government in Russia with its aspirations to act as the focus for the revival of international socialism. When, after the war finally ground to a halt some months later, the Bolsheviks issued their call for the founding congress of a Communist International (the Third International), Maclean was indeed the only activist in Britain to be invited by name.

Why republish John Maclean’s speech from the dock today? I return briefly to that question in an Afterword below. Suffice it to say here that it takes us back to a period when the labour movement produced men and women who stood firm for working-class principles and who were prepared to sacrifice themselves in the belief that leadership by example had a vital role to play in creating mass revolutionary consciousness. Nearly a century of betrayed hopes lies between Maclean’s trial and the cynicism, or plain ignorance, with which labour leaders – and many ‘revisionist’ historians – treat his speech from the dock today. It fits ill with the historically absurd attempts of the former Education Secretary Michael Gove, and those who take him seriously, to portray World War I as a glorious national struggle for European freedom and democracy, subverted in the minds of modern youth only by over-studied and over-sensitive poets and by the ideologically suspect entertainers of the morally corrupted 1960s who gave us the musical play, Oh What a Lovely War, and those who later brought  Blackadder to our TV screens.[16]

The afternoon before Maclean’s trial, some fifty supporters set out from Glasgow to walk forty miles through the night to give him support. About thirty arrived in Edinburgh, having been bussed the last few miles. Only those who went straight to the court gained admittance. So high was demand, in the main from workers, that a queuing system was introduced – for the first time, one report claimed, in the court’s history. A newspaper photograph shows a long line of flat-capped men with a group of women dressed to the nines for the occasion at its head. A substantial crowd gathered in the square outside throughout the day.[17] Treated as mad, contemptible or just irrelevant by the political and intellectual Establishment, Maclean’s name – and his speech on 9 May, 1918 – were to be become part of a socialist history remembered in storytelling and pamphleteering – and, thanks to a handful of left-wing historians, never entirely excluded from Scottish history once it became a subject of serious scholarly study in the 1960s.[18] Glasgow students, when they made their contribution to the international university occupation movement that followed the Paris ‘events’ of 1968 by taking possession of their institution’s Adam Smith Building in the early 1970s, renamed it after John Maclean. The efforts of Maclean’s indefatigable daughter, Nan Milton, resulted in the erection of a memorial cairn in Pollokshaws in 1973, and a Glasgow Civic Reception in honour of the centenary of his birth in 1979. The Lanarkshire branch of the teachers’ union, the Educational Institute of Scotland sponsored a series of John Maclean lectures in the late 1980s. For many years a John Maclean Society held commemorative marches to his grave on the south side of Glasgow.

Today of course much more is needed. A working-class ‘commemoration’ of World War I simply counterposed against the orgy of the partisan establishment celebrations – that will be hard to avoid between 4 August, 2014 and 11 November, 2018 – might be instructive, but would miss the main point. There are few intellectual tasks more politically urgent than to rethink radically the history of the period that began when war was declared in August 1914 and the social-democratic Second International, in the main, abandoned its declared anti-war principles (proclaimed at its 1907 and 1912 congresses), and voted, in country after country, for war credits – in the name of l’union sacrée or national unity. It was Maclean’s stand against that betrayal that brought him to the attention of Lenin, who followed as best he could the degree of support the Clydesider’s revolutionary anti-war message was attracting in the working class.[19] It is that stand that makes him one of those whose political actions should be remembered, not in a spirit of hero-worship, but as a spur to the rethinking that is needed about the significance of the world historical crisis, threatening the very survival of human society, that began in 1914 and entered a new – far more dangerous – stage in the last three decades of the last century.

When Maclean had finished his speech from the dock, the jury did not bother to retire to consider its verdict but pronounced him ‘guilty’ on the spot. ‘I think I have said enough for one day’, Maclean told Lord Strathclyde when asked if he had anything to say about the verdict. The judge called him ‘a highly educated and intelligent man’ who knew very well what he was doing, and sentenced him to five years penal servitude, of which, in the event, he was to serve only a few months. Turning to the public gallery, Maclean said firmly, ‘Keep it going, boys, keep it going!’

Maclean belonged to a definite generation, a generation of international socialists, and was himself an international figure. It was a generation that produced, amongst many others, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, James Connolly and James Larkin, Eugene Debs and Daniel de Leon, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. It was a generation that faced – for the first time in history as a practical responsibility – the task of attempting to make the world socialist revolution. Consciousness of this responsibility, and of at least some of the problems and contradictions that it would involve, runs through Maclean’s speech from the dock. His voice deserves to be heard afresh as the centenary of his trial approaches and reactionary politicians try to force their one-sided, ideologically motivated interpretations of World War I into the minds of a generation deprived, as Paul Mason had recently argued, of the countervailing ideas about the realities of modern and contemporary history that used to be passed on, not so much in schoolroom or in the mainstream media, but rather by grandparents in working-class communities – communities that have now been largely destroyed.[20]



John Maclean

Defendant and ‘accuser of capitalism’. Marxist and revolutionary internationalist. Born in Pollokshaws, now part of Glasgow on August 24, 1879, of parents evicted from the Scottish Highlands during the ‘clearances’. Second youngest of seven children, three of whom died in infancy. Father died when he was aged eight. Appointed a pupil-teacher, 1896. Graduated from the Free Church Teachers Training College, 1900. Graduated MA in Political Economy from Glasgow University in 1904. Joined Social Democratic Federation (SDF), probably in 1903 and the Glasgow Teachers’ Socialist Society in 1905. Had by then rejected his Calvinistic upbringing and thought of himself as a secularist, then as an atheist, before becoming a convinced Marxist. Later described Robert Blatchford’s popular Merrie England (first published as articles in The Clarion newspaper and available from 1894 as a penny pamphlet) as his ‘primary school’ of socialism, and Marx’s Capital as his ‘university’. Opposed the sectarianism and jingoism of the SDF leadership, advocating affiliation to the Labour Party and internationalist opposition to war and colonialism. Active in the co-operative movement. Became famous for his public classes in Marxist economics, building some of them up to attendances of several hundred. An active propagandist in support of a number of industrial struggles on Clydeside, in Fife, Belfast and elsewhere prior to World War I. Led the internationalist wing of the British Socialist Party (formerly the SDF) when war was declared in August 1914. ‘Our chief business’, he wrote, in an echo of Karl Liebknecht’s ‘the chief enemy is at home’, ‘is to hate British capitalism’ (Justice, September 1914). Active in the foundation of the Scottish Labour College, 1916. Arrested for anti-war activity, September 1915 (fined £5 but chose to serve five days imprisonment). Subsequently dismissed by Govan School Board despite widespread protests. Attended and supported the Clyde Workers’ Committee (CWC) of shop stewards but later broke with it over its refusal to clarify its political stand on the war. Participated in the rent strike demonstrations of late 1915, which led to the historic Rent Restrictions Act – the first major government intervention in the free market in housing. Re-arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) during the government’s moves to break up the CWC early in 1916 and sentenced to three years’ penal servitude in April. Released in June 1917, during the period of mass demonstrations following the February revolution in Russia. Appointed an honorary president of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, along with figures such as Karl Liebknecht, following the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917. Made Russian consul in Glasgow in January 1918, but the consulate was never acknowledged by the authorities and closed following Maclean’s arrest in April.

James Avon Clyde

Leading counsel for the prosecution. Born 1863 (died 1944). Son of a schoolmaster. Tory. Solicitor General for Scotland, 1905. Lord Advocate (leading government law officer in Scotland) from 1916 to 1920. During 1918 much involved in representing the British South Africa Company in its claim before the Privy Council to unalienated land in what was then Southern Rhodesia. MP for Edinburgh West (later North) from 1909 to 1920. Was to succeed Lord Strathclyde as Lord Justice General (Scotland’s most senior judge) in 1920. A keen fisherman, sketcher and rose grower.[21]

Lord Strathclyde

Presiding judge. Born Alexander Ure, 1853 (died 1928), son of a Helensburgh merchant and former Lord Provost of Glasgow. Gladstonian (and later Lloyd George) Liberal. MP for Linlithgowshire, 1895-1913. Solicitor General for Scotland, 1905-09. Lord Advocate, 1909-13. Leading prosecutor in the notorious Oscar Slater trial (1909), in which a German Jew was almost certainly framed by the Glasgow police for the murder of an elderly spinster, Marion Gilchrist. The case aroused widespread protests, not least in the Glasgow labour movement, but Slater’s conviction was not quashed until 1928. Ure became Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session (Scotland’s senior judge) in 1913; and was created Baron Strathclyde of Sandyford in 1914. A fellow lawyer wrote: ‘Undoubtedly Ure was better as an advocate than as a judge, though in neither capacity was he learned in the technical sense.’[22]


Ironically affectionate nickname for the Defence of the Realm Act, with its attendant Defence of the Realm Regulations, under which Maclean was charged both in 1916 and 1918. Originally passed, August 8, 1914, giving the government substantial – and, as subsequently amended, increasingly draconian – powers to direct society during the war.

Continue reading here

1. Introduction – 2. Maclean’s speech from the dock3. Afterword

Download Accuser of Capitalism as a PDF


[1] Terry Brotherstone is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, where he taught history for many years, and a former president of the University and College Union Scotland. This Introduction, and the notes, were first published in a pamphlet in 1986 (Accuser of Capitalism: John Maclean’s speech from the dock (London, 1986)), of which this is a revised and updated edition.

[2] The account of the trial is largely taken from the pamphlet Condemned From The Dock (Clyde Workers’ Propaganda Defence Committee, Glasgow, 1918), which contains what is apparently a near-verbatim account of Maclean’s speech. This has been supplemented with reports from The Scotsman, The Glasgow Herald and The Bulletin (a heavily pictorial Glasgow daily, which would be a tabloid today), Friday 10 May, 1918; and the radical Glasgow-based weekly, Forward, Saturday 18 May, 1918. No official court record survives.

[3] Glasgow Herald, 10 May, 1918.

[4] These comments are most fully reported in The Scotsman, 10 May, 1918.

[5] Deaths during and immediately after the October revolution were relatively small in number. The large numbers of casualties came later in the civil war of 1918-20. Estimates of deaths in, or as a result of action in, World War I vary, but they were in excess of ten million.

[6] National Archives (NA), Kew: CAB 23/5 – WC/363(14) (12 March, 1918)

[7] The Clyde Workers’ Committee (CWC), led by shop stewards from the principal Glasgow munitions factories, notably William Gallacher, David Kirkwood, Arthur Macmanus, John Muir and Jim Messer, was formed in 1915. It played a key role in what has been called the first shop stewards’ movement. Its first period of activity ended in the spring of 1916 when it was broken up by the government as part of its campaign to enforce the ‘dilution’ of labour (that is, the replacement of skilled men by semi-skilled, and by women, in the munitions factories). See James Hinton, The First Shop Stewards’ Movement (London, 1973).

[8] This was the view of the Russian revolutionary (later Stalin’s envoy in China during the revolutionary years 1925-27) Michael Borodin: see Walter Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-1921 (London, 1969), p. 360, note 136. Peter Petroff (1884-1947), an émigré member of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party, and a close friend of Maclean’s expressed similar views. Maclean later revealed that Petroff – who had returned to Russia after the revolution and was, Maclean insisted, the only person in Moscow who had any real knowledge of the revolutionary movement in Britain – may have been responsible for his appointment as Soviet consul in Glasgow in 1918. His autobiography has recently come to light and is the subject of an article by Kevin Morgan, ‘In and Out of the Swamp: the unpublished autobiography of Peter Petroff’, Scottish Labour History, no. 48 (2013). See too Ted Crawford’s usefully circumspect note, ‘Peter Petroff (c. 1884-12 June 1947), written in 2011 and accessible on the Marxist Internet Archive.

[9] James D. MacDougall (1891-1963) was the son of a former provost (mayor) of Pollokshaws and a close follower of Maclean. He was secretary of the Pollokshaws branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) when it was set up by Maclean in 1906. He was dismissed by Clydesdale Bank because of his outspoken socialist views, causing the Falkirk branch of the Ironmoulders’ Union to withdraw its funds in protest. He remained an active socialist campaigner and educator alongside Maclean, and was imprisoned for anti-war speeches in 1916. He later worked, and was politically active, in the Lanarkshire coalfield. After Maclean’s death, he Communist Party and later moved to the right politically. See William Knox (ed.), Scottish Labour Leaders, 1918-1939 (Edinburgh, 1984), pp. 170-175. Lewis Shammes was a Russian refugee from tsarism who worked with Maclean at the Glasgow consulate and was later deported by the British authorities.

[10] For Clyde’s report to the Cabinet, see NA: CAB 24/44 – G.T. 3838 (March 1918). More than a century earlier, in the 1790s, when the radical supporter of the French Revolution, Thomas Muir, was tried in the Scottish courts, the judge, Lord Braxfield, famously informed him that his crime was not to have been in possession of Tom Paine’s Rights of Man, which many men of learning had on their shelves, but rather that he had gone amongst the common people spreading its ideas.

[11] Glasgow Herald, May 10, 1918.

[12] NA: CAB 24/44 — G.T. 3838 (March, 1918).

[13] Auckland Geddes (1879-1954), Director of Recruiting for the War Office (1916-17) and Minister of National Service (1917-19) got short shrift at a meeting with shop stewards about his measures to release additional manpower for the forces in Glasgow on 28 January, 1918. Late in 1916 and early in 1917 the government was attempting to increase the availability of military manpower by extending the dilution of labour from government-controlled factories to those privately run. The executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE), heavily compromised by its collaboration with the government’s wartime measures, was forced to oppose this. The measure was dropped when widespread engineering strikes took place in May 1917, which led to a series of government measures designed to quell unrest and diminish the influence of militants and revolutionaries. These included a bonus of twelve-and-a-half per cent to some skilled men which, however, served to promote unrest amongst other workers. On 3 December, 1917, Geddes warned the cabinet that the country was nearing breaking point’ in the effort to meet the critical shortage of manpower. In January 1918, he pushed a Manpower bill through parliament, giving him power to cancel the two months’ grace previously granted to workers in formerly protected occupations, who had had their ‘exemption certificates’ withdrawn to enable them to be called up. When Geddes was convinced the ASE had so antagonised other unions that it would be isolated in any action it called for, he has passed a second, much stronger, Manpower Act in April 1918.

[14] The Glasgow Herald report of this peroration has been slightly amended to make it in to direct speech.

[15] The fullest account of Clyde’s address to the jury is in The Scotsman.

[16] For Gove’s crassly ‘patriotic’ outburst against left-wing subversion of the just cause that he believes World War I to have been, see, in the first instance, The Daily Mail, 2 January, 2014. The revival of Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War, at its original home, the Theatre Royal, Stratford East (London) in 2014, raised one of its biggest laughs with an unflattering reference to Gove.

[17] The Bulletin, 10 May, 1918; Forward, 18 May, 1914.

[18] See Afterword below.

[19] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works (Moscow, 1960), XXVI, p. 74; Jane Degras (ed.), The Communist International 1919-43: Documents (London, 1956), I, p. 4. Lenin referred to Maclean many times during the war, as evidenced elsewhere in his Collected Works.

[20] Paul Mason, Live Working or Die Fighting: how the working class went global (London, 2007). For a comment on the significance of this book, see Terry Brotherstone, ‘Labour History Resurgent’, Variant (Glasgow), issue 33 (winter 2008).

[21] Who Was Who, IV: 1941-1950 (London, 6th ed., 2012), p. 226.

[22] Dictionary of National Biography: twentieth century, 1922-30 (Oxford, 1937), p. 866.

One Response to Accuser of capitalism 1. Introduction

  1. […] dock has also been published online, with introduction and afterword by Terry Brotherstone, on the People and Nature […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: