J’accuse(1) John Maclean
(Note. If you skip Maclean’s letters, and Messages it really is not that long a blog)
The conscientious objectors of the First World War were a mixed bunch. Some were undoubtedly cowards. Some hid behind their religious believes, refusing to fight for a nation that protected their beliefs. Some like a soldier I know only as Jamie from the 11th Battalion Royal Scots were incredibly brave, Jamie according to one Lieutenant used to go over the top with his rifle unloaded and his bayonet sheathed. Jamie’s faith told him it was wrong to kill, and he had no intention of killing anyone(2). Other conscientious objectors were fighting different wars. This blog is about one of the greatest of them all, John Maclean. John was born in Pollokshaws on the outskirts of Glasgow on the 24 August 1879. His parents had been evicted during the clearances(3). He grew up in a Calvinist household his father and mother were in the Free Church. With this as his family background John was able, under the patronage of the Free Church, to study part time for a Masters of Arts at Glasgow University. Upon graduating in 1904 he became a school teacher.(4) John was active in the early socialist movements and in the Renfrewshire cooperative movement. A promising orator he gave addresses at the gates of Clydeside shipyards and also persuaded the co operative movement to provide classes for adults in Economics. Later he pushed for the establishment of a Scottish Labour College. By August 1914 John had become a leading anti-war activist. The first anti war demonstration in Glasgow, was held on Glasgow Green on the 9th August 1914. John’s activates were soon being watched by the police. A short while later he wrote The War and Its Outcome(5), published in the Justice. magazine on 17 September 1914.
“Dear Comrade, — In last week’s “Justice” E. Belfort Bax exhorts us to “hate the present Prussian military and bureaucratic State-system.” Our first business is to hate the British capitalist system that, with “business as usual,” means the continued robbery of the workers. After that I, for one, will transfer the larger portion of my hate to Russian soil against the devilish autocracy that prevents the peaceful development of the workers’ organisations by organised murder, torture, and scientific cruelty with a regularity and on a scale that would make the Kaiser with all his evils intensified a thousand-fold blush with shame.
So far as I can see, it will be impossible to tell whether Russia or Germany is immediately responsible for the war. Some attribute the death of the Austrian Archduke to the usual underground, dirty work of the minions of the Tsar playing upon Servians embittered by the Austrian attempt to seize land right down to Salonica during the Balkan Butchery. This Austrian attempt at grab somewhat upset the Russian purpose of adding to its territory in the Balkans at the same time. We can well imagine, then, that the Russians would foster Servian hatred of Austria and do all in their power to paralyse the imperial desires of Austria.
I think the assassination over-reached itself by giving Austria its chance to crush and steal Servia. In the circumstances Russia had to intervene or its Balkan aspirations would for ever be thwarted. Then Germany had to back up Austria against its dread enemy, Russia. Germany plunged into war, undoubtedly, because it thought the Allies were weak owing to the Caillaux-Calmette murder drama in France, and the sham Irish situation in the British Isles, as well as the unfolding revolution in Russia.
Even supposing Germany is to blame, the motive force is not the ambitions of the Kaiser, nor the brute philosophy of the Prussian militarists, but the profit of the plundering class of Germany. Colonial expansion was denied the Germans because the British, the Russians, and the French had picked up most of the available parts of the world. What could the Germans do but build up an army and a navy that would hold its own against all comers? This it has done steadily for the last generation. It is mere cant to talk of German militarism when Britain has led the world in the navy business. It is merely “the struggle for an existence” on a capitalist national scale. The inspiration of German militarism comes as much from Darwin and Huxley, and applied by British economists and sociologists against us Socialists, as from Bernhardi or any other German apologist of organised murder. Capitalism has neither conscience nor morality when it is brought to bay.
Every interested person knew that Germany’s easiest road of entry into France was by Belgium. Sir Edward Grey had only to wait till Belgium’s neutrality had been broken to seize a “moral” excuse for Britain taking up arms. The real reason was, and is, that he and his class knew that war between British and German capitalism had to come sooner or later. Now was the day, and Britain struck, Plunderers versus plunderers, with the workers as pawns doing the murdering with right goodwill. The working class at home is beginning to be starved, and is being buoyed up with the assertion that this is the last great war.
Unless a social revolution bursts forth in Europe at the close of this present murder campaign, Russia will make a bold bid for Turkey, Asia Minor, Poland, and a bit of the Persian Gulf area, with Sweden added shortly after that. If its allies try to intervene, we may have another war.
Even should this not happen, we all know that .the commercial rivalry of Japan and the United States — similar to that between Britain and Germany — must lead to a war in the Pacific basin. Canada and Australia will side with the States, so that Britain will be dragged in or lose those Colonies. What part China will play in world murder I cannot very clearly see as yet, but we all must admit she is going through a thorough apprenticeship at home.
In view of eventualities like those indicated, it is our business as Socialists to develop a “class patriotism,” refusing to murder one another for a sordid world capitalism. The absurdity of the present situation is surely apparent when we see British Socialists going out to murder German Socialists with the object of crushing Kaiserism and Prussian militarism. The only real enemy to Kaiserism and Prussian militarism, I assert against the world, was and is German Social-Democracy. Let the propertied class go out, old and young alike, and defend their blessed property. When they have been disposed of, we of the working class will have something to defend, and we shall do it.
– Yours fraternally,
He was arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act, (DORA) in October 1915, and charged with making statements liable to prejudice enlistment. At the Summary Court in Glasgow Sheriff Lee found him guilty and sentence Maclean to five days imprisonment. At about this time he wrote, The Conscription Menace(6), which appeared in the Vanguard in December 1915.
“This war was declared to be a war for freedom. We Socialists considered that a deliberate lie, because the promoters of the statement know quite well that the workers of the world are their slaves, and will continue to be their slaves no matter the issue of the war. It certainly is a war of freedom for one national section or other of the robbing propertied class to corner for itself the whole, or the greater part, of the surplus wrung from the wage-slave class. Obviously, that is no concern of the workers one way or the other.
We have repeatedly expressed our perfect willingness to let those who benefit by capitalism enter the war, and slaughter one another to their heart’s content. That is their affair, not ours. Their mutual extermination might, in fact, smooth the path leading to Socialism, so that even many Socialists might be excused if they departed from the policy of indifference and became active recruiting agents amongst the propertied class, urging them with fiery eloquence to defend their King and their country.
We have furthermore refrained from the attempt to prevent workers enlisting if they sincerely believed that Britain was entitled to enter the war. In fact, we usually insisted on them enlisting as the only logical outcome of their beliefs.
It is an entirely different matter when an attempt to force conscription on us is threatened. We Socialists, who believe that the only war worth fighting is the class war against robbery and slavery for the workers, do not mean to lay down our lives for British or any other capitalism. If we die, we shall die here defending the few rights our forefathers died for. To us it is nobler to die for our own class than for the class which has robbed, ruled, despised, and imprisoned us.
They dare not murder us, for that would lift the veil of cant they have blinded the eyes of neutrals with. These neutrals would rise against them, and many men in the Army would adopt the Carson attitude in pre-war Home Rule times.
They also had better not enlist us, for we will prove more dangerous with arms than without them. A reign of terror would certainly ensue. History backs us up in that assertion, for the mass of the men who refuse now to enlist do so on principle and not through fear.
If the Allies with the troops, money, and munitions at their command cannot crush the Germans without conscription. They had better stop the war at once, join the Socialist forces, and thus prepare for the complete overthrow of the German capitalist victors through the world-rising of the robbed and their friends.
It makes no difference to us Socialists who robs or oppresses us. Colour, tongue, or nationality does not affect the issue. We are out against all forms of robbery and tyranny, not only here but everywhere in the world. The only way to end all the trouble is by the establishment of Socialism (Christ having failed). Mere continuance of slaughter will solve no problem for us. On principle, we will not fight in this war.
So far as mere trade unionists are concerned, we warn then that conscription means the bringing of all young men under the control of the military authorities, whether they be in the field of battle or in the factory and workshop. Every controlled factor comes directly under military discipline as well, and thus the old as well as the young will be bound hand and foot to Mr. William Weir and his capitalist friends. Military conscription implies industrial conscription, the most abject form of slavery the world has ever known.
Surely the dullest trade unionist now understands the insult and degradation of the infamous Munitions Act. That Act in its one-sided operation has not had the effect on trade unionism and all it stands for that industrial conscription must and will have.
To the old, as to the young, we appeal for stern opposition to conscription.
That this opposition will be stern and strong on the Clyde is certain, in view of the action taken by the Lord Provost of Glasgow and supported by the majority on the Council. When the contract settling the let of the City Hall to the “Herald League” had been accomplished, it was a piece of arrogant tyranny for the Lord Provost to try to nullify the contract by refusing the use of the hall.
The anti-conscription object of the gathering may have detrimentally affected recruiting. No one can tell. But it is quite certain that the autocratic and overbearing conduct of friend Dunlop will have an effect ten times more detrimental to recruiting than if he had let the meeting proceed quietly.
No one can deny that. What has happened? Thousands of protest leaflets have been spread throughout the Clyde workshops, Sylvia Pankhurst and George Lansbury have addressed huge crowds at the Pavilion, the Metropole, the Panopticon, and other theatres, and meetings on the Sunday preceding the demonstration. If the City Hall has not been opened, a meeting, or perhaps a series of meetings, will have been held on Monday, November 29. The feeling of resentment against the Lord Provost is intense and is growing. His action, therefore, was tactless, and will absolutely defeat the object he had in view – the furtherance of recruiting.
Not only that. His action has made the anti-conscriptionists more determined to stay at home and limit the tyranny manifested by those who have thus tried to suppress free speech.
Let this significant event in Glasgow waken the minds of listless workers to the prospect before them, if industrial as well as military conscription is carried into force.
The only way to retain our freedom – the small shred of it we now possess – is by solid combination as a class. The only weapon we can use to-day is the strike. We urge our comrades to be ready to use that weapon to prevent the coming of absolute chattel slavery.
Do not be paralysed by academic quack Socialists, who insist that the only occasion justifying the strike is for the establishment of Socialism. These men admit that the masses are still far from Socialism. That means we must defer the strike to the remote future. See how absurd the position is, and act accordingly.
“JUSTICE,” IRVING AND THE B.S.P.
We note with satisfaction that Mr. Dan Irving and “Justice” are displeased with the attitude we have taken up here in Glasgow in Comrade John Maclean’s case.
We can only be grateful to these gentlemen for dissociating themselves from us, International Social Democrats. An approval by them of our action would of necessity have compelled us to revise our views. Their approval would have inclined us to think that we must have made a mistake.
* * *
When I stated at the Court that members of our organisation would require to be under severe pressure before they would abandon their principles and willingly join the Army, and that of our party only reservists or men dismissed from their employment are in the Army, I knew, of course, about the existence of Dan Irving, Victor Fisher, Hunter Watts, Headingley and Hyndman, who are doing their best to shepherd other people into the Army. When Maclean stated that not the soldiers were murderers, but those who sent them to war, he undoubtedly was aware that within the B.S.P. were some very active recruiting agents.
We believe, however, that these gentlemen should have long ago left the party and joined the Conservatives.
Should they have had any decency they would have felt that they were alien to the party after the results of the Divisional Conferences. We remind them of their duty.
So far as “Justice” is concerned, it has long been the echo of the “Daily Express” and the “Morning Post.” We are, therefore, not surprised that they have taken Irving’s letter and printed it as comment on the trial of Maclean.
Attributed at the time to J.D.M. (James D. MacDougall) Although the reason is unknown it almost certainly due to Maclean being in prison, or about to be sentenced.
After his release from this sentence John undeterred continued with his political activities and on 1st February 1916 he was re-arrested, and handed over to the Military authorities at Edinburgh Castle. Evidence from Will Ellsworth-Jones’s book “We Will Not Fight” shows just what a grim experience this might have been. However public outrage caused Maclean to be released from Military to Civil custody and he was sent before the Sheriff on Valentine’s day 1916. His trail was set for 11th April 1916. Found guilty on four out of six charges under the Act, (DORA) he was sentenced to three years Penal Servitude. Throughout his term in prison there were large demonstrations and meetings demanding his release. Due to this public pressure Maclean was released “On Ticket” on the 30th June 1917. On his release John wrote a letter published in The Call on the 19th July 1917.(7)
“Dear Comrade, — Permit me this opportunity to thank all comrades and their friends for the work done to obtain my release and for the money gathered to defray legal expenses and to maintain my family. I regret that the holiday feeling, added to an ingrained antipathy to work, will debar me from replying to all the good souls who have written and telegraphed to me on my return to life (for prison is death). I also thank all those who offered us accommodation for a holiday here and there over the British Isles, but as my wife left it to Comrade George Lansbury to get us lodgings anywhere on the English Channel we feel sorry we are unable to accept the host of invitations.
In my lone cell I resolved that, on my return to civil life, I would appeal to the workers to demand the release of conscientious objectors, especially those detained in ordinary prisons, on the grounds of the harsh treatment meted out to them. I know what they are suffering from what I saw in Perth Prison. I wish to instance the case of Comrade James Maxton, an Edinburgh teacher, not the James Maxton, of Barrhead, and of the N.A.C. of the I.L.P. This comrade is in a most critical condition so far as his nervous system is concerned. His condition, I assume, is no worse than many others. It consequently is our duty to do all we can for their immediate release.
At the same time I particularly appeal to everyone on behalf of Comrade Peter Petroff and his wife. These good comrades came to serve the cause in Glasgow at my suggestion. I consequently assume all responsibility. They did nothing here that they were not entitled to; at any rate, to put it mildly, they did nothing to justify their internment. The British Government has no case against them, and thus has no grounds for their continued detention. Unless they are immediately released, I ask our Russian comrades (who, by the way, along with the Irish rebels, were largely responsible for my own liberation) to cease negotiations with the British Government until both are set free. Meantime, let us get on the move.
Although my medical adviser, after a careful examination, states that I am only suffering from a slight nervous strain and a general catarrh, I mean to holiday it till the start of the Economic Class on the first Sunday of October. In view of the notoriety imposed on me by my dear old friend, Lloyd George, and his Government, I am confident that the class this year will witness an enrolment of at least five thousand. Brainy bodies here are as convinced as I am that I was singled out because of the tremendous influence of the class prior to and during the war, and therefore I feel justified in continuing the policy of laying stress on the class. It is essential that all comrades in and around Glasgow should at once begin the work of “boosting” the class. Everyone knows that on the success of the class depends the establishment of the Labour College.
Significant developments are immediately ahead when the Government, through the Defence of the Realm Act, is absolutely forbidding the sale of gunshot ammunition. The tremendous height of prices, unaccompanied by proportionate rises in wages, has already established what I contended would ensue after the war from the triumph of conscription. The reality of the class war is going to be covered over by the expedients suggested by the Reconstruction Committee, whilst the rate of exploitation of the workers is increased to cover the annual cost of the war and its consequences. In the sphere of politics the votes on the new Bill indicates that reaction is going to be triumphant and the workers impotent. It is amply evident that the capitalist class is doing everything possible to prevent the workers breaking their chains whilst the war is petering out and immediately after it terminates, and is cunningly devising measures to further enslave our class by the measures just indicated.
The sooner we set about a powerful agitation the better. This must be accompanied by a strong effort to realise Socialist unity. Unless, we have one great Socialist Party before peace has been finally established and the Army and Navy reduced to the normal of future times we are going to muddle along in the old haphazard fashion, impotently protesting amidst increasing slavery and robbery. I am absolutely convinced that the best policy for Socialists is Socialist unity. It makes me smile to hear Socialists, who refuse to accept unity of Socialists as their first plank, urging on the workers the need for industrial unity. We Marxists do not need to be afraid of our principles, for this brutal, bloody war has laid bare to the dullest of intellects hosts of facts as evidence of the correctness of view of those who accept Marxism in its completeness. The men discharged on the return of peace will back up the policy of thoroughness simply as a natural outcome of their own war experiences, so that in the long run Marxism must prevail. Let us of the B.S.P. leave no stone unturned to consummate that unity of forces so absolutely necessary for the stemming of reaction to-day and to-morrow, and for the accomplishment of economic freedom the day after.
Yours, hotter than ever,
P.S. — I defer a description of my prison experiences till a more convenient season.”
Shortly after his release from prison Maclean was issued with his call up papers. They were cancelled just as quickly. In Russia the Bolsheviks had just seized power and some time circa November 1917, Lenin had noted, (8)The world working-class revolution began with the action of individuals, whose boundless courage represented everything honest that remained of that decayed official “socialism” which is in reality social chauvinism. Liebknecht in Germany, Adler in Austria, Maclean in Britain—these are the best-known names of the isolated heroes who have taken upon themselves the arduous role of forerunners of the world revolution.” Lenin appointed Maclean the Soviet Consular in Glasgow Street Glasgow. The police raided the offices twice, on the second occasion in April 1918 John was arrested and charged with sedition. He was tried at the High Court in Edinburgh on the 9th May 1918. There follows some extracts from John Maclean’s Speech from the Dock.
“It has been said that they cannot fathom my motive. For the full period of my active life I have been a teacher of economics to the working classes, and my contention has always been that capitalism is rotten to its foundations, and must give place to a new society. I had a lecture, the principal heading of which was “Thou salt not steal; thou salt not kill”, and I pointed out that as a consequence of the robbery that goes on in all civilised countries today, our respective countries have had to keep armies, and that inevitably our armies must clash together. On that and on other grounds, I consider capitalism the most infamous, bloody and evil system that mankind has ever witnessed. My language is regarded as extravagant language, but the events of the past four years have proved my contention.
He (the Lord Advocate) accused me of my motives. My motives are clean. My motives are genuine. If my motives were not clean and genuine, would I have made my statements while these shorthand reporters were present? I am out for the benefit of society, not for any individual human being, but I realise this, that justice and freedom can only be obtained when society is placed on a sound economic basis. That sound economic basis is wanting today, and hence the bloodshed we are having. I have not tried to get young men particularly. The young men have come to my meetings as well as the old men. I know quite well that in the reconstruction of society, the class interests of those who are on top will resist the change, and the only factor in society that can make for a clean sweep in society is the working class. Hence the class war. The whole history of society has proved that society moves forward as a consequence of an under-class overcoming the resistance of a class on top of them. So much for that.
I also wish to point out to you this, that when the late King Edward the Seventh died, I took as the subject of one of my lectures “Edward the Peacemaker”. I pointed out at the time that his “entente cordial” with France and his alliance with Russia were for the purpose of encircling Germany as a result of the coming friction between Germany and this country because of commercial rivalry. I then denounced that title “Edward the Peacemaker” and said that it should be “Edward the War maker”. The events which have ensued prove my contention right up to the hilt, I am only proceeding along the lines upon which I have proceeded for many years. I have pointed out at my economic classes that, owing to the surplus created by the workers, it was necessary to create a market outside this country, because of the inability of the workers to purchase the wealth they create. You must have markets abroad, and in order to have these markets you must have empire. I have also pointed out that the capitalist development of Germany since the Franco-Prussian War has forced upon that country the necessity for empire as well as this country, and in its search for empire there must be a clash between these two countries. I have been teaching that and what I have taught is coming perfectly true.
I wish no harm to any human being, but I, as one man, am going to exercise my freedom of speech. No human being on the face of the earth, no government is going to take from me my right to speak, my right to protest against wrong, my right to do everything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here, then, as the accused; I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.
In connection with the “Ca’ canny” question at Park head Forge, I wish to take up some of the particular points first of all before I deal with the revolution. It is quite evident that it was in connection with a report in the Forward that reference was made to David Kirkwood. It was reported that Kirkwood had made a record output. Now David Kirkwood, representing the Park head Forge workers, at the end of 1915, when the dilution of labour began, put forward a printed statement for the benefit of Mr Lloyd George and his colleagues, the first sentence of which, in big type, was—“What you wish is greater output”. He said that the Park head workers were then prepared to give a greater output and accept dilution if they, the workers, had some control over the conditions under which the greater output would accrue. That was his contention. Since he was got into position he seems to have boasted that he has got a record output. The question was put to me. Was this consistent with the position and with the attitude of the working class? I said it was not consistent with the attitude and the position of the working class, that his business was to get back right down to the normal, to “Ca’ canny” so far as the general output was concerned.
The country has been exploited by the capitalist in every sphere, to get the toilers to work harder to bring victory. I said at the commencement of the war that while this was being done, and while assurances were being given that at the end of the war the people would get back to normal, I said that circumstances would make such a return impossible. Now I have ample evidence to support that belief; I have used it at my meetings at Weir’s of Cathartic—that they were asking the workers to work harder and harder, because there is going to be “the war after the war”, the economic war which brought on this war. You see, therefore, the workers are brought into a position where they are speeded up, and they are never allowed to get back again. They are speeded up again and again. What is the position of the worker? This country is not a free country. The worker is deprived of land or access to the land; he is deprived of workshops or access to the materials and tools of production; the worker has only one thing to do in the market, and that is to sell his labour power. The capitalist purchased that labour power, and when he gets the worker inside the workshop, his business is to extract as much of that labour power out of him as possible. On the other hand, when it comes to wages, then the employer applies the principle of “Ca’ canny”. “Ca’ canny” is quite justifiable when it comes to the employer giving wages to the workers, and we have seen it since the commencement of the war. Prices rose right away from the commencement of the war while the workers’ wages were kept at the old normal. Their wages were kept low. The purchasing power of the workers’ wages was therefore diminished. They were therefore robbed to that extent. At the same time the workers were asked in the name of the country to work harder. “But,” said the employers, “we will not give you any more money, although the money you are getting is purchasing less in the way of food, etc.” That is the position.
The employers are changing their opinions now as a result of experience, but in the past they considered it in their economic interest to pay as low a wage as possible. On the other hand the position of the workers is to give as little of their energy as they possibly can and to demand the highest wage possible. If it is right for the employer to get the maximum of energy and pay the minimum of wage, then it is equally right for the worker to give the minimum of his energy and demand the maximum of wage.
What is right for the one is equally right for the other, although the interests of the two classes are diametrically opposed. That is the position, and in view of the fact that many of the workers have over-worked themselves and have had to lie off through over strain, and considering the treatment they get when thrown on the scrapheap—kicked out like dogs when they are no longer useful—they are compelled to look after their own welfare. The worker has therefore in the past adopted the policy of “Ca’ canny”, and I have in the interests of the working class advocated the policy of “Ca’ canny” , not because I am against the war, but, knowing that after the war the worker will have the new conditions imposed upon him, I hold still to the principle of “Ca’ canny”. I accede to that.
So far as Parkhead Forge is concerned I also pointed out that none of the great big guns had been made for some time prior to the great offensive. When the offensive came, Gough, the friend of Sir Edward Carson, the man who before the war was going to cut down the Irishmen, retreated and lost so many guns, and then the Glasgow workers had to give over their Easter holiday in order to make those guns. We have, therefore, Beardmore and others responsible for shortage of certain material, and we know from further disclosures that millions of shells have been useless, and perhaps that has been due to the fact of over-speeding, so that even over-speeding may do nothing for the advancement of the war. Furthermore, if big reserves of material are going to be built up, and the Germans are to be allowed to get them, that is going to be to the advantage of the Germans, and not to the advantage of the British.
With regard to the next point, “down tools”, so far as Glasgow is concerned, I do not think I told the workers to “down tools”. I am of the opinion that I said, “Now that you are determined to ’down tools’ it is of no use standing idle; you must do something for yourselves.” As a matter of fact my statement was based on a resolution that had been passed by the ASE in the Clyde area, the official Engineers’ Committee. It met, and it determined to down tools against the introduction of the Man Power Bill.
At the same time that was supplemented by unofficial effort at Geddes’s meeting in the City Hall. There a resolution was put up by the workers and carried virtually unanimously, that if the Man Power Bill was put into operation, the Clyde district workers would “down tools”. It was unnecessary for me, therefore, in light of these official and unofficial statements, to urge the “down tools” policy.
As a matter of fact, we were told that the government had dismissed many munition girls just immediately prior to the great offensive, so that if the workers are guilty of stoppage of output of munitions, the government is likewise responsible in the dismissal of those thousands of girls.
Now then, food and farms. I pointed out to the workers that what was necessary if they stopped work was the getting of food. There had been a shortage; the government had held up the supplies, for several reasons probably—perhaps to get this rationing passed, in order to have a tight hold on food, and also lest the people get out of hand in reference to this Man Power Bill. I know that there was plenty of food in stores in Glasgow, and that the farmers had food stored up in their farms. The farmers have used the war in order to make huge profits for themselves, and then the government assisted them in connection with the potato regulations; and latterly, at the end of last year the Corn Production Act was passed not in the interests of the farm labourers, but in the interests of the farmers.
When the demand for more food production was made, the farmers said they would do their best, and the government refused to give the farm labourers a minimum wage of 25s to 30s a week—25s at that time being equivalent to 10s in normal times. The farmers were going to get extra as a consequence of the Corn Production Act. I therefore pointed out that if the workers went to the farmers and did not get the food stored up in the farms, they should burn the farms. We as socialists have no interest in destroying any property. We want property to be kept because we want that property to be used for housing accommodation or other reasons, but I specially emphasised about the farmers for the purpose of drawing attention to this particular point.
In the same way, when it came to a question of seizing the press, I suggested that when the Daily Record was seized, the plant should be broken up. I did not say that in connection with the Glasgow Herald. I said so in connection with the Record not that it is a good thing to break up printing plant, but in order to draw attention to the Harmsworth family and to the Rothermeres and so on, and their vile press which seems to be an index of the culture of Britain. I mention that particularly here, that I said the Record plant should be broken up, in order to emphasise the disgust of the organised workers with regard to that particular family of newspapers.
So far as Ireland and America are concerned, that was mentioned particularly for the purpose of getting food from the St Lawrence, food from the United States, and food from the Argentine. What was needed was food in order to hold our own, for, as the Glasgow Herald pointed out, when the Bolsheviks first came into power, Britain was withholding food from Russia, in the expectation that frost and famine would overthrow the Bolsheviks. That is to say, they were anxious to murder women and children inside Russia, as well as men. The suggestion I made was in order to draw attention of the workers to the need of having plenty of foodstuffs to keep them going.
So far as the government’s responsibility for the murder of women and children is concerned, the reason for my statement is perfectly obvious. They have been accusing the Germans of killing women and children in this country. Perfectly true. Of course bombs dropped in Germany have not killed women and children, marvellous to say! But that apart; we had the government getting hold of the food supplies immediately prior to and immediately after the New Year, and creating a shortage. The government was therefore responsible for the queues.
Women were standing in queues in the cold, and women had died of what they had contracted during their standing in the queues. The women had died therefore in consequence of the action of the government, and I threw the responsibility upon the government—and I do so still.
We know that women and children—human material—have been used up inside the factories, and the housing of the working class in this country has been so bad, and is so bad today, that the women and children of the working class die in greater proportion than the women and children of the better-to-do classes. I have always pointed out that the death rate among the working classes has always exceeded that in the better-to-do districts.
I also pointed out that the British government had sent Russian subjects back to Russia to fight, and had given their wives 12s 6d per week and 2s 6d for each child. Now, when I was functioning as Russian Consul, two deputations of Russian women came to me and they told me sorrowful tales of depression, disease and death in consequence of the fact that they had received 12s 6d per week and 2s 6d for each child. I wrote to the Secretary for Scotland in regard to that, and I received no reply. The children ought not to suffer because their fathers have been taken, but those children have suffered. There is not a Lithuanian family in the West of Scotland but has trouble today as a consequence of the starving of these people. These women and children of the Russian community have died as a consequence of the meagre supplies given to them by the British government, and I seize this opportunity for the purpose of making my statement public, in connection with these women, in the hope that the public in general will press the government to see that these women and children are attended to at least on the same scale as the wives and dependants of British soldiers.
With regard to the Yankees, I said, and I say today, that the Yankees are out for themselves. The British press—the British capitalist press —sneered and jeered at the Americans before the Americans came in, and pointed out how the Americans were making piles of profit out of the war, but were not participating in this fight for so- called freedom. Those insults were offered to America, and when Mr Woodrow Wilson said that America was too proud to fight, then that was used venomously. Therefore, if I erred, I erred on the same side as the capitalist class of this country. I made the statement on American authority, not off my own bat. My authority is Professor Roland G. Usher, Professor of History at Washington University. I think his statement in Pan- Americanism is one of the finest, showing the moves throughout the world leading up to this war, and Usher has his bias in favour of Britain.
What I wish to particularly refer to are his two books, Pan-Germanism and The Challenge of the Future. In Pan-Germanism he surveys North and South and Central America. He takes the Atlantic first, and explains what will be the consequence of the war as regards South and Central America whichever side wins, and then he takes the Pacific. He works it out from a material and economic point of view, his purpose being to get Central and South America to work in with the United States. In his later book he modifies that position—that is to say in The Challenge of the Future. He points out that America is still today economically dependent, that is to say she has got to pay interest to financiers in France, in Britain, and therefore America cannot afford to carry out the bold schemes referred to in his book Pan-Americanism.
I may now state that today the businessmen of this country know perfectly well that the Yankees are boasting of their independence. Therefore when you see references to American independence, that means that she no longer needs to pay interest to investors from outside and that her policy will be modified in consequence of that new phase. This gentleman points out that as a consequence of American dependence she must say which side she will take. This book was printed prior to America entering the war. Woodrow Wilson’s policy works in admirably with the suggestions in that book of Professor Usher, The Challenge of the Future.
We know quite well, too, that the United States of America prevented Japan in 1915 getting economic and political control over North China. Twenty-one articles were imposed on China after the Japs had released their grip of the Germans there. America, alive to her own interests, getting to know of these twenty-one points, forced Japan to withdraw. America was there working in her own interests.
Japan has been, I think, incited to land at Vladivostok in consequence of the Russian revolution, and in order to crush the Bolsheviks. The allies on both sides are united to crush the Bolsheviks. America did not take that course. America early on began to back up the Bolsheviks because America was afraid that, if Japan got half Siberian Russia, that would give her a strategic control of Siberia, and it would mean a closed door to American contact across the Pacific with Russia proper. America therefore has been looking to her own interests, and for that reason I contend that the Yankees, who have been the worshippers of the mighty dollar, are looking after their own interests in the present war; and as to the great boast they have been making about what they are going to do, and their inadequate returns—that, I think, shows that America has not been over-anxious to plunge right away into this war and made all the sacrifices she has said. I know, of course, that America has had her own troubles at home, racial troubles, and also troubles with the workers. Numerous strikes have taken place in America since the commencement of the war, not only in consequence of the war, but also in connection with the economic position.
Now then, I come to the doctors. The doctors I referred to were the prison doctors. When I was in Peterhead it was plain sailing until the middle of December, and then the trouble began. I was fevered up, and being able to combat that, I was chilled down. Two men came to see me at the end of December, a prominent lecturer in this country, and Mr Sutherland, MP, and to them I protested that my food was being drugged. I said that there was alcohol in the food lowering my temperature. I know that potassium bromide is given to people in order to lower their temperature. It may have been potassium bromide that was used in order to lower my temperature. I was aware of what was taking place in Peterhead from hints and statements by other prisoners there; that from January to March, the so-called winter period, the doctor is busy getting the people into the hospital, there breaking up their organs and their systems.
I call that period the eye-squinting period, because the treatment then given puts the eyes out of view. Through numerous expedients I was able to hold my own. I saw these men round about me in a horrible plight. I have stated in public since that I would rather be immediately put to death than condemned to a life sentence in Peterhead. Attacks were made upon the organs of these men and also upon their nervous systems, and we know from the conscientious objectors that the government have taken their percentage of these men—some have died, some have committed suicide, others have been knocked off their heads, and in this way got into asylums. The very same process has gone on here. Mrs Hobhouse has done a good service to mankind in registering the facts, but, unfortunately for Mrs Hobhouse, she does not know how the results have been obtained. I experienced part of the process, and I wish to emphasise the fact that this callous and cold system of destroying people is going on inside prisons now.
Whatever is done to me now, I give notice that I take no food inside your prisons, absolutely no food, because of the treatment that was meted out to me. If food is forced upon me, and if I am forcibly fed, then my friends have got to bear in mind that if any evil happens to me, I am not responsible for the consequences, but the British government. If anything had happened to me when I was last in prison, it would have been attributed to John MacLean, not to those who are working in the interests of the government. I have been able to lay down my principle and policy, not from mere internal and personal experience, but from objective experience. I studied the matter carefully, I combated the evils that were going to be perpetrated by the government by reducing my food to the minimum, and the present Secretary for Scotland knows that when I was in Perth I wrote to him asking for more food because of my reduced weight. I was about eight stones in weight at the time, and the doctor after weighing me had to grant me more food. The food, however, was of no use to me. I threw it into the pot. My position is, therefore, that I take no more government food, that I will not allow any food to be forced in upon me, and if any food is forced in upon me I am not responsible for it, but when the government can launch millions of men into the field of battle, then perhaps the mere disposal of one man is a mere bagatelle and a trifle.
So far as Russian freedom and British slavery are concerned, I wish to draw attention to the fact that an article appeared in The Scotsman the other day about Bolshevism, and I have a feeling that that article was written especially for this trial, to create a feeling against Bolshevism. The statements m that article are a travesty. Inside Russia, since Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolsheviks came into power, there have been fewer deaths than for the same period under any Tsar for three hundred years. Capitalists have been killed perhaps, officers have been killed perhaps, because they have not submitted to those who have come to the top—the majority of the people—in the name of Bolshevism. Some may have been put to death.
When there was a shortage and disorganisation of the food supplies before the Bolsheviks came into power, there may have been individuals who, in their scramble for food themselves, have gone to excess, but the crimes of individuals cannot be charged to governments. No person would hold the government responsible for the action of those individuals. The Bolshevik government has not given orders to kill men. They have to imprison men until a complete reconstruction of society has come about. It may be news to some of you that the co-operative movement in Russia has grown more rapidly than in any other part of the world, and since the Bolsheviks have come into power, co-operation has been growing more and more rapidly. The universities have been used during the day, and in the evenings, to train the working classes in order that they may manage the affairs of their country in an intelligent manner. The schools have also been used in the evenings, the music halls have been used, and the theatres, and the picture houses, all have been used, not for the trivial trash which is given to the people of this country—but all for the purpose of organising the production of food and the work inside the workshops and factories.
We saw that prior to our comrades in Russia signing their treaty, when the Germans made their advance into Estonia, Lithuania, and so on—the border countries between Germany and Russia—the capitalist class in the respective towns had lists of men who were members of the soviets, and those members of the soviets were taken and put against a wall, and shot at the instigation of the propertied class of Russia. They have been responsible for more deaths than the soviets. Our Finnish comrades, the Red Guards, have pointed out that the ordinary procedure of war has not been acceded to them, that as soon as the White Guards, the capitalist class, take any one of them prisoner, they immediately put them to death. It has been said that our comrades over there in Russia were working hand in hand with the Germans, and the proof of this was that the Germans allowed Lenin to pass through Austrian territory. Our comrades have stood up against Germany as best they could, and the capitalists—the so-called patriots of Russia—have been working hand in hand with Germany in order to crush the people of Russia. That has been done in the Ukraine. It has been done in the various states stolen by Germany from Russia.
The Lord Advocate pointed out here that I probably was a more dangerous enemy that you had got to face than in the Germans. The working class, when they rise for their own, are more dangerous to capitalists than even the German enemies at your gates. That has been repeatedly indicated in the press, and I have stated it as well. I am glad that you have made this statement at this, the most historic trial that has ever been held in Scotland, when the working class and the capitalist class meet face to face. The Bolsheviks got into power in October, and the people wished peace, and they were doing their best to get peace. The Bolsheviks wished peace throughout the world. They wished the war to cease in order that they might settle down to the real business of life, the economic reorganisation of the whole of Russia. They therefore got into negotiation with the Germans, and they and the Germans met at Brest Litovsk.
Towards the end of December there was a pause in the negotiations for ten days, in order to allow the British and their allies to go to Brest Litovsk. Ten days were given. The last day was 4 January of this year. Great Britain paid no attention to this opportunity, but on 5 January Lloyd George, in one of his insidious speeches, seemed to climb down as it were. He was followed by Mr Woodrow Wilson. But a speech by Mr Lloyd George on the 5th was of no use. It was mere talk. It was mere camouflage, or, a better word still, bluff, pure bluff. Why did the government not accept the opportunity and go to Brest Litovsk? If conditions absolutely favourable to Germany were proposed, then Britain would have stopped the negotiations and plunged once more into the war, and I am confident of this, if Germany had not toed the line and come up square so far as peace negotiations were concerned, that the Russian workers would have taken the side of Britain, and I am confident of this, that the socialists in all the allied countries would have backed up their governments in order to absolutely crush Germany, and we would at the same time have appealed to the socialists of Germany to overthrow their government.
Great Britain did not do so. On the other hand, they came on with their Man Power Bill, and also with their factor of short food. All these things must be considered in their ensemble, before you can understand the position taken up by myself. When this universal peace meeting was held at Brest Litovsk, then Trotsky played a very, very bold game. He knew the risks he ran. He and the Bolsheviks spread millions of leaflets amongst the workers of Germany in the trenches – the German soldiers – urging them to stop fighting and to overthrow the Kaiser, the junkers, and the capitalist classes of Germany. They made a bold bid by trying to get the German workers on to their side. Great Britain has been doing the very same thing since the commencement of the war. Great Britain has been trying to bring about, and hoping and urging for a revolution in Germany, in the hope that the working class would overthrow the autocratic class there and give us peace.
From a British point of view, revolution inside Germany is good; revolution inside Britain is bad. So says this learned gentleman. He can square it if he can. I cannot square it. The conditions of Germany economically are the conditions of Britain, and there is only a very slight difference between the political structure of Germany and that of this country at the best. And so far as we workers are concerned, we are not concerned with the political superstructure; we are concerned with the economic foundation of society, and that determines our point of view in politics and industrial action. Our Russian comrades, therefore, did the very same as the British have been doing; they appealed to the German soldiers and workers to overthrow their government.
Strikes broke forth in Italy. The strikes in January passed into Germany, more menacing strikes than have taken place inside the British Isles. An appeal was made from comrades to comrades. Many soldiers in Germany mutinied; many sailors of Germany mutinied, and these men are being shot down by their government. All hail to those working men of Germany who refused at the bidding of the capitalist to go on with this war. Their names will go down bright and shining where those of the capitalist of today and of the past will have been forgotten.
It would be a very bad thing for the workers of the world if a revolution were developed and carried through to success in Germany and no similar effort were made in this country. The German workers’ enemy is the same as our enemy in this country—and if it was their business and
their right and their duty to overthrow their autocratic government, then it will be a duty on us not to allow these men to overthrow their government, and then to allow France, Britain and Italy to march over them and make these German workers slaves at the dictates of the capitalists of the other parts of the world. There was the situation from their point of view and from our point of view too.
It has been pointed out that if we developed a revolution the Germans would come over and, instead of having liberty, we would be under the iron heel of the Kaiser. If I grant that that is true, it is equally true in the other case that the allies would do in Germany what the German Kaiser with the capitalist class of Germany would do in this country. There can only be a revolution when the workers of all the countries stand united and capitalism is crushed, and until then the war must go on incessantly and incessantly. It is not because I am against my own people. My own people are the workers here, and the workers in Germany and elsewhere.
It was not the workers who instigated the war. The workers have no economic interest to serve as a consequence of the war, and because of that, it is my appeal to my class that makes me a patriot so far as my class is concerned, and when I stand true to my class, the working class, in which I was born, it is because my people were swept out of the Highlands, and it was only because of my own ability that I remained. I have remained true to my class, the working class, and whatever I do I think I am doing in the interest of my class and my country. I am no traitor to my country. I stand loyal to my country because I stand loyal to the class which creates the wealth throughout the whole of the world.
We are out for life and all that life can give us. I therefore took what action I did in the light of what was transpiring inside Russia, inside Austria and inside Germany. You have got to bear that in mind when you wish to understand my remarks. I therefore urged the workers of this country that if they were going to strike, mere striking was useless, because they would be starved back into work again, and that if they were going to be against the Man Power Bill, it meant that they were out for peace. And as there was no sign on either side of coming to an amicable constitutional conclusion, then it was the business of the workers to take the whole matter in hand themselves.
War was declared! No matter the motive, no matter the cause, all constitution and order was thrown aside, and in the prosecution of the war the British government found it necessary to throw aside every law in this country and to bring in the Defence of the Realm Act, which means the negation of all law in the country. I have repeatedly pointed out that if the government wishes to get a grip of any individual, they do so under the Defence of the Realm Act. The government have power to do anything they desire. That may be right, or it may be wrong, but the position is this, that the bringing in of the Defence of the Realm Act has thrown aside all law and order as we know it during normal periods.
In the plunge into the war we have the abolition of constitutional methods, and therefore I contended, and I contend today, that if it is right and proper on the part of the government to throw aside law and order —constitutional methods—and to adopt methods that mankind has never seen before, then it is equally right that the members of the working class, if the war is not going to cease in a reasonable time, should bring about a reasonable settlement to the workers in no victory to either side.
If one side or the other wins, then the revenge will come, as France today is seeking revenge after the drubbing she got in 1871. Realising that we, as representatives of the workers of the world, do not wish one side or the other to be the victors, we wish the status quo prior to the war to be re-established. If the workers are going to do that, then it means that they have to adopt methods and tactics entirely different from the methods which would be adopted, or could be adopted under normal circumstances. Abnormal lines of action must be taken such as our comrades in Russia took. The very circumstances of the war forced in upon the Russian workers committees and their national soviets the line of action which they adopted, and the only way we could do it would be to adopt methods peculiar to the working-class organisation in this country in the interests of the workers themselves.
The suggestions I made were intended only to develop revolutionary thought inside the minds of the workers. I pointed out at the meeting on the 20th that representatives of the police were present, and therefore if the workers were going to take action themselves, it would be absolutely foolish and stupid for them to adopt the suggestions I had given them. I only gave out these suggestions so that they might work out plans of their own if they thought fit to take action to bring about peace. I was convinced, and I am still convinced, that the working class, if they are going to take action, must not only go for peace but for revolution. I pointed out to the workers that, in order to solve all the problems of capitalism, they would have to get the land and the means of production.
I pointed out to them that if capitalism lasted after the war, with the growing size of the trusts, with the great aggregations that were taking place, with the improved machinery inside the works, with the improved methods of speeding up the workers, with the development of research and experiment, that we were going to have the workers turning out three, four and five times as much wealth as they had done in pre-war times, and a great problem would arise—a greater problem than ever before—in this country of disposing of its surplus goods on the markets of the world, not only of getting markets for these surplus goods, but of getting the raw materials. We see today in the committees appointed by the government that they are anxious to get control of the markets of the world in order to exclude the Germans.
Our government has already appointed a Land Organisation of the Board of Trade and of the Foreign Office whereby it is going to plant agents here and there throughout the world, so that in a scientific method British products may be thrown on to the markets of the world. This is scientific method applied to commerce internationally as well as nationally. These preparations are being made, it is being said, for the purpose of carrying on the war after the war. Nobody denies that there is going to be a war after the war, an economic war between the Germans and their friends, and the British and the Americans and their friends, and there is going to be a war between the nations and the respective governments will take care that, as far as they can, their capital will be planted in areas over which they have control.
You have, then, the rush for empire. We see that the Americans already have got one or two of the islands in the West Indies, and I understand that America has also got hold of Dutch Guiana. It has also been suggested that Mexico be brought into the American States. Britain herself is looking after her own interests. She has taken the German colonies, she is also in Mesopotamia and in Palestine, going there for strategic reasons, but when Britain gets hold of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Arabia, she will use them for her own ends, and I do not blame Britain for that. Britain has got many troubles.
We see Japan also on the outlook. Japan has been trying repeatedly to get control of Northern China. She would also like to get a great big chunk of Siberia. Even today we see the tentacles being sent out, all anxious to grab more and more power. We know the secret treaties and disclosures made by our Bolshevik comrades. We know that these nations have been building up their plans so that when the Germans have been crushed they will get this territory or that territory. They are all out for empire. That was absolutely necessary for the commercial prosperity of the nations.
All the property destroyed during the war will be replaced. In the next five years there is going to be a great world trade depression and the respective governments, to stave off trouble, must turn more and more into the markets of the world to get rid of their produce, and in fifteen years’ time from the close of this war—I have pointed this out at all my meetings—we are into the next war if capitalism lasts; we cannot escape it.
Britain has the wealth. Britain did everything she could to hold back the war. That necessarily had to be the attitude of Great Britain, but in spite of all Great Britain’s skill or cunning, there has been war. I have heard it said that the Western civilisations are destroying themselves as the Eastern civilisations destroyed themselves. In fifteen years’ time we may have the first great war bursting out in the Pacific—America v. Japan, or even Japan and China v. America. We have then the possibilifies of another war, far greater and far more serious in its consequences than the present war. I have pointed that out to my audiences.
In view of the fact that the great powers are not prepared to stop the war until the one side or the other is broken down, it is our business as members of the working class to see that this war ceases today, not only to save the lives of the young men of the present, but also to stave off the next great war. That has been my attitude and justifies my conduct in recent times. I am out for an absolute reconstruction of society, on a cooperative basis, throughout all the world; when we stop the need for armies and navies, we stop the need for wars.
I have taken up unconstitutional action at this time because of the abnormal circumstances and because precedent has been given by the British government. I am a socialist, and have been fighting and will fight for an absolute reconstruction of society for the benefit of all. I am proud of my conduct. I have squared my conduct with my intellect, and if everyone had done so this war would not have taken place. I act square and clean for my principles. I have nothing to retract. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Your class position is against my class position. There are two classes of morality. There is the working class morality and there is the capitalist class morality. There is this antagonism as there is the antagonism between Germany and Britain. A victory for Germany is a defeat for Britain; a victory for Britain is a defeat for Germany. And it is exactly the same so far as our classes are concerned. What is moral for the one class is absolutely immoral for the other, and vice-versa. No matter what your accusations against me may be, no matter what reservations you keep at the back of your head, my appeal is to the working class. I appeal exclusively to them because they and they only can bring about the time when the whole world will be in one brotherhood, on a sound economic foundation. That, and that alone, can be the means of bringing about a re-organisation of society. That can only be obtained when the people of the world get the world, and retain the world.”(9)
Of interest is John Maclean’s prediction of the War II in Pacific.
He was released shortly after the armistice and on his release from this prison sentence John Maclean sent a message to The Call. The letter was published on the 12th December 1918.(10)
“Greetings to all comrades and the mass of the working-class who forced the Cabinet to release me! George Barnes’s claim that he got my release is a lie as base as his betrayal of our class. He and the Cabinet members were really afraid of their very lives, and rightly so; for the workers have now reached a stage in the evolution of our class when they will punish their enemies in the great class war.
When leaving Peterhead, I told the governor, the head-warder, and others that if the workers made a bid for freedom along the lines of Russia and Germany, I would be in the thick of the fight, although aware that I would be the first to be captured by the real enemy, the propertied plunderers of Britain. Comrades can take it, then, that I am not “tamed,” although the prison people did their utmost to accomplish the usual. The doctors this time made the most thorough test of my mind and character to find out such weaknesses as they might play upon in future to corrupt me into the betrayal of my class. It was beautifully done, but I can assure comrades that I beat the doctors at their game. I let them know that I was obsessed about nothing, not even life itself, and that they could burn all they thought they knew about me and have in tabulated and indexed form, as it would be of, no use to them in my future, fight against capitalism.
I have already received the greatest honour of my life in being appointed Scottish representative of the first Socialist Republic in the world, the Russian one; and the second, in being selected as the standard-bearer of my class by the Cabinet of the British capitalist class.
From a bread-and-butter point of view I don’t need to sell out. I can go to Russia and be secure till I peg out. But I am not going to Russia, except on working-class business or for a holiday. The place for every British Socialist is here at home until capitalism is overthrown. I stay at home, then, with the Clyde Valley as my centre.
My only appearance in Gorbals will be on Friday, December 13th, the eve of the poll, and I speak then only because my “bosses” have dictated this course to me. Personally, I would have preferred to stay in Aberdeen enjoying my liberty amongst the “boys of the old brigade,” the Coopers, the Pithies, the Morrisons, the Gordons., the Wheelers, etc. Why? Because I was selected whilst in prison; my address was written and circulated by the workers whilst I lay in prison; everything was, and is being, done under the guidance of Willie Gallacher (my deputy), the witty, cheery, and popular chairman of the Clyde Workers Committee. The fight is one against treachery; and the significance of the fight is that the workers are not lying down in disgusted despair but have roused themselves to the intensest activity to retain the honour of our class by crushing the traitor. The fight is not mine, therefore: hence my attitude.
In the international aspect the return of Barnes will be fraught with momentary misfortune for our class. The Government, knowing this, are doing everything to defeat me. If I am returned Britain will have to withdraw her forces from Russia, Germany, and BELGIUM, or she will feel the consequences at home. I trust that Lloyd George will cherish no illusions about that. If Barnes wins and the British troops try to crush our Russian and German comrades, Barnes had never better appear in Glasgow again and his committeemen had better leave Scotland for good. Let no one have any illusions.
The election in itself counts for nothing. Our B.S.P. candidates and the readers of “The Call” know that—in spite of what I have just written. The real British crisis is coming, and coming quickly, too. Let us, then, keep our committees going, let us rush forward with meetings, sales of literature, discussions and organisation in the workshop, economic classes and conferences to promote Labour Colleges after we have polled, conscious that economic circumstances are going to arise in 1919 that will thrust the revolutionary section into power as on the Continent.
I place myself absolutely at the disposal of the movement, and trust that my services will be taken advantage of for educational conferences on Saturdays and lectures on other nights of the week. Keep it going, comrades, keep it going; our victory is fast approaching.
It was however all over. King George V offered Maclean a pardon. Maclean turned it down. The Red Flag was raised over Glasgow, it was raised on the 27th January 1919(11). Troops were locked inside their barracks at Maryhill. Fresh, raw English troops and tanks were also deployed in and around Glasgow. Westminster was frighten by the possibility of a revolt. On the 7th February 1919, Siegfried Sassoon sends a short note to Willie Gallacher(12), “Dear Gallacher, I was sorry to have been unable to see you yesterday, I should have enjoyed a talk with you-even through a grating! Best of Luck . Yours sincerely Siegfried Sassoon. But the new leaders of socialism in Scotland, such as Gallacher was not cast from the same mold as John Maclean, it was a strike in Glasgow, it should have been a revolution. Gallacher(13), Shinwell(14) and the other leaders of Red Clydeside just did not know how.
The years in prison, Maclean was again sentenced to prison in May 1921, the anti-war protests, and the struggle for a fairer life for the Scottish working man had left Maclean a broken man. He never recovered from his second prison sentence and died on the 30th November 1923.
The accused John Maclean, Guilty of sedition, if it can be done peacefully, it is pity there is not more like him.
He is commemorated in Scottish folk song,(15) most notable in the fourth verse of Hamish Henderson’s, “Freedom Come All Ye”
Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms
When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.
The tune of which is an adaption of the First World War Piping tune, “The Bloody Fields of Flanders”.
1 J’accuse refers in this instance to the 1919 film, J’accuse, directed by Abel Gance where dead soldiers rise up from the grave to accuse the living.
2 Private Papers from Lt Murphy, held by the family in Grantown-on-Spey
9 Extracts from his speech from the dock as reproduced on https://www.marxists.org/archive/maclean/works/1918-dock.htm
11 P219 Revolt on the Clyde.
12 P235 Revolt on the Clyde.
13 Gallacher went on to be the Communist Member of Parliament for West Fife. The current Labour MP for the constituency now known as Kirkcauldy, Gordon Brown, is not worthy enough to lick Gallacher’s boots.
14 Manny Shinwell became a leading labour MP, he died at 101 in 1986
15 Also the Ballad of John Maclean,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61etFdGpXq8, and the John Maclean March, http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/song-midis/John_MacLean_March.htm
1) The Scottish Lenin: the life and legacy of John Maclean, http://www.counterfire.org/revolutionary/17009-the-scottish-lenin-the-life-and-legacy-of-john-maclean
2) JOHN MACLEAN By Guy A. ALDRED http://workersweb.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/gaa_-_john_maclean_public.pdf
3) John MacLean Internet Archive https://www.marxists.org/archive/maclean/index.htm
4) Radical Glasgow, http://www.gcu.ac.uk/radicalglasgow/chapters/johnmclean.html
5) Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932, Key political figures of the Red Clydeside period, John Maclean (1879-1923),Michael Byers 2002 Glasgow Digital Library http://sites.scran.ac.uk/redclyde/redclyde/docs/rcpeojohnmaclean.htm
6) Revolt on the Clyde, Gallacher, ISBN 0 85315 425 2, Lawrence and Wishart, Fourty Edition Reprinted 1990.
7) Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Maclean_(Scottish_socialist)