Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Roundup of Anarchism in Scotland articles.

a recent interest of mine. -Scottish Anarchism
by Ian Heavens.

Beating the poll tax - Anarchist Communist Federation title=The_Birth_of_Glasgow's_Anarchism.

75th Anniversary of IB Remembered by Fife Trades Union Members


Fife marks Brigade's 75th anniversary

After the 1886 visit to Glasgow of Peter Kropotkin

 Kropotkin’s visit was followed in 1888 by that of Chicago anarchist, Lucy Parsons, partner of Albert Parsons, one of the executed Haymarket martyrs

Bailte bánbhreaca idir neoin bhig agus béal maidne’ Seosamh MacGrianna

The Edinburgh Socialist League and its ginger group, the Scottish Land and Labour League, also evinced the strong libertarian character of its Glasgow counterpart early on. Much of this was down to the activism and propaganda of a number of important anarchists in ‘auld reekie’, such as Andreas Scheu, Thomas H. Bell and Paul Reclus, nephew of the famous French anarchist geographer, Elisée Reclus. Andreas Scheu (1844-1927) was an Austrian furniture designer active in German anarchist politics from as early as 1870. He went to London in 1874 where he was involved with and quickly became disillusioned by the stagnation of émigré German socialists. In Johann Most (1846-1906), he found a much more active and energetic anarchist comrade and helped Most with his German language newspaper, Freiheit, published in London and smuggled into Germany from 1879 to 1882. Most served 16 months hard labour in England for an article titled ‘Endlich’ (At Last), in response to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and left for New York on his release. Scheu had grown impatient of Most’s lax attitude to security and general indiscretion before his arrest but with Most gone, and only the pedestrian conversation of the Anarchist Club to fill the space, Scheu drifted into the Democratic Federation, its successor the Social Democratic Federation, and then the Socialist League, of which he was a founder member. Scheu took a sales job with Jaeger in Edinburgh in 1885 and remained in the city until the 1890s where he was a beacon of anti-authoritarian sentiment and practise. He made many contacts with Glasgow over the years and presumably many trips also. He eventually returned to Germany via London after many years of activism throughout which he appears to have remained a committed anti-parliamentarian socialist if not an anarchist.

Thomas H. Bell, was another young member of the Edinburgh Socialist League, who, perhaps inspired by the example and ideas of Scheu, became a confirmed anarchist and carried this revolutionary creed with him to London and then Los Angeles, where he was still active in the 1930s. Bell made a favourable impression on many anarchists who came across him, most notably Voltairine de Cleyre and he was related by marriage to the indefatigable English anarchist, John Turner (1864-1934), who employed him as secretary of the 3,000 strong Shop Assistants’ Union in 1898. Bell had been active in the Freedom Group in London along with his companion Lizzie Turner Bell. His sister, Jessie Bell Westwater was also later an anarchist activist in the US. It is generally less safe to assume that Bell had Glasgow contacts and a hand in helping the movement there, but his omission from consideration would certainly be unfair, and might also draw the criticism of a Glasgow bias in this work.
A third individual worth mentioning whom we can be more certain spoke and supported the early Glasgow anarchists from a base in Edinburgh was Paul Reclus (1858-1941). Reclus, like another French anarchist Lucién Guérineau (1857-1940), spent a number of years in Scotland after police crackdowns against anarchists in France. Reclus lived in Edinburgh from about 1894 and visited Glasgow often where he was involved in aiding the local anarchist movement. He eventually returned to France in 1914.

 Ethel McDonald, in Motherwell in 1873), but the two had a child, William Morris Duff, born in 1896, and they were living together at 9 Carfin Street, Govanhill, Glasgow in 1897. It was at this address that they played host to Voltairine de Cleyre during her tour of Scotland in September 1897. De Cleyre became a great friend of the Duffs as a result and a lifelong lover of Scotland which she claimed was, ‘the sharpest, ruggedest, wittiest place on earth’.

 As they did with other anarchist visitors over the years, the Duffs arranged meetings for Voltairine de Cleyre in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Paisley and Dundee, the last of which Voltairine didn’t like and in a fit of strangely affected Scots declared it to be ‘no very bonnie the noo’ in a letter to her sister. Obviously the Scottish experience had indeed had a profound effect on her, either that or she was taking the piss!

The year after Voltairine de Cleyre’s visit, William Duff published a Solidarity Leaflet in Glasgow containing her long anti-religious poem, ‘The Gods and the People’. He and Maggie also paved the way for her return visit to the city in August and September 1903, soon after she had been shot by a mentally ill man in America, in an incident from which she never completely recovered and which led to her death in 1912 at the early age of 45. The Duffs were at 91 Aitkenhead Road in Glasgow when Voltairine returned, and they and their local comrades arranged a number of speaking engagements for her, though probably fewer than in 1897. William McGill, of Pollokshaws, who ran an anarchist bookstore in the city centre, chaired Voltairine’s talk to the Progressive Union, an important intellectual and campaigning forum that exercised a profound influence on the leading Scottish Marxists, John Maclean (1879-1923) and James McDougall (1891-1963). The Progressive Union was actually founded by an uncle of McDougall’s, named Daniel, who was himself an anarchist.

This matches the observation of John Paton who says that by 1910 ‘there had been no anarchist propaganda in Glasgow for many years, although at one time there had been an active group’. To what extent ‘wee McAra’, as he was known, managed to re-start the Glasgow movement is difficult to say. This Edinburgh-based anarchist (probably born in Crieff in Perthshire in 1870), was a tramp speaker for anarchism and a tireless propagandist, who was the first to give open-air speeches on anarchism in Belfast, where he also spent three months in Crumlin Road Jail. McAra was never an organisation person and because of this when he moved on after a period of propaganda work, the support he had garnered for anarchism usually dissipated. This did not actually occur in 1909/10 and this may have been because McAra encouraged a Bristol anarchist, George Ballard (or Barrett), to come to the city and carry on the work he had started.


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