Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Letter from a loyal workman to the manager of Fairfields shipyard, 14 Jan 1916

image from Red Clydeside collection

During the First World War the industrial heartlands of Clydeside, Merseyside and Tyneside were regarded as hotbeds of revolutionary agitation. In response to the upsurge in industrial militancy many employers placed company spies within the ranks of ordinary workers to get information on potential troublemakers. At other times, as this letter shows, ordinary workers would often report to management any persons whom they considered to be disloyal or politically disruptive.

The suspicion within the political establishment of revolutionary activity was not entirely unfounded and there is strong evidence to back the notion of Clydeside as a fertile environment for the propagation of radical left-wing political thinking.

During this period the wider labour movement in Scotland, through its press, workplace meetings, open lectures and study groups was growing in confidence and influence. A Marxist and Socialist infrastructure grew rapidly on Clydeside with the entry of many new recruits to these causes, recruits who proved able to provide an educational counterbalance to the perceived wisdom of industrial capitalism.

Source: Weir Papers, Glasgow University Archives