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


The war to end war, July 1917

A plea to soldiers by a soldier

by Union of Democratic Control

image from Red Clydeside collection

The Union of Democratic Control (UDC) was formed by leading British Labour and Liberal politicians to oppose Britain's involvement in the first world war. The UDC's stated objectives were parliamentary control over foreign policy, the prevention of secret diplomacy, a movement for international understanding after the war, and a just peace settlement. The UDC emerged as the largest and most influential of all the anti-war organisations in Britain, and by 1917 had a membership of 650,000.

Throughout 1915 the right-wing national press led by the Daily Express ran a vicious campaign against the UDC, listing details of UDC meetings and encouraging their readers to break up UDC meetings. The police refused to protect UDC speakers, which not surprisingly led to meetings being broken up by right-wing thugs and several assaults and physical attacks on the UDC leader E. D. Morel.

In the 1918 general election all the leading members of the Union of Democratic Control lost their seats in Parliament. However by 1924 they had returned to Parliament and several, including Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, Arthur Henderson, Charles Trevelyan and Fred Jowett, were all members of the new Labour government.

Source: Bissett Collection, Glasgow University Special Collections