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


Leaflet entitled 'When the socialist millennium arrives', 1906

image from Red Clydeside collection

Towards the end of the 19th century the established political order in Britain, the Conservative and Liberal parties, became increasingly concerned at the growth in influence of organised labour and socialist ideas in general. The Liberal Party adapted to this new political challenge by adopting a variety of pro-working class policies in the hope of retaining working class support. The Conservative Party's answer to the rise of organised labour was quite different, rather than attempt to accommodate working class aspirations within Conservatism they determined to combat the forces of labour which they viewed as a threat to the British way of life.

From the 1870s onwards the Conservative party was marked by the establishment of an unprecedented number of anti-socialist, individualist and free labour pressure groups. These pressure groups included The Vigilance Association for the Defence of Personal Rights, later the Personal Rights Association (1871-continuing); the Liberty and Property Defence League (1882-1933); the National Federation of Associated Employers of Labour (1874-1882); the Anti-Socialist Union (1908-1914); and the Middle Class Defence League (1866-1914).

These groups, bank rolled and supported by high ranking military personnel, Conservative politicians, church leaders and members of the aristocracy, spread an anti-socialist message amongst both the working classes and the middle classes. Their propaganda emphasised that socialism was a threat to the 'British' way of life and that socialist doctrine was undemocratic, unchristian, anti-monarchy, anti-capitalist and opposed to individual freedoms and individual reward.

Source: McFarlane Papers, Glasgow University Special Collections