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


William Gallacher in America, 1913

Pictured second-right in back row

image from Red Clydeside collection

Following Gallacher's involvement in the formation of the BSP an opportunity came for him to work in the USA. He settled in Chicago in 1913 and it was here that he came into contact with the syndicalist inspired Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Gallacher found resonance with the anti-parliamentary and direct action ideas advanced by the IWW and on his return to Britain later that year began propagating the case for industrial unionism.

By 1914 Gallacher once more found himself back in Glasgow where he put his syndicalist theory, learned in America, into practice as a militant trade unionist and as Chairman of the Clyde Workers Committee (CWC). The CWC was formed in 1915 to defend workers rights and to oppose the governments introduction of the Munitions Act, an Act which attempted to impose on skilled munitions the idea of dilution in the workplace.

Despite a serious of well supported strikes the CWC were crushed by the government who feared that the CWC was orchestrating a syndicalist plan to impede the manufacture of ammunition for British armed forces. During 1916 all the leading figures of the CWC were either imprisoned or banished from the city of Glasgow, at a stroke effectively paralysing the ability of the CWC to function and preventing it from coordinating and organising any further industrial action during the First World War.

Source: Maxton Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries