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


William Gallacher - CPGB Parliamentarian, 1929-31

image from Red Clydeside collection

Between 1920 and 1921 Willie Gallacher was instrumental in bringing together the different British Marxist groupings to establish the CPGB and in the years following this Gallacher devoted his energies to developing a nationwide base of electoral support for the CPGB. Gallacher also helped to build links between the CPGB and other left-wing groups both in Britain and in Europe and sought to ensure CPGB involvement and influence in the wider trade union movement. In 1922 Willie stood as Communist candidate for Dundee and polled a respectable 5,906 votes, a year later in 1923 Willie again contested the same Dundee parliamentary seat and this time polled 10,380 votes, although this was still not enough to win the contest.

In November 1925, Willie along with 11 other leading members of the CPGB were arrested and put on trial for sedition and incitement to mutiny. At the subsequent trial these 12 CPGB members were all found guilty and sentenced to between 6 and 12 months imprisonment. The trial and imprisonment of the Communist party leadership at this time was seen as no mere coincidence. It was widely regarded as a ploy by the then Conservative government to dispose of a serious political obstacle to their widely anticipated anti- trade union and wage-cutting policies.

In 1935 Gallacher won the Parliamentary seat of West Dunfermline in Fife for the CPGB. Willie represented this constituency as their MP until 1951 and some commentator's have suggested that it was because of Willie's sterling work on behalf of his constituents, rather than any adherence on their part to communist ideals, that Willie was continually re-elected to represent this constituency. Willie lost his seat in the 1951 General Election to Labour, the defeat being blamed in part on Willie's close identification with the Soviet Union and his uncritical admiration for Stalin during this period of heightened cold war tension.

Source: Maxton Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries