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


James Maxton and David Kirkwood pictured with attendees at ILP summer school, 1929-31

image from Red Clydeside collection

Being the son of a headmaster and by profession a teacher himself it was perhaps inevitable that throughout his life James Maxton would take a keen interest in the provision of working class education, both for children and adults. Maxton's views on education were a product of his strong socialist beliefs. He argued that under the existing system of industrial capitalism the education system would always favour the middle classes at the expense of the working classes and that the education system itself, because of this, would remain largely unchanged.

Maxton's eyes were opened to the intolerable conditions under which the children of the working classes were educated whilst teaching at St. James Elementary School in Bridgeton, one of the poorest districts in Glasgow. In response to these conditions Maxton joined the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Class Teachers Association and was duly elected onto the Glasgow District Committees and National Councils of both organisations. Later, along with other socialist teachers, he formed Glasgow Socialist Teachers Association which acted as a rank-and-file pressure group within the EIS for educational reforms.

Maxton also helped organise and run classes for adults. In partnership with John Maclean he held classes in 'citizenship' at Pollokshaws Academy in 1910, and in 1915 he assisted Maclean with the teaching of Marxist economics at the Labour College in Glasgow. Maxton was also instrumental in setting up various ILP summer schools which were held in England during the 1920s and 1930s.

Source: Maxton Papers, Glasgow City Archives