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Bloody Friday. January 31 st , 1919. Why was there a resurgence of “Red Clydeside” at the end of the War?. Declining orders as wartime demand ended. Accelerating demobilisation flooded the labour market. The Armistice meant the removal of wartime regulation of wages and rent-controls.
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Bloody Friday January 31st, 1919
Why was there a resurgence of “Red Clydeside” at the end of the War? • Declining orders as wartime demand ended. • Accelerating demobilisation flooded the labour market. • The Armistice meant the removal of wartime regulation of wages and rent-controls. • Inspiration of the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the German Spartacist Revolt of late 1918-early 1919.
The 40-Hours Dispute • The Scottish Trades Union Congress asked for a reduction in the working week to 40 hours, from 54 hours, partly to ease conditions but also to generate jobs for returning ex-servicemen. • The Clyde Workers Committee asked for a reduction to 30 hours, much to the horror of employers. • Many workers suspected employers wanted to create a vast pool of unemployed to be used as threats against those in jobs who agitated for shorter hours and better wages or conditions.
Industrial Action Begins • 36, 000 miners in the Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire coalfields came out in support of the demand. • Belfast came to a standstill. • By Monday, January 27th, all Glasgow’s big factories were out on strike. • One power station was closed down, so voltage was reduced throughout the city and Glasgow’s trams were affected. • Some support outside Glasgow, but the city remained the main focus for action.
“Bloody Friday” • While strike leaders negotiated in Glasgow City Chambers, 100,000 or so strikers and demonstrators were protesting in George Square outside. • Apparently unprovoked, the police charged with batons several times -to restore tram services disrupted by strikers -quell those seen as “revolutionaries”. • Strikers responded with whatever came to hand, mostly lemonade bottles and railings. The fighting spread from the Square and continued all day.
The Scottish Secretary said the situation was not a strike but “a Bolshevist [communist] uprising”. • The red flag, a symbol of communism, was seen flying over the Square. • Key figures, Shinwell, Kirkwood and Gallacher, were arrested. Shinwell and Gallacher were later convicted of incitement and served 5 months each in prison. Kirkwood was himself beaten by police in the course of the protest.
Government Response • A full battalion of Scottish troops were stationed at Maryhill Barracks, but there was fear that they would refuse to fire on their fellow-Scots, so 12,000 English troops were summoned north. • Machine gun posts were set up at the main post office, the City Chambers and some hotels. • Six tanks were stationed at the Cattle Market and 100 army lorries were placed on the streets of Glasgow.
The Aftermath • The strikes had collapsed by a week later. • A 47- hour working week was agreed. • Many Glasgow workers saw government action as further repression. • There was increased fear amongst the middle classes. • There was a growth in Labour support, particularly for the ILP.
Revolutionary? • Disorder was spontaneous and sparked by police over-reaction, not an organised attempt to seize power. • The protestors and strikers were concerned about a shorter working week, rising rents, the probability of rising unemployment and dilution. They had no specific or wider political agenda. ”The conflict was about pay and conditions rather than the founding of a socialist utopia by means of a workers’ uprising.” (Devine) • The CWC’s demand for a 30-hr week wasn’t widely accepted, even by Labour, the main organiser of the strikes. ”Scottish Labour was reformist rather than revolutionary.” (Devine)