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The Impact of the Great War

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1 The Impact of the Great War
Political Change

2 Aims: Examine how the war led to the decline of the Liberal Party.
Identify the main reasons for the growth of the Labour Party

3 Overall Picture Before the Great War, the Liberal party dominated Scottish politics. The Conservatives lacked support and represented mainly rural area and the land-owning classes (aristocracy). The Labour Party had not yet made a significant breakthrough in national or indeed Scottish politics. During the war and after 1918 the Liberal party went into decline. The Conservatives began to attract new voters and the Labour Party would soon become one of the two main parties in British politics.

4 The Decline of the Liberals
The Liberal party was divided by the war. Some politicians resigned and went on to form the Union of Democratic Control – an anti-war organisation. Arguments within the party weakened its organisation and party members stopped paying subscriptions. The Liberals believed in minimal government intervention however as the war went on it was essential for the government to exert more control of the economy and people’s lives. The introduction of DORA allowed the government to exert control over railways, coal mines and introduce conscription.

5 Asquith was also undermined by the 1915 Shell scandal and newspaper reports that there was a lack of ammunition on the Western Front. In May 1915 a coalition government was formed and by December 1916, Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister. At the end of the war, Lloyd George quickly called an election on 14th December 1918. In the 1918 election the main parties campaigned for the continuation of a coalition government. This become known as the ‘Coupon Election’. Liberal or Conservative candidates who supported the coalition agreed not to stand against each other. As a result, all 159 Liberal candidates supporting Lloyd George were elected. By 1924 the Liberals were reduced to only eight MPs in Scotland.

6 The Rise of the Labour Party
In the 1914 election Labour gained 800,000 votes – by 1918 this had increased to over 2 million the party gained one third of all votes cast in Scotland. The 1918 Representation of the People Act had given all men over 21 the right to vote. The Labour party also benefited from the extension of the franchise to women and they gained support from Irish Catholic voters who were angry at government policy towards Ireland. After the LRC was formed in 1900, the ILP remained a separate political party. During the war the ILP took an anti-war stance, campaigned against dilution and argued for improvements in housing after the war. The ILP remained popular because they worked to improve the problems faced by working class people.

7 Red Clydeside Aims: Identify the main concerns of Clydeside workers during the war. Examine the role of the CWGC and the government’s response to their actions.

8 Red Clydeside Between a number of protests took place in parts of Glasgow and the surrounding area such as Greenock, Clydebank and Paisley, by working class men and women. This became known as ‘Red Clydeside’. The government was worried about the spread of radical political ideas and that a Communist revolution would happen. Others argued that protests were simply due to concerns about jobs and unfair rent rise. There were two phases to ‘Red Clydeside’. 1) 1915 confrontation between workers and the Ministry of Munitions over rent strikes, dilution and the Munitions Act. 2) At the end of the war strikes and conflict took place between workers and the police in George Square in Glasgow.

9 The 1915 Munitions Act The aim of this act was to ensure the
efficient production and supply of munitions. Many trade unions were concerned that workers’ rights were being restricted and it was nicknamed the ‘slavery act’. Workers couldn’t leave their job without the consent of their employers. It was an offence for a worker to refuse to undertake a new job, regardless of pay. It was also an offence to refuse to work overtime. Munitions tribunals would prosecute workers who broke this law.

10 Phase One – Conflict in 1915 Before the war new technology was changing production in engineering factories. Skilled workers were concerned that these changes would lead to job losses or that they would be replaced by unskilled workers or even women – this was known as dilution. High demand for munitions during the war led to even more technology and changes in conditions. In 1915 workers at Fairfields and other factories went on strike for higher wages. The strike by 10,000 workers lasted for 3 weeks but was unsuccessful. The also disliked William Weir, the controller of munitions in Scotland because he employed US workers on higher wages. Weir was also the owner of an engineering factory ‘Weir’s of Cathcart’ Weir also introduced a leaving certificate – workers had to get permission to leave one job before they could get another.

11 The Clyde Workers’ Committee
As the war continued demand for munitions soared and the government was worried about attempt by workers to form political groups that might disrupt munitions production. The Clyde Workers’ Committee (CWC) was set up by trade union leaders Willie Gallacher and David Kirkwood and the socialist John MacLean. These men felt that the existing trade unions were not doing enough to protect workers on Clydeside. The organised political rallies and small scale strikes to protest at the 1915 Munitions Act. Lloyd George, the Minister of Munitions even came to meet the group in 1915 to try and calm the situation down and explain the government’s proposals for dilution. The government was concerned that these men would try to undermine the war effort and cause a communist revolution.

12 The Clyde Workers’ Committee
In 1916 the government tried to enforce dilution and strikes broke out. Kirkwood and other shop stewards were arrested and deported to Edinburgh. They were allowed to return to Glasgow in 1917. In 1916 the Clyde Workers' Committee journal, The Worker, was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act for an article criticising the war. Gallacher was sent to prison for six months because of this. When conscription was introduced in 1916 many were concerned that workers would be conscripted and be sent back to factories under the rules of ‘work of national importance’. Strikes broke out and the government took strong action. However public opinion supported the government and many felt that those on strike should be helping and supporting the war effort. Dilution continued and a huge number of women were brought into munitions factories on Clydeside.

13 John MacLean The government used DORA to try and silence anti-war opinion and what they regarded as radical and dangerous political ideas. John MacLean was active in the trade union movement and a committed socialist. Maclean produced a journal called The Vanguard where he campaigned against the First World War. In 1915 MacLean was arrested and found guilty of making statements to discourage recruiting. He served over a year in prison. He was then imprisoned in 1916 for making anti-conscription speeches but was released in 1917. He then devoted himself to spreading Marxism (Communism) on a full-time basis. In 1918 he was charged with sedition (encouraging people to rebel against the government) and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in December 1918. He died in 1923, aged 44. His spells in prison had affected his health – such was his reputation, thousands of people in Glasgow lined the streets to see his funeral procession.

14 Phase Two – The Battle of George Square 1919
Aims: Examine why there was industrial unrest after the war. Assess whether there was a risk of Communist Revolution in 1919.

15 Phase Two – The Battle of George Square 1919
At the end of the war there was support for a campaign to reduce the working week of 54 hours to 40 hours. The CWC believed that this would help create jobs for soldiers returning from war and prevent unemployment. Lloyd George had promised to create ‘a land fit for heroes’. However employers were not happy about paying the same wages for less hours. On Monday 27th January 1919 all the main factories went on strike – around 40,000 workers. 1500 miners in Lanarkshire also went out on strike as well to support the Clydeside workers.

16 The CWC met with the Lord Provost of Glasgow
The CWC met with the Lord Provost of Glasgow. They wanted him to ask the council to put pressure on employers to grant their demands. The Lord Provost said he would consult the council and he asked the workers to return on Friday 31st January. 90,000 workers assembled in George. The police charged at the crowd and a battle broke out with fists, bottles and iron railing. The fighting spread through the streets to Glasgow Green and continued for many hours. This became known as ‘Bloody Friday’. Some argue the police were unprovoked. Other reports suggest workers were stopping trams and that there was even a Communist Red Flag flying in the square.

17 The Government was very concerned by this industrial militancy and that there was the threat of a political revolution breaking out. 12,000 English troops were sent in to restore order, 6 tanks were available for use and machine gun posts were set up around the city. Scottish soldiers were not used in case they sided with the workers. The strike was over within a week and CWC leaders were arrested. The workers were guaranteed a 47 hour working week which was still an improvement. Was there a real threat of revolution? CWC leaders like Willie Gallacher would have liked that to happen. Many ordinary workers caught up in these events were simply concerned about their working conditions and the possibility of losing their jobs.

18 The 1922 Election and Beyond
The events on Clydeside increased support for the ILP and Labour party. 40 out of 43 Labour candidates in Scotland were members of the ILP. Overall the Labour party made their breakthrough as the second political party – 29 of their 142 seats were in Scotland. ILP/Labour candidates won 10 out of 15 parliamentary seats in Glasgow. Davie Kirkwood, once beaten by police, would serve as a Labour MP from 1922 to 1951 while Willie Gallagher became a Communist MP between 1935 and 1950. For working class Scots, the ILP and Labour Party seemed to care about the real issues facing ordinary people However, by 1932 ILP had broken its links with the Labour party claiming they had abandoned their socialist principles for the sake of political power.

19 The 1922 Election and Beyond
The Conservatives strengthened their position in Scotland – they won 30% of the vote in 1918 and became increasingly associated with the growing middle class. In the aftermath of the George Square Riots they were regarded as the party of law and order. In the second election of 1924 they won 38 seats in Scotland compared to Labour’s 26 seats. The inter-war years were times of high unemployment and poverty. Many were disillusioned about the sacrifices that had been made during the Great War. There was a stirring of nationalist feeling and concerns that Scottish culture and identity were being eroded. In May 1928 the National Party of Scotland was founded by Roland Muirhead and John MacCormick however there was no great desire for Scottish independence. In 1934 it merged with the Scottish Party to form the SNP.

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