8 The Second World War


In May 1939 the APCF published an appeal to the working class titled 'Resist War!’ the opening two paragraphs of which expressed in a nutshell the position adopted by the group throughout the Second World War:

Workers! The Capitalist system - production for Profit instead of for use - is the cause of War! In the struggle for markets, in which to realise their profits, the Capitalists of the world clash, and then expect their 'hands' to become 'cannon fodder'!

ALL the Capitalists are aggressors from the workers' point of view. They rob you until you are industrial 'scrap', and will sacrifice you 'to the last man' to defend their imperial interest!1

By analysing war as competition amongst rival capitalists pursued by military means, the APCF rejected the ruling class's portrayal of the impending conflict as essentially a democratic crusade against fascism: 'Big Business in this country [Britain] ... is not concerned about democracy. They would destroy capitalist democracy and every vestige of workers' democracy to ensure the continuity of capitalism (i.e. their profits).'2 The USM took the same view. In Guy Aldred's opinion, the 'crimes of Fascism' provided 'no excuse for supporting the hypocrisy of pseudo-democracy . . . Why should young men go forward to fight to acquire more territory to be plundered and exploited by American millionaires? Why should they conceive American democracy to be something superior to German Fascism?’3 USM member Annesley Aldred (son of Guy Aldred and Rose Witcop) made the same point in March 1940: 'It makes no difference to the effect of a bomb whether it is dropped with the hatred of a Fascist Dictator or the love and kisses of a Democratic Prime Minister ... In every case it is the workers who are killed. And any form of government which condones that killing must be intolerable to the workers.'4

Besides the APCF and USM, the ideas and activities of a third anti-parliamentary group - the Glasgow Anarchist Federation – will also be discussed in this chapter. The Glasgow Anarchist Federation emerged during 1940, when the Glasgow Anarchist-Communist Federation (formed on Frank Leech's initiative in 1937), and another Glasgow organisation called the Marxian Study Group, began joint activity as the Glasgow Group of the Anarchist Federation of Britain. The Glasgow Anarchists produced a few issues of a small journal called the Anarchist, but their principal mouthpiece was the newspaper War Commentary, produced by the AFB in London. The first issue of War Commentary, published in November 1939, put forward views on the war similar to those expressed by the APCF and USM:

the present struggle is one between rival Imperialisms and for the protection of vested interests. The workers in every country, belonging to the oppressed class, have nothing in common with these interests and the political aspirations of the ruling class. Their immediate struggle is their emancipation. Their front line is the workshop and factory, not the Maginot Line where they will just rot and die, whilst their masters at home pile up their ill-gotten gains.?

This analysis was shared by the Glasgow Anarchists. Glasgow Group member Eddie Shaw, for example, wrote that the only winners in the war would be 'the small minority who own and control the means of production and who are the only ones likely to benefit from the conquest of trade routes and foreign markets, which the sacrifice of millions of innocent people has made possible'.6

At the outbreak of the conflict the anti-parliamentary groups all called for the war between the fascist and democratic capitalist states to be turned into a war between the capitalist and working classes. The APCF's slogan in 1939 was: 'DOWN WITH NAZISM AND FASCISM, but also DOWN with ALL IMPERIALISM, BRITISH and FRENCH included!'.7 This was elaborated three years later:

We stand for the victory over Hitlerism and Mikadoism - by the German, and the Japanese, workers, and the simultaneous overthrow of all the Allied Imperialists by the workers in Britain and America. We also wish to see the reinstitution of the Workers Soviets in Russia and the demolition of the Stalinist bureaucracy. In a word, we fight for the destruction of ALL Imperialism by the Proletarian World Revolution.8

The demand raised by revolutionaries during the First World War for the 'imperialist war' between nations to be turned into a 'civil war' between classes was repeated by Annesley Aldred in 1939:

Democracy is, alike with the Fascism which it is to oppose, merely a phase of the same Capitalist system. Is it not obvious, therefore, that if there must be war, it should be a war ... to overthrow the system that is responsible for all war? It should not be an internecine war between the workers of different nations, but a war in which they stand shoulder to shoulder, and refuse to be any longer the victims of Capitalist exploitation.9

The anti-parliamentarians' opposition to all sides in the conflict was not altered by Russia's entry into the war in mid-1941. As a capitalist state itself, it was only to be expected that Russia would be drawn into the armed struggle for markets between the imperialist rivals. In 1939 the Glasgow Anarchists had planted themselves firmly within the anti-parliamentary tradition of analysing Russia as a state capitalist regime by publishing a pamphlet, written by the Russian anarcho-syndicalist G. Maximov, called Bolshevism: Promises and Reality. This characterised the Russian economy in the following terms:

Agriculture and industry are organised on the bourgeois principle of the profit-system, i.e. on the exploitation and appropriation by the state of surplus value which is swallowed by the bureaucracy. Industry organised on the capitalist principle makes use of all the capitalist principles of exploitation: Fordisation, Taylorisation, etc. 10

Maximov denied that the Russian regime could be regarded as progressive in any sense and called on the Russian working class and peasantry to revolt as they had done in 1917, only this time against the Bolsheviks.

When the APCF stated in its appeal to 'Resist War!' that 'ALL the Capitalists are aggressors from the workers' point of view', it referred not only to the avowedly capitalist democracies such as Britain and the USA, and the fascist states such as Germany and Italy (the APCF argued that 'Fascism, is but a consequence of Capitalism'),11 but also to Russia. As Marxian Study Group member James Kennedy pointed out in Solidarity in 1939: 'Wage labour is the basis of capitalism. Russian society is no exception . . . Wage labour gives rise to commodity production and capitalist relations, therefore, the control of the means of production and exchange in the hands of the State and not the proletariat.'12 The USM likewise 'decline[d] to conceive that it is possible, from any point of view, to differentiate the USSR from the general run of capitalist countries'.13 According to Guy Aldred, since Russia was a capitalist state its intervention in the war was no less motivated by capitalist imperatives than was the involvement of all the other belligerent states: 'the foundation of the USSR social economy is a system of hired labour and commodity production. Consequently, the Soviet Union, like the rest of the capitalist states, needs foreign markets and spheres of political and economic interest. Foreign markets and spheres of influence make for an imperialist policy and militarism.'14

Stalinist Russia's alliance with the democratic states bolstered the anti-parliamentarians' argument that the conflict had nothing to do with a crusade for democracy, since they could point out that there were more similarities between the political organisation of capitalism in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia than there were between Stalinist Russia and the Allied democracies. Referring to the so-called 'communism' in Russia, USM member John Caldwell argued: This "communism" of the strikebreaker, the dungeon-keeper, the executioner and the hired apologist is not the Communism our fathers preached and suffered to propagate. It resembles more that other form of bastard socialism, born in similar circumstances in war-exhausted Germany - the creed of the Nazi.'l5 Guy Aldred also drew a parallel between Stalinism and fascism when he observed: 'Democracy, free speech, free press, the inalienable right of private judgement do not exist in the Soviet Union any more than they do in Germany or Italy.'16


The anti-parliamentarians based their refusal to take sides in the war in part on an appraisal of the state as a product of the division of society into classes, used by the ruling class to enforce and maintain its own domination over all other classes in society. Under capitalism the state could clothe itself in a variety of guises, but whether fascist, democratic or whatever, it remained nonetheless an instrument of capitalist domination over the working class. By dismissing the differences between democratic and fascist forms of political rule as superficial compared to the capitalist mode of production common to both, the anti-parliamentarians could argue that the democratic and fascist states were basically the same. From the working class's point of view, therefore, there was nothing to choose between them.

During the war some anti-parliamentarians developed another method of approaching this same conclusion. The APCF argued not only that the various nation states were all equally capitalist, but also that they were all equally totalitarian - or tending to become so - and that this was a historical tendency accelerated by the war. This view was summed up by the German revolutionary émigré 'Icarus' (Ernst Schneider), writing in 1944: The present imperialist war anticipates and precipitates the economic and political forms to come. Under the smokescreen of freeing Europe from "Totalitarianism", this very form of monopoly capitalism is developing everywhere.'17

As Icarus's remark suggests, in the APCF's view changes in the political organisation of capitalism were bound up with capitalist economic developments. In a 1940 appeal To Anti-parliamentarians' - based word-for-word on an article which had appeared five years earlier in International Council Correspondence - the APCF explained this link by situating totalitarianism in the context of capitalism's movement through ascendant and decadent phases: 'we have definitely left the era of democracy, the era of free competition. This democracy which served the conflicting interests of small capitalists during the developing stage, is now no longer compatible. Monopoly capitalism in a period of permanent crisis and war finds dictatorship and terror the only means to ensure it a tranquil proletariat.'18 The APCF's 'Principles And Tactics' (1939) observed: 'Even for Capitalist purposes, Parliament is more and more being "consulted" AFTER the event.'19 Concluding that parliamentary democracy was becoming increasingly obsolete (a conclusion strengthened after the beginning of the war when the Emergency Powers Act gave the government authority to legislate without reference to Parliament), and thus that 'the question of parliamentary activity is of very much decreasing importance', the APCF's appeal argued that 'the name anti-parliamentary therefore is historically outdated and should be discarded'.20 Consequently, in October 1941 the APCF abandoned its old title and began calling itself the Workers' Revolutionary League.

Another article putting forward the view that totalitarianism was part of capitalism's strategy for self-preservation in its era of decadence and permanent crisis was published in Solidarity at the beginning of 1941. The author, M.G., argued that

Capitalism in crisis cannot afford to indulge in democracy. The insoluble contradictions of the system are so manifest that it is no longer possible for the ruling class to find even a breathing space within the framework of the old parliamentary regime. In order to stave off for a time at least the inevitable collapse, it renounces so-called democratic rule and resorts to the most flagrant and unabashed methods of class domination, otherwise fascism.21

In short, as Icarus wrote in 1944: ' "Nationalisation" is on the way, with or without Hitler, because there is no other outlook for capitalist imperialism. The inevitable form of organised capitalism is Nazism (Fascism). What has happened in Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, and so on, is developing in Britain and everywhere else.'22

For reasons which F.A. Ridley explained in 1942, this developing tendency towards generalised state capitalism had been greatly accelerated by the specific needs of capital during wartime:

modern war itself is pre-eminently a totalitarian regime . . . consequently, the democratic powers, when faced with the necessity to wage on their own behalf a war that is necessarily conducted in the manner that is natural to their totalitarian opponents, must become, in fact, totalitarian themselves in order to carry it on at all effectively.23

In other words (as the APCF put it): 'Democratic capitalism can only fight fascist capitalism by itself becoming fascist.'24


During the war the anti-parliamentarians in Britain found plentiful evidence to support their contention that the democratic regimes were abandoning their liberal facade and resorting to totalitarian forms of political rule.

Introducing an extension of the Emergency Powers Act in the Commons in May 1940, Clement Attlee stated: 'It is necessary that the Government should be given complete control over persons and property, not just some persons of some particular class of the community, but of all persons, rich and poor, employer and workman, man or woman, and all property.'25 The entire productive apparatus became oriented towards war production at the expense of every other sector. Food and clothing were rationed, consumer goods and services were severely restricted in range and quantity, gas and electricity were diverted from domestic supply to the war economy, and so on. There was an official ban on strikes, enforced overtime, state direction of where workers were employed, suspension of agreements regarding working conditions, internal surveillance, internment of 'aliens', and censorship of the media. Workers also had to be mobilised to transform the armed forces from relatively small, professional units into mass conscript armies. Most of the rest of this chapter concentrates in greater detail on some aspects of the imposition of a centralised state capitalist war economy in Britain, and on the resistance offered by the anti-parliamentary communists.

From November 1939 Defence Regulation 18B enabled the Home Secretary to order, at his own discretion, the detention of any person 'of hostile origin or associations', and anyone 'recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the defence of the realm or in the propagation or instigation of such acts'.26 In May 1940 the Regulation's powers were broadened to permit the internment of members of any organisations which might be used 'for purposes prejudicial to the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order, the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty [sic!] may be engaged, or the maintenance of supplies or services essential to the life of the community'.27 At the end of 1943 Guy Aldred and J. Wynn published a well-documented pamphlet subtitled 'Investigation of Regulation 18B; its origin; its relation to the constitution; with first-hand accounts of what suffering has been involved for those who have been arrested and interned under it.' This argued that the Regulation had in effect established unrestrained executive power - in other words, a form of dictatorship: 'no man who differs from his fellows in his opinion of the Government's policy and dares to voice that opinion is safe from sudden and secret arrest ... As matters now stand there is no judicial safeguard for the liberty of the subject against arbitrary acts of the executive'.28

Regulation 18B was mainly used to intern members of the British Union of Fascists, and people of Italian or German nationality or descent (some of whom had fled their native countries because of their opposition to fascism). In addition it was also used against some Irish Republicans in Britain, and at least once to jail a striking shop steward (John Mason of Sheffield in August 1940). However, since the Regulation was operated entirely at the discretion of the Home Secretary, no-one was beyond its reach: 'All that now stands between any citizen and his secret and hurried incarceration in a gaol or prison camp is the incalculable whim of whoever may chance to be in the office of Home Secretary.'29 Hence the title of Aldred and Wynn's pamphlet: It Might Have Happened To You!

In the same month (May 1940) that the Home Secretary was granted potentially dictatorial powers through the extension of Regulation 18B, the Emergency Powers Act was also extended to empower the Minister of Labour to direct labour and set wages. hours and conditions of work in 'key' establishments. Around the same time, the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Order ('Order 1305') was introduced. This outlawed strike action unless disputes had first exhausted a set negotiation procedure involving the Ministry of Labour and the National Arbitration Tribunal. In effect, workers could only strike legally if they had the state's permission!

The Essential Works Order, introduced in March 1941, gave the state further control over labour by obliging workers to obtain the National Service Officer's permission if they wanted to change jobs. So rarely was this granted that virtually the only way workers could leave workplaces controlled by the Order was by provoking their own dismissal. Under the EWO workers could also be prosecuted and imprisoned for absenteeism or for failing to carry out any 'reasonable order' issued by the boss. By the end of 1941 nearly six million workers were working in industries controlled by the EWO or the similar Docks Labour and Merchant Navy Orders.

By December 1941 growing labour shortages had necessitated the introduction of industrial conscription for women aged 20-30. 'Mobile' women (meaning those without family responsibilities) could be sent to work in any part of the country, while 'immobile' women were directed to employment nearer home.

At the beginning of 1944 the 'Bevin Boy' scheme was introduced involving the initially optional but later compulsory conscription of one in ten young men into coalmining rather than into the armed

forces. This measure provoked the Tyneside and Clydeside apprentices' strikes of March-April 1944. When four members of the Trotskyist Workers' International League were prosecuted for supporting the Tyneside strike, an Anti-Labour Laws Victims Defence Committee was formed in which members of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation were involved.30 The state's response to the apprentices' strikes was the introduction of Regulation 1AA, which prescribed five years' imprisonment and/or a £500 fine for 'any person who declared, instigated, made anyone take part in, or otherwise acted in furtherance of a strike amongst workers engaged in essential services'.31

In 1944 Solidarity summarised the burden of such legislation from the working class's point of view:

Industrial conscription has been introduced in the form of the EWO. Workers are forced to stay in poorly paid monotonous jobs, which require them to work overtime to have a wage in keeping with the increased cost of living. Labour is directed from 'non-essential' to 'essential' work, young women are transferred from factory to factory to suit the needs of capitalism. And now, the youth of the country is being forced, willy nilly, down the mines.32

Add to this the struggle against military conscription (a struggle in which the anti-parliamentarians were actively involved, and which will be discussed later), and it becomes obvious why the APCF should have thought James Connolly's remarks about war so pertinent as to reprint them in Solidarity 21 years after they were first uttered: 'In the name of freedom from militarism it establishes military rule; battling for progress it abolishes trial by jury; and waging war for enlightened rule it tramples the freedom of the press under the heel of a military despot.'33


Paradoxically, the rapid and extensive growth of state power during the war, aided and abetted by organisations traditionally regarded as defenders of working-class interests, created conditions in which some aspects of anti-parliamentary propaganda could actually gain a

hearing among the working class more readily than before. Extensive state intervention in the direction of labour power and production, and the co-operation of official labour organisations in drawing-up and operating labour legislation, meant that radical anti-state and anti-trade union propaganda was bound to strike a sympathetic chord with at least some sections of the working class.

Before looking at this more closely, however, it would be wise to sound a note of caution. It is not disputed here that most British workers believed sincerely in the justice and necessity of waging a war against fascism. What they did object to in many cases was the introduction of 'fascist' measures 'at home' in order to prosecute the war. There was a widespread feeling among working-class people of wanting to fight the war on their own terms, and not at the beck and call of notoriously anti-working class politicians (such as Churchill) who had not hidden their sympathies towards fascism before the war. As the figures for wartime strikes testify, workers were willing to take action in defence of hard-won rights on numerous occasions, even if it involved setting aside 'higher considerations' and coming into conflict with the bosses, the state, the law and their own 'official representatives' (see Table 8.1).

Table 8.1 Disputes involving stoppages (all industries), 1939-45


Workers involved

Working days 'lost'



337 000

1 356 000



299 000

940 000


1 251

360 000

1 079 000


1 303


1 527 000



557 000

1 808 000


2 194

821 000

3 714 000



531 000

2 835 000

Source: Department of Employment and Productivity, 1971.

At such moments certain elements of anti-parliamentary propaganda coincided with what militant workers were beginning to conclude from their own experiences. The crucial point of divergence was that militant working-class action never broke out of its antifascist context. 'Industrial conflict arose from a wide range of circumstances relating to the industrial interests of particular groups of workers; it did not arise because of any substantial opposition to the Second World War itself.'34 In other words, workers were prepared to oppose the capitalist state and the capitalist trade unions, but mainly in order to prosecute more effectively the capitalist war.

Nevertheless, the Glasgow Anarchist Federation (most of whose members were industrial workers attracted to the group because of their experiences during the war) certainly believed that wartime conditions provided a fertile soil for its ideas. A 'Clydeside Worker', writing in War Commentary in 1943, observed how state power and an anti-statist opposition could grow hand-in-hand: 'in the atmosphere of Political Dictatorship, such as prevails today, with all its trappings, regional Gauleiters, total negation of representation, total conscription of labour, with their resultant starvation wages, the Clydeside worker is taking to Anarchism, the road to freedom, just like water fills the hollows of a plain'.35 On the integration of trade unions into the state, Eddie Fenwick of the Glasgow Group argued that the anti-strike position adopted by the unions had undermined their traditional hold over the working class:

When they openly form a united front with the ruling class for the avowed purpose of strikebreaking then surely their days are numbered . . . The trade union machine as at present constituted is disintegrating before our eyes. It will survive only as long as the workers take to forge in struggle their new and revolutionary forms of organisation.36

While the actions of the state and trade unions during the war helped to emphasise the relevance of anti-parliamentary ideas to some militant workers, the single most important factor which created this situation was the Communist Party's sudden swing to fanatical support for the war following Germany's attack on Russia in mid-1941. The practical consequences of this overnight reversal jeopardised the leadership of and control over the actions of militant workers that the Communist Party had been able to exercise until then in several key areas and industries. 'Whenever the workers did come out on strike against their hellish conditions', reported Alex Binnie of the revived Clyde Workers' Committee in 1943, 'they found that this party [the CPGB], instead of giving them support, tried to get them back to work in order that production would go on'.37 It was this which gave groups which still supported the continuing class struggle, such as the anti-parliamentary communists, the opportunity to step into the breach.

Reports in War Commentary written by Glasgow Anarchist Federation members show how the Anarchists intervened on the margins of some industrial disputes during the war and tried to propagandise the lessons of such struggles. In November 1941. for example, the Glasgow Anarchists supported a strike by Glasgow Corporation bus drivers and conductors at the city's Knightswood depot against the introduction of a new running-time schedule. The bus workers' union opposed the strike, 'Yet several hundred workers had so little respect for the good faith of their trade union', reported the local evening paper, "that they refused their appointed spokesmen's guidance'.38 The Labour-controlled Corporation Transport Committee also condemned the strike, expressing its astonishment at its employees' failure to take account of 'the serious time in which we were living'.34 The Committee sent dismissal notice to the strikers and replaced the strike-bound services with 80 Army and Air Force buses. Despite solidarity from other depots the Knightswood strikers were forced back to work. The Transport Committee's actions met with bitterness among the strikers. According to Frank Leech, ' "Did our boys join up to be used against their fellow workers" was one of the questions.'4" Such incidents, involving anti-working class actions by the local state and Labour Party, were grist to the mill of the Anarchists' propaganda.

Towards the end of 1943 Glasgow Anarchist Federation members were also involved on the periphery of strike action in the Lanarkshire coalfield, where the APCF, USM and Anarchist Federation all had active affiliated groups around Blantyre, Burnbank, Hamilton and Motherwell. On 20 September 1943 500 miners went on strike at Wester Auchengeich pit after the colliery contractor had accused 3 miners of malingering. The action spread to Cardowan colliery, where 1000 miners joined the strike with their own demand for the release of 16 colleagues who had been jailed for non-payment of fines imposed for taking part in a strike the previous May. By 28 September the strike had spread throughout Lanarkshire, and to West Stirlingshire and East Dunbartonshire.

The National Union of Scottish Mineworkers President, CPGB member Abe Moffat, blamed the strike on incitement by 'a group of people identified with the Anarchist movement, ILP and so-called militant miners, who are definitely opposed to the war against Fascism'.41 War Commentary responded by admitting that 'our Scottish comrades have been carrying on propaganda in the coalfields since the beginning of the war', but maintained that 'the strike was the spontaneous result of the men's resentment at lying accusations made by a coal contractor against three strippers at Wester Auchengeich colliery, and the imprisonment of 16 Cardowan miners for refusal to pay fines imposed on them for participating in an "unofficial" stoppage last May'.42

The leaders of the NUSM 'immediately set to work to discredit the strikes in every way' and tried to 'force the men back to work'. On 29 September the NUSM Executive suspended three Cardowan branch officials for supporting the strike. The following day, however, a mass meeting of strikers overwhelmingly rejected a Communist-proposed resolution calling for work to be resumed in the interests of the war effort and for negotiation of the miners' demands to be left in the hands of the union executive, and voted to continue the strike for the release of the imprisoned miners and the reinstatement of the suspended officials.

On 1 October the imprisoned miners were freed after paying their fines under pressure from Moffat, and the strike ended. Lord Traprain, the Ministry of Fuel and Power's Regional Controller, 'thanked the trade union officials for their tireless efforts to ensure a resumption and noted with deep satisfaction that these efforts met with considerable success'.43

A third strike in which the Glasgow Anarchists were involved took place at Barr and Stroud's engineering factory in Glasgow when 2000 women went on strike on 13 December 1943 in support of a pay demand. At the beginning of the strike the men in the factory voted to support the women's strike fund, but did not actually join the strike themselves - in limited numbers - until 6 January 1944. This lack of basic solidarity forced the women to reluctantly abandon the strike on 11 January 1944.44

The strike displayed several features which the Glasgow Anarchists could use in their propaganda. The TGWU and AEU had both urged a return to work: The role of the trade union bureaucrats was the same despicable one they have adopted throughout the period of the war.' Since three-quarters of the women did not belong to any union, however, the strike bypassed official union forms and procedures (one woman who had argued that 'success could only be achieved through recognised channels of negotiation' was voted off the strike committee by 'an overwhelming majority').45 The Anarchists emphasised the positive potential of this aspect of the strike:

You have demonstrated that you can organise without the Trade Unions. The 'leaders' are against you. Their funds are closed to you. And yet you have taken part in one of the most solid strikes of recent years. The form of organisation you have set up i.e. the Strike Committee and the Hardship Committee is the beginning of the form of organisation advocated by Syndicalists, whether you know it or not. You must extend this form of organisation.

The formation of committees to organise food supplies and to spread the strike to other workers were among the suggestions made. Ultimately, wrote Frank Leech: 'We would like to see you forming Committees to prepare for the taking over of the factory and commencing the production of the goods you require.'46


The Glasgow Anarchist Federation's most interesting account of wartime industrial action was a pamphlet published in February 1945 called The Struggle in the Factory. Written under the pen-name 'Equity' by a worker in the Dalmuir Royal Ordnance Factory, it described how, following Russia's entry into the war, the CPGB shop stewards at Dalmuir had 'proceeded to sabotage all direct action' by the workers and 'linked themselves with the policy of the employing class, their lackeys the Trade Union leaders, and the Labour leaders'.47

As such the pamphlet conveyed basically the same points that other Anarchist Federation members had expressed in articles published in War Commentary; as Equity pointed out, 'the history of Dalmuir ROF ... is the history of any other war-time factory'.48 What was distinctive about Equity's pamphlet was that, unlike the articles written by most other Glasgow Anarchists, it did not propose 'anarcho-syndicalism' or 'revolutionary industrial unionism' as the solution to the problems it had identified. Instead, Equity explained the reactionary nature of trade unionism in a way that called into question the viability of any form of unionism created as an alternative to the existing trade unions.

In The Struggle In The Factory, and in articles published in War Commentary, Equity argued that 'the function of Trade Unionism was to bargain for reforms',49 and that by performing this role trade unions 'could, and did, win advantages in wages and conditions during the growth and expansion of the Capitalist System'.50 However, this period of ascendancy had now come to an end - The present capitalist system of society has ceased to expand'51 - and the capitalist class had 'no more reforms to give'.32 The material basis of trade unionism as a reformist working-class movement had therefore vanished. 'The Unions have moved towards their eclipse as working class organisations, and they now proceed rapidly along the road towards complete integration with the capitalist state machine.'53 With each national capital only able to survive in an increasingly competitive world market by attacking the wages and conditions of its own working class, the new function of trade unionism had become that of 'accepting on behalf of the workers, all kinds of anti-working class measures', 'announcing] further reductions in working conditions'54 and 'organising] poverty on behalf of capitalism'.55

Equity's writings thus related the function of trade unionism, and the limits of what it might be able to achieve on behalf of the working class, to capitalism's movement through different historical periods (ascendance and decadence). As we have already seen, this was the approach adopted by the European left or council communists, and the APCF had also begun to take up some of these ideas since the mid-1930s. It is interesting, therefore, to find a pamphlet published in the name of the Anarchist Federation arguing from within the same current of thought.

During the war the APCF applied the same theory of capitalist decadence to the development of its ideas about the emergence of class-consciousness. In its 1940 appeal 'To Anti-parliamentarians', the APCF argued, as Equity would later, that 'During the upswing period of capitalism, when it was developing and expanding, it was possible to grant concessions to the working-class because of the increase in productivity and the resultant increase in profits'. However, this upswing period belonged to the past: 'The present period of capitalist decline is one in which no concessions are possible for the working class.'56 Through their experience of bankrupt capitalism's inability to grant even the most basic of their needs in its period of permanent crisis, working-class people would become conscious of the necessity for a complete change in the organisation of society: 'Though their primary demands will be for reforms the logic of events will force the pace. Capitalism cannot grant what is required. Grim necessity will compel the workers to social revolution.'57

The instruments of this revolution would be workers' councils, arising from the working class's struggle for basic needs - increasingly informed by a consciousness of the need to destroy the existing system - combined with the necessity to wage these struggles outwith and against existing forms of organisation. The basic outline of this process had already become apparent during the war, when the trade unions' opposition to strikes had forced workers to pursue their demands by creating new, 'unofficial' organisational forms.

The APCF's belief that workers' councils were 'the real fighting organisations of the working class''18 distinguished the group from the 'old' labour movement, which saw revolution in terms of the conquest of power by a party. In a call ‘For Workers' Councils' published in Solidarity in 1942, the basic features of the council form of organisation were outlined by Frank Maitland. The councils would be universal, organising all workers 'of whatever race, sex, religion, age or opinion'; industrial, 'organised in units of factory, workshop, store, yard, mine or other enterprise'; proletarian in composition, 'representing only the working class'; democratic, 'organised in the simplest possible way, with the participation of all workers'; and revolutionary, fighting for 'the overthrow of capitalist authority'. Maitland also stressed that workers' councils would be independent bodies, 'in the sense that they must be class organisations, that is, not councils initiated or controlled by any particular party or subscribing to a particular programme or financed by a particular union - they must represent the workers as workers'.59 This emphasis on the councils' independence dovetailed precisely with the APCF's attachment to the principle of working-class self-emancipation.


The role political parties could play in the emergence of revolutionary consciousness was the subject of an important debate in Solidarity during the war.

The first contribution to the discussion was an article titled 'The Party and the Working Class', which had originally appeared in International Council Correspondence in September 1936. The APCF attributed the article to Paul Mattick, but its author was actually Anton Pannekoek. Pannekoek argued against the traditional conception of the party as 'an organisation that aims to lead and control the working class'. He did not oppose revolutionaries joining together to

form organisations distinct from the rest of the working class, but these would be 'parties in an entirely different sense from those of today', since their aim would not be 'to seize power for themselves'. Instead, they would act as propaganda groups -'organs of self-enlightenment of the working class by means of which the workers find their way to freedom'. The actual revolutionary struggle itself, however, would be 'the task of the working masses themselves . . . The struggle is so great, the enemy so powerful that only the masses as a whole can achieve a victory'.60

Replying to Pannekoek in the following issue of Solidarity, Frank Maitland took up an opposite point of view. While Pannekoek had stated that 'The belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working class', Maitland argued that the party had an indispensable role to play in the class struggle as the bearer of consciousness to the workers:

the great mass of proletarians live and engage in the class struggle, without being conscious of the struggle, without understanding it ... The class struggle by itself will not educate and organise the masses ... It still remains for the conscious minority to enlighten the masses ... A party is necessary as the brain of the class, the sensory, thinking and directing apparatus of the class, of tens and hundreds of millions of people.

While rejecting 'The social-democratic conception of a parliamentary party and the communist idea of a party dictatorship', Maitland maintained that the solution to the party question was not to 'get rid of the party' (as Pannekoek had argued), but to 'struggle for the control of the party by the working class, in opposition to the control of the working class by the party'.61

Paul Mattick was next to enter the debate, ostensibly to defend Pannekoek's position against Maitland. In doing so, however, Mat-tick went much further than Pannekoek in denying the party's role altogether. Taking as his starting-point 'parties as they have actually existed,' rather than 'Maitland's conception of what a party ought to be', Mattick pointed out that parties 'have not served the working class, nor have they been a tool for ending class rule'. The 'decisive and determining' source of revolutionary consciousness would not be political parties but 'the actual class struggle': The "consciousness" to rebel against and to change society is not developed by the "propaganda" of conscious minorities, but by the real and direct propaganda of events. The increasing social chaos endangers the habitual life of greater and ever greater masses of people and changes their ideologies.'62

After they had appeared in Solidarity, Pannekoek, Maitland and Mattick's articles were also published in Modern Socialism, a journal edited in New York by Abraham Ziegler. Ziegler's comments on the debate were duly printed in Solidarity. This seems to have been the final contribution. Ziegler rejected Maitland's support for a 'Leninist "leadership" party' which would 'guide [the workers] to victory', and he also disagreed with Pannekoek and Mattick's view that revolutionary consciousness was a more or less spontaneous product of the class struggle. On the other hand, Ziegler agreed with Pannekoek on the desirability of parties acting as 'non-power, non-leadership' groups 'in the interests of working class enlightenment'. Alongside this he also cited Kautsky and Lenin's view that revolutionary consciousness had to be injected into the class struggle from outside by radicalised members of the bourgeois intelligentsia. This synthesis of positions was to be found in Daniel De Leon's conception of the party 'as a teacher, not as a leader over the working class'. As an 'educational-propaganda organisation' the party had an essential role to play in the struggles of the working class.63

The APCF's views on the subject shied away from either extreme. Some of the group's statements, such as the following, suggested that like Mattick they believed revolutionary organisations had little to contribute to the emergence of class consciousness: 'Relative poverty must of necessity become absolute in a declining capitalism. This will cause an increasing unwillingness to tolerate capitalism; a willingness to RESIST its encroachments and finally a revolution against it. Socialism will follow.'64 As with Mattick's belief that increasing social chaos would change people's ideas, this implied that revolutionary consciousness was economically determined and inevitable, and left no useful role for intervention by organised groups.

At other times, however, Solidarity also expressed the opposite point of view. At the end of 1942, for example, it observed that 'political clarity and understanding do not develop simultaneously with awakening class-consciousness . . . spontaneity of action and revolutionary fervour do not always embody the necessary knowledge of proletarian strategy and tactics'. Moving in Maitland's direction, the APCF argued that 'those already conscious and politically advanced workers' had a duty to 'come together in common unity' in order to 'give a clear cut and directive lead to the social aspirations of their less politically advanced fellow workers'65

Even so, this view did not seek to deny completely the importance of workers' own experiences, since intervention by organised groups would only be effective if the revolutionary ideas they put forward could be tested against reality and recognised as correct: 'propaganda is not the only factor in making the workers realise the opposition of their interests to those of the ruling class. Class antagonism arises not because of propaganda but because a divergence of economic interest actually exists . . . Regarding propaganda, the workers compare what is said with what is done.'66 In other words, it was not a question of workers learning either from experience or from propaganda; in practice, both sources had positive contributions to make.

Of all the contributors to the debate the APCF was closest to Pannekoek's position. Like Pannekoek, the APCF rejected 'the orthodox party conception', meaning the idea of parties as power-seeking minorities. Nevertheless, the APCF still believed that as an organised revolutionary group it had an important role to play in the class struggle: 'It is our mission to educate, agitate and enthuse; perhaps even to inspire. We will gladly give service as propagandists, as advisers or as delegates. But we do NOT seek to boss or control. We would impel, not compel, seeking the maximum self-initiative and direct action of the workers themselves.'67 Ultimately, the only guarantee against a party seizing power and exercising a dictatorship over the working class would be for groups such as the APCF to 'sow as much socialist propaganda as possible', so that working-class people would be 'as immune as possible from the danger of various types of Fuhrers, who, on the promise of solving the problems they must ultimately solve themselves, will but change the form of slavery'.68


Although the anti-parliamentary groups all started off by calling for industrial action against the war, such appeals received no large-scale response. For this reason the anti-parliamentarians' own opposition to the war was mainly forced to take the form of 'direct individual action'.64 As Frank Leech observed: 'We Glasgow Anarchists issued a leaflet calling workers to resist conscription by a General Strike . . . there was no response. Ever since, in common with other groups and individual workers, we have fallen back on individual resistance.'70

Such action was an important feature of the anti-parliamentary groups' activities. A measure of the earnestness with which the principle of refusing involvement with any part of capitalism's military apparatus was treated can be ascertained from the minutes of a USM group meeting held in May 1942:

Comrade Lennox informed the Group that she had been strongly advised to obtain a gas mask, and that she intended acting on this advice. In view of this decision she felt she could not continue membership of the USM. After the discussion the Chairman expressed the feeling of the Group in informing Comrade Lennox that this was a private matter and did not affect membership of the Group; though several members considered it a matter of principle not to possess or carry a gas-mask.71

Participation in Air Raid Precautions work and compulsory fire-watching schemes was also shunned. As Anarchist Federation member Eddie Fenwick explained when prosecuted for refusing to fire watch at his workplace, since the 'owners of private property had denied him the elementary rights of man, he was entitled to refuse to protect private property'.72 When Frank Leech was fined for refusing to comply with the fire watching regulations, and then imprisoned after declining to pay, he went on hunger strike in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, explaining afterwards that he would not 'be used by any ruling class in their wars ... I am determined that our dictators will only conscript my dead body. Not whilst there is breath in it will I submit to them'. After going without food for 17 days Leech was released when friends paid his fine.73

The main focal point of the anti-parliamentarians' individual resistance was opposition to military conscription. During the First World War Lenin had argued that workers should not refuse to enter the armed forces: 'You will be given a gun. Take it and learn the military art. The proletarians need this knowledge not to shoot your brothers, the workers of other countries . . . but to fight the bourgeoisie of your own country.'74 The anti-parliamentarians rejected this tactic:

militarisation is intended to accustom the masses to submissiveness and ready obedience. This, in turn, leads to a psychology which would be, to say the very least, unfavourable for a flowering of real workers' democracy. Rather it would encourage the growth of the stifling fungi of bureaucracy and despotism all over again. On this triple count, therefore, militarism should be resisted in every possible way.

The same article also argued against the idea that communists should enlist in order to subvert the armed forces:

military authorities will not regard with detached benevolence the consistent spreading of revolutionary thoughts and literature . . . work under such conditions must entail the watering down of these ideas to such an extent as will present no danger to the authorities. That leads one to ask whether entry into imperialist armies for this purpose is worthwhile at all.75

This article's observation that workers in uniform were rarely 'hemmed off entirely' from contact with the rest of their class was later taken up by another article on the same topic: The majority of the members of the forces are members of the working class, and their outlook is just as progressive as the outlook of the best of the workers . . . the members of the forces, having strong working-class connections, will - in a period of crisis - develop a revolutionary outlook.'76 In general, therefore, anti-parliamentarians eligible for conscription opted to try their luck before the Conscientious Objectors' Tribunals.

The APCF, USM and Glasgow Anarchist Federation were all active to varying degrees in the Glasgow and West of Scotland No-Conscription League. Willie McDougall of the APCF and Guy Aldred both served spells as Chair of the organisation. In 1940 Aldred wrote a pamphlet for the NCL's Advisory Bureau titled The C.O., the Tribunal, and After, which explained the rights of C.O.s, described the Tribunal and Appeal procedures, and offered legal advice. Having often been on the receiving end at courts of law, Aldred was well qualified for the task of advising C.O.s, and the Word's reports of C.O. Tribunals and Appellate Courts frequently mentioned his appearances on behalf of the defendants.

In August 1940 four members of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation - James Kennedy, Frank Dorans, Eddie Shaw and Frank Leech - were prosecuted for allegedly inciting people to evade the duties and liabilities relating to conscription laid down in the National Service (Armed Forces) Act. The basis of the charge was that they had advertised the offer of information and advice for prospective C.O.s and had held mock tribunals to help C.O.s prepare their cases. The four defendants were found not guilty, however, since in the judge's opinion their actions had not technically amounted to 'incitement'.77

The anti-parliamentary groups' members experienced varying degrees of success in their own appearances before the Tribunals. Since as a rule the anti-parliamentarians did not conceal their willingness to fight in the class war, in many cases they naturally failed to satisfy the Tribunals' requirement that defendants had to have a conscientious objection to all use of force. Once the process of Tribunals and Appeals had been exhausted, unsuccessful C.O.s were required to undergo medical examination before being enlisted. Refusal to submit to examination was a criminal offence. In April 1944 Frank Leech reported that 'Dozens of our members have served twelve months' sentences for refusing M.E. [Medical Examination]'.78

Court appearances were frequently used as an opportunity to denounce conscription and the capitalist war. At his trial in September 1941 for refusing medical examination, Glasgow Anarchist James Dick stated his refusal to fight in a war 'for the defence of those in this country like Churchill, who helped build up Fascism and praised Hitler and Mussolini for the grand work they were doing for civilisation!'. This speech earned Dick a further 14 days' imprisonment for contempt of court on top of the customary 12 months for refusing medical examination.79

Aided by experts such as Aldred, other C.O.s made full use of all legal technicalities, loopholes and procedural irregularities. One of the craftiest defences was offered by Glasgow Anarchist Eddie Shaw. After two years of court appearances and prison sentences Shaw was required to attend for examination at the Medical Board centre in Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, at 2.30 pm on 21 June 1944. He was taken from custody at Marine Police Office and arrived at Dumbarton Road at 2.20. After refusing examination he was taken back to the Police Office, arriving there just after 2.25. Six days later he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. Shaw then lodged an appeal, pleading that he had been physically prevented from submitting himself for examination because he had been in police custody at the appointed time! Suitably confounded by the ingenuity of the appeal, the judge quashed the conviction and awarded Shaw ten guineas expenses.

USM members Annesley Aldred, Johanna Haining and John Caldwell all succeeded in gaining unconditional exemption at the first or second attempt.81 Leigh Fisher of Burnbank, Lanarkshire, was less fortunate. Like Eddie Shaw, he too spent nearly two years being dragged through court appearances and prison sentences until the Appellate Tribunal finally decided in November 1942 that he could register as a C.O. if he resumed his previous employment or found work in the building trade.82

William Dick, an APCF C.O., appeared before the Tribunal in June 1942. Unusually, he put forward a pacifist defence - 'My opposition to war, although it is connected with my opposition to the State and to the State organisation of Society, proceeds definitely from clear moral opposition to violence' - and was granted unconditional exemption.83

During the war the USM's Word recounted the details of Guy Aldred's repeated imprisonments during 1916-19 for resisting conscription, and also published accounts of the general history of Conscientious Objection to the First World War. One of the purposes this served was to attack supporters of the Second World War who had been C.O.s during the 1914-18 conflict. The most frequent targets of such criticism were the Clydeside politicians Patrick Dollan and Thomas Johnston. Both had a reputation for being C.O.s during the First World War, but they supported the second and were now 'enjoying places of honour in the State' as Lord Provost of Glasgow (Dollan) and Regional Defence Commissioner for Scotland (Johnston). Guy Aldred considered that this was 'hypocritical' and suggested: 'If you despise the 1940 conchies, sack the 1916 ones also' (many private employers and more than a hundred local government bodies sacked or suspended C.O.s in their employ).84

The about-turn of former opponents of war such as Johnston and Dollan was of course regarded as further proof of the corrupting effect of parliamentarism. The 'practising conscientious objectors of 1914-1918' had been transformed into 'stern practising militarists' by a 'growing adaptability to ideas of reformism, and a growing parliamentary sense of responsibility to capitalist institutions'.85

The theme of contradiction and inconsistency also featured in the USM's attacks on the CPGB. Before the outbreak of the war the USM criticised the CPGB for proposing to abandon the position of 'turning imperialist war into civil war', and for campaigning in support of a war for democracy.86 When Russia signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany in 1939 and the CPGB reversed its position, the USM criticised the hypocrisy of today's friendly alliance with yesterday's bitterest enemy. Russia's entry into the war in 1941, which caused yet another somersault, simply added to the abundance of inconsistencies which characterised the CPGB's record. The lone CPGB MP Willie Gallacher frequently bore the brunt of the USM's attacks; in 1942 Aldred commented: 'Every Socialist will recall how [Gallacher] was for a "People's Peace" and for the sabotage of war when Stalin made his famous pact with Hitler; and how, when Hitler broke the pact, he became the jingo of jingoes, in defence of the Soviet Union! The man's contradictions and worthlessness defy full recording.'87


In June 1943, after another fruitless attempt by the CPGB to affiliate to the Labour Party, the ferocity of Aldred's opposition to the Communist Party provoked him to urge workers to 'rally round the Labour Party Executive in its firm struggle against the Communist Party conspiracy for power and dictatorship'.88 This call was quickly condemned by Word reader V. Wilson, who argued that compared with the 'Labour guardians of Capitalist-Imperialism' the CPGB was merely 'a handful of irresponsible clowns'.89 Wilson suggested that Aldred's appeal had been made 'in a moment of aberration'. Yet there were several other occasions during the war when the Word's readers found good cause to criticise alliances proposed or actually entered into by Aldred.

Although the USM's opposition to the war was initially founded on revolutionary principles, the group soon exhibited a willingness to ally itself with other organisations and individuals who were against the war for all sorts of different reasons. This led to the formation of some absurdly unholy alliances - or perhaps 'broad church' might be a more appropriate term, since a striking feature of the Word was the number of articles it contained written by Unitarian, Baptist and Humanist Reverend Ministers who opposed the war on Christian-Pacifist grounds.

As editor of the Word, Aldred also gave considerable space and coverage to the articles and speeches of anti-war labour movement politicians such as Creech Jones, John McGovern, Rhys Davies and Fred Jowett. Davies and Jowett had both been members of the 1924 Labour government so vehemently criticised in the past by Aldred, but these previous antagonisms were temporarily forgiven for the sake of preserving anti-militarist unity.

Another of Aldred's opportunist liaisons was with Alexander Ratcliffe, secretary of the Scottish Protestant League and editor of its newspaper. Vanguard. This association illustrated very well how two people could oppose the same thing for totally different reasons. Like the Word, Ratcliffe's paper criticised Patrick Dollan for the hypocrisy of supporting war in 1939 after opposing it in 1914 - but it also attacked him on the sectarian and racist grounds that he was a 'Papist' and an 'Irish-Paddy'. Aldred rejected such 'prejudice and abuse',90 but even so he regularly published articles by Ratcliffe in the Word throughout the war. In contrast the Glasgow Anarchists refused to allow the Protestant League's bookshop in Glasgow to distribute War Commentary, because the League was anti-Semitic (apparently Vanguard tended to 'devote half its space to statements to the effect that "the Jew So-and-So" has been appointed to this or that').91

Aldred's most unlikely alliance by far, however, was the one he concocted with the Marquis of Tavistock, Hastings Russell, who later became the Duke of Bedford. Alec Kaye, a USM member in London, warned Aldred about Bedford in May 1940:

I attended Lord Tavistock's peace meeting at the Kingsway Hall . . . The meeting reeked with propaganda for the British People's Party, an obviously camouflaged Fascist movement. I recognised several known Fascist supporters as stewards . . . Tavistock is not all that he appears to represent. If I ever heard a whitewashing of Hitler, it was by him. Even when he regretted the brutalities, he still had some justification for such acts.92

As well as being an apologist for Nazism, Bedford was a believer in Social Credit monetary theories, and articles written by him about this subject, plus others advocating a negotiated peace with Germany, filled numerous pages of the Word every month.

In 1984 Aldred's relationship with Bedford was defended by John Caldwell, who related that the pair first met as speakers at an anti-war meeting in Glasgow:

Tavistock mentioned he was having difficulty having his pamphlet printed because of the war and the fear it gave publishers . . . [Aldred] sympathised with the Marquis in the frustration of not being able to spread his anti-war message. The Strickland Press had just opened . . . There was printing capacity to spare. In this way, when no one else dared to do so, Aldred became printer to the Duke of Bedford.

According to Caldwell, 'Neither influenced the other, nor subsidised, nor subverted the other'.93

In fact, the association between Aldred and Bedford went much further than the disinterested commercial relationship described by Caldwell. Aldred held Bedford in rare esteem - 'He is a man of fearless integrity'94 - and in August 1941 went so far as to suggest the formation of a Socialist-Pacifist coalition with Bedford at its head: 'We would have him the leader of the opposition to the present Government, and so the next Prime Minister.'95 As we will see later, Aldred also accepted some of Bedford's Social Credit ideas.

The flood of readers' letters to the Word agreeing with Aldred's proposal for a Bedford-led Socialist-Pacifist alliance illustrated the sort of audience the paper was reaching - and addressing - during the war. Nevertheless, there was a minority of readers who were severely critical of Aldred's opportunism, and whose views deserve to be restated. Alec Kaye, whose criticism of the Duke of Bedford has already been quoted, argued in June 1940 that 'Genuine Socialists' could not enter into any 'Popular Front for peace' with 'pseudo-Socialists and peace-lover-cum-fascist advocates'.96 In November 1944 Daryl Hepple of Gateshead described the Word's contents as 'a hotch-potch of Socialism, Social Credit, Freethought and Pacifism, not forgetting pandering to Labour MPs, who happen to be Pacifists, several reverent gentlemen and much boosting of the Non-Socialist Duke of Bedford. Strange bedfellows indeed for one who claims to be an Anarchist.' The Word's 'sentimental bourgeois pacifism . . . Asking rival Capitalist gangsters to negotiate a just peace' made as much sense as it would to 'ask a lion to turn vegetarian'.97 In 1945 John Fairhead of Woking attacked Aldred's 'uncritical and completely comradely alliance with men of the type of Rhys Davies and the Duke of Bedford ... In so far as you oppose the cancer of Stalinism, more power to your elbow; in so far as you continue to dally with the day-dreams of an anachronistic anarchism, may you be damned.'98

Aldred replied to such criticism by stressing the value of free speech and the need to discard 'sectarian considerations'. Defending the heterogeneity of the Word's contributors in May 1942 he wrote: 'I do not worry whether I share their views or otherwise. I simply say to myself: Is this a truthful man? Does he write sincerely? Has he a message? Will his views bear discussion and help mankind? If the reply is "Yes", I publish the article. I am not a censor but a defender and advocate of freedom of speech, thought and writing.'99 Two months later Aldred justified the Word's editorial policy in similar terms: The Word is a forum of democracy and its columns are closed to none. It is open to all heretical opinion, and since we believe violence and exploitation to be wrong, to all Pacifist and all Socialist opinion.


Like the Word under Guy Aldred's editorship, the APCF's paper Solidarity was also a forum for the expression of a wide range of views - though not of the sort that the Word's revolutionary critics condemned. Class struggle anarchists such as Albert Meltzer and Mat Kavanagh, council communists Anton Pannekoek and Paul Mattick, the Trotskyist Frank Maitland, Spartacist Ernst Schneider ('Icarus'), F. A. Ridley of the ILP and James Kennedy of the Marxian Study Group - all contributed to a fruitful interplay of ideas on many topics.

Solidarity's editorial policy typified the APCF's view of its own relationship to other revolutionary groups. Believing that no single party would 'ever have in its ranks ALL the BEST elements in the working class', the APCF rejected the spectacle of 'numerous competing bodies all play-acting at being THE vanguard'.101 No party could claim to have held the correct position on every issue in the past, nor could any group be certain that it would take the right line on every question which might arise in the future. Many of the issues separating revolutionaries would be settled only by the future course of the class struggle itself 'rendering obsolete or clarifying many of the errors previously held'.102 In the meantime, revolutionaries had enough in common to adopt a more co-operative attitude and practice: 'Pending the final show-down with capitalism there will arise many issues upon which all revolutionaries, irrespective of section, SHOULD agree. For such objects we ought to put our party loyalty second to class loyalty which all profess, in order to attain the

maximum possible striking power.'103 In practical terms this meant the formation of revolutionary alliances 'either for an agreed limited programme or for any single issue arising in the class struggle'.104

The APCF's belief that 'All educational or agitational propaganda that awakens or deepens class consciousness should be welcomed'105 was another anti-sectarian attitude taken seriously by the group. In 1941, for example, the Word acknowledged 'the splendid propaganda zeal of our comrade, W. C. McDougall, of the APCF, editor of Solidarity. His circulation of pamphlets and papers is a feature of Glasgow activity in war time. Last month he circulated nearly 300 Words.'106 Besides selling the USM's paper the APCF also distributed War Commentary, the main paper of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation.107

Another of the APCF's anti-sectarian initiatives was the establishment of the weekly Workers' Open Forum in Glasgow in October 1942, based upon the slogans: 'A Workers' Council for eliminating error. All parties invited. Let the Truth prevail!'. By mid-1943, according to a report in Solidarity, the Open Forum had been addressed by speakers from the Anarchist Federation, SPGB, SLP, Workers' International League, ILP, Common Wealth, Peace Pledge Union, No-Conscription League, the Secularists, a Single Tax group and 'unattached but prominent Industrial Unionists, etc'.108 As the war dragged on, the activities carried out by the APCF in its own name were 'largely submerged ... in the interests of the Workers' Open Forum'.109

The following passage, from the APCF's 'Principles and Tactics", encapsulates the group's modest estimation of its own self-importance and its unshakeable belief in the working class's capacity to emancipate itself through its own efforts:

Instead of struggling for supremacy, revolutionary parties should aim as far as possible at complete liquidation into the workers' Soviets, where they can advance their policies by courage, initiative and example. Practical, instead of abstract problems, will be on the order of the day, and the best solutions, irrespective of who advocates them, should be adopted without prejudice. We will find, in practice, that the Vanguard interpenetrates and overlaps all existing parties; and that workers, previously of no party at all. are able to contribute in a surprising degree and to over-shadow many who were previously considered as indispensable and of the elite!110


The anti-parliamentary groups had all expected that as in 1917-18 the war would end in revolution. In 1941 Guy Aldred predicted: 'Demobilisation and other difficulties would bring about a crisis: for the war represented a breakdown of Capitalist Democracy and faced it with Revolution.'111 In 1943 Glasgow Anarchist Eddie Shaw envisaged widespread revolution as the various nation states disintegrated under the stress of the conflict,11" while Frank Maitland anticipated that 'the invasion of Europe will produce revolts and revolutionary attempts'.113

Events in Italy in 1943 encouraged such thinking. In March a strike at the Turin FIAT-Mirafiori plant spread throughout the city, and then to large factories in Milan. Around 300 000 workers were involved. The strikes provoked a crisis within the Italian ruling class, and Mussolini was dismissed as head of government. These events were regarded as the first steps in the direction of far greater changes. The Glasgow Anarchists' 'Manifesto on Italy' proclaimed that the Italian workers had

struck the first real blow against Fascism since this war started - a blow for Social Revolution, AND ANARCHY . . . Forward to the call of the Italian workers, beckoning you to a new world, free for ever from war, poverty and enslavement. Prepare for action, HANDS OFF THE ITALIAN WORKERS. No Arms, Men or ammunition to crush the revolutionary Italian workers.114

A similar appeal was made in 1944 after the start of the Civil War in Greece. When British troops were dispatched to aid the Greek government against the 'Communist' guerrillas, a Glasgow Anarchist leaflet 'distributed widely on the Clyde' warned: 'Workers, your brothers in uniform are being used as the advance guard of reaction ... It is in our interests not to allow ourselves to be used as blacklegs against fellow-workers in other lands.'115 At a 'Withdraw From Greece' protest meeting chaired by Willie McDougall in Glasgow in January 1945, the Anarchist Federation speaker Jimmy Raeside 'was very warmly received for his forthright call to industrial action'.l16

As it turned out, of course, 1945 saw no repetition of the revolutionary upheavals that ended the First World War. The enduring popularity of anti-fascism was insurance against revolution in the victorious Allied countries, since revolution would have required a massive break with this ideology which had helped to sustain the war effort for six years. At the end of the First World War the defeated powers had been those most prone to insurrection, but the military occupation of the defeated powers' territory at the end of the Second World War effectively ruled out any prospect of working-class uprisings there. The victorious ruling classes were as mindful as the anti-parliamentarians of the spectre of 1917-18, and used every means at their disposal against the workers of the countries they had supposedly come to liberate to ensure that this spectre did not become incarnate.

For Guy Aldred the war ended with a parliamentary campaign in Glasgow Central in the 1945 general election - a far cry from the revolutionary crisis he had predicted in 1941. Opposition to the oppressive measures introduced during the war was a prominent theme of Aldred's election address:

I am opposed to conscription. 1 am opposed to the control of labour. Control Finance. Control Foreign Policy. Control the social use of all wealth that is socially produced. But control the individual free man or free woman by controlling and directing his or her own labour power! I say no. My programme is: end all control, all direction of labour; end conscription and regimentation.117

There were also faint echoes of the 1922 'Sinn Fein' candidature in Shettleston. Aldred declared that he would not indulge in any electioneering or canvassing, and emphasised that he was 'not seeking a career';118 the candidature was simply a means to 'register opinion and the growth of an idea'.119 Another echo of 1922 was a mention of the soviet system advocated prominently in the Shettleston address: 'Parliamentarism, talking-shop politics, ought to be liquidated in an economic and culturally organised society, with an industrial franchise, and direct control of representation at every point by the common people: the wealth producers.'120

Alongside these ideas were reformist demands such as a call for an end to 'secret diplomacy'. The blatant contradiction here between advocating world socialism one moment and popular control of 'foreign' policy the next was typical of the whole address. The influence of the currency crank Duke of Bedford was also evident:

The doctrine of social credit cannot be substituted for Socialism, but the idea that money is merely a medium or measure of exchange, and not a commodity in itself, is a sound one. Money, so long as money is tolerated - and I believe in the complete abolition of the money system - should be reduced to true use-function . . . Labour ought to be free and wealth, which is social, ought to be socialised.121

Such ideas were totally at odds with the ABC of communism usually propagated by the anti-parliamentarians. If wealth was socialised -as Aldred demanded - access to it would be open to everyone without restriction on a free and equal basis; there would be no need for money or any other system of exchange. The existence of money, precisely as a medium or measure of exchange, implies commodity production and the exclusion of a section of society from the control or use of wealth. In other words, 'merely' capitalism. Money can never function as anything but a commodity in itself; indeed, it epitomises commodities, since its only use is to store or exchange wealth and it has no true use-function whatsoever.

On polling day Aldred made no advance on his previous forays into the electoral field. The seat was won by a Conservative with 9365 votes, while Aldred came bottom of the poll with 300.

Remaining true to the anti-parliamentary tradition, on the day of the election members of the Anarchist Federation 'toured the Glasgow streets with the loudspeaker, exposing politics and politicians, and advising workers to stop using their votes and start using their brains'.122

On to Chapter 9

notes and references