Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

October 2022

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100 Years of the TGWU
Unite the Union is organising an event at the Moving Image Archive, Kelvinhall, Glasgow, as part of the Unite History Project. This will take place on Wednesday 12 October, from 4.30pm to 8pm, and will comprise a series of videos of Scottish industrial and political history, held by the National Library of Scotland (NLS), as well as of industrial disputes and other TGWU material from the NLS collection, and from Unite’s own collection. From 5.30pm there will be a discussion in the Kelvinhall auditorium, with speakers including Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary; Pat Rafferty, Unite regional secretary; Jim Mowat, Director, Unite; plus the NLS’s Ann Cameron and Dr Valerie Wright, Glasgow University, who will discuss the history of working people, the TGWU legacy, women and working life, and the Unite history project, all as part of the legacy of 100 years, since the formation of the TGWU in 1922. The event is open to the public and places can be booked, via Eventbrite, at…

The Stories of Harry Constable, 1940s docker activist
Harry Constable was an activist docker in London and Liverpool in the 1940s and 1950s. He felt, with some justification, that the Transport and General Workers’ Union was too closely invested in the National Dock Labour Scheme, introduced by the 1945 Labour Government, to remedy unacceptable working conditions. This brought him into conflict with the union, as well as with employers, but he retained a strong base among his fellow workers. In a series of podcasts Constable paints the landscape of his life, describing the struggles of working people and how he became an unofficial dockers’ leader. His story is read by Christopher Eccleston and Eithne Browne, based on recordings compiled by Bill Hunter. The introduction is at…, and more details about Harry Constable are at  The song in the recording refers to dockers refusing to work unless Harry was employed. Stories are scheduled to appear on a weekly basis from September onwards.

Stalinism and Ultra-Leftism: A Warning from History
John McIlroy & Alan Campbell have produced a further article in their ongoing prosopographical studies of the history of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) between the wars, this time during the Communist International’s ‘Third Period’ – of ‘Class against Class’. The article reports on a survey of the 66 members who served on the CPGB central committee (CC) between 1928 and 1934, with the authors assembling details of 63 of those representatives. The full article – John McIlroy & Alan Campbell, ‘“Class Against Class: The leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain during the Comintern’s Third Period, 1928–1934’, – is published in Labor History, vol 63, no 2 (2022), pp145–189, and is available online at…  We should also note that in our August newsletter, as well as mis-spelling John McIlory’s surname (for which we apologise), we may have given a misleading impression regarding the authors’ findings – in two articles about leading women communists – on the two Scottish women, Helen Crawfurd and Kath Duncan, who sat on the CPGB CC during its first twenty years. The two articles, which appear in Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, are available at… and…. We apologise to the authors for our mistake.

Wretched Huts and Despicable Hovels
The Rural Museums Network is holding a free online event on Friday 7 October (3pm-4.30pm), which will trace the history of the longhouse in Scotland from the earliest examples through to those that have survived to the present day. Tickets for the event are available, via Eventbrite here –…

The International Volunteers of the POUM
Historian Andy Durgan has lived and worked in Barcelona for 40 years, publishing extensively on the history of the Spanish Civil War, particularly in relation to POUM. He was Historical Advisor on Ken Loach’s award-winning film, Land and Freedom, and is a member of the Fundació Andreu Nin. On Sunday 9 October (6pm) he will speak about his new book – about the foreign volunteers (apart from Orwell) who fought with POUM during the first year of the Spanish Civil War – “Voluntarios por la revolución. La milicia internacional del POUM en la Guerra Civil Española” (Laertes, ISBN13: 9788418292682). Eventbrite booking is at…; more information, on the Orwell Society website, at

Update on the 2022 SLHS AGM and Conference
At the time of writing, the final details for the SLHS AGM and conference remain unclear, though it now looks likely the AGM will be held in November and the conference delayed until 2023. Details of the AGM will be circulated to members as soon as they are fully known.