Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

November 2023

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SLHS John Maclean Centenary Conference: Saturday 18 November
With 67 people now booked for the conference, there are a few remaining places. It will now feature Tam Dean Burn performing Maclean’s Speech from the Dock, and Calum Baird will perform the John Maclean March at the close of the conference. Full details & booking form are appended to this newsletter and are also on the SLHS website at… Forms, once completed, should be sent, with conference fee, to Stewart Maclennan at 0/1, 64 Terregles Avenue, Pollokshields, Glasgow, G41 4LX.

Scottish Labour History – The 2023 Journal
The 2023 edition of Scottish Labour History should be ready for distribution to members attending the John Maclean conference on 18 November. Contents include: William Morris in Scotland in 1886, Harry McShane remembering John Maclean, Irish solidarity in Scotland in the 1970s/1980s, and Scottish solidarity with Chile, post-1973. There are also articles on early C20 Scottish support for Irish independence, and an assessment of economic regeneration in the Highlands in the 1970s/1980s. Book reviews cover slavery, the Spanish Civil War, the history of UNITE the union and more.

Celebrating the Life and Legacies of John Maclean
On Friday 17 November (5pm-6.30pm) the University of Glasgow will mark the centenary of the passing of one of its most influential graduates, the socialist revolutionary, John Maclean (MA, 1904). Maclean was an educator, schoolteacher and adult tutor. His classes on Marx’s Capital and historical materialism influenced a generation of trade unionists who led the organised working class in Scotland from the 1910s to the 1940s. He died in November 1923, aged forty-four, having dedicated his life to the struggle for socialism. Revered in poetry and song, he has become a symbol of Scottish radicalism. This event, at the university’s Hunter Hall, will examine Maclean’s unusual legacy. Hosted by Professor Jim Phillips, a historian of labour, work and trade unionism in C20 Scotland, and Dr Ewan Gibbs, it will feature three speakers from the university: Professor Maud Bracke, a historian of European communism; Dr Charlie Peevers, a scholar of peace activism, and Jonas Thoreson, a PhD candidate in English Literature. Registration is free but spaces are limited. Places can be booked at…

A Hundred Years of History and Class Consciousness
The initial reception of György Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness, which reaches its centenary this year, was almost entirely negative. According to Canadian philosopher Andrew Feenberg, ‘Non-Marxists didn’t like his Marxism and Marxists disliked his borrowings from contemporary social science and philosophy.’ From 1923, when the book was first published, until the 1960s, when a new generation of readers discovered it, History and Class Consciousness was largely invisible. However, from the 1980s the fate of the book changed dramatically, when another generation of scholars began to discover the real meaning of Lukacs’s complicated text. From then on, Lukacs’s concept of reification could be seen to have relevance to contemporary issues. A series of videos about Lukacs and History and Class Consciousness is available at:;;;

Calling All Academic Teaching Staff! Please Promote the Ian MacDougall Essay Prize 2023/4
SLHS has established the Ian MacDougall Essay Prize with a threefold purpose:
*   to honour the memory of Dr Ian MacDougall (1933-2020), founding secretary of the Scottish Labour History Society and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust;
*   to encourage high standards of scholarship among those studying Scottish labour history;
*   to promote the study and recording of labour and popular history in Scotland.
The prize will be awarded annually, the winner to receive: [i] a cash prize of £400; [ii] publication of the winning essay in Scottish Labour History; [iii] a year’s subscription to Scottish Labour History. Full details and an entry form are available on the SLHS website at…