Red Clydeside

Glasgow and the Wobblies

Workers' riot in George Square, centre of Glasgow, 1919

The Industrial Workers of the World's influence in Glasgow is not so well known, but it had considerable influence on the shop stewards movement in the period around the First World War:

"It was perhaps a natural development that one of the strongest branches of the Advocates of Industrial Unionism should be in the Singer Sewing Machine Works at Kilbowie, Clydebank, which employed some 12,000 workers. Singers was primarily an American firm, but it had established itself in Europe, and exerted an effective monopoly in the manufacture of sewing machines.

1915-1920: Red Clydeside and the shop stewards' movement

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An account of the powerful workers' movement in Scotland and the strike of 100,000 for a 40-hour week in 1919 which was savagely attacked by the government on what became known as Bloody Friday.

Although unemployment decreased slightly in the few years immediately preceding the beginning of hostilities, inflation rose dramatically, increasing the prices of foodstuffs, rents and fuel, but decreasing workers’ wages by 15%. While conditions at work were fairly miserable, workers had to return to bad housing where overcrowding was not uncommon and disease rampant.

1919: The 40-hours strike

Tanks and soldiers in Glasgow, Feb 1919

The 40 Hours strike led by the Clyde Workers' Committee was the most radical strike seen on Clydeside in terms of both its tactics and its demands.

The objectives of the strike were overtly political; they were to secure a reduction of weekly working hours to 40 in order that discharged soldiers could find employment, and to stop the re-emergence of an unemployed reserve, thereby maintaining the strength of labour against capital.

See also a history of Red Clydeside, 1915-1920

1915: The Glasgow rent strike

Rent strike demonstration, Glasgow 1915

The history of a months-long rent strike of 30,000 Glasgow residents against profiteering landlords, forcing the government to freeze rents for the duration of World War I.

During the First World War, rent increases across Glasgow provoked massive working class opposition, mainly from women organised in tenants’ groups. Their struggle against profiteering landlords during extremely difficult circumstances is a valuable example of how collective action really gets results.