Guy Alfred Aldred, the son of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was born in Clerkenwell on 5th November 1886. He was named by his mother after Guy Fawkes.
Aldred attended Iron Infant's School in Farringdon Road and Hugh Middleton Higher Grade School. At the age of ten he formed an Anti-Nicotine League among his classmates and he later joined the Band of Hope, the junior wing of the Temperance Society.
After leaving school he found employment as an office boy with the National Press Agency. In 1902, at the age of 16, he co-founded the Christian Social Mission and became known as the "boy preacher". His friend, John Taylor Caldwell described Aldred's early sermons: "He was pale complexioned, one-eighth Jewish, large-eyed, generous-lipped, holding in leash a merry smile, like that of his grandfather incarnate. He wore a Norfolk jacket, pleated and high-lapelled. He had a starched Eton collar and a starched shirt front. The ends of his black bow tie were tucked under his wide collar. He wore knickerbockers, thick grey stockings and heavy, hiehly polished black boots."
In December 1902 he met the Reverend Charles Voysey. This seventy-four year old preacher argued that Christianity was organised atheism. He spent a year debating this issue with Voysey before writing: "I think that fundamentally the Christian Church is an atheist institution. Jesus as the son of man is a glorious protest against God the upholder of Crown and State and Church, the advocate of war. I begin to realise that Christianity should not be an attempt to explain the creation of the world, but a living atttempt to recreate human society."
Aldred became an atheist and in 1904 he founded the The Clerkenwell Freethought Mission and spoke under the banner: "For the promotion of Religious, Scientific and Secular Truth, and the advocacy of the right and duty of every man to think for himself in all matters relating to his own welfare and his duty to his Brother Men." This created considerable hostility and on several occasions he was beaten-up by devout Christians.
In 1904 Aldred also met William Stewart Ross, the editor of the Agnostic Journal. Ross predicted that Aldred would become an important preacher: "This Guy, born on Guy Fawkes' Day, and intent on an argumentative blowing up of the House of Priestcraft, has done so much at eighteen that I am sure the readers of A.J. would all like to see what he will have done by the time he is eighty."
Later that year Aldred heard Daniel De Leon, the leader of the Socialist Labor Party, speak on Clerkenwell Green. He wrote in his autobiography, No Traitors' Gait (1955): "De Leon saw and taught that the system of government based on territorial lines has outlived its function: that economic development has reached a point where the Political State cannot even appear to serve the workers as an instrument of industrial emancipation. Accumulated wealth, concentrated in a few hands, controls all political governments."
Aldred became a socialist and a regular reader of The Clarion, a journal edited by Robert Blatchford. He was also influenced by the ideas of William Morris and he eventually joined the Social Democratic Federation. However, he clashed with the SDF's leader, H. M. Hyndman, and in 1906 he left the organisation.
Aldred was sympathetic to the anarchist views of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Peter Kropotkin and began contributing articles for The Freedom newspaper. Aldred, like Kropotkin, rejected the idea of using violence: "'The genuine anarchist looks with sheer horror upon every destruction, every mutilation, of a human being, physical or moral. He loathes wars, executions and imprisonments, the crippling and poisoning of human nature by the preventable cruelty and injustice of man to man in every shape and form."
During this period he became friendly with Rudolf Rocker, the leader of the anarchist movement in England. His also met Emma Goldman, who had been deported from the United States, and Annie Besant, the leader of the Theosophy movement in Britain.
In January 1907, Aldred began work for The Daily Chronicle. Soon afterwards, he met Rose Witcop. She was the sister Milly Witcop, the free-love partner of Rudolf Rocker. Rose convinced him of the need to support the campaign for women's suffrage. As John Taylor Caldwell pointed out, Witcop argued: "The vote meant little to working-class women. She would not qualify for it anyway, so why should a woman who slaved all week in an ill-conditioned factory for paltry wages care whether middle-class women had the vote or not? Even if she had the vote, how many working-class women would bother to use it? And if they did use it, would it make any difference? What was required was the organisation of working women in an agitation for general emancipation; to make women understand that it is not the want of voting rights that creates bad conditions for her, but thasocial attitude which regards her as a slave, both in the factory and in the home."
Aldred's mother disapproved of her son's relationship. The first time he took Rose home she shouted: "Get that bloody Russian Jewess out of my house!" As he wrote in his autobiography that he decided to become "associated more intimately, wisely or unwisely, with Rose Witcop". His mother was so upset that she told him that she never wanted to see him again.
On 6th November 1907 Aldred was visited by Detective-Inspector John McCarthy, who revealed that Aldred's speeches had been reported to Scotland Yard. During the course of his Special Branch career, McCarthy arrested Aldred several times for his political activities.
On 2nd May, 1909, Rose Witcop gave birth to their son, Annesley. Later that year Aldred was sentenced to twelve months hard labour for printing the August issue of The Indian Sociologist, an Indian nationalist newspaper edited by Shyamji Krishnavarma. Aldred was released from prison on the 2nd July 1910. Soon afterwards he established the monthly journal, The Herald of Revolt.
After the death of a patient during childbirth Margaret Sanger, a nurse working in New York City, decided to devote her life to making reliable contraceptive information available to women. She published the Birth Control Review and persuaded Lou Rogers and Cornelia Barns to be co-art editors of the journal. The main theme of her articles was that "no woman can call herself free who doesn't own and control her own body." After advice about birth-control appeared in her newspaper in 1915, she was charged with publishing an "obscene and lewd article". Sanger fled to England and for a while she lived with Aldred and Rose Witcop in London.
Aldred was a strong opponent of the First World War and publicized his views in his newspaper The Spur. He joined forces with the No Conscription Fellowship and during 1914 and 1915 he took part in several anti-war protests and spoke on the same platforms as John Maclean and James Maxton. He wrote: "The world is at war. The puny rulers of the world have coerced their subjects into dancing at the feast of death. And whoever will not indulge in the orgy, the same shall not enjoy the kiss of nature's sun."
Due to heavy losses at the Western Front the government decided in 1916 to introduce conscription (compulsory enrollment). The Military Service Act of January 1916 specified that single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called-up for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of religion. Conscription started on 2nd March 1916.
On 14th April 1916, Aldred was arrested and charged with failing to report for Military Service. When he appeared in court he explained that he refused to fight because he was a conscientious objector. On 4th May he was fined £5 and handed him over to the military authorities. At his Court Martial on 17th May he was sentenced to six month military detention.
Aldred refused to comply with military orders and on 27th June he was sentenced to nine months hard labour. On the 4th July 1916, Aldred was moved to Winchester Prison and the following month he was transferred to the village of Dyce in the north of Scotland where a camp of tents had been erected. Over the next few months a total of sixty nine conscientious objectors died in these work camps.
Aldred escaped from the camp but was arrested in London on 1st November 1916 and sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison. On 28th March 1917, Aldred was released from prison and taken under escort to Exeter Military Camp. He was given another order but he refused and was confined to the guardroom. Two months later he was taken to Deepcot Military Camp and when he refused to parade he was once again remanded for Court Martial.
On 17th May 1917 Aldred was sentenced to 18 months hard labour and sent to Wandsworth Prison. Over the next few months there was considerable unrest and protest by the conscientious objectors. The ringleaders, which included Aldred, were sentenced to 42 days of solitary confinement with 3 days on bread and water and then 3 days off while locked in a bare unheated basement cell.
Aldred continued to refuse military orders and on 20th August 1918 he was transferred to Blackdown Barracks and was once again placed on remand for Court Martial. Throughout his terms of imprisonment Aldred managed to smuggle out several articles to Rose Witcop who published them in their paper The Spur.
The First World War ended on 11th November 1918 but he was not released on licence until 7th January 1919. He travelled to Glasgow where he addressed a large meeting in St Mungo Halls, York Street, where he spoke on "The Present Struggle for Liberty".
On 10th March, 1918 Aldred was arrested while speaking on Clapham Common and was taken to Wandsworth Prison. He stated that he would not eat or work until he was released from his illegal and vindictive imprisonment. He was released after four days.
Aldred supported the Russian Revolution but disapproved of the way that Lenin and Bolsheviks closed down the Constituent Assembly and began banning political parties such as the Cadets, Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries.
On 31st July, 1920, a group of revolutionary socialists attended a meeting at the Cannon Street Hotel in London. The men and women were members of various political groups including the British Socialist Party (BSP), the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), Prohibition and Reform Party (PRP) and the Workers' Socialist Federation (WSF). It was agreed to form the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).
Willie Paul argued strongly against the strategy suggested by Lenin that the CPGB should develop a close-relationship with the Labour Party. "We of the Communist Unity Group feel our defeat on the question of Labour Party affiliation very keenly. But we intend to loyally abide by the decision of the rank and file convention." Aldred agreed:"Lenin's task compels him to compromise with all the elect of bourgeous society, whereas our task demands no compromise. And so we take different paths, and are only on the most distant speaking terms".
Aldred summarised the position in 1920: "I have no objection to an efficient and centralised party so long as the authority rests in the hands of the rank and file, and all officials can be sacked at a moment's notice. But I want the centralism to be wished for and evolved by the local groups, a slow merging of them into one party, from the bottorp upwards, as distinct from this imposition from the top downwards." He added: "It was hoped to create a communist federation out of those remaining groups. The principle of federation - a federation of communist groups developed voluntarily from below, rather than an imposed centralism from above - was always an important and consistent part of the anti-parliamentary movement's proposals for unity."
In 1921 Aldred established the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation (APCF), a breakaway group from the Communist Party of Great Britain. He edited the organisation's newspaper, The Communist. The authorities began to invistigate this group and Aldred, Jenny Patrick, Douglas McLeish and Andrew Fleming were eventually arrested and charged with sedition. After being held in custody for nearly four months they appeared at Glasgow High Court on 21st June 1921. They were all found guilty. The Socialist reported: "Lord Skerrington then passed sentences: Guy Aldred, one year: Douglas McLeish three months: Jane Patrick, three months, Andrew Fleming (the printer), three months and a fine of £50, or another three months."
Patrick Dollan, wrote in The Daily Herald: "Guy Aldred, in prison for exercising the traditional right of free speech, was imprisoned four months before his trial, then sentenced for a year and not allowed to count the four months he had already served as part of this imprisonment. The brutality of this sentence is a disgrace to the country, and nothing can remove that,disgrace except the organised power of Labour."
After his release from prison Aldred and his partner, Rose Witcop, joined the campaign for birth-control information that had began by Marie Stopes publishing a concise guide to contraception called Wise Parenthood. Her book upset the leaders of the Church of England who believed it was wrong to advocate the use of birth control. Roman Catholics were especially angry, as the Pope had made it clear that he condemned all forms of contraception. Despite this opposition, Stopes continued her campaign and in 1921 founded the Society for Constructive Birth Control. With financial help from her rich second husband, Humphrey Roe, Marie also opened the first of her birth-control clinics in Holloway on 17th March 1921.
Aldred and Witcop published several pamphlets on birth-control and on 22nd December, 1922 he was prosecuted for publishing Family Limitation, a pamplet written by Margaret Sanger. Aldred conducted his own defence. Among the witnesses he called was Sir Arbuthnot Lane, a leading surgeon at Guy's Hospital. He argued that the pamplet should be read by every young person about to be married. Despite this, the magistrate ordered the books to be destroyed "in the interests of the morals of society."
The case drew much press coverage and Aldred was supported financially by John Maynard Keynes, Dora Black and Bertrand Russell. Later that year this group was joined by Katharine Glasier, Susan Lawrence, Margaret Bonfield, Dorothy Jewson and H. G. Wells to establish the Workers' Birth Control Group.
In 1924 Aldred and Rose Witcop parted. However, the following year the Home Office who threatened to deport her as a Russian national. As a result the couple arranged a civil marriage in order to confirm her citizenship status and prevent any possible deportation.
Guy Aldred now moved to Glasgow where he set up home with Jenny Patrick and published The Commune. In 1931 he met Ethel MacDonald. Impressed by her revolutionary zeal Aldred appointed her secretary of the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation (APCF). In June 1934 Aldred, Patrick and MacDonald established the United Socialist Movement (USM), an anarcho-communist political organisation based in Scotland. Several members of the Independent Labour Party who had lost their belief in the parliamentary road to socialism joined the party. Other recruits included Helen Lomax and the former sailor, John Taylor Caldwell.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Aldred immediately gave his support to the Anarchist Brigade. He sent Ethel MacDonald and Jenny Patrick to Spain as a representative of the USM. Patrick worked in the Ministry of Information in Madrid and MacDonald became the English-speaking radio propagandist in Barcelona.
Over the next few months the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) and the Worker's Party (POUM) played an important role in running Barcelona. This brought them into conflict with other left-wing groups in the city including the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSUC) and the Communist Party (PCE). MacDonald became involved in this conflict and in January 1937 she began to transmit regular English-language reports on the war on the radio station run by the CNT.
Eventually Ethel MacDonald was arrested by the authorities. She later told the Glasgow Evening Times: "My arrest was typical of the attitude of the Communist Party... Assault Guards and officials of the Public Order entered the house in which I lived late one night. Without any explanation they commenced to go through thoroughly every room and every cupboard in the house. After having discovered that which to them was sufficient to hang me - revolutionary literature etc."
In September 1937 MacDonald managed to escape from Spain. After leaving the country she made speeches on the way the Communist Party (PCE) had been acting in during the Spanish Civil War in Paris and Amsterdam. She returned to Glasgow in November, 1937 and in a speech to 300 people at Central Station she said: "I went to Spain full of hopes and dreams. It promised to be utopia realised. I return full of sadness, dulled by the tragedy I have seen. I have lived through scenes and events that belong to the French revolution."
Ethel MacDonald also argued that Bob Smillie had been killed by the officials of the Communist Party (PCE). According to Daniel Gray, the author of Homage to Caledonia (2008): "she did her utmost to convince the public that Bob Smillie had been murdered, alleging that the secret police had assassinated him in cold blood."
Sir Walter Strickland, a long-time supporter of Aldred, died on 9th August 1938. He left Aldred £3,000 and with this money he bought some second-hand printing machinery and established The Strickland Press. Over the next 25 years Aldred published regular issues of the United Socialist Movement organ, The Word and various pamphlets on anarchism.
After the Second World War Aldred became a supporter of world government and his office at 106 George Street, Glasgow, became the headquarters of the World Federalist Movement in Scotland. He argued: "In a world growing smaller we must develop an all-embracing world outlook. We must propagate the idea of a world republic, with a world citizenship. Nationalism must be ended... And so must inter-nationalism, for internationalism implies nationalism, and the representation of national governments. What we require is the direct representation of the people of the world as world citizens in a non-national assembly."
John Taylor Caldwell later recalled: "Near the end of February 1958, Ethel Macdonald had what seemed a slight accident. She fell from a box on which she was standing to make an adjustment to one of the machines. She was more distressed than the accident seemed to justify, as if she knew that this was the onset of dreadful illness. She continued with her work at the Press, though within a few weeks she needed the aid of a stick. One of her legs seemed to be gradually losing its power." Ethel MacDonald was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Ethel moved in with Aldred and Jenny Patrick. Aldred wrote: "Having rendered her legs useless, the disease spread to her arms. First her left arm, then her right - as though the virus possessed a malicious consciousness that caused it to gloat over its dastardly work. It was a painful business to serve her so anxiously and yet so purposelessly."
Within three years she died in Glasgow's Knightswood Hospital at the age of 51, on 1st December 1960. Aldred wrote about her death in The Word: "I see no kindness, no friendship, no regard for mankind, no purpose in the universe. It is a miracle that cannot be explained. It seems to be a wonderful evolution from cause to effect, although there seems to be no cause and the effect is without intelligence or aim. So, for for my part, I do not believe in God. That was also the belief of Ethel... Yet for some strange reason a contradiction arises within us. We do change the world. One generation merges into another. The hopes of yesterday's heroes and martyrs become the inspiring slogans of today, passed on to the heroes of tomorrow ... In this frame of sorrow I turn from the lifeless body of my comrade to associate with those in whom still dwells the consciousness of being."
Aldred continued to campaign against injustice. He played a leading role in the efforts to persuade Francisco Franco not to execute Julián Grimau. He also published an important article entitled The Evolution of Stalin's Communism. He wrote several articles in favour of civil rights in the United States. Aldred also wrote to John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev urging restraint during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Guy Aldred continued to promote social justice until his death on 16th October 1963. As one historian has pointed out: "Guy Alfred Aldred had worked ceaselessly at his propaganda, writing, publishing and public speaking, he took on injustices wherever he saw it. He had spoken at every May Day for 60 years except the years he spent in prison. He never once asked for a fee nor sought personal gain, throughout his 62 years of campaigning his principles never faltered."
(1) Guy Aldred, No Traitors' Gait (1955)
Early in 1904, discussions in Hyde Park and at the Peel Institute, references to Professor Huxley at the Agnostic Journal office, my own dissatisfaction with mere metaphysics, caused me to study Thomas Huxley. As he was noted for his popularising of science and of Darwin, his Romanes address of 1893 on Evolution and Ethics had a special appeal to me. It made me into a complete socialist .... In his Romanes lecture, Huxley insisted that "the influence of the cosmic process on society is the greater the more rudimentary its civilisation." He spoke of social progress checking the cosmic process at every step, and substituting it for the ethical process. It thus repudiated the gladitorial theory of existence, and permitted Huxley to rebuke "the fanatical individualism of our time" for attempting to apply the analogy of cosmic nature to society....
Social life, and the ethical process in virtue of which it advances towards perfection Huxley defines as being, strictly speaking, "part and parcel of the general process of evolution." Readers of Kropotkin will see in this a support of the latter's view of "mutual aid" as a "factor in evolution". It must be remembered, however, that Huxley's "Ethical process" is developed by its author into a plea for sentimentalism and loyalty to the interests of an abstraction termed "the community". I believe in the community - in a different social order - but I see only two classes today. Huxley sees no classes, only a`community". And Kropotkin's mutual aid tends to create faith in the same paralysing and fatal abstraction.. All this was not clear to me at the time. Huxley has pleaded powerfully the grandeur of the anarchist ideal .... I became emancipated from Neo-Darwinian fears. Capitalism and the struggle for existence were not the last words in social evolution. Equity, mutual aid, freedom, justice, etc. did represent realisable ideals... .This vision of the coming social harmony, this conviction that the new era would dawn, filled me with new energy. I knew that I had to leave the capitalist parties and enter the real movement; that of socialism and working-class emancipation. So I turned my back on compromise and radicalism, on liberal labourism, and pure-and-simple secularism, and joined the Social Democratic Federation.
(2) The Reynold's News (21st July, 1907)
Owing to the bigotry and monopolising tendencies of an East End divine, the rights of free speech are being jeopardised at Leman Street East, near the railway arches. On Sunday last, Mr. Guy A. Aldred, a freethought and communist writer and lecturer, and General Secretary of the "Industrial Union of Direct Actionists'" convened a meeting there, but came in conflict with the local police. On his affirming his right to be heard, the intervention of eight policemen notwithstanding, a temporary truce was concluded, Mr. Aldred agreeing to give up his meeting on the condition the police at once closed down the Christian meeting. This was done. Mr. Aldred will organise a series of meetings at this spot, and thus challenge the right of the police to interrupt the right of free speech.
(3) The Liverpool Porcupine (September 1907)
It is only a young man - a very young man - who could swallow all that (Free Love, Anarchism, Impossibilism, etc.) at once, and at the same time have the courage - we almost said audacity - to expound so profound a doctrine from the public platform. What it all means no-one - unless exceptionally gifted - can understand, but at all events it strikes at the very roots of organised society. So let the capitalists beware, Mr. Aldred is very much in earnest, and he.... means to turn the world topsy-turvy, so it is just as well that he commenced young... He is in his person a fascinating study and his lectures are delivered with a gravity of style which is in singular contrast to his youthful appearance. He is by turns cynical, argumentative and humorous, and he shows his ability by the manner in which he controls his audience - especially when antagonistic. Altogether one whose career will be watched with interest. But what a programme!
(4) Guy Aldred, No Traitors' Gait (1955)
There is no doubt that 1907 was a most important year in the development of my life and thought. It was a period of political and revolutionary research and stocktaking. Then I associated more intimately, wisely or unwisely, with Rose Witcop. A domestic crisis confronted me because I had stalked out of Fleet Street with all its promise, and decided on an independent life. This completed the breakdown with my mother, who knew nothing of free-lance activity and was horrified at the thought that I should refuse to work at the office of a great London newspaper. Such a terrible thing to do!
There were moments when worry and study and even propaganda were forgotten. I recall one Saturday when I went out to Chingford Old Mount with Rose Witcop. It was a beautiful day. And there there was an old-world garden and house called Rose Cottage, quaint and very cottagey. There tea and cakes, and eggs boiled or fried, were served in the garden. It was completely old-world and away from everywhere. There one sat and drank tea and romanced. Rose Cottage was run by two old ladies whose charges were certainly not excessive. They exuded beauty in their attitude and their garden was a haven. Alas! they were quite old, and unless they are near one hundred and twenty years of age they must have passed away by now. So ruthless is time and destiny!'
(5) Guy Aldred,No Traitors' Gait (1955)
I explained my attitude. I accepted the idea that marriage was a secular contract and not a church sacrament. Mating was a contract between two people. It need not be registered. There was nothing immoral in two people mating, and not promising to matefor life. The promise was void from the very start, for neither party knew if it would hold for life. Arising out of such mating there were obligations and duties that arose from ethics and self-respect, and had no necessary relation to love. Regard for children, if children resulted, was a duty of affection. Even without affection it remained a duty to be discharged. In current monogamic society, woman was denied equal status with man. Motherhood was not regarded as a service to the community, therefore the man ought to provide the means of support for his children.
This brought me to other questions. In the first instance, I deemed woman the equal of man. Therefore she should retain her birth-name in marriage. In the second instance, I considered that `born in wedlock' a male property disqualification of many children not so born. It was a stigma that some sensitive offspring felt for an alleged "sin" of which they were innocent. It was opposed to sound law and every principle of equity. All children ought to be deemed legitimate. Other things being equal, the mother ought to rank, in every case, as the real deciding parent in law. The man should support all his children equally.
I went further. I stated that it was said that sex relationship was necessary to the physical and mental well-being of every adult person; if this were so, since there were more women than men in society, there must be sex association outside of legal mating. (Mother was horrified.) This meant either some kind of promiscuity, or, even accepted without recognition, polygamy. Actually, legal marriage testified to the truth of this fact. Many women did not mind their husbands associating with prostitutes, or even having mistresses, as long as they could say "Here is my wedding ring! Here are my lines! He belongs to me!"
To my mind all this was immoral, and merely a survival of chattel slavery. I did not believe that the love emotion was exclusive always. It might be better if it were. The fact was that marriage did not work. Hence the scandals in papist society, and the divorce laws in Protestant countries. In any case, neither church nor State could seal men and women in marriage. No woman should substitute her name nor attach a handle "Mrs." or "Miss" to it because she had declared before a Registrar or Priest her intention of sharing her lot with a male companion. And if the male died first her name might change again. In short, her life, in time, would read like a house passing from person to person. A disgraceful state of affairs.
(6) Guy Aldred, The Spur (May 1917)
The other day we strolled from the Higher Barracks to our present residence, the City Workhouse, Hevitree Hill, Exeter. We were under military police escort, and were unable to take that interest in our surroundings that we would have liked. But we noticed a big flaming placard, announcing tht convening of a meeting to celebrate the Russian Revolution. We smiled. In Wandsworth we had Lansbury's Herald announcing meetings in London to celebrate the same event. And we knew that throughout the country the great "British Nation", whatever that entity might be, was rejoicing and waxing exceeding glad at the overthrow of Tsarism. The smile deepened, for we knew something of the celebrators and their antecedents.
(7) The Glasgow Evening News (20th June, 1921)
A somewhat unusual calendar of cases was submitted at the sitting of the Glasgow High Court, which commenced at Justiciary Buildings, Jail Square, today.
In all, there are 29 cases involving 74 persons. Two capital charges are included in the list, but most interest will centre on trials in which a Sinn Fein element is introduced. Several batches of individuals are charged with one or other of the following offences: sedition, illegal drilling, contravention of the Explosive Substances Act, mobbing and rioting.
Unprecedented interest was taken in the Court proceedings. Hundreds of persons gathered outside the Court Buildings.... Demands for admission to the Court gallery were heavy, and the police took the precaution of seaching every person who entered the Court precincts.
A long legal discussion heralded the commencement of the sedition charges against Guy Alfred Aldred.... Mr. Aldred, who was undefended, held that there was nothing seditious in the statements.
(8) The Glasgow Evening News (21st June, 1921)
Aldred, who last night spoke for over an hour, today occupied another hour in his resumed address to the jury. He recalled the speeches made eight years ago by Sir Edward Carson and Lord Birkenhead, speeches that were so well calculated to incite to violence and sedition that they prevented a constitutional solution to the Irish problem, and were responsible for the murders and outrages taking place in Ireland today. Those men were now honoured Judges in England, and what the workers felt was that if you preached sedition in a certain way you might be honoured by being required to fill the highest positions in the land; but the workers, who were without culture and University education, and said things bluntly, found that a different attitude was taken to everything they might say.
(9) Patrick Dollan, The Daily Herald (21st June, 1921)
In continuation of his defence, Aldred spoke for a futher hour this forenoon, and in an eloquent plea for free speech said that Communism might be wrong, but a free Press was always right. He reminded the jury that the Liberals had threatened to destroy the House of Lords and were not prosecuted. If that was proper advocacy it was equally proper to urge the destruction of the House of Commons as an agency of government.
(10) Chris Dolan, An Anarchist's Story (2009)
Guy considered many kinds of responses to oppression and poverty, from social democracy to communism, but finally settled on the revolutionary left. He read Bakunin and agreed that authority itself must be challenged. In the first decade of the twentieth century, he published a series of Pamphlets for the Proletarians, in one of which he asked "Was Marx an anarchist?"
Aldred's thinking on feminism and male power brought him to believe that marriage was a male form of institutional oppression, and it was as an advocate of "free love" that Guy Aldred first hit the headlines. We should remember that that term had different connotations at the turn of the twentieth century than it does today. Aldred's thinking on the matter would be nearer to William Stewart Ross's and Robert Owen's than to, say, Allen Ginsberg's and the counter-culturalists of the -1950s and 1960s, the focus more on eliminating the State's and the Church's involvement in any personal contract between a man and woman, than on the right to multiple partners or promiscuity. Aldred, however, would have defended any person's right to love whomsoever they wished.
His partner from 1907 was Rose Witcop. They were not married, and had a son, Annesley. Unlike Emmeline Pankhurst, Aldred was a conscientious objector during World War I - serving a prison sentence as a result. Rose's cause celebre was family planning and birth control, and for their speeches and writings on these subjects they were both arrested. The government tried to silence Rose by threatening to deport her - Rose, nee Rachel Vitkopski, was Jewish and born in the Ukraine. Deportation was avoided by her marriage - after, in fact, they were estranged - to Guy.
Aldred was next in trouble over a different matter. Naturally an exponent of Home Rule and dismantling of the colonial system, he was arrested for publishing an article by Shyamji Krishnavarma. The Indian nationalist's writings had already been legally declared seditious and were banned; Aldred published the article under his own name, which earned him twelve months' hard labour.
His connections with Scotland were cemented when the Clarion Scouts invited him to speak in Glasgow The Scouts were a youth socialist pioneer group, a progressive take on Christian Fellowships. Launched in the last decade of the nineteenth century, they organised bike rides in the country, camping trips, weekend activities, all of which ultimately led to the formation of Socialist Sunday Schools. At the time they were not allied to any particular party, but worked with the ILP and anarchists alike. The Scouts invited Guy to speak in 1912, and he attracted such a crowd and enthusiastic responses to his ideas on women, free speech and worker self-determination that he was invited on a regular basis.'the connection with Glasgow was put on hold, however, when he was court-martialled for refusing to fight or even drill for the 3rd London Rifles, and spent another spell of hard labour - drilling and digging - in a military compound.
(11) Guy Aldred, Trade Unions and Class War (1919)
The struggle of the Tolpuddle Martyrs for the right of combination under the Reform Ministry of 1832 marks the beginnings of British Trade Unionism. The glamour of romance which belongs to its origin has contributed to its successful development as a social institution. Eight years after the Repeal of the Combination laws, Trade Unionism was deemed an illegal conspiracy. Today, it is a bulwark of the capitalist system. Something more than tradition is necessary to explain this passage from outlawry to respectability. The explanation is an economic one. Trade Unionism has conquered social power and commanded influence in so far as it satisfied and arose from the social necessities of the capitalist epoch. Because it has answered capitalist needs, the Trade Union has qualified for its modern position as the sign manual of skilled labour.
But the growth in social and political importance of the Trade Union leader has not menaced the foundations of capitalist society. He has been cited more and more as the friend of reform and the enemy of revolution. It has been urged that he is a sober and responsible member of capitalist society. Consequently, capitalist apologists have been obliged to acknowledge that he discharged useful and important functions in society.
This admission has forced them to assert that the law of supply and demand does not determine, with exactness, the nominal - or even the actual price of the commodity, labour power. Hence it has been allowed that Trade Unions enable their members to increase the amount of the price received for their labour-power, without being hurtful to the interests of the commonwealth-i.e. the capitalist class-when conducted with moderation and fairness.
Modern Trade Unionism enjoys this respectable reputation to a very large extent because it has sacrificed its original vitality. This was inevitable, since, in its very origin, it was reformist and not revolutionary. Trade Unionism has sacrificed no economic principle during its century's development. It has surrendered no industrial or political consistency. But it has not maintained its early earnestness or sentiment of solidarity. Had it done so, it would have been compelled to have evolved socially and politically. Instead of stagnating in reform, it would have had to progress towards revolution.
The Trade Union apologist, consistently with his reformist out-look, has had to defend the restrictive tendencies of sectional organisation. He has had to deny the revolutionary solidarity of labour in order to defend the Union manufacture of blacklegs. He has rejoiced in a craft organisation that materially injures the interests of labour as a whole, without even benefiting it sectionally. He has shown no qualms about supporting a representative system of administration, which betrays the worker to capitalist interests.
All this activity proceeds inevitably from the belief that Trade Unionism benefits the worker economically. It follows naturally from the notion that the worker can improve his social and economic status under capitalism.
Trade Unionism, therefore, is intelligible only on the ground that reform is possible and revolution unnecessary. Industrial palliation, like political palliation, is based on the understanding that no epoch ever attains to a crisis. This is the best that can be said for the necessity of Trade Unionism.
But suppose that the law of supply and demand does determine, with exactness, the nominal as well as the actual price of the commodity, labour power?
Then the best that can be said for the necessity of Trade Unionism as opposed to revolutionary communist organisation and action has ceased to possess any meaning.
To develop this economic argument in favour of the social revolution, and against Trade Union reform, is my purpose in writing the present brochure.
(12) Guy Aldred, Communism (1935)
The terrible massacre of the Kronstadt sailors by Trotsky in March 1921, whom Trotsky had previously termed the flower of the Revolution, and the support of Trotsky by Zinoviev and Dibenko, was a shameless and shameful affair. The fortress and city were bombarded for ten days and it cannot be pretended that the sailors were moved by peasant ideas or that they were other than genuine Socialists or Communists. Trotsky's conduct was defended and even applauded in the Communist press of the world by Radek, who immediately after the October 1917 Revolution boasted a luxurious apartment and maid-servant. Radek's apology no longer carries weight for time exposed him as a panderer. He defended Trotsky's own exile and expulsion and the persecution of Rakovsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev. Radek's 1921 apology was made worthless by his subsequent record and castigation by Trotsky. If we are to accept Radek's apology for Kronstadt in 1921, then we must accept Radek's apology for Stalinism and the Stalinist persecution of Trotsky from 1927 on to the time of his assassination. Radek's own trial and " confession " put him out of court entirely as a witness.
The Kronstadt massacre was succeeded a month lator by the massacre of the Moscow Anarchists when Trotsky shelled their headquarters and finally abolished their propaganda. All this was justified on the ground that Anarchists were counter-revolutionists. Stalin has popularised this cry so thoroughly that no genuine revolutionist takes it seriously. Robespierre assassinated the French Revolution and finally himself by this very same parrot cry of counterrevolution. Men do embrace counter-revolutionary philosophy and they do pursue counter-revolutionary policies; but it does not follow that we must therefore give heed to every clamorous cry of counter-revolution when it is dictated by the hysterical needs of an aspiring bureaucrat, whose aim is to arrest the development of the revolution and to build his sect, or his party, or his clique into the edifice of power.
There were Communist elements, of a definite Anti-Parliamentarian kind, who found no place in the Communist lnternational or else were allowed merely a subsidiary and altogethcr temporary representation at the opening sessions. It may be claimed therefore that the Communist International like the triumph of Leninism in Russia contained in itself the seeds of Stalinism and of later degeneration. That was not obvious at the beginning because the success in Russia of Lenin and Trotsky was an historical success just as the failure of Stalin is an historical failure. The function of Trotskyism is to direct proletarian attention to that failure and in that way to call our attention to the real object and nature of Communist agitation and struggle. For the purpose of comparison, and for this purpose only, and not because we accept the cry, " Back to Lenin," those of us who were Communists before the Russian Revolution of 1917, and remain Communists, now that revolution has passed into history, agree that the Stalin leadership registered the decline of the International to stagnation and death. We differ from Trotskyism in that the Trotskyists think that there was a time when the Communist International really lived as a healthy expression of the workers' struggle. We claim that the Communist International enjoyed only a feverish existence as the after-birth of the Russian Revolution. It was doomed to disaster and to death from the moment of its foundation for its very organisation made it impossible for it to function except as the ramification of the Russian Revolution.
The pet fallacy of Stalinism, "Socialism in One Country," meaning literally, "Capitalism and Dictatorship in Russia," was foreshadowed in every thesis of the Communist International. This fact was not realised by the sections that belonged to the Communist International and it may, therefore, be perfectly true that Trotsky reacted to ideas of Socialism, which were quite foreign to the understanding of Stalin. It is also correct to realise that large sections of the Communist comrades in Russia believed in the proletarian struggle and considered that the Communist International expressed that struggle. To these elements the difference between the two periods of the Communist International will be absolutely real. It is our duty to consider exactly what happened during the evolution of the Stalin leadership.
The Spanish crisis found the Communist International powerless to act because there was no Communist party and no Spanish proletarian policy. Stalinism confronted the fact of the Spanish Revolution with the same blankness of vision as was exhibited by the Second International in August 1914. In every other portion of the globe, even in places where the Comintern had boasted of its mass parties, or its parties on the road to embracing masses, the local section of the International, at the moment of the local crisis, writhed in the agony of impotence.
(13) John Taylor Caldwell, Come Dungeons Dark: The Life and Times of Guy Aldred (1988)
The Strickland Pres had some hard times financially, for Aldred always worked to the limit of his capacity. He had little sense of "market potential" and over-printed enormously. He never estimated a cost to find a price, and consistently under-charged. He was lavish in the distribution of free copies, and conducted a postal mission which took The Word to most parts of the world where a glimmer of political awareness was manifest. But the price Aldred had to pay was a constant struggle to keep abreast of his creditors.
He had constantly to appeal for funds. This position worsened when, the war over and the soldiers back at work, the Typographical Society refused to allow suppliers to serve The Strickland Press because it "employed women". Those responsible for imposing"the ban knew well that Ethel Macdonald and Jenny Patrick were not "employed" by the Press, and that whatever reason (if there could have been any) for not allowing women to work at the trade, the Strickland Press was a special case. Guy, Jenny and Ethel were veteran socialists, and they had all been in prison for upholding the cause of the workers. The phrase `male chauvinist pig' had not been coined in those days, but it is still not too late to have it engraved on the tombstones of the Typographical Society officials of that time.
(14) Guy Aldred, speech (7th April, 1946)
Consider the world today, and see how stupid, how thoughtless, is all our activity. In this city tonight a meeting is being addressed by a leading freethinker, Joseph McCabe, a man of about eighty years of age. He had travelled nearly five hundred miles in wintry weather to address a meeting in a cinema. And what is his subject? "Can Christiantity Survive?" It shows how far we have fallen when the leader of a once radical movement can travel so far to speak on such an inane subject. What does the survival of Christianity matter when we are faced with the possible destruction of millions of human beings? Amore important subject would be "Can Man Survive?" What we need to consider is, what to do to prevent world chaos.
Surely it is evident that our past propaganda is getting out of touch with the world of fact. We must change our method of approach. In a world where distance is annihilated we must alter the focus of our vision. In a world growing smaller we must develop an all-embracing world outlook. We must propagate the idea of a world republic, with a world citizenship.Nationalism must be ended... And so must inter-nationalism, for internationalism implies nationalism, and the representation of national governments. What we require is the direct representation of the people of the world as world citizens in a non-national assembly.
(15) Guy Aldred, The Word (January, 1961)
I see no kindness, no friendship, no regard for mankind, no purpose in the universe. It is a miracle that cannot be explained. It seems to be a wonderful evolution from cause to effect, although there seems to be no cause and the effect is without intelligence or aim. So, for for my part, I do not believe in God. That was also the belief of Ethel... Yet for some strange reason a contradiction arises within us. We do change the world. One generation merges into another. The hopes of yesterday's heroes and martyrs become the inspiring slogans of today, passed on to the heroes of tomorrow ... In this frame of sorrow I turn from the lifeless body of my comrade to associate with those in whom still dwells the consciousness of being.
(16) Guy Aldred, The Word (October, 1962)
As this paper goes to press news has come that Kruschev has agreed to remove "Offensive" weapons from Cuba. The American people are jubilant. This is hailed as a great victory for President Kennedy. It will be some time before the Americans realise the (for them) chilling truth that Kruschev has run diplomatic rings round Kennedy. Without moving a single Russian soldier, or even raising his voice in anger, he has defeated the intention of the entire military might of the United States, and he has honoured his pledge to go to the aid of Cuba if she were threatened. It should be remembered that the main issue was the invasion of Cuba. The U.S. was building up a force for that purpose before the discovery of the rocket bases. Now they are defeated in that intention. Time will show the Russian leader to have been the better man because (a) he (unlike Kennedy) was not prepared to destroy the world to have rocket bases removed from his doorstep. (b) By building up a secondary point (rocket bases) and then seeming to give way on that, he has scored a victory for the main issue. Krusch¬ev has not lost Cuba. Kennedy has.
(17) Scottish Daily Mail (Nocember, 1962)
He has been called the "knickerbocker politician" because of his unshakeable loyalty to that Victorian fashion (probably the only conservative element in his make-up). He has been hated, feared, reviled and imprisoned for his political beliefs. But today, by the odd switch of feeling that only the British public can manage, Guy A. Aldred, Independent Socialist candidate in the Woodside bye-election, is regarded with a good-natured tolerant affection. None of the other candidates can even begin to match the experience and record of Aldred.... It is impossible to believe that this vigorously articulate man is 76 years old. There is not much grey in the dark hair brushed straight back. The black, fuzzy eyebrows twitch as he emphasises a point. But the real gold is in the flow of words. The voice has the slightly brassy, carrying note of one who has learned his public speaking in the tough, street-corner, pre-microphone days, when a man with message had to make himself heard through his own fervour and lung power... The reason for Aldred's private strength and public ineffectiveness, lies, I think, in the fact that he is always the non-conformist who cannot compromise.
(18) Guy Aldred, speech (2nd June, 1963)
The title of my address is easy to understand. It arises from a consideration of the state of mankind on Earth coupled with Man's ambition to conquer the heavens. Whether this desire to explore the heavens is right or wrong, whether it is useless or useful, I cannot say. It has a touch of romance, and a touch of bravery, but it seems to me somewhat futile... In every generation Man strives to secure one thing - the conquest of the needs of his mortal existence, to extend his life as fully as possible, and also to procure some degree of happiness. He wants to overcome a sense of insecurity that clings to him and oppresses him. Whether he is doing so in these space operations or not I cannot say.
It is said by those who are behind this very materialist concept of the conquest of the heavens, that Marxism is an expression of materialism. But the strange thing is that Marxists - and every kind of socialist for that matter - are moved by an idealism despite their economic interpretation of the basis of life. And the people who claim to be idealists are the very people who tend to continue a social struggle which destroys idealism and makes brutal and evil materialism the criterion of existence.... We live in times of capitalism, that is, in times of self-interest.