Saturday, 14 August 2010

Jimmy Reid 1932-2010

“Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies."

Above is a section of the speech made by Jimmy Reid after winning the position of Rector of Glasgow University.
The election of Ted Heath's Conservatives in 1970 had brought a party into power determined to remove state subsidies from "lame duck" industries. This involved the Upper Clyde Shipyards which would have seen 6,000 jobs disappear.
Reid and his colleagues Jimmr Airlie and Sammy Barr decided that the best way to show the viability of keeping the yards open was by staging a 'work-in' rather than by going on strike with the workers operating the shipyard until the government changed policy.
Whilst addressing the workers Reid stipulated the discipline that would be required:

We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.

The campaign was successful and to this day 2 of the 3 Clyde Shipyards remain open

At the time Reid was a Communist he would later join Kinnock in his re-imaging of the Labour Party, from there he joined the SNP and during the Miners Strike he heavily criticised Scargill on his conduct of the strike. Reid should be criticised for the mistakes he made but I prefer to remember him as the inspiring Union leader who saved jobs and gave a future to the community of Clydeside.

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