Like the workers of every city in the world, Glasgow's workers history has been a continuous history of struggle which continues today, Our struggles of the present day should not be seen as something new, it is the same struggle down the centuries for a decent life, a fairer society, and justice for all. If we forget our history we get a distorted view of society and see today's struggles as blips of discontent and not as the same battle to free ourselves from the grip of exploitation. A struggle to take control of our own lives and shape society for the benefit of all.
June 1725 - The malt tax riots:
Due to the hatred of the 'Malt Tax' there were wide spread riots across the country. The most serious was June 1725 in Glasgow. When Revenue Officers arrived to assess the Maltsters, they were met by large angry crowds who barred their way. On June the 24th a large crowd decided to attack the house of Duncan Campbell of Shawfield believing that he had supported the tax in the Houses of Parliament. The angry scenes prompted the Lord Advocate Duncan Forbes to call in troops from Edinburgh.
15th February 1800:
Unemployment and high taxes during this period caused wide spread demonstrations which culminated on the 15th. of February 1800 when angry and hungry crowds took to the streets. They marched along Argyle Street attacking meatsellers and grocers’ shops. Meanwhile crowds in Townhead and Calton were also smashing into similar shops. The authorities called out the troops to disperse the rioters.
1812 weavers strike:
1812 saw the largest strike in Scotland until that date. The weavers were on strike in an attempt to protect their living standards. The strike was on the whole peaceful, though the Magistrates and the Government claimed otherwise in an attempt to come down heavy on the strikers. The strike lasted three months, it eventually run out of funds and collapsed. Because of this strike Trade Unionism was declared illegal in Scotland and remained so until 1824. Seven strikers were arrested and charged with 'illegal combination' and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
6th March 1848:
There was a serious riot in the city of Glasgow on the 6th of March 1848. It came about when the unemployed operatives had expected a distribution of provisions. The provisions never appeared and the starving and angry crowds set off up Irongate and other main streets of the city centre breaking into food and gun shops. Business in the city came to a stand-still and all city centre shops closed. The people continued to march through the streets shouting 'bread or revolution'. Eventually the 'riot act' was read. Other groups marched off in other directions entering food shops and demanding bread. The alarmed authorities, sent to Edinburgh for more troops.
1915 rent strikes:
1915 saw Glasgow and Clydeside districts organise a massive grass roots movement against large rent increases. Over 25,000 tenants refused to pay rent increases. The struggle spread to the Clydeside engineering and shipyards, forcing the government to introduce the 1915 Rent Restriction Act.
1919 'forty hour week' strike:
1919 the struggle for a shorter working week came to a head with a strike which had the support of practically all the workers in the area. Marches and demonstrations were organised. One massive demonstration in George Square caused the authorities some concern and the police baton charged the crowd creating mayhem. The government fearing revolution sent English troops with tanks into the city.