1960s >> 1965 >> no-730-june-1965

All quiet in Glasgow

Certain historical facts have ensured that racialism has never been prominent in Glasgow. For instance, anti-Semitism rarely shows itself, except in the odd golf club, and even during the ’Thirties Mosley’s sole appearance in the City ended in complete fiasco.

The late arrival of the Jews (mid-19th century) was a help, for this meant that the ancient antagonism so typical on the Continent is absent here. Later on, the importation of Irish religious influences provided other means whereby the frustrations of wage-slavery could be worked off without the presence of any other “races”. The roles of “them” and “us” were adequately filled by the Orange and Catholic elements who have been hating one another ever since.

And unless a few pedlars and seamen, could be counted, Afro-Asians were an unusual sight in the City until the early ’Sixties when, it seemed to the Citizens, a flood of “Paki’s” suddenly descended in their midst. This impression was helped by the newcomers finding employment almost exclusively on the Municipal Transport, thereby assuring themselves of a constant place in the public eye, while their habit of taking up group residence gave the impression of whole areas being taken over.

In fact Glaswegians might be surprised to know that compared to Birmingham, which has a similar population, of just over a million, Glasgow’s immigrants are rather thin on the ground—about 7,000 against Birmingham’s 70,000.

The reasons for the low numbers are obvious. Glasgow’s unemployed rarely falls below 20,000 while the light industries which can absorb the unskilled immigrant are practically non-existent here. Clydeside is synonymous with heavy engineering and shipbuilding so the demand is for skilled men only and what light industry there is can, in an area where wages are well below the national average, find an abundance of married women to fill any available vacancies.

Anyway, the big problem in Scotland is not immigration but emigration. Around 11.000 left here for overseas in each of the six years between 1958-63 while another 87.000 found work elsewhere in the U.K. during the 1950’s. So concerned with this state of affairs are the local Nationalists and Labourites that they don’t even have a policy on immigration at all, devoting themselves solely to preventing the mass escape of wage-slaves to other parts!

The Trade Unions have discussed the matter and at the 1962 Conference of the Scottish T.U.C. the Association of Scientific Workers, appropriately enough, moved an anti-racialist resolution which concluded ”. . . no barriers on grounds of race, creed or colour should be erected against those who wish to live and work in this country”. The motion was unanimously adopted. Another resolution condemning Apartheid is due to come before the 1965 Conference and doubtless it, too, will carry the day. All of this hardly reflects the attitude of the average union member. As the seconder of the 1962 resolution admitted “. . . we had to be honest. . . there were still some of our own people who had prejudice against a person’s race, religion or colour”.

So even if Glasgow’s record is comparatively clean it must be remembered that the conditions for real prejudice seldom crop up. The immigrants live almost as a separate community and follow their own cultural activities. They aim simply to stick it out for a few years, save enough money, and return home to open a small business. Few intend to stay.

Nor have they added to the local housing or unemployment problems. The ten year residential qualification rules them out for a Council so they live mainly in tenements which were slums years ago, and the jobs they find are usually those which do not, at present, attract local men anyway.

When the necessary conditions have arisen, in isolated instances Glaswegians have shown the same lack of class consciousness as workers elsewhere. Only recently, when some immigrants moved into a once posh street in the City, their neighbours raised the usual howl about the adverse effect this would have on the value of their property. Last Autumn a racial strike occurred at the Gavinsbum Bus Dept, just outside Glasgow, when the strikers claimed too many Pakistanis were getting jobs in an area of high unemployment. Nor should we forget how—earlier immigrants—Italian Cafe owners—had their shops smashed up by patriotic mobs when Italy entered the war in 1940.

The coming of the Immigration Act, plus the existing state of industry, make any immediate influx of immigrants unlikely. It does not follow, however, that the present peacefulness must continue. Capitalism has shown that no great change is required in its socio-economic climate to produce, here, the outbreaks of intolerance so common in other parts of the country.

V.V. (Glasgow)

Leave a Reply