Joined: 24 Mar 2010
Location: Born Glasgow/living in West Yorkshire
|Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:56 pm Post subject: The 1915 Glasgow Rent Strikes
|At that start of the First World War thousands of workers flooded into Clydeside to work in munitions.
Demand for housing was outstripping supply. Despite the poor state of that housing -there was a shortage of materials and a backlog of repairs- landlords sought to exploit the situation and hike up the rents.
The munitions workers were doing overtime and earning good money. But the rises hit pensioners and also the wives and families of soldiers and sailors fighting overseas.
Andrew McBride, an ILP town councillor and Secretary of the Labour Housing Committee appealed to Labour leaders, George Barnes and Arthur Henderson. However they'd just joined the Coalition Government. Neither they nor the Parliamentary Labour Party evinced much in the way of interest. Clearly traditional constitutional methods were making little headway. The only option, Milton (1973) says, was "direct action by the people involved."
A Joint Meeting of the Housing Committee and the Womens' Housing Association was held in Govan in mid May. It was decided to call a rent strike which entailed refusing to pay the increase. The action soon spread.
At the beginning of October a large crowd of women marched from St Enoch's Square to the Municipal Chambers in George Square. One banner said, "While my father is a prisoner in Germany, the landlord is breaking up our home." Another said, "My father is fighting in France, we are fighting Huns at home."
The Council's response was effete. But the Government itself was anxious and set up a Committee of Enquiry as a way of calming matters down.
In the meantime factors couldn't collect rents. Sheriff Officers couldn't manage to evict tenants who refused to pay.
The situation climaxed on 17th November 1915, Couzin (2010) says, with "one of the largest demonstrations in Glasgow's political history." Eighteen men had been summoned to the Small Debt Court. Factors hoped to get their rent increase money deducted form the men's wages. But thousands of women marched with thousands of shipyard and engineering workers to Glasgow's Sheriff Court.
The Sheriff -"white with anxiety"- telephoned Lloyd George, Minister of Munitions. He feared rioting was about to break out. The answer came back. The cases were to be dropped. A Rent Restriction Act would be introduced. Milton (1973) says "that night working class Glasgow celebrated its' victory."