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William Gallacher


William Gallacher

William Gallacher was born in Paisley, Scotland, on 25th December, 1881. After being educated at the local elementary school Gallacher found work as a brass fitter. Gallacher worked closely with other socialists in Glasgow including David Kirkwood, John Wheatley, James Maxton, Emanuel Shinwell, John Muir, Tom Johnston, Jimmie Stewart, Neil Maclean, George Hardie, George Buchanan and James Welsh.

Gallacher was opposed to Britain becoming involved in the First World War and was president of the Clyde Workers' Committee and organisation that had been formed to campaign against the Munitions Act, which forbade engineers from leaving the works where they were employed. David Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson met Gallacher and the Clyde Workers' Committee in Glasgow but they were unwilling to back down on the issue.

In 1916 the Clyde Workers' Committee journal, The Worker, was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act for an article criticizing the war. Gallacher and John Muir, the editor were both found guilty and sent to prison. Gallacher for six months and Muir for a year.

After the war Gallacher was involved in the struggle for a 40 hour week. The police broke up an open air trade union meeting at George Square on 31st January, 1919. The leaders of the union were then arrested and charged with "instigating and inciting large crowds of persons to form part of a riotous mob". Gallacher was sentenced to five months and Emanuel Shinwell got three months. The other ten were found not guilty.

Gallacher joined the Communist Party and attempted to be elected to the House of Commons at Dundee (1922 and 1923), West Fife (1929 and 1931) and Shipley (1930). He was eventually elected for West Fife in 1935.

In 1936 Gallacher joined members of the Labour Party such as Ellen Wilkinson, Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and Charles Trevelyan in arguing for giving military help to the Spanish Popular Front government fighting for survival against General Francisco Franco and his right-wing Nationalist Army. The author of several books, his autobiography, The Chosen Few, was published in 1940.

Gallacher was elected to represent East Fife in the 1945 General Election. In the House of Commons Gallacher associated with a group of left-wing members that included fellow Communist Party member, Phil Piratin, and John Platts-Mills, Konni Zilliacus, Lester Hutchinson, Ian Mikardo, Barbara Castle, Sydney Silverman, Geoffrey Bing, Emrys Hughes, D. N. Pritt, Leslie Solley and William Warbey.

Gallacher's opposition to the Cold War and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) made him an unpopular figure in post-war England and he was defeated when he stood in the 1950 General Election. Gallacherremained in politics and served as President of the Communist Party between 1956 and 1963.

William Gallacher died on 12th August 1965.