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Report by Liverpool C.I.D

On 12th September 1921, a report was submitted to Liverpool C.I.D. Special Branch based upon a covert operation by a Sergeant Seaton of the Liverpool Constabulary Police, through his attendance at the Vigilante Seamen’s Committee.

The overall theme of the meeting was unemployment and cheap alien labour.

Messer’s Morgan, McQuiggan, Flood and Garrett were the keynote speakers, with Morgan acting as chairman, for the duration. In his opening speech, Morgan informed the meeting, “The Seamen’s Vigilante Committee embraces all branches of British Seamen that is one White British Seafarer’s Union.” Morgan’s position was reinforced by McQuiggan when he addressed the audience by emphasising the root cause to the “alien question,” was cheap labour, at the expense of the British white worker.

Instead of observing this perspective from 2014, you have to transpose back to 1921 to understand the position McQuiggan is advocating. Yes, it’s post 1918 and the end of World War one and a raft of economic recession’s, beckoning. However, the forces of Empire are still very much abound through Britain’s role as a major world economic and military power. In parallel with this, you have a white British attitude towards race, at a time, which was, in the eyes of Morgan and McQuiggan, very reasonable, understandable and very much a part of the British way of life.

Both Morgan and McQuiggan hold the view, the root cause of the unemployment crisis, in a local context, is entirely due to the hiring of cheap alien labour. Introduce an “Alien’s Act and send them all back. This will solve the problem,” McQuiggan told the audience.

In contrast, Flood and Garrett exert a clear and definitive evaluation of the causes of the excessively high levels of unemployment throughout Britain, in parallel with Liverpool. The root cause lends itself more to the international and universal struggle of the workers throughout the world, rather than apportioning the blame to the alien worker, whose labour is being exploited by the capitalist classes, so that local workers would be forced to take wages, the employer offered.

Without prejudging the position of Morgan and McQueen, their view of the situation is a very narrow one. In that, they don’t offer any substantial evidence to justify their condemnation of “alien labour,” without any real justification.  “Coming over here and taking our jobs,” is the mantra, and they are sticking to it.

Whereas, Flood and Garrett, and Garrett in particular were overwhelmingly definitive in their reasoning and understanding of the circumstances which presently prevailed. Their appreciation of the workers struggles are reflected in Garrett’s references to Ghandi in India, Michael Collins in Ireland, America where the workers are engaged in a struggle with the capitalist classes on a fourteen mile front, the colonisation of Samoa by the British and more closer to home, the race riots in Liverpool in 1919. Garrett goes on, “all workers are slaves to the capitalists, no matter what their race, colour or creed is, and their is no more slavery under British Imperialism and the Union Jack, than under any other flag.”

Garrett’s overview of the situation, doesn’t belittle Morgan and McQuiggan’s perspective, at all. He offers them and the audience an alternative to strikes and demonstrations, which he see’s as counter productive to achieving a positive outcome. The unity and strength of a concerted effort of action throughout the country is the way forward, rather than the single minded approach, being offered by both Morgan and McQuiggan. Garrett sites the 1911 Transport strike in Liverpool, when police forces from all Britain converged on Liverpool to reinforce the local Police force to break the strike. If the Liverpool action’s had been repeated throughout Britain, the situation would have become unmanageable, with the workers on the verge of victory.

Garrett’s assessment of the political landscape can be attributed to his worldly travels by land and sea to Argentina, France, his World War One exploits and his experiences of culture and politics in America. The influence of The International Workers of the World (WOBLY’S) is a thread which filters through almost every message Garrett advocates and he never deviates from this. It is his belief the goal of emancipation can only be achieved if the Vigilante Seamen’s Committee demonstrates a united front.
United we stand divided we fall. Workers of the world unite. Break the bonds of serfdom and victory is ours!

Ray Quarless
Last modified onThursday, 04 December 2014 17:24
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