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Clydebank - strife and strikes

Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2010

Clydebank has a proud industrial and manufacturing past, with workers most notably providing hardware for textile production, ships for early travel and tourism for the leisured classes, and materials for the war effort. However, for the vast majority of Clydebank’s population, life has always been hard.

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Despite the often romanticised portrayal of Clydebank's proud industrial past, the area has a history of industrial conflict and community struggles.

From a major strike at Singer's in 1911 around new and intensive forms of ‘scientific management’ which led to a cut in wages but an increase in the pace and intensity of work, through the 1941 Engineering Apprentices’ Strike on Clydeside, to the famous Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ Strike and Occupation of 1971-72, Clydebank and social conflict have never been far apart, but one strike in particular stands out amongst all the others.

The Clydebank Rent Strikes emerged from the famous Clydeside ‘Rent Wars’ of 1915. Largely organised and led by women campaigning and organising in working class communities, the rent strikes of the early 1920s took place in opposition to what were seen as excessive and unjust rent increases demanded by landlords. Sporadic protests of rent withholding soon led to a more substantial and widespread struggles as tenants refused to pay increases.

There is an ongoing debate as to the success or otherwise of the strike, but it provided the context for the election of Socialist MPs from the Glasgow area and marked one of the key episodes of the period still celebrated as a period of the ‘Red Clyde.’

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