John McGovern (politician)

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John McGovern (13 December 1887 – 14 February 1968) was a Scottish socialist politician.

Early career[edit]

Born into a Roman Catholic family, McGovern soon became involved in the Labour movement and anarchism. Active in opposition to World War I, he joined the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation and became its treasurer, but soon left after disagreements with Guy Aldred.[1] He emigrated to Australia in 1923, but soon returned and became a prominent member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), at the time linked to the Labour Party. In 1929, he was elected to Glasgow City Council, a position he held for two years.[2]

Leading the separation[edit]

He was elected to Parliament to represent Labour in Glasgow Shettleston in a 1930 by-election. However, he was subsequently expelled from Labour following allegations that he had fixed the election to become the Labour candidate. This led him to become a leading proponent of the ILP disaffiliating from the Labour Party.[3]

This was achieved the following year, but he was one of only five ILP members to retain their seats at the 1931 general election. He was active in a campaign to re-establish the tradition of free assembly and free speech on Glasgow Green, and after a heated debate in the Commons, refused to leave, eventually being forcibly ejected. He was fined for organising a meeting on the Green in support of this. His appeal against the charges, though unsuccessful, led directly to the reinstatement of the traditional rights.[4] Despite often campaigning alongside communists in the unemployed movement, McGovern, with Richard Wallhead, led the opposition within the ILP to any official working relationship with the Communist Party of Great Britain.[5] He was particularly critical of the Moscow Trials.[6]

Enquiry of Republican affairs[edit]

In 1937, McGovern led an ILP commission of enquiry into the affairs of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Ostensibly to counter allegations made by prominent Catholics as to Republican treatment of prisoners, he also aimed to support the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), which was increasingly threatened by the communists, and to find information as to the disappearance of Andrés Nin.[6]

McGovern strongly condemned the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, describing it as "the bloodstained handshake of Stalin and Ribbentrop". [7] McGovern remained active through World War II, supporting the ILP's pacifist line. When the ILP Chairman C. A. Smith unexpectedly quit the party in 1941 in disagreement with this policy, McGovern was elected in his place, although he held the post for only two years.

Labour Party[edit]

The ILP's best known leader, James Maxton, died in 1946. Following this, and encouraged by the policies of the Labour Government, McGovern resigned from the ILP in March 1947 and became a Labour MP. By the end of the year, the remaining ILP MPs had followed him.[8] He was re-elected for Labour in 1950 and 51, and in 1952 led the campaign to permit Trotskyist Tony Cliff to remain in Britain.[9] In November 1954 he had the Labour whip withdrawn for voting against German re-armament and sat as an independent until the whip was restored in March 1955.[8]

McGovern's last years in Parliament were devoted to the campaign for moral re-armament, a cause he had supported since 1938.[10] He resigned from the Labour Party again in 1959 and stood down from Parliament at that year's general election. At the 1964 UK general election, he called for a vote for the Conservative Party.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ No War But The Class War: Glossary[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Michael Stenton and Stephen Lees, Who's Who of British MPs: Volume IV, 1945-1979
  3. ^ Red Clydeside: Election address of John McGovern, Labour candidate for North Kelvin ward
  4. ^ John Couzin, 1916-1932: The fight for freedom of speech on Glasgow Green
  5. ^ Robert Surianyi, The Radical Left and the beginning of the popular front movement in Britain (1935)
  6. ^ a b Hans Schafranek, Kurt Landau
  7. ^ Paul Corthorn, In the shadow of the dictators: the British Left in the 1930s. Tauris Academic Studies, 2006, ISBN 1850438439, (p. 215).
  8. ^ a b Scottish Political Timeline 1945 - 1967
  9. ^ Jim Higgins, More Years for the Locust
  10. ^ "Moral Rearmament", TIME Magazine

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Wheatley
Member of Parliament for Glasgow Shettleston
19301959
Succeeded by
Myer Galpern
Political offices
Preceded by
C. A. Smith
Chairman of the Independent Labour Party
1941–1943
Succeeded by
Robert Edwards