John Maclean Justice 1915

Concerning P. Petroff

Source: John Maclean, “Concerning P. Petroff” (letter) Justice, 30 December, 1915, p. 7;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

A much abridged version of this first letter was published by Nan Milton in Rapids of Revolution, 1918, p. 94. There follows an exchange.

Sir, On the fourth page of “Justice,” December 23, you have a note entitled “Who and What is Peter Petroff?” You say: “He has now been for some weeks on the Clyde. What he is doing there, and what may be his object, is best known to himself.”

He was invited to Glasgow by the Glasgow District Council of the B.S.P. to address a meeting in the Panopticon. He spoke on the Russian Revolution to an audience of over a thousand. After arrangements for this meeting were made, I was summoned under the Defence of the Realm Act. Expecting six months, I wished to see that my “withdrawal” would involve no hitch in the conduct of our Economic Class, the issue of the “Vanguard,” and the other activities that are helping to make the Clyde Valley the danger spot to capitalism. I therefore suggested to the G.D.C. that Petroff be kept in Glasgow as our second organiser. This was agreed to, and here he remains, with his wife, as a B.S.P. organiser.

To choke us financially the Lord Provost and magistrates have cut off our licence fee the Panopticon. But we will beat them in that. Wait and see.

The authorities thought a collapse would come with my dismissal. We gained as a consequence, and we are making straight for a Labour College.

To make Petroff safe I took him to the Free Speech Committee, to the Clyde Workers’ Committee, and to other bodies of Clyde Workers. He has no status on the Clyde Workers’ Committee. Everybody knows that; but still, Petroff speaks at it.

His attack on Vandervelde was “plotted” in my house. We think Vandervelde a traitor to Socialism, and hold him partly responsible for the breakdown of the International. The B.S.P. tried to send delegates to the unofficial International Socialist Conference in Switzerland. We in this part stick by that conference. We object to money being sent to Vandervelde, in the name of the International. The Austrian Socialists are now lining up with the Swiss conference, as will many others very soon. Petroff is not alone in this, and Petroff does not do our thinking. We put Petroff in his proper place every time, and will continue to do so.

It just happens that Petroff was arrested in Bowhill, Fife, on Wednesday, December 22, for entering a prohibited area. He went to Lochgelly, as he had done before, and registered as he had done before. Yet he was jailed before he had a chance to speak for the B.S.P. branch in Bowhill. He was rushed off to Dunfermline next morning and sentenced to 3 or 15 days.

I had arranged to go to Bowhill and speak against conscription, but by mistake the Anderston B.S.P. Branch ticketed Macdougall , and myself for the same night. Macdougall had to go to Lesmahagow. My choice fell on the Anderston meeting to prime the comrades up for Lloyd George. We were one of the factors delaying that gentleman’s meeting. His instigation to the employers in his Commons’ speech on Monday gave us a chance, and we took it, and will continue to take it.

I consequently asked Petroff to go to Fife. I am responsible, and I shoulder the blame absolutely.

The police, knew I was on the road to Fife on Thursday morning, yet condemned Petroff without a witness in his defence. The matter does not rest there, I can assure you. Some of us in Glasgow have been asking, “Who and what are Messrs. Hyndman, Bax, Fisher, Hunter Watts, Gorle?” etc.

Yours, etc.,