Don't Sign Up for War

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Review of 'Red Clydeside' by Alistair Hulett, Jump Up Records

The years 1915 to 1919 saw a huge explosion of working class militancy in response to the First World War which brought Britain almost to the brink of revolution. One of the most important centres of struggle was Glasgow and the Clyde. 'Red Clydeside', a CD written and performed by Alistair Hulett, celebrates its foremost protagonist, John Maclean, and the men and women who contributed to this often neglected period of our history.

Hulett, who has an impeccable CV as a singer-songwriter of socialist and traditional folk material, has a rich, yet gravelly voice and a skilful, percussive guitar style. Dave Swarbrick, veteran folk-rock superstar, provides fiddle accompaniment to complement Hulett's guitar in spare arrangements that draw the listener to the lyrics.

These are songs that not only put across an uncompromising political message, but have an authentic feel that is firmly planted in the roots of traditional music. They give an insight into the politics of the period and the enormous contribution Maclean made to the history of the working class.

Maclean famously opposed the war, holding regular rallies outside the army recruiting office in Glasgow, and was arrested and jailed five times between 1915 and 1920 under the Defence of the Realm Act for his anti-war activity. In Hulett's song Maclean says, 'A bayonet that's a weapon with a working man at either end, Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend.'

This is an interactive CD. The lyrics sit with a glossary of the Scots words alongside, and there are links to references and reading for those who want to explore the period further. Hulett has thoroughly researched his subject with a meticulous eye for detail--his words remind us of John Maclean's message as he stood in the dock during his trial for sedition in 1918. 'I am not here then as the accused: I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.'

This CD is available by mail order from Jump Up Records, Germany--e-mail jumpup@t-online.de or from Red Rattler--e-mail a.hulett@btopenworld.com. Make the effort to buy it because this is both politically inspiring and an interesting and enjoyable way to learn about these struggles.