Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tommy Tait of the Edinburgh SLP

Remembering our working class history.

Thomas Tait was born in Leith on 11 January 1889 and served in the Army during the Boer War where he became a socialist  through reading the pamphlet, What means this strike? by American socialist, Daniel de Leon. He joined the Edinburgh Branch of the Socialist Labour Party around 1905. The Party later split in 1912 and Tait continued in membership of the British Section of the International Socialist Labour Party, of which he was Secretary in the 1930s. There were 22 members of Edinburgh Branch in Dec 1932. In 1936 the Party was meeting at 55 Elder Street in Edinburgh. However, by 1939 they had moved to 1 South West Thistle Street Lane.The BSISLP in turn became the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1936. Tait was a powerful orator. He was unsuccessful in contesting the municipal elections as a socialist, standing 17 times. He died on 12 May 1941. 

"It was as a speaker that comrade Tait excelled. And it was as a speaker that he was known to thousands of workers. At the Mound and the Foot of the Walk he propagated revolutionary socialism for thirty years, amusing and educating his hearers in his own inimitable way. His ability to mix socialist propaganda and humour, indignation against capitalist exploitation and a shrewd common sense made him a powerful influence for socialism. His kindliness, his simple directness, above all, his honesty, compelled the recognition of even his opponents."

From Thomas Tait's obituary, the RSP's Workers Weekly, No. 61, 16th May 1941


Darren said...

Cheers for that. A fascinating read. Wasn't there a whole family of Tait brothers in the BSISLP, or am I thinking of someone else?

I remember reading an article about the organisation years ago. I think - not 100% definite - that it was written by Mark Shipway, and I think it was published in a short lived historical journal that was put together by Frank Girard and Ben Perry.

My memory's not what it was. ;-)

ajohnstone said...

Certainly a lot of Taits in the minute book, i think his sons and a daughter.

In November 1920, Thomas Tait stood as a Communist Party candidate in the council elections in South Leith and again in 1923.

RSP insisted it was a non-Trotskyist Marxist body that did not value the Russian Revolution as an example of Marxist leadership. But i see Frank Maitland as a speaker for it.

i think you must be referring to Shipways obituary of Willie Tait


ajohnstone said...

obit of Frank Maitland