Jenny Patrick

Jenny Patrick

Jane (Jenny) Hamilton Patrick was born in Glasgow in 1884. She became active in politics and in 1916 she became the secretary of the Glasgow anarchists.

Patrick was a strong opponent of the First World War and during this period became friends with Guy Aldred after the government passed the Military Service Act in January 1916.

On 31st July, 1920, a group of revolutionary socialists attended a meeting at the Cannon Street Hotel in London. The men and women were members of various political groups including the British Socialist Party (BSP), the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), Prohibition and Reform Party (PRP) and the Workers' Socialist Federation (WSF). It was agreed to form the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

Patrick agreed with Guy Aldred who argued: "I have no objection to an efficient and centralised party so long as the authority rests in the hands of the rank and file, and all officials can be sacked at a moment's notice. But I want the centralism to be wished for and evolved by the local groups, a slow merging of them into one party, from the bottom upwards, as distinct from this imposition from the top downwards." He added: "It was hoped to create a communist federation out of those remaining groups. The principle of federation - a federation of communist groups developed voluntarily from below, rather than an imposed centralism from above - was always an important and consistent part of the anti-parliamentary movement's proposals for unity."

In 1921 Patrick and Aldred established the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation (APCF), a breakaway group from the Communist Party of Great Britain. The authorities began to investigate this group and Aldred, Patrick, Douglas McLeish and Andrew Fleming were eventually arrested and charged with sedition. After being held in custody for nearly four months they appeared at Glasgow High Court on 21st June 1921. They were all found guilty. The Socialist reported: "Lord Skerrington then passed sentences: Guy Aldred, one year: Douglas McLeish three months: Jane Patrick, three months, Andrew Fleming (the printer), three months and a fine of £50, or another three months."

In 1924 Guy Aldred and Rose Witcop parted. However, the following year the Home Office who threatened to deport her as a Russian national. As a result the couple arranged a civil marriage in order to confirm her citizenship status and prevent any possible deportation. Guy Aldred now moved to Glasgow where he set up home with Jenny Patrick and published The Commune.

In June 1934 Aldred and Patrick established the United Socialist Movement (USM), an anarcho-communist political organisation based in Scotland. Several members of the Independent Labour Party who had lost their belief in the parliamentary road to socialism joined the party. Other recruits included Helen Lomax, Ethel MacDonald and the former sailor, John Taylor Caldwell.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Aldred immediately gave his support to the Anarchist Brigade. He sent Jenny Patrick and Ethel MacDonald to Spain as a representative of the USM. Patrick worked in the Ministry of Information in Madrid and MacDonald became the English-speaking radio propagandist in Barcelona.

Over the next few months the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) and the Worker's Party (POUM) played an important role in running Barcelona. This brought them into conflict with other left-wing groups in the city including the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSUC) and the Communist Party (PCE). Ethel MacDonald became involved in this conflict and in January 1937 she began to transmit regular English-language reports on the war on the radio station run by the CNT.

Eventually Ethel MacDonald was arrested by the authorities. She later told the Glasgow Evening Times: "My arrest was typical of the attitude of the Communist Party... Assault Guards and officials of the Public Order entered the house in which I lived late one night. Without any explanation they commenced to go through thoroughly every room and every cupboard in the house. After having discovered that which to them was sufficient to hang me - revolutionary literature etc."

After her return from Spain, Patrick joined forces with Guy Aldred, Ethel MacDonald and John Taylor Caldwell to establish The Strickland Press, which published regular issues of the USM organ, The Word.

Jenny Patrick died in 1971.

Primary Sources

(1) John Taylor Caldwell, Come Dungeons Dark: The Life and Times of Guy Aldred (1988)

When Ethel Macdonald joined Guy Aldred as a fulltime worker she lived in Cathcart Road, some distance from the centre of Glasgow. This was inconvenient. Guy and Jane Patrick lived in one room of a decaying tenement in Baliol Street, near Charing Cross. It was obviously better if they lived nearer each other. This was made possible by a sympathetic house factor. He rented Ethel a top flat in Gibson Street, half a mile away. The rent and rates were £8 per quarter. The idea was to have a girl lodger to share the expense.