THERE have been several books, pamphlets, articles, TV biopics and even a few plays about John Maclean. Some were from Maclean’s Scottish Republican point of view, some a very British-left point of view which accepts Maclean’s internationalism, but not his Scottish Republicanism.

In a new biography The Red And The Green: A Portrait of John MacLean, the author, Gerry Cairns, does not cherry pick and goes straight for Maclean’s Scottish independence by presenting much withheld evidence and documentation.

He praises Maclean’s daughter, Nan Milton, and her biography on her father and her selected works of Maclean, In the Rapids of Revolution, and also the pro-Maclean works of Orkney writer, John Broom, as well as the late Dr James D Young, from Falkirk, on his several works on Maclean.

Young published The Rousing of the Scottish Working Class in 1979 in response to English Labour historians EP Thomson, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm, who all admitted that their British working-class histories, were really English working-class histories and much was needed to be done in respect of Scotland.

Tom Johnston produced The History of the Scottish Working Classes and our Noble Families but later withdrew it as he retreated into British Labourism. Lecturer Young started as a Unionist Labourite until his book research converted himself to a full Scottish Republican Socialist.

Cairns’s book, as can be seen from the Red And The Green title also documents Maclean’s support for Irish Republicanism, much unheard of until now, thanks to the recently discovered documents of Seamus Reader, the great uncle of singer Eddi Reader. He acknowledges the publications of Stephen Coyle, who included much of Reader’s documents. Reader was one of the Scots who fought for Irish independence.

Cairns also reveals from Reader that Maclean’s support for Ireland was no mere tokenism and included physical force support, as was his citizen’s physical force support for Scottish independence. All there to be seen in a new light. Cairns mentions Maclean’s alliance with Scottish Nationalists such as the revolutionary Earl of Mar. They and Jimmy Maxton etc, spoke at the annual Declaration of Arbroath rallies – and served on that committee – as well as at the overtly political annual Wallace rallies at his place of betrayal at Robroyston.

Gerry Cairns also deals with the betrayals of Maclean by the British left, then and now, providing proof from several sources, including Londoner Jim Clayson’s research on the plot by the head of security in Scotland, Sir Basil Thomson, instructing his agents to spread the lie that Maclean was “mad”, along with his supporters, including Sylvia Pankhurst. It was not just Stalin who invented this technique of isolating, assassinating and locking up political “deviants”.

The author writes of Maclean’s Presbyterian background and of his parents, as victims of the Highland Clearances, which many Unionist academics still claim as “myth” in their effort to whitewash Scotland’s history.

His father was from Mull and his mother from Corpach, which Nan Milton explains is in the “shadow Ben Nevis“, albeit a bit further west. Despite his early transition to atheism, he still showed signs of Calvinism and Cairns says he was the only Marxist to address the Church of Scotland General Assembly. Maclean was born in industrial Glasgow, with a strong Gaelic/Highland/Irish militant heritage, and without a shred of the bigoted false consciousness imposed upon the gullible section of the working class by their rulers and capitalist bosses.

All of this and more has to be read to be believed.
Donald Anderson