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William Joss

Willie (sometimes Bill in later years) Joss was a founder member of the Communist Party, born in 1879 in Scotland.

He was won to Marxian socialism, especially on economics, by hearing William Gee speak in Glasgow, duringthe South African Boer War.

Around 1920, the Edinburgh committee of the National Council of Labour Colleges (NCLC) voted to nominate Joss as a candidate for a senior vacant position within the organisation. But the NCLC general secretary, J P M Millar, was intent on restricting the number of Communists working for the body and sought to overturn this decision, accusing an activist who was then a member of the Communist Party of packing the meeting.  In the final analysis Joss lost out on the job but, unlike many who were active in the NCLC, he stayed with the movement all his life.

His interest in pedagogy was not abated by this experience. In 1922, he wrote for “Communist Review” on the developments in working class education in Russia. The following year, he was writing on British agriculture for the Review.

In 1923, he made a  three-month tour of the Party’s districts, during the course of which he noted a falling away of veteran pre-war propagandist Marxists, who found the new methods of work designed to aim for the building of a mass party difficult to apply. Also he noted a general but small loss of intellectual types, unable to cope with the hardness and regularity of the political work. New members now tended to be young uneducated militants of a tough disposition but who were deeply connected to the real labour movement.

Thus an early supporter of `Bolshevisation’, by 1929, Joss was one of those on the Central Committee most willing to accept the Comintern’s criticism of the British Party’s sluggish response to `Class Against Class”.

In the early 1930s, he ran the Workers’ Bookshop in 258 High Street, Glasgow.

For many years, Joss was the Party’s Marxist Education Organiser in Scotland, in which capacity he spoke at probably every single branch in all of Scotland several times over.

He was also the Treasurer of the Scottish Communist Party, at least in 1954, possibly earlier.

In 1959, Willie Joss’ 80th birthday saw the Scottish Party successfully plan to win 80 new members in his birthday week to present to him at a social evening!

Sources:  Daily Worker February 11th 1954, Bob Pitt, Llafur (1989), Info from Michael Walker; World News January 31st 1959