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John Villiers Leckie was a member of the Socialist Labour Party, born in Scotland of Irish extraction, he was a time-served engineering worker. He was the Chairman of the Communist Labour Party, a transitional body, confined to Scotland, formed in September 1920 by the Scottish Workers' Committee, the Scottish section of the Communist Party [British Section of the Third International – CP (BSTI)], some members of the Socialist Labour Party, and various local communist groups. In the same month, the Communist Party of South Wales and the West of England was founded, with a very similar programme. All these bodies were hostile to the Labour Party and to parliamentarianism, as was Leckie.
Under the influence of John MacLean, the group was provisionally named the Scottish Communist Party. However, its founding conference, which Maclean did not attend, renamed it the Communist Labour Party. It also decided that it should remain a provisional body with the aim of joining the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), a position championed by Willie Gallacher although Maclean left the group and joined the rump SLP. The Communist Labour Party joined the British Communist Party, along with the remains of other Left Communist bodies, in January 1921. Having attended the 2nd Congress of the Comintern, Leckie was persuaded to change his mind on questions of parliament, elections, and Labour, and began to push for Communist Unity. He now began to play a significant role in these developments and was one of the handful of signatories that called for the 1921 Unity Convention later that year.
He supposedly drilled a “Workers’ Army” in East Fife, with the aid of an Irish captain and, in Birmingham in 1921, he harangued two plainclothes policemen at a meeting, saying that the tactics of the IRA should be adopted and that “two or three lads on the roof with rifles would put an end to these snoopers”. Although, in fairness, the mood amongst the Irish diaspora in Scotland during the Irish war of independence was rather sharp.
He was proposed during the united front period by the Coventry Unemployed Workers’ Movement as the Communist Party’s prospective candidate in the 1922 General Election.
During the 1922 engineering lock-out, Leckie addressed a massive meeting outside the Daimler works at Hill Crest, Radford Road, Coventry, which is pictured here.
He was one of the new Party’s delegates to the 4th World Congress of the Comintern from November to December 1922.As a consequence of German defaults on reparations due under the Treaty of Versailles in December 1922, the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr industrial district followed in January 1923, so as to seize assets in compensation . Leckie was one of a half dozen Comintern functionaries deputed to go to the area to study and report on the problem.
He then served as the Party’s representative at the then Comintern headquarters in Berlin from early 1923 to the end of 1925, with the power to attend KPD (German Communist Party) central committees.
In the General Election of 1929, Leckie was a Communist candidate for the Dunfermline Burghs constituency, which also covered the long-term Communist bases of Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly. Leckie polled a respectable 6.5% of the vote in the seat. He is pictured (poorly) in the above photograph speaking to a children's rally (it was a very left wing place!) at Lochgelly in 1929.
Jack Leckie was arrested during an affray on the street during the textile dispute of 1930 in West Yorkshire.