Robert (Bobby) Lynn

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Robert (Bobby) Lynn, 1924–1996

Calton Born

The Wee Man is Dead! Robert Lynn has snuffed it. In the heart of Glasgow ndash; the Calton – hundreds of people are genuinely mourning the loss of one of its best loved sons. Born in the Calton in 1924 Robert cherubic-faced, curly haired small and dapper, generous and non-judgemental he was educated at St. Mungo's Academy. Leaving school at 14 years of age he took up an engineering apprenticeship in the Yarrows Shipyard on Clydeside. Already possessing an awareness of class consciousness he was swept up in the maelstrom of political activity which was occurring during the war years in British industry, mining, shipyard and engineering. Alaways disaffected by the Communist Party members' policy of subordinating workers' interests to those of Stalin's foreign policy, he looked elsewher for his ideas.

Stirner-based Anarchism

Bobby began to explore the ideas of anarchist thinkers, among them Max Stirner (1806-56). Authoritarian socialist states justified themselves by advocating that only the state can bring about and guarantee the freedom of the people. Stirner however, argued that freedom was not an abstract end in itself. Freedom was simply the means to the real end of being in control over one's own actions. Stirner's “The Ego and His own” is a powerful critique of what he called “fixed ideas”, be they religious, rational, nationalist or idealogical. For Stirner all “ideas” needed to be treated simply as that-”ideas”- working hypotheses rather than ideologies. Ideologies always make hypocrites of us by denying our real, complex selves in the name of “fixed ideas”. In opposition to statism, both capitalist and communist, Stirner appeared to suggest a union of “egoists”, a sort of anarchist federalism. However, like most anarchists he was opposed to providing a blueprint for society. That was precisely what he was fighting against. Peter Kopotkin defined it thus: “It is impossible to legislate for the future. All we can do is to guess, vaguely, its essential tendencies and clear the road for it.” Robert Lynn interpreted this “union of egoists” literally as a workers' union, a way of organising freely within industry.

First Strike and Blacklist

In 1943 the strike on Tyneside, which saw Jock Haston and Roy Tearso imprisoned, quickly spread to the Clyde where many shipyards were brought to a halt. Robert working as an apprentice in Yarrows became actively involved in the struggle to better the wages and conditions of his colleagues - a battle that had to be fought and refought in ensuing years. During the second world war the Communist Party dominated the influential shop stewards' committees but their policy of subordinating the workers' interests to those of Soviet Russia drew a withering fire from anarchists, Trotskyists and non-Communist Party socialists alike. This experience had a profound effect on Robert and it was then he began to nurture the beliefs of Bakunin and the industrial strategy of syndicalism. In the post-war years Robert's influence in shipbuilding became increasingly irritating to both employers and communist-led union officials, he was eventually "blacklisted" with the approval of both. Unable to get work he then joined the Merchant Navy as an engineering officer and spent some years seeing the world and its peoples. During this period he devoured libraries.

The Glasgow Anarchist Group

Returning to Glasgow in the early fifties he threw himself into everything; politics, marriage and trade union activity. He became an active member of the Glasgow Anarchist Group which consisted of Frank Leach, Jimmy Raeside and Eddie Shaw, who were already well-respected names in anarchist circles. As George Woodcock expressed: The Glasgow Anarchist Group is the only group in the world where the egocentric philosophies of Max Stirner took root and were given popular expression. The anarchists held an open workers forum in Renfrew Street, Glasgow where anarchists, Socialist Party of great Britain. (SPGB), nationalists and Trotskyists debated - sometimes physically. In an open air arena ordinary working class men and women discussed passionately the ideas of Feurbuch, Clara Zetkin, Bakunin, Kropotkin and many, many others. Robert Lynn revelled in this, what he called the University of Life. In the late fifties, with the death of Leach and the departure of Raeside and Shaw abroad, the Glasgow Anarchist Group disintegrated and the task of reorganisation was left to Robert. This he did by immersing himself in his local community of the Calton. He and Jean, his constant companion, became well-known, well-respected and to many, well-loved characters. Robert again went back to industry and worked at Howden's engineering plant in the south side of Glasgow. There he promoted his ideas of syndicalism and libertarianism. Sadly, thanks to trade union officials who immediately recognised the threat to their power, Robert's views did not meet with any great success. However it was the Glasgow Anarchist Group of the early seventies which was to prove the most fruitful for Robert's ideas. There became a massive blossoming of literature and direct action which exploded on the scene. The publication of booklets such as Practical Anarchy and Why Vote?, all bearing Robert's signature, appeared and were avidly read by many people who, being disillusioned with political parties of all shades, were becoming attracted to the ideas of anarchism. A great number of events were initiated by Robert especially the Glasgow Anarchist Summer School which is now becoming a tradition that attracts libertarian socialists from all over Britain. For a considerable time Robert (Bobby) Lynn held regular meetings of the Glasgow Anarchist group at 4 Ross Street Calton Glasgow. A “single-end” derelict ground floor flat just off the Gallowgate near the Barrows. His death on August 16th, was a blow to his family, his many friends and comrades, and even also to his political opponents. He was generous to a fault and although he did not suffer fools gladly he rarely had a bad word to say about anyone, even the worst of us. Robert is survived by Jean and daughters Jean, Joan and Betty.


This material was lifted from Libcom.

Granny made me an anachist By Stuart Christie.

Posted by John Couzin

The book Radical Glasgow

Radical Glasgow website