Labour History Review

The National Unemployed Workers' Movement and the Communist Party of Great Britain Revisited

Labour History Review (2008), 73, (1), 61–88.

Abstract

Existing literature on the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM) in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s charts high politics and local struggles. Historians have generally acknowledged Communist influence and participation in the organisation, but remain divided on the intention and ability of the Communist Party (CPGB) to control it. Judgements have typically been based on NUWM records, evidence from party publications and partisan reminiscence. In contrast, the authors use documents from the Communist archives to construct a text which recuperates the mentality of party leaders and their sustained attempt to control the NUWM. They provide a case study of CPGB determination to impose the Russian line on front organisations through manipulation and manoeuvre. The article details Communist activities, simultaneously exploring tensions between leaders and cadres in the NUWM, particularly Wal Hannington. It restores to history little known activists within a movement which lodged itself in the experience of the British working class between the wars and was preserved in its collective memory.

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Details

Author details

Campbell, Alan

McIlroy, John