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Last updated:23 April 2015

Manifesto of the National Hunger March of 1934

Reproduced below is the full text of the manifesto:

 

Manifesto of the National March and Congress

Manifesto of the National March and Congress : the cover of a pamphlet produced by the NUWM in 1933
Why the march and congress

The National Government representing the capitalist class has carried through a continuous and terrible economy offensive against the working class. At the same time it has steadily increased its powers of oppression (Police re-organisation, the use of Edward III Act, etc.) and the advance towards open dictatorship.

A new drastic step is now being taken in the launching of the new Unemployment Bill.

This is the most far-reaching attack that has yet seen been made on the workers of this country - an attack not only aimed at new heavy economies but especially directed towards the destruction of working-class organisations and the enslavement of the working class.

The unemployed are to be divided one section against the other-those who are insurable and those who are what Macdonald called "scrap". The employed are to be separated from the unemployed through new regulations affecting strike activity.

Dictatorial powers are placed in the hands of such reactionary bodies as the Unemployment Assistance Board, the Insurance Fund Statutory Commission and the Ministry of Labour.

The Bill aims at removing hundreds of thousands of claimants from the Unemployment Insurance Funds, casting the main responsibility for the maintenance of the unemployed upon the localities, tightening up the Means Test and thereby increasing the burden upon the families and relatives of the unemployed.

It seeks to turn the unemployed into an army of conscript labour to work without wages under slave conditions in Labour Camps - similar to those established by Hitler under the German Fascist Dictatorship-in industrial training centres, on re-conditioning and public work schemes, etc., which formerly have been carried out under Trade Union conditions. It aims a most deadly blow at Trade Unionism and the principles and standards which for generations have been fought for and established by the working-class movement. It is a strike breaking Bill, framed to penalise workers and their families who become associated with strikes and lock-outs for the protection or advance of their living standards.

Wal Hannington NUWM Fighters series No.2All sections have been attacked

For over two years the attack has gone on and the National Government has ridden rough-shod over the interests of the working class. It has smashed down the wage standards of teachers, civil servants, post office workers, the men in the armed forms, and the police. It has given every conceivable encouragement and assistance to the employers to still further reduce the living standards of the workers in every industry. It has slashed the miserable benefit and relief standards of the unemployed. It has driven millions of our class into the most terrible conditions of poverty and destitution. It carried through vicious attacks under the false name of Economy Measures in 1931, and gave definite pledges that the cuts to wages and benefit levels were only temporary and would be quickly restored. It has flagrantly broken that pledge and instead of using the huge financial surplus of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer now boasts to restore the living standards of the workers, it spends millions of pounds more on armaments and the preparation for new wars, involving the slaughter of millions of workers in the interests of capitalism, as in the last war.

Industrial exploitation

In every industry the exploitation of the workers increases week by week through the application of increasing methods of speeding up and rationalisation.

For example, in cotton, the application of the More Looms System, the downward revision of piece-rates through the abolition of the Colne coloured list, the non-payment of even the agreed rates of the Midland agreement, paying six loom rates for four looms etc.

In mining the increased exploitation of the miners is seen from the fact that since 1920 wages have been about halved whi1st output per man shift has risen from 17.3 cwts to 22.07 cwts at June 30th, 1933.

On the Railways there has been a steady reduction of staff for the past ten years, so that by March. 1933, there were 115,478 less workers than in March 1923.

Degrading is taking place on a wide-spread scale. Thousands of workers have been reduced in status and pay, thousands have been transferred from their homes and during the past twelve months - more than 36,000 have been dismissed from the service entirely.

In road transport the spreadover system, speed-up of time schedules, and extended hours on long journeys cause excessive strain and dismissals.

On the ships, the policy of deliberate undermanning has been steadily pursued by the ship-owners, a policy pursued at the expense of both the unemployed and working seamen. Interference with load line and free board has cost many seamen's lives and endangers many more.

Amongst the dockers, speed-up has been increased and mechanical devices introduced so that dockers now handle 45 per cent. more than they did in 1925, together with a reduction in "the gang."

In the engineering and clothing industries the stop-watch and Bedaux conveyor system and similar devices of speed-up are being applied to many factories to the point of physical exhaustion of workers; cases of workers fainting on their jobs being more frequently reported.

Accidents in all industries are greatly increasing and the question of safety, especially in the mines, has become a burning issue.

The benefits of social insurance are being whittled away especially from the workers, many of whose families no longer receive any maternity or sick pay or medical benefits.

The conditions of both workers and workless are being seriously affected by the concerted efforts to increase the cost of living of which the Meat Restriction Order, the Milk Marketing Scheme, the duty on potatoes, are recent examples, whi1st the 92 percent vote of the cotton employers to enforce price regulation cannot but affect the price of clothing. Many of the recent measures bring nearer the Ministry of Agriculture's dictatorship over all food production and distribution.

British Medical Association report

The terrible deterioration in the physical standard of the working class is revealed in the report of the County Medical Officers of Health and in the recent startling report made by the Commission of nine famous doctors. Appointed by the British Medical Association to enquire into the health conditions of the workers. This report declared emphatically that after nine months careful research work on this question they found that the average unemployed family in Great Britain is not getting enough food to keep it in healthy condition. They stated - admittedly basing their estimate on prices in an exceptionally cheap area in the provinces - that the irreducible minimum cost of food per week for an adult is 5/10½d. They also asserted that it took 2/6½ to keep a young child in food, 3/6½ for a child between six and eight, 4/2½ for a child between eight and ten, whole a child of twelve to fourteen years requires as much as its parent to keep. The British Medical Association found from its own investigations that the great mass of the unemployed after paying rents were left with even less than this ridiculously inadequate amount for food, to say nothing of other necessaries, such as clothing, clubs and medical requisites.

Ministry of Health callousness

The Ministry of Health has displayed the whole callousness an brutality of this National Government towards the workers by a circular to all local authorities declaring that the B.M.A. scale is too high and stating that it is possible for an adult to live on 5/1½ per week.

The Minister of Health who has the impudence to issue such a circular himself receives a salary of £4,000 per year, i.e. £80 per week. Nothing could more clearly reveal the callous indifference of this government to the needs of our class.

The starvation of the workers and their families means nothing to these parasites. There is no limit to the degradation and poverty to which this brutal capitalist Government will drive us if we do not make an organised working class resistance.

Physical deterioration

The County Medical Officers report from almost every industrial area reveal an alarming state of physical deterioration through under-nourishment especially amongst the school children and mothers.

So bad is the physique of the working class youth as a result of poverty in their homes that more than half of those who were driven to offer themselves for the Army last year were rejected on medical grounds. In Lancashire the rejection on medical grounds reached the alarming figure of four out of every five. Such a terrible state of affairs unquestionably proves that this government is slowly starving millions of our class to death.

Government boasts of economy

Yet in spite of this terrible impoverishment this National Government boasts of having saved in a period of two years - October, 1931 to October, 1933 - by reductions in the unemployment benefit scales, £26,750,000 - and a further £27,750,000 by the operation of the Means Test, making a total of £54,500,000 taken out of the meagre existence of the unemployed in this short period.

It is this brutal policy of the National Government which is directly responsible for the appalling poverty conditions which millions of our class find themselves in today.

The Government no longer even pretends to be considerate to the needs of the workers and their families. In the interests of capitalism it drives forward with its murderous policy, ruthlessly grinding down the workers and their families to depths of misery and poverty beyond description. Despair creeps ever deeper into the homes of our class. Mothers are reduced to nervous wrecks through anxiety and worry. Children are being broken in health and robbed of the chance of growing up healthy men and women. Crime, disease and suicides increase through the increasing poverty and destitution of our class.

Sid Elias NUWM Fighters series No.3 : National Unemployed Workers Movement card Unity for action in congress and march

Such are the conditions against which the working class, employed and unemployed, are continuously and heroically fighting.

Mass demonstrations in all part of the country, with such outstanding events as Birkenhead, Bristol, Durham, the Scottish, Welsh and other County marches have all shown the resolute spirit of the unemployed workers.

In the factories and the mines strike after strike, often to the teeth of official opposition, against speed-up, against wage-cuts and worsened conditions, have demonstrated the fighting qualities of the employed workers (London busmen, Fords, Firestone).

During all of these struggles the question of unity of the employed and unemployed workers has always been to the fore as an essential need for a positive advance against the National Government and the capitalist class it represents.

Now the time has come when the unity must be established as an actual fact - unity in action of the employed and unemployed workers, this is the order of the day. It is to achieve this unity and to break through the capitalist offensive that the March and the Congress are taking place.

Mass demonstrations of the unemployed in support of all actions of the employed workers. Resolutions from the factories to support of the unemployed actions leading up to participation in these actions and strike actions.

Against the offensive of the National Government

The basis for this unity is to be found in the fight against the New Unemployment Bill for the abolition of the Means Test and Anomalies Act for work schemes at T. U. rates; for the 40-hour week without wage reductions; for the restoration of the economy cuts; for increased wages for all workers.

Work schemes

We demand that the Government immediately operate National plans for work schemes for the unemployed under proper Trade Union rates of wages and conditions.

We declare emphatically that our class will not tolerate the scheme of conscript labour which the Government is attempting to impose

The unemployed want work, but not under conditions where they toil for the starvation benefit and relief scales. They want the right to work for wages and to live decently. There is plenty of work that could be done. It is an established fact that over a million new houses are needed to give proper housing to the working class.

New roads, schemes for the extension of electrification, building and improvement of bridges, land drainage and reclamation, afforestation, improvement of canals and waterways, are among the many schemes of work waiting to be done. Some of these schemes have had plans laying in the Government pigeon holes for years. We demand that they be brought out and put into operation.

There are great areas of this country particularly in Yorkshire and Monmouthshire, where in recent years terrible floods have been recurrent because of the inadequate drainage systems and imperfect waterways. In these floods hundreds of working-class families have been driven from their homes, have had their furniture destroyed and have had no redress by compensation.

For weeks at a time they have been compelled to sleep rough in school-rooms, corn-exchanges and town halls. Such a terrible situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must be compelled to face up to this issue.

One only needs to glance at the disgraceful insanitary conditions which prevail in nearly every working class locality to realise that here is a big job in itself which if tackled would lead to employment for tens of thousands of workers.

The forty hour week

The demand for the establishment of a 40 hour working week without wage reductions is based on the right of the worker to shorter hours because of the high pressure of production under which he works today through rationalisation and speed up. Through science and machinery in industry production per worker has enormously increased in the last 20 years but there has been no proportionate reduction in the hours of labour, in fact since 1920 many workers have been forced to work longer hours, leading to the displacement of masses of workers from industry.

No reduction in wages for a shorter working week is a demand we make with every justification. The worker, through modern methods of production has to work harder, suffers more exploitation and creates greater wealth in a much shorter space of time than ever before. The shorter working week is therefore not merely a demand which is advanced as a means of absorbing masses of the unemployed back into industry, but is a demand that the working class is fully justified in making even without such a consideration. The continual existence of unemployment simply gives greater strength to the demand.

A non-contributory scheme

We demand that the present contributory system of unemployment insurance must cease.

The workers are not responsible for unemployment, they should not have to pay for it by stoppage out of their meagre wages. The full maintenance of the unemployed should be a direct State responsibility, chargeable to the National Exchequer. The Government spends £300 million every year in the payment of interest to the bondholders in the National Debt. It spends £120 million on the maintenance of the armed forces, and is now increasing this enormous sum in the preparations for new wars, vet when it economises it does so at the expense of the miserable benefit scales and wages of the workers. It spends £420 million pounds out of a total revenue of £750 million in the payment for past wars and the preparation for new wars, yet it claims to be unable to save the workers from starvation.

The workers must smash through such a policy. The rich must be compelled to disgorge their ill-gotten gains and provision made for the unemployment which their system creates.

Raising the living standards

The living standards of both unemployed and employed must be raised. Wages and benefit scales must be increased to protect still further deterioration in the physical standards of our class.

The appalling poverty and misery which is rampant throughout this country must be put an end to.

Every trade union branch, every co-operative guild, every ex-service men's club, every working-class organisation, every active worker should join in the campaign, every branch and every section of the working class must have its delegates at this great Congress of Action for the realisation of this.

Unity of the workers is the greatest need of the moment.

Fascist dictatorship is advancing day by day through the legislation and administration of the National Government.

There is not a moment to be lost. The March and the Great Congress must be used to arouse the whole working class by united action as the sure means of advancing the working-class to victory.


Tom Mann NUWM Fighters series No.1 : A National Unemployed Workers Movement cardThe Call to Action

The National signatories to the call that has gone out for the Great Congress and March are as follows:

ANEURIN BEVAN, M.P.
Coun. JAMES CARMICHAEL.
J. B. FIGGINS
ALEC GOSSIP
WAL HANNINGTON
TED HILL
JOHN JAGGER
JAMES LEE
W. C. TOEBER
TOM MANN
JAMES MAXTON, M.P.
JOHN McGOVERN, M.P.
HARRY POLLITT
FRANK ROWLANDS
JACK TANNER
ELLEN WILKINSON
DOROTHY WOODMAN
JOHN APLIN and MAUD BROWN, Joint Secretaries .

Plans for arrival of marchers in London

The Men and Women Marchers have all received endorsement as Marchers from various working-class organisations, including trade union branches with which they are associated and from mass meetings. The Marchers come therefore, as representatives of the working-class movement and not merely as individual recruits.

All contingents of Marchers arrive on the outskirts of London on Friday, February 23rd. On Saturday they send their representatives to the opening of the Great Unity Congress, whilst the main body of marchers campaign in readiness for the big March into the centre of London on Sunday February 25th.

Hyde Park reception

Sunday, February 25th, all the contingents of Marchers from North, South, East and West will converge on Hyde Park at 3pm. for the Great Mobilisation and Reception. Mighty mass demonstrations of London workers with bands and banners will march from every London locality to welcome these heroic men and women who have marched from all parts of Great Britain. Every working-class banner should be carried to the Great Demonstration to Hyde Park on Sunday

The Congress

The Congress, which will meet in the Bermondsey Town Hall on Saturday and Sunday, 24th-25th of February, will rise at 10'clock on Sunday and all the delegates will march as a body to the Reception in Hyde Park.

During the following week the deputation elected jointly from the Congress and from the Marchers will claim the right to state the workers' case before The Bar of the House of Commons and to meet the Cabinet.

Hyde Park, Sunday Feburary 25th, at 3 p.m. All London will be there

This Great Congress and March depends for its finance entirely on money raised through the working class movement. Money is desperately required to meet the very heavy expenses involved in organising the Congress and March and for feeding and equipping the marchers. We urge all sympathisers to help in this great Campaign by donations individually, and from their respective organisations, to the Congress and March Fund.

SEND ALL CASH TO THE JOINT TREASURERS, TOM MANN AND ALEX GOSSIP,
11a, WHITE LION ST., BISHOPSGATE, LONDON, E.1.

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