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Unemployment in the 1930s

The years between the First and Second World Wars were not prosperous for many of the population. The relief afforded to unemployed workers was set at a poverty level and the implementation of the Means Test never produced the fairness it was claimed it would.  The system punished workers for its own failings and the resentment this fuelled the existence of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM)

In 1931 the Salford NUWM organised a march which resulted in mounted police baton charges on the crowd and the imprisonment of the march's leaders, among them being Eddie Frow, later a founder of the WCML.  Ewan MacColl was one of the marchers. Here is his description of the day.

Another participant was a local Labour Party activist, Walter Greenwood. The battle outside the town hall became the climactic event in his famous book Love on the Dole.

The recollections of participants was collected by Ruth and Eddie Frow into a booklet: The Battle of Bexley Square.

Map of the 1932 hunger marchThe NUWM organised several national hunger marches. Here can be found the manifesto of the March and Congress as well as the actual itinerary and timetable followed by the marchers.

The famous Jarrow Crusade of 1936 was a small affair compared to those of the NUWM, and its fame rests partly on its mostly non-political nature. The NUWM was seen as a communist organisation and  was kept at arm's length by the Jarrow organisers, though local branches on its route gave plenty of support.