National Unemployed Workers Movement collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

National Unemployed Workers Movment collection comprising:

  • Collection book of Miss [Edith] Stevens for a National Hunger March reception in Swindon, 1934
  • NUWM membership cards: one belonging to E. [Ernest] Faulkner 1923. Another for 1933/34.
  • Co-op Current Account book for the NUWM, Apr 1936-1937.
  • Speakers Notes: on social services, expenditure on war, housing and slum clearance, Apr 1931; and (issued by Women's department) on; Maternity and child welfare services, contrast in the soviet union and the infant death rate, n.d.
  • 'Remember Birkenhead!' - Account of protest against the means test in September 1932, published 1982 by the Merseyside Socialist Research group
  • List of NUWM publications compiled by Edmund Frow and John Mahon March 1972.
  • 'Cash Book' very lightly used.
  • Government Publications describing changes to unemployment assistance regulations 1934-1936.
  • Autobiographical :
    • Sid Elias reminiscences 1911-1926: account of one of the NUWMs leading figures written in his later life.
    • Accounts on Unemployment and the 1932 Hunger March by Alfred Jenkin
    • Correspondence relating to NUWM 1930-39, including correspondence between Albert Hardman and The Unemployment and Advice Bureau as well as the decisions of the U.A.B in Mr. Hardman's case 1937-1939.
    • Notes by a benefit umpire on his decision regarding case of an S.T. Beattie in Ashington Date: 1930
  • NUWM Circulars :
    • Liverpool Marchers Committee 1929, Salford NUWM branch 1933.
    • NUWM National Administrative Council circulars on developing movement, 'National Day of Struggle', Marches, Conference. 1932-1933.
  • Newspaper cuttings: Daily Herald on government unemployment policy 1921, Daily Worker on government unemployment policy 1927-1938, Manchester Guardian on Hunger Marches and other demonstrations (Including photographs) and articles relating to court cases of NUWM leadership 1931-1933.

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Unemployed Workers Movement (NUWM) was set up in 1921 by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It campaigned for better support for the unemployed and against the Means Test. Between 1921 and 1929 it was called the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement. Its main organiser in England was Wal Hannington, and in Scotland Harry McShane.

The massive rise in unemployment in the early 1930s resulted in the work of the NUWM becoming more urgent and intense.

A hunger march, of unemployed workers to petition parliament, was organised in 1922. There were further national marches organised in 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936. These involved groups of unemployed spending up to a month walking from town to town on their way to London, calling for support for their cause.

The largest march, in 1932, involved about 3000 individuals converging on London from every part of the country. The media gave little publicity to the march until they reached London on 27 October where they were met at Hyde Park by a crowd 100,000 strong. The government condemned them as a threat to public order, their petition was confiscated by the police, 70,000 of whom were mobilised to contain and disperse the demonstrations. The following days saw several violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators, and 75 people were seriously injured. Several leaders of the NUWM were imprisoned. These included 75 year old Tom Mann.

Eddie Frow, co-founder of the WCML was a leader of a march in Salford in 1931. He served five months in Strangeways prison for his pains. The end of the 1930s saw unemployment decline and when Wal Hannington became National Organiser of the Amalgamated Engineering Union the NUWM's work was suspended. By 1946 it had been formally disbanded.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation.

If you wish to visit the library you need to make an appointment. The Working Class Movement Library is open Tuesday-Friday 10.00am-5.00pm and every 1st Saturday of the month 10.00am-4.00pm.

To book an appointment, telephone: 0161 736 3601 or email: enquiries@wcml.org.uk .

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue is available online on the Working Class Movement Library's Web Site - www.wcml.org.uk