My Labour Love Affair: National Unemployment Workers Movement (NUWM) (1921-40)

National Unemployment Workers Movement (NUWM) (1921-40):

‘Formed by a number of unemployed London shop stewards and ex-servicemen on 15 April 1921. Walter *Hannington was appointed as its national organiser. From the start the NUWM was dominated by Communists who saw this organisation as an agency for revolutionary change. Indeed, it was directly linked to the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) by *Hannington, who was often a member f its central committee. The NUWM organised six national hunger marches; produced a fortnightly paper, ‘Out of Work’; led local hunger marches, protest demonstrations against the means test, winter relief campaigns; and in the late 1930’s fought more than 2,000 cases of appeal against the household means test benefits. Yet its influence was always limited, since its membership was constantly changing, as members gained jobs, and because of the opposition of both government and local authorities. Its members and leaders were frequently imprisoned, *Hannington on three occasions. There were also difficulties with the CPGB and the international communist movement. In 1932, for instance, when Moscow called for revolutionary action, the NUWM became involved in drawing up a million-signature petition against the means test. This did not go down well with the CPGB and *Hannington’s arrest and imprisonment at the end of 1932 and early 1933 brought severe criticism of him and the NUWM leadership which led, unsuccessfully, to a CPGB attempt to widen the power base of the NUWM. It expired as an organisation at thebeginning of the Second World War when unemployment had effectively disappeared’.

(See also,) *European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), available on:

References: John Stevenson & Chris Cook, ‘The Slump: Politics and Society during the Depression’, London, 1977.

From, John Ramsden, Professor of Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London.

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