Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Leaflet entitled 'The Scottish Hunger March - To the workers of Scotland', 11 June 1928

image from Red Clydeside collection

The depression years of the 1920's and 30's witnessed the growth of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM), the largest and most confrontational of the groups which emerged to defend the unemployed during the inter-war period. The NUWM sought to raise the profile of the unemployment issue through hunger marches and campaigned against government attempts to reduce benefits and impose Means Tests.

Dominated as it was by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the NUWM and its members saw themselves as part of the wider Labour Movement. However, this view was not shared by the right-wing leadership of the Trades Union Congress who refused to support the NUWMs attempt to gain affiliation to the TUC, affiliation was refused on the grounds of communist influence within the NUWM. As a result of CPGB involvement, the leadership and at times the rank and file membership NUWM, were subject to police surveillance and brutality. Police attacks on NUWM marches were commonplace throughout Britain and included attacks on marches in London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

In June 1933 the National Union of Unemployed Workers organised an all-Scottish Hunger March to Edinburgh to demand that the government improve conditions for the unemployed. Facing opposition from the Labour Party, the TUC and local councils, over 1000 marchers from all over Scotland converged on Edinburgh, and for three days successfully defied all attempts by the authorities to force them to leave the city. The marchers successfully presented their demands and forced the Town Council to provide free transport home.

Source: W.D. Kerr Collection, Glasgow City Archives