Labour History Review

A United Front against Capitalism? Unemployed Workers' Organisations in Christchurch, New Zealand, during the Depression

Labour History Review (2008), 73, (1), 145–166.

Abstract

Ideological disputes which often hampered co-operation between unemployed organisations of the Depression era at a national level in New Zealand could sometimes be overcome locally given a clear focus for action. Many ordinary unemployed men and women were less concerned by ideology than the leadership of such organisations were, and a united front was possible under the right circumstances. But trade union hostility to independent unemployed workers' organisations, and significant differences over strategies and tactics, meant unity was often less sustainable over the longer term, even at a local level. In this article such issues are considered in the context of a specific dispute which occurred in Christchurch in 1932. This article explores the manner in which, despite a highly successful and united action by the unemployed and their supporters, the city went from one unemployed workers' organisation at the outset of the dispute, to two by the time of its conclusion. It is argued that historians might usefully explore the kinds of pragmatic co-operation around specific grievances that probably meant most to a majority of the unemployed.

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Author details

O'Malley, Vincent