Labour History Review

'The Only Fighting Element of the Working Class'? Unemployed Activism and Protest in Sheffield, 1919–24

Labour History Review (2008), 73, (1), 133–144.

Abstract

Sheffield provides the focus for this short discussion of unemployed protests in the first months of the interwar depression. In the city, much discontent coincided with heightened material insecurity amongst the unemployed and was directed against the Poor Law. The Sheffield unemployed quickly became a distinct presence; they picketed during strikes and lockouts, undertook their own strikes, formed large contingents in May Day parades, tried to stop evictions and launched a range of other mobilisations. This article contends there was a close relationship between the unemployed and organised labour in Sheffield. Support for unemployed mobilisations against the state was forthcoming from a range of activists and institutions. Also raised is the question of how distinctive local movements were. This research suggests unemployed activism, levels of support for militant protest and methods of articulating discontent varied considerably. The article concludes with some suggestions for the direction of future research.

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Author details

Tanner, John