The National Government
- 1931-1940 - Britain governed by national government - not national
- Ramsay MacDonald PM but National government not true coalition
- most of Labour Party in bitter opposition.
- Liberals made token contribution
- power base of National government = majority Conservatives held in parliament.
- MacDonald resigned in 1935 - Baldwin PM for 3rd time - Cons control >ed
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Economic problems in 1935
- Wall Street Crash & Depression - world trade didn't recover til 1937
- Total output 1930 by 1932 <1/2 than 1913 figure.
- Coal output
- Shipbuilding - million tonnes pa 1920s - only 133,000 tonnes in 1933.
- As a result, unemployment in these industries rose to frightening levels.
- June 1932 - 47%> steel workers unemployed - x2 average for industry
- Shipbuilding - 60% unemployed in 1932 - remained high for rest of 1930s.
- 1938 - 1/5 coal miners unemployed & 1/4 cotton workers.
- 1932 - 1/3> workers in Wales & 1/4> N England, Scotland and N Ireland
- 1934 - Merthyr Tydfil S Wales - 62% male unemployment, Maryport in Cumberland 50%> &
- Jarrow 70% - symbolised problems of industrial decline & unemployed - Jarrow March 1936
- 1937, 30% of jobless out of work continuously for a year.
- S Wales - unemployment rate still one worker in five.
- National figure = 1.5 mil - 10% of workforce.
- Unemployment didn't fall < 1 million til 1941
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The Jarrow Crusade
- October 1936
- marched 300 miles to London to petition parliament to bring work back to town.
- Organised by Lab MP Ellen Wilkinson, mayor and council
- supported by the local churches, trade unions and politicians
- caught public's imagination and sympathy - ordered and large scale
- Palmer's Shipyard - last large employer - closed in 1935
- male unemployment > to 77% - no alternative employment
- Attempt to set up steel works failed - lack of government support.
- tried to hand their petition to Baldwin - refused to meet them.
- Mayor addressed group of MPs
- Crusade brought little immediate benefit - marchers returned and some found their unemployment benefit stopped
- raised awareness of the plight of depressed towns.
- John Jarvis established metal foundry, tube mill, shipbreaking yard & engineering
- Jarrow's unemployment only disappeared when WWII started - shipbuilding
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Economic policies of the National government
- to balance budget and limit government spending
- 10% cut in unemployment benefit - introduced 'means test'
- wage cuts for public employees
- to keep the value of the pound stable - intervened in currency market
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- 'sterling area' for members using £ not gold - settled trading accounts
- Import Duties Act 1932 - tariffs protecting British industry and agriculture - empire counties exempt
- agreed imperial tariff system at Ottawa Conference 1932
- trade treaties with various countries - quota for British imoports for quota for British exports.
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- Special Areas Act of 1934 - government aid to most depressed areas
- Cotton Industry (Reorganisation) Act 1936 - closed down non-profitable mills - reduce surplus capacity in the industry
- British Shipping (Assistance) Act 1935 - government loans for shipping companies to scrap older ships and build new ones
- North Atlantic Shipping Act 1934 - loans to restart building of Queen Mary liner
- marketing boards for milk, bacon and potatoes - guaranteed prices for farmers
- government subsidies for livestock farmers and sugar beet growers.
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Success of ecomomic policies
- government spending cuts 1931 maintained international confidence & stopped banking crisis.
- Left Gold Standard - £'s value
- Sold more exports to empire,
- Bank of England lowered interest rates - 'Cheap money'
- easier for industries to borrow money - invested in modern machinery & plant.
- easier for consumers to borrow money - mortgages for new houses.
- private house-building boom - 2 million homes built in 1930s.
- Government schemes to close down uncompetitive shipyards, mills and mines - survivors attracted new investment.
- more modern machinery installed in coal mines
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Failures of Economic Policies
- Gold Standard abandoned September 1931
- Marketing boards - less help given to arable farmers.
- Coal mines employed fewer workers
- Jarrow - pushed unemployment 70%>
- Government public works programmes on much smaller scale than in US or Germany.
- Special Areas Act - only £2 million - only most depressed areas - Old industrial areas did not qualify.
- no regional policy - preferred unemployed to move rather than encourage new industry to locate in depressed regions.
- houses were built mainly for MCs - took advantage of cheap mortgages and low prices.
- Less local government house building; only 700,000 council houses built in t1931 and 1940.
- 'sterling area', only didnt make up for < in demand from US and Germany
- Many countries introduced protective tariffs - exporting difficult.
- effectiveness of leaving GS limited - other currencies left Gold Standard & <ed in value
- Government spending cuts lowered total demand for goods and services in the depth of a world depression - unemployment rose 1932-3
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- recovery limited - more obvious Midlands + south east - new growth industries were not older industrial areas - north and west.
- unemployment growth rates higher than 1920s.
- New industries grew (motor vehicles, chemicals and aircraft)
- Output of motor cars x2ed 1929-1939 - 2nd >st car maker
- Coal production 1938 - 227 million tonnes, almost back to1928 level
- 1938 steel industry producing > steel than 1928
- A. J. P. Taylor - 'increased consumption by individuals pulled England out of the slump'
- Depression <ed prices which tended to stay low - those in steady jobs found that wages stretched further.
- rise in real wages - demand rose at home & demand abroad
- unemployment still high but there were more people inwork than out of work
- created rising consumer demand in areas like house building
- trend towards smaller families - more to spend.
- >ing consumer demand - expansion of Home Market - cuts in government spending.
- consumption of electricity x2ed in 1930s & demand for 'consumer durables' grew
- 1938 - 9 million private wirelesses & 2 million private cars
- Home Market encouraged growth of jobs in service industries
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Economy Recovery cont'd
- more employment in retailing and transport every year
- Mass entertaimnent growing sector of employment - cinemas and dance halls open in almost every town by 1939
- New methods of production (assembly line and electric power) - more goods sold more cheaply.
- price of motor cars & wireless sets fell during the 1930s
- A small family car in 1922 cost £220 - £120 by 1932
- 1932, almost 1/2 households had radios - 1939 = 3/4
- new industries less affected by Depression than old staples.
- output of motor cars xdoubled 1929-1939 & output of electricity x4ed 1925-1939.
- 1939 - motor industry employed 400,000 workers.
- new industries did not expand fast enough to absorb all the workers shed by declining staples
- Spending on rearmament >ed 1935 onwards & shot up sharply 1938-9 - stimulated staple industries & new industries
- many of Jarrow unemployed found work 1938-9 - new steelworks established orshipyards on Tyne
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The Communist Party of Great Britain
- Founded 1920 & lasted until 1990s.
- Although always small numers but big influence
- based on philosophy that working classes and their middle-class supporters should be provided with model for progressive society.
- Communist regime established Russia 1917 - British sympathisers saw it as 'new civilisation'.
- Capitalism seemed to be collapsing early 1930s & parliamentary democracy seemed unable to cope
- revolutionary ideas & challenge of creating better type of society appealed to young people.
- Faced with mass unemployment, the break up of the Labour government 1931 and the creation of a British fascist party in 1932,
- membership rose - unemployment, break up of Lab govt 1931 and creation of British fascist party 1932,
- Rise of Fascism in Europe - Communism attractive - fighting against Fascism - Spanish Civil War
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Threat of CPGB
- The Cons exaggerated threat of Communism to weaken support for Labour.
- forged Zinoviev Letter in 1924 & allegations of communist influence behind the General Strike in 1926.
- Several trade unions leaders were members or sympatheizers
- Played key role in major strikes - Lancashire cotton industry 1932 & Birmingham rent strike in 1939.
- Leading role in National Unemployed Workers' Movement - 50,000 members
- gave advice to unemployed but organised 'hunger marches' & mass demonstrations - violent confrontations with the police.
- Disrupted meetings and marches held by British Union of Fascists - violence.
- The Daily Worker had daily circulation of 80,000 copies
- Left Book Club had 50,000 members by 1939 - secretly financed by Stalin's USSR
- Formed large proportion of British section of International Brigade sent to fight in Spain.
- Handful of MPs elected - some Labour MPs sympathetic to communist ideas.
- Party membership x2ed early 1930s.
- support from students - mostly faded away as students established careers.
- Cambridge - Apostles' developed network of spies - revealed in 1951 they had passed
- secrets to USSR during war & early Cold War years.
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Weakness of CPGB
- Party membership peaked at 18,000.
- only 1 or 2 communist MPs at one time
- Communist influence in trade union movement limited by opposition of moderate union leaders such as Ernest Bevin.
- Labour Party refused to work with CPGB
- Not as strong as Italian, German and French counterparts.
- National government never seriously worried
- secret service watched leaders, sympathisers and activities.
- police cracked down hard on communist led or inspired demonstrations.
- 1934 Incitement to Disaffection Act used to prosecute communists
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The British Union of Fascists
- October 1932 Sir Oswald Mosley formed the British Union of Fascists (BUF).
- Brought Italian Fascism to Britain - black uniforms, silver insignia & facists salutes
- 1936 >ing German influence - renamed British Union of Fascists and National Socialists.
- Gained support from Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, and grew quickly, up to 50,000 members by 1934.
- Support for the BUFwas strongest in parts of London and in some northern cities like Liverpool,Manchester and Leeds. Early on there was also some support in more affluent middle-class towns like Harrogate - but the typical recruits to the BUF were young working-class men.
- Mosley was powerful speaker - ideas for reducing mass unemployment
- His book The Greater Britain set out his programme and was thought by some people to be intellectually superior to the writings of Hitler and Mussolini.
- Gave a hundred speeches around the country, published three books and wrote
- many articles for newspapers and magazines - BUF's biggest asset but also tended to do too much on his own.
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Threat of BUF
- 1931-1934 - new political movement
- disillusionment with the traditional political parties and system
- apparent dynamism of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
- Mosley's anti-Semitism won support in East End and Manchester
- every supporter gained = one potential supporter turned off
- support in the north - arguing tariffs to protect textile industry
- Some Lab supporters - disillusioned with Labour 1931
- support from people in favour of better relations with Hitler's Germany to avoid a war or thought Hitler was defence against Communism
- Mosley = credible political figure in early-1930s
- Mussolini and Hitler came to power by exploiting economic problems
- Some hoped same would happen Britain & M would be seen as country's saviour and rival to MacDonald and Baldwin.
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Weaknesses of BUF
- Yet his movement never really took off.
- Even at its peak in 1934, the BUF had a membership of 50,000 - enough to make an impact but far short of a mass movement.
- By 1935, these numbers declined to 5,000.
- In the late- 1930s there was a modest revival with membership around 20,000 but no political breakthrough came.
- Electorally,the BUF was a failure with no MPs or even local councillors
- Following the violence of a BUF indoor rally in London's Olympia Hall in
- 1934, the BUF lost the support of Lord Rothermere. In the later 1930s, the BUF lost support through becoming more closely associated with the ideals and racial policies of Nazi Germany.
- Right until the outbreak of war in 1939, Mosley could still attract sizeable audiences to his speeches.
- The majority attending were opponents determined to disrupt his meetings rather than committed supporters.
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National government policies limiting political ex
- 1934 Incitement to Disaffection Act - used to prosecute anyone advocating revolution or violence
- The Public Order Act 1936 - forbade wearing of political uniforms & gave police >er powers to control and ban political meetings and demonstrations.
- no Nuremberg-style rallies in Britain.
- National government ensured stability and prevented extremist parties from exploiting any power vacuum - no need to depend on any political alliances with the extremists.
- The National government was in place 9 years
- Baldwin and Chamberlain avoided conflict with communist or fascist countries
- policy of 'Appeasement' and avoidance of war ensured public support until March 1939
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Other factors limiting political extremism
- 1930s - Labs & TUs led by moderates opposed link with communists.
- TUists unionists like Bevin fought communist influence in TUs
- Labs rejected all attempts to create 'Popular Front' against Fascism with CPGB - happened in France 1936
- late- 1930s - truth about Stalin's brutal collectivisation of Soviet agriculture, show trials of political opponents & mass purges
- Hostility to Stalin's role in the Spanish Civil War.
- alienated from Soviet Communism - Stalin made pact with Hitler August 1939 - British communists looked ridiculous and unpatriotic.
- Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia 1935 & backing Franco 1936> - turned people away from Fascist Italy.
- Hitler's Germany discredited by internal violence - Kristallnacht 1938
- May 1940 - fear BUF posed threat to British security justified Churchill's government arresting Oswald Mosley and 700> followers
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- mass unemployment reduced by 1937
- Midlands & SE - new industries were growing rapidly - more comfortable lifestyle
- British middle classes did not suffer economic disaster.
- deep unemployment in the depressed areas but these did not lead to political extremism.
- long- term unemployed became demoralised and apathetic, or adjusted to life on the dole.
- George Orwell - 'It is quite likely that fish-and-chips, tinned salmon, cut-price chocolate, the movies, the radio, strong tea and the Football Pools have between them averted revolution'
- Communists never found outstanding leader - no British Lenin.
- Mosley - impatient, poor administrator and made political mistakes.
- BUF got reputation for thuggery - lost public support.
- strength of Britain's political institutions, especially parliament and the monarchy.
- 1914-8 war had not ended in defeat and revolution
- No widespread loss of faith in government or monarchy - not even after Abdication Crisis 1936.
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