Matthews Doug

Doug Matthews

National Agricultural Workers Union activist and life-long member of the Communist Party, Matthews was a strong supporter of the Communist rural journal `Country Standard’.

Matthews was active in Biggleswade Trades Council, a Bedfordshire village with a surprising history of Communist Party activism.  The town had a population of 6,000 people in the late 1930s, many involved in seasonal agricultural and market gardening. “There is no industry in the town of Biggleswade to speak of, yet the working people are surprising class conscious” according to an article in `Party Organiser’ in May 1939.

The Communist Party in Biggleswade was only established in November 1935 but by May 1939 had 25 members “all of them natives of the town”. The Party helped establish a Biggleswade branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement (NUWM), which organised a march of 350 agricultural workers to the local council to demand unemployment benefit during their period of seasonal unemployment, The Party helped establish a Working Men’s club, with three Party members as trustees, and was also active in the Aid to Spain Movement

The Party proudly noted that “(t)he Communists of Biggleswade … are held in high esteem by all the townspeople. Any problem from filling in a form for relief to getting a divorce is brought to the Party.” A Communist Party candidate secured 700 votes in the 1938 council elections in Biggleswade. “Naturally, our comrades are most popular with the working people, simply because they are known as decent, ordinary folk, all of them skilled in their jobs”

Doug Matthews died August 1959.

Michael Walker

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