Chapter Eleven

CHAPTER 11 1927-1939

 1 Mond-Turnerism: political and non-political trades unionism
After the General Strike a new spirit, a compromising one, dominated the unions. In a newspaper article, George Hicks of the Bricklayers, the 1927 TUC Chairman, and Citrine, the TUC General Secretary, aired the idea of employers and employees co­operating. The Chairman of ICI, Sir Alfred Mond (later Lord Melchett) took up the suggestion, beginning talks with the General Council which were presided over in 1928 by the new TUC Chairman, Ben Turner of the Wool Textile Workers; hence, the epithet, Mond-Turnerism, or even Mondism for short. This trend of seeking partnership between the two sides of industry contrasted with the mood of trades unionism in the previous period. For the atmosphere of despondency and defeat which trades unionism brought to the relationship ensured that Mondism was no equal partnership. It weakened militancy and enabled production line speed-ups and piece rate cuts and did little to stem the trend to mass unemployment. The TUC leadership consciously flinched from the thought of confrontation as represented by 1926, which arguably was a debacle of their own making. Whilst the leadership of the movement largely supped the meal of Mondism with glee, the diet was not easily swallowed by many trades unionists. Even the normally compliant Workers Union only narrowly defeated a motion, which sought to boycott the Mond-Turner talks, at its last independent conference.
The new spirit was promoted locally by major employers and some key trades unionists, such as the Typographical Society’s Councillor Alan Mycroft and Richard Stokes of the Workers Union, the latter having valiantly argued for such a line all during the militant years. Both supported the National Industrial Alliance, which had a Derby Area Committee. This preached “Industrial Co-operation” and the local chairman was J A Aiton JP, the owner of the main local newspaper and a key engineering plant. Aiton was also a prominent Tory. [1] The strategy of the employers and their political allies was to wean the labour movement away from the radical politics of previous years, by incorporating the unions into the needs of business. A policy of distancing themselves had merely pushed unions away from sectional considerations into a more dangerous class consciousness, which had veered closely to a political, even revolutionary, consciousness at times. Hand in hand with new, anti-trade union laws came a direct attempt to divorce the various wings of the labour movement from each other. The Ripley Co-op Committee actually recommended dis­affiliation from the Co-operative Party in 1927, when “an organised attempt was put into operation to carry the half-yearly meeting by storm”. The particular intervention of Oliver Wright, Labour’s long standing local Parliamentary candidate, successfully prevented the move. [2]
As a counter to Mondism, the left and the Communist Party set up the rank and file alternative of the Minority Movement. Tom Mann, by now a prominent Communist Party member, visited Derby in 1927, to help set up an effective group in the town. Eddie Frow, an AEU apprentice at British Celanese became not only the secretary of Derby’s Minority Movement but also the local branch of the Unemployed Workers Committee. (In later life he would become the noted joint founder of a labour movement library and archive in Manchester.) At the meeting, held in the Temperance Hall, the chairman revealed that this local group had sent circulars to trade union branches, offering speakers to attend their meetings. The local paper believed that the Derby Minority Movement had not been a success, curiously noting that “the majority of the delegates present were from the Women’s’ Sections in the Labour Movement”, as if this somehow diluted the quality of the representation. [3] The truth is that large numbers of women were not unionised and that the growing light engineering and components industries, which were expanding in places like Derby and relied on intensive production methods, were dominated by women. Communist inspired activity designed to unionise women proved a potent force and trade unions only grudgingly moved to organise in such sectors, often at the behest of employers. The spirit of opposition to Mondism was however truly a minority view. A kind of paralysis took over the movement and employers felt that they had the go-ahead for introducing new ideas. Engineering firms in Derby began to introduce the two shift system towards the end of 1928, despite the fact that this was “in direct approach (i.e. contradiction) to the National Agreement”. [4]
The legacy of 1926 was of course sharpest felt in the mining districts. Bitterness between supporters of the official union, which was affiliated to the MFGB, and the Spencerite bosses’ union, the Nottingham and District Miners Industrial Union (NDMIU) was strong. These disputes affected large parts of the eastern edge of Derbyshire and were well known to trades unionists in Derby and Chesterfield, which were then surrounded by working pits. A case arising between two members of the opposing unions came before a local Magistrate’s Court in 1927. Arthur Shrewsbury, an NDMIU collector, got on a crowded bus in Heanor, allegedly to be greeted with the comment from another miner. Here’s one of Spencer’s men who are trying to break up a union that has been going on for a 100 years and Spencer is a man who has made a fortune out of the owners.” The culprit’, a miner by the name of Fred Prince, was fined the considerable sum of £5 for assault, arising out of the fight which followed the altercation. [5]
Conditions in the mining industry were as bad as ever. Workers still started down the pits at the age of fourteen. Some insight into this is given by Jack Pepper, recalling his first day at Mapperley Colliery. “It was a frightening experience … It was a tough time for miners and very dangerous, as pit roofs were not as secure as they are today … wooden pit props bent with ‘elbows’ in them under the weight of the roof. There were no safety helmets and no electric lamps.” Pepper complained that the contractor butty system was unfair, the money was rarely shared equally and the butty usually got themselves the best jobs. The 5’ 6” seams had to be hand holed, that is to say “undercut at the bottom by hand”. Conditions were terribly bad; on this, his first day, Pepper saw a fellow worker, in a foot of space, “hacking away at the underside of a seam with a pick and working so hard that he bled from one of his ears”. [6]
Given the evidence of 1926 and the reality of their daily working life, it is not surprising that very strong views were held by the majority of miners on the present state of trades unionism. This was revealed in 1928, when the TUC balloted the miners of the Nottinghamshire coalfield, which spilled over into parts of Derbyshire. The consultation was to determine whether the Spencerite union had any real support. Miners voted nine to one in favour of the old union, for real trades unionism. Spencerism was already on the decline, but there was still much bitterness and it would not be easy to eradicate the NMDIU. The industry began to enter a dramatic slump, which inhibited industrial militancy, especially where the NMDIU voice was to be heard. Nationally, 39 pits employing 1,366 men were abandoned over 1927-9. [7] Over the two years from 1928, it began to be quite usual for pits to work only two or three days a week for payment of 2s 6d a shift. [8]
North Derbyshire miners, outside the area covered by Nottinghamshire Miners Association, the MFGB affiliate, tended to view Mondism critically, the Area Council believing that industrial peace was hardly an immediate objective when “we have men in our own industry still out of work through being victimised” from 1926. [9] But the NDMIU was very strong at Bolsover in Derbyshire, due to its special position as a company union. The Bolsover Company directly financed one of their employees, Horace Cooper, as a recruiting agent for the NDMIU. As the butty system was very strong in the Bolsover area, Spencer received much support from the contractors. Whilst the skilled ‘aristocrats’ of the coalfields, the enginemen and winders, also favoured Spencerism. In 1928, the 2,323 members of the MFGB affiliated Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Midland Counties Colliery Enginemen, Firemen and Motormen’s Union decided to be formally represented on the Wages Board set up by Spencer. [10]
Despite the flirtation with the Liberals and Spencer’s continued membership of Parliament, his union enshrined ‘non-political’ unionism within its rules. The use of any of the NDMIU’s funds for any political purposes at all was prohibited by its constitution. The organisation was not merely content with banning Communists from holding office, as some trade unions did; it went further by declaring them even ineligible for membership of the NDMIU. To be absolutely certain, the rules reserved the right to expel any member advocating revolutionary policies. The hegemony of the NDMIU was eventually challenged after a series of disputes at Harworth colliery in Nottinghamshire, which resulted in a fusion of the NDMIU and the Nottinghamshire Miners Association. The Harworth men were led by Mick Kane, a Scottish Communist who had been victimised in his homeland. Kane had, incidentally, previously worked at Langwith Colliery in Derbyshire for a period in the very early 1 930s. The struggle in Harworth, which led to the marginalisation of Spencerism, was not unnaturally given a great deal of publicity by the Communist Party.
Irrespective of the hostility between the NDMIU and the official movement, strangely the TUC line and the Spencerite position were very similar. George Spencer himself drew comparison between his organisation’s attitude and the TUC’s war on the Communists, as a reason for it to be recognised by the TUC. Mondism and non-political unionism did have strong similarities. But Spencerism was possibly an anachronism, since it was designed to combat the militant unionism of 1920-6. But this had already been surpassed by the passivity which characterised the trade union leaderships from 1927 onwards. However, in the few years between the General Strike and the big slump, the mood of ordinary workers remained spontaneously militant, whatever the leadership may have wanted. Over a hundred dyers, trimmers and others at Lowe and Sons of Derby stopped work over the firm’s action in proposing reducing wages. The agreed Leicester rate had always been paid to Lowe’s employees in Derby, but the company sought to pay the lower, Nottingham rate. Coming out just before Christmas 1927, the strikers were still solid 21 weeks later in May 1928. [11] Elsewhere in Derby, at Macintosh’s Cable, some 800 workers came out on strike in September 1927. In a gesture of some desperation, the Managing Director, Harvey, appealed to the crowded mass of strikers outside the gate to return to work, “pending investigation into the alleged grievance”. [12] The suddenness and ferociousness of the workers’ action saw an immediate and satisfactory settlement.
But, in general, the 1929 general election seemed only to confirm the view of Mondism. Important sections of the labour movement did try to break out of the conformist straight jacket, but these were in a minority. The only major organised grouping capable of responding effectively was the Communist Party, but this was caught up in wild hostility to the Labour Party. Overall, the Communist Party reacted to the debacle of the General Strike, to Mondism and finally to bans and proscriptions in the Labour Party in the sharpest possible way. The party began to view Labour as almost equivalent to the capitalist enemy. While there was some justification for regarding large elements of the leadership with considerable reserve, based upon material conditions within the British experience, what emerged as a theory of Labour being the third capitalist party had its origins in the international Communist movement. The experience of social democracy, or democratic socialism in many European countries had was markedly more negative than in Britain. Moreover, it suited the needs of the increasingly insular Soviet diplomacy to regard Western tendencies with suspicion. The Comintern developed the theory of “Class Against Class” in 1928. A simplistic explanation of this might be that as fascism was a last ditch survival effort by contemporary capitalism in its death throes, there was little difference in essence – if not in form – between bourgeois democracy and fascism. As social democracy saw itself as a partner in bourgeois democracy, it could also be a partner in social fascism. The utilisation of pseudo-socialist ideas, terminology and iconography by fascism seemed to reinforce this notion. The new policy saw the leadership of the socialist parties as no better than the rising fascist movements, many of which had not yet demonstrated the absolute ruthlessness and immorality which became their hallmark in a very few years. The argument went that illusions were created by socialists that parliamentary success within capitalism could transform society. This enabled the system to score victories, as disappointment set in, due to the failure of parliamentary tactics. The experience of the first Labour Governments seemed to confirm this view. But the analysis grossly exaggerated the restraining nature of reformist socialism and underestimated the possibilities for working class unity. Above all, in British conditions, it took little account of the organic links between Labour and the trade unions, set against the mass nature of the British labour movement.
The early years of the Communist Party’s existence had been characterised by mass struggle and socialist unity. While still very tiny, the party had made considerable gains in the late 1920s. Thousands had joined during and after the General Strike in particular and Derbyshire was no exception. However, the major way in which the Party exerted influence within the Labour Party was through the National Left Wing Movement, an alliance of Communists and the Labour left, was to sharply diminish following the adoption of the Comintern line. But the new, seductive – if tortuous – simplicity of Class Against Class enabled the Communist Party to make advances at the expense of other left groups, amongst young people in particular. At the ILP Guild of Youth National Conference in Derby in 1928, a member of the National Committee of the Guild was expelled for divulging private business to the journal of the Young Communist League. The emotional appeal of the Communist Party’s sharp, class conscious policy enabled the party to win over many ILPers. One delegate asked whether the decline in Guild activity and the number of branches was in any way due to “Communist activities”, only to be blankly told by the Guild National Secretary that “We have no information” on this! [13]
If there was no love lost for the Labour Party by the Communist Party, the reverse was doubly true at least in the corridors of power. Beyond this, the Communists’ sectarianism alienated many left wing allies. As Labour’s right wing leadership sought to distance itself from radical socialism, it was able to follow this up by further bans on the activity of individual Communists within the Labour Party and by purges on the left generally. In the summer of 1927, Labour’s NEC disaffiliated as many as 23 local party organisations for their adherence to the National Left Wing Movement. There was also an attack on the Minority Movement. Interestingly, the Derbyshire miners voted against a resolution at the MFGB Conference in 1928 which strongly condemned the Minority Movement. [14]
All this was the cause of intense debate within the trade union movement. The Derby Communist Party had begun the distribution of leaflets to British Celanese workers at Spondon in the summer of 1929, causing some comment on the Workers Union District Committee. Eddie Frow, the apprentice fitter at Celanese who was Derby Minority Movement Secretary, was a student at the Derby Labour College being run by Joe Crispin and Willie Paul. Assuredly, as one of the most active members of the local Communist Party, Frow was behind the leafleting. (Frow left Derby that year to work in the North West, becoming a leading figure in the AEU over many years and the celebrated joint founder of Salford’s excellent Working Class Movement Library.) The biennial conference of the Workers Union had devoted itself obsessively to the activities of the Communists and their rank and file movements. At the WU DC, “Bro Solway thanked Bro Ruff for his splendid report but said it seemed that the Congress was attacking the Communists all the time. Bro Wood said that it was the Communists that did the attacking no matter what a Trade Union official did he was always a traitor to his members that was the idea of the Communists but he could safely say that they always did their best for their members”. [15]
As the direct heir to many of the earlier socialist societies, the Communist Party had been part of the Labour Party and many individual members of the Communist Party were also members of the Labour Party. Only at the Blackpool conference of the Labour Party in 1929 were Communists banned from attending such conferences and then only by a narrow vote. From herein, the spirit of Mondism lived inside the Labour Party, by and large unchallenged. The absence of Communists from the conference was startlingly noticeable from 1930. Even the most capable and influential member of a trade union could not represent his organisation, irrespective of what the union desired.
The general election of May 30th saw the Labour leadership working hard to push their image as a party fit to govern the nation as a whole. The wooing of the ‘middle class’ vote began in earnest and appeared to bring results. But, arguably, this was far from always being a successful vote-catching policy in the long term, as the electorate increasingly pondered what real alternative was on offer. In its proposals for dealing with unemployment, Labour’s 1929 manifesto was less clear and precise than that of the Liberals, containing only generalities about ‘socialism’ as a long term solution. The Tories polled almost 300,000 more votes than Labour, yet the latter found itself the largest single party in Parliament but without a clear majority over the two anti-socialist parties. Due to the oddities of Britain’s electoral system, the seats spilt 288 Labour, 261 Tory and 57 Liberals. The Tories put it down to Baldwin’s stupidity in extending the vote to women over the age of 21, the so called ‘flapper vote’, a contemporary term for a flippant young woman.
With most Derbyshire constituencies returning Labour MPs, the party had quadrupled its 1918 vote in the county. Three entirely new seats were won by Labour. Jack Lees took Belper with an improved vote, although compared with 1924 the divided Tory and Liberal anti-socialist vote helped him in. Another first was the success of the Mickleover based George Benson at Chesterfield. Barnet Kenyon did not stand and Labour romped home with more than twice the number of votes of its nearest rival. The third new seat was in South Derbyshire, where Major David Graham-Pole, a solicitor from a very well to do family, took the seat with an improved vote in a three way fight. Graham-Pole contributed no less than £418 of the total expenditure of £923, with which Labour fought their campaign. For once Labour was able to spend, if not as much as the other parties, at least a comparable sum; the Tories spent £1,543 and the Liberals £811. The success may therefore have been in part due to the relatively affluent campaign fund.
Existing Labour seats were held at Ilkeston, where the former Derby Rolls Royce shop floor worker, G H Oliver, doubled his actual vote. Oliver was considered to “belong to the moderate school of labour” and had achieved respectability by being called to the bar in 1927. [16] Clay Cross was retained by Charles Duncan with 80% of the vote, while Frank Lee similarly took North East Derbyshire. George Bagnall stood in High Peak; a key activist in the Amalgamated Society of Dyers, Bleachers, Finishers and Kindred Trades, he later became its General Secretary. But Labour’s showing there was quite dismal, although Bagnall’s vote was the best yet for the party in that division. In West Derbyshire, it was a similar tale. The Marquis of Hartington took what was almost his heritage, when he claimed the seat for the Tories. Labour’s W Wilkinson, the party’s first ever foray into that Conservative heartland, took a little over one tenth of the vote, the result being much closer between the other two parties.
In Derby, Thomas and Raynes took both seats with half as many votes again as their nearest rival, the Tories. Raynes was at last in Parliament and naturally looked back on the success with pride and pleasure. Certainly, the party had come a long way since 1910. Raynes allowed himself the indulgence of claiming the building of the Labour Party in the county, almost single-handedly. In his unpublished memoirs, he related how for almost two decades he had spent hours each day on his bicycle visiting remote villages, spreading the word of socialism. Later, as the party began to emerge as a major political force, he “formed and beat into a semblance of unity the Derbyshire Federation of Labour Parties. One of the first such federations in the country in the late twenties.” [17]
The overall result of 1929 was thus a new and decisive change in political support in Derbyshire. The Municipal Association, a Tory-Liberal alliance, was disbanded in Derby and, in the municipal elections of 1929, Tories stood independently against Labour. Even so, Labour gained absolute control of the Town Council for the very first time, with 49 seats out of a total of 64. This dramatic political background affected the very nature of the problems confronting trades unions and the thoughts of many turned immediately to extending their organisation.
2 The Workers Union and the TGWU (1927-32)
In November 1926 the AEU opened its ranks to all grades of workers, including labourers, but not yet to women workers. But it was too late for this skilled craft union to prevent the encroachment into the engineering industry of the many general unions. The Workers Union had attempted to recruit skilled workers in Derby and its environs, largely in vain. But the WU continued its drive in the textile industry. In early 1927, new efforts were made to “organise the girls in the Tailoring Trade at Smiths of Drewry Lane”. [18] There was only a limited result, however. Wood, the Long Eaton officer of the WU, considered that the union was “feeling the effects of the General Strike and if the position of the union was to be maintained it required constant work”. [19]
The WU had gained some reputation for a powerful and bureaucratic full time officer network, with little check on their activities. There is evidence that Derby’s lay activists were not entirely satisfied that all that could be done to keep up the constant work called for by Wood’s report was being done. There were other complaints. In July of 1927 Stokes, the Derby organiser, was on holiday and thus unable to make a report to the regular District Committee (DC) meeting. In his absence, some delegates became very bold! Smith, of the Loco Works complained that Stokes “did not use the proper tact” and that “no member could get into the District Office”. The DC resolved that complaints that must have also been made about the officer’s reports to the committee, by deciding that instead of Stokes dominating the proceedings by giving such a report the “question of organising should be on the agenda”. [20]
Life was difficult for the WU by this time, not only in some of its less significant areas, but also in its main power base of British Celanese. Early in 1927, the WU found that even their full time officers were encountering greater difficulties in gaining access to the plant than they had ever done. “In the past they could go in and out when they liked, but now they made inquiries at the gate who they wished to see”, complained the DC minutes. [21] Such relatively small, but significant and annoying interferences grew. So much so, that when Woods held a meeting of the dyers in the canteen at Celanese later that year, a company-hired private detective was observed to be present. [221 Six months later, Woods was to assess that “there is no doubt that since the change in control at the British Celanese there has been a tightening up”. The company had been subject to a boardroom takeover and manoeuvres associated with this resulted in a shift in industrial relations strategy as well as a general tightening up of efficiency. The signs were thought sufficiently important for the lay EC member, Hind, to warn the DC that half of the district membership was at Spondon and that, while the WU had gained ground there, it had lost it elsewhere. [23] The implication was obvious, that the union had all of its eggs pretty well much in one basket and that it would be disastrous if Spondon were lost somehow. Fortunately for the union and its successor, the TGWU, these activities did not materially affect its position.
Even after the merger with the TGWU, the Celanese membership was still to account for a third of the membership in the Derby area until the end of the Second World War. As elsewhere, the economic ups and downs of the firm dictated the relative power over the union. By the very nature of the products made by Celanese, the negotiating position of either side varied enormously. Recognising this, the WU tried to maximise its position by rousing the membership. Meetings were held at Long Eaton and Derby, as part of a WU campaign to organise process workers in the autumn of 1928. At the very end of that year a mass meeting of textile workers from both towns was held at Ilkeston’s Co-op Hall “to consider the present (wages) claim”. [24] This signalled a relatively new concept to that which had previously applied in pay bargaining, whereby union negotiators had operated very much without initial consultation or reference back to the members. It was not entirely false confidence which motivated Stokes to say that he “thought we had got to the bottom of the slump” in early 1928. Although he may have been referring to the state of the economy at large. Within months of this, Wood noted that “the slump at the Celanese was getting worse”. [25]
Despite these concerns, as the DC minute had it, he was able to say that the “people at Spondon is beginning to realise that the WU is the Union as far as Unions is concerned at the Celanese”. Wood was even confident that there was a “good feeling that existed between management (and the union) at Spondon”. So much so, that the WU made an application to the company for the “use of the Hut in the Lane at Spondon” as a union office. [26] The intention behind this was to provide facilities for small meetings of local branch officials close to hand and for a contact place for members wishing to consult shop stewards. (The WU still used Unity Hall and the Labour Party premises in Green Lane, where the union had an office. The DC met at the Transport Room, possibly the TGWU’s rooms in Corporation premises, at the Wardwick. The merged TGWU took an office at 69 Wilson Street from 1931 to 1960.)
The WU was only making substantial membership gains at Celanese. Wood was not generally “satisfied with the progress of the District for apart from the Celanese the other parts of the District was at a standstill”. Not that things were so rosy at that plant, vast areas of the workforce, including most of the women, were unorganised. Even where there were groups of members, it was difficult to get “suitable shop stewards”. [27] An example of this problem, which dogged the union for decades, was the election of six shop stewards for the spinning and preparation departments early in 1930, one of which turned out not even to be a member of the union! The man concerned was quite prepared to join, once it was explained to him that in order to be a shop steward he had to be a member of the union.
The WU had an even bigger job to tackle in organising the large numbers of employees in the wider textile industry not yet trades unionists. The biggest employer in Belper was Brettles, with 800 on the payroll in 1928. Two years later there were over a 1,000 employees. But even a major employer such as this remained unorganised. Brettles’ male framework knitters on cotton hose production were paid a fairly standard weekly wage for a 49 hour week, although shift workers fared slightly better by doing a 12 hour stint. Even so, the extra money was only achieved by doing such a back breaking shift. Moreover, as one contemporary recalled, “sometimes they called us in on a Sunday night for which we received no pay and we also got no holiday pay for our one weeks holiday a year”. [28] Hours were as long at English Sewing’s Belper Mill, where a standard 58 hour week did not produce anywhere as near lucrative earnings for the predominantly female labour force. A dispute in the company had sparked off interest in trades unionism at both the Belper and Milford mills, enabling the Workers Union to establish a strong branch at Milford in September 1929. But the Amalgamated Weavers were first in at ESC’s Matlock mill. [29]
Despite the sudden rise in unemployment which developed in the late 1920s, many trade unions in Derbyshire were still able to at least fend off wage cuts and in some instances to maintain regular wage rises. Parker Foundries were “reminded” by the WU that they had failed to apply a wage increase to some employees late in 1929. This was presumably a reference to the national engineering industry agreement. While the Amalgamated Laceworkers and the WU staved off a wage reduction in the lace trade. [30] But this situation began to change rapidly. By November, Stokes had reported a catalogue of denials of applications for advances. The dyers at Celanese had been given no increase in response to their request for an advance. The “Celastoid” workers applied for a penny an hour extra discomfort money and were refused. An application nationally for 8/- a week in the engineering trade was refused.
English Sewing Cotton was among the first in the area at this time to implement a wages cut. Although the firm was able to impose a 3/- a week cut at Belper, at Milford, where the WU had a strong branch of 90 members, the company made do with a cut of only 1/6d. [31] However, what started off slowly, very soon avalanched into an employers’ offensive against wages. The developing economic crisis not only affected the bargaining position of the unions, but it naturally had an impact on their internal organisation and finances. A serious cash flow problem evidenced itself in the WU, something which encouraged many in the leadership to favour a partnership with a larger, richer union. The first distinct signs of this locally were when Stokes complained at the DC in May 1929 that he was faced with a 25% reduction in his own wages. Hind, as the lay representative on the EC, pointed out that no actual decision had been taken and by the next meeting was able to say positively that no such action was to be taken.
There was some sharpness over the affair. Stokes complained bitterly that he had given 25 years loyal service to the union, but Hind stubbornly insisted that the “EC was elected to administer and the time had come when the position was such that the Organisers had to receive a reduction or there would no sick pay for the members”. [32] This may seem trite but, in the absence of even the most elementary welfare state provisions, union benefits were crucial to the survival of workers’ families in times of distress. There will also have been little sympathy for Stokes, at a time when most of his members were experiencing similar savage wages cuts. Whilst the WU was a financial disaster, it was an organisational success, a fact viewed with some jealousy by some unions. The Amalgamated Weavers Union (AWU) tried ferociously to implant itself in British Celanese and relations were so bad that the Long Eaton Trades Council passed a resolution condemning the “attack of the Amalgamated Weavers on the WU”. [33] By the beginning of 1930, the AWU had only three members in Celanese in total, a dismal failure. [34] Indeed, that union was to loose half its membership between the General Strike and the outbreak of war in 1939, no doubt sufficient reason for its interest in the strengths of the newer man made fibre industry at Celanese. There were similar tensions in the silk trade. The need for some clear agreement on the matter resolved itself in 1929, when a national conference of all unions involved in the artificial sector agreed that “where a union had organised a place other unions would keep away”. Wood reported this to the WU DC, no doubt with much satisfaction. [35]
Such inter-union disputes were common, as the fight for membership grew. The TGWU had a long running battle with the NUR over which union was appropriate to organise bus workers associated with the LMS Railway. After 1928, when powers to run road transport operations were granted to the railway companies by Parliament, the NUR had begun successfully organising bus workers in some areas of north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. This was contained within the company called East Midlands Motor Services. Such organising caused much consternation to the TGWU, which of course included the old bus and tram societies within its midst. This whole issue remained a problem, until May 1932, when a spheres of influence agreement was reached between the two unions which restricted the NUR to organising bus workers directly employed by railway owned businesses.
More infighting took place locally, when the Amalgamated Society of Vehicle Builders (ASVB) disputed the involvement of the TGWU in the wagon building industry in Long Eaton. Claye’s, a wagon building firm, would not negotiate with any union other than the ASVB. Despite that, the WU made substantial progress in Cory’s wagon works, both in its own right and then as the TGWU’s General Workers Trade Group. [36] For the inevitable finally came about and the WU amalgamated with the TGWU in 1929. Given that the latter had been restricted to bus, tram and a very few lorry drivers, the WU brought the TGWU a very wide base in Derbyshire and the new entity enjoyed considerable vibrancy. The WU had always nurtured a desire for the wider organisational unity of general workers. That had, after all been the original idea behind the founding of the WU, that it would become a focus for all trades. The move to join up with the TGWU was therefore not entirely a shot gun marriage, motivated by the desire to escape dire financial pressures. Even so, Ernest Bevin extracted maximum advantage out of what was technically a merger, but had more of a feel of a take over. But, in Derbyshire the national takeover of the WU by the TGWU was in fact reversed, the WU being bigger, wider based and more rooted in society. Derby was probably one of the more important centres for the WU outside of London and Birmingham.
As early as 1915, the Derby WU DC had urged their executive to push forward with all possible speed on the question of amalgamation of various union catering for unskilled and semi-skilled workers. By the mid 1920s however, the WU was experiencing sharp internal conflict. This was less a political debate than a power struggle between various tendencies, full time officers for one and the lay executive for another, The consequences for the WU DC’s kind of ambition were terminal. The 1926 WU Triennial Conference saw a censure vote passed against the entire EC and the run up to the conference had been marked by internal manoeuvring of a very distasteful nature. Derby was by no means isolated from this. Stokes was rebuked at the November 1926 DC for withholding correspondence on these matters from the London United District Committee of the WU until after the Triennial Conference. The Derby DC then resolved that all correspondence for their attention should be read no matter what it contained. Much of these controversies had their origins in the financial difficulties which faced the union.
The last independent Triennial Conference of the WU was held in Derby at the beginning of 1929 and after this the process of amalgamation with the TGWU went fairly smoothly. Tory anti-union legislation required that half of the members of each union had to vote and that 55% of those voting had to endorse the amalgamation proposals. Both unions made great efforts to win this ballot. During December 1928 and January 1929, meetings were held on the amalgamation throughout Derbyshire. Ilkeston, Draycott and Long Eaton had well attended meetings, but the Derby meeting was relatively poorly attended due to an unexplained lack of organisation for the meeting. [37] It maybe that some leading officials in Derby’s WU were unhappy about the merger, especially Stokes who would have been ‘mainly responsible’ for the production and distribution of information about the event. Out of a combined membership of some 10,000 locally, the TGWU and the WU were able to attract only an audience of one hundred at the Derby joint meeting. In modern terms this may sound like a good turnout, but at this time there was a culture of branch meetings being generally well frequented and a considerably larger audience was expected.
          The aim of the rallies was to eliminate all doubts, so as to be absolutely certain of approval for the amalgamation during the six month voting period. As the ballot papers were returned by branches, district officials were informed of the total numbers voting in each branch, so that they could then intervene to encourage a maximum turnout, voting the right way of course. The immediate effect of the merger on the ordinary member was quite limited. He or she stayed in the same branch and was served by the same official, even keeping a WU card until 1931, when TGWU cards were issued. Bevin somehow allowed the WU to believe that a merger of equals had taken place. The union’s new headed notepaper read “Transport and General Workers Union (incorporating the TGWU and the Workers Union)”. WU activists could point to the second part of the TGWU’s name, “Workers Union”, and claim it for their own, even though no change had taken place at all.
          The membership of the WU was to remain a separate trade group until December 1931, when it was spilt up into the appropriate, existing TGWU trade groups. The only evident, immediate change to the mass of the membership was in the 6d increase in their contribution rate. But branch officers suffered a reduction of their commission from 7.5 % to 5% and chairmen, who had received annual honorarium in the WU, found that they did not do so in the TGWU. [38] A majority was won for the amalgamation, although as might be expected, there was slightly more resistance to the idea in the WU than in the TGWU. [39]
                                                                    TGWU       WU
          for amalgamation                      88.9%         86.1%
          against amalgamation             11.1%         13.9%
          The amalgamation formally began on August 5th 1929, but while H A Hind was to report to the Derby WU DC that “the amalgamation was now complete”, the reality was somewhat less certain. [40] The WU had a “strongly entrenched central leadership and little tradition of rank-and-file activism”. [41] So, there was some feeling in Derbyshire at least that nothing very much had changed. It was not until 1936 that the TGWU in Derby decided to alter the old Workers Union banner by having the name of the TGWU painted over the top of the old union’s name. [42] But the amalgamation did rather boost Derby’s position within the TGWU, compared to the status it had held in the WU. A sub-regional Finance Office, with W F Wells as Finance Officer, was set up in Derby by the TGWU in 1930 at new offices; whereas in the past all membership contributions had been sent direct to London. This development greatly enhanced the Derby District’s prestige within the TGWU, so much so that when the Area 5 (Midlands) Committee of the union thought of transferring the Finance Office to Birmingham, the centre of the union’s Midlands area, a storm of protest from the East Midlands caused a rethink of the proposal, which was put on the back burner for some decades. [43]
          It was fortunate for the WU that it made the transition at this time, for in 1930 the recession really hit Derbyshire hard. Heyhoe, the TGWU district president, optimistically observed that there “was a slump but he was hopeful that things would brighten up”. [44] Such complacency was balanced by the concern expressed once again by Wood over the “attitude of the employers towards trade union leaders when they go to interview them”. He thought it was a case of “political intimidation”. [45] But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about the severity of the recession in November, when the TGWU DC heard that the “bad state of trade at the present time … was worse than 1921 and 1922 … (there was an) attack on wages in almost every industry”. [46] The situation everywhere was increasingly difficult. The TGWU had “two branches in the Peak District where for the first time since the war unemployment and short time are in operation”. [47] Wages cuts abounded. G R Turner’s of Langley Mill reduced rates of pay early in 1930, while Celanese warp knitters’ bonuses were cut from 10/- a week to only 3/-. In the wagon building trade, the employers took away the 10/- bonus won during the war, taking the basic down to 27/- a week. [48] The LMS Railway cut wages by between 2.5% and 5% in January 1931. While British Celanese gave notice of termination of all agreements early in 1931 and immediate negotiations took place to minimise the effect.
          The TGWU was pleased to be able to announce that they had limited British Celanese to a 7.5% cut in earnings, along with reductions on piece work prices. Due to an increase in work allocations, weavers’ earnings were to be reduced only by 2/6d a week on an average of £3 10s 0d. Although some earned up to 15/- a week more. Given that new looms were to be introduced and that the union believed “competent’ weavers could do the extra work, the members expressed themselves satisfied with the new arrangements “largely because they still earned about £1 a week more than Lancashire weavers”. [49] Later in the year, some one hundred spinners and mixers at Celanese stopped work one midday over the number of men employed on spinning machines, proving if nothing else that, given sufficient provocation, the defensive reflex action was as sensitive as ever. The following shift, on hearing of this development, refused even to start work. For it seems that more machines, and hence more work, were running with less men than was usually the case. Adding fuel to the already inflamed situation, the company refused recognition to Holloway, the spinners shop steward, when he attempted to negotiate a solution to the stoppage. British Celanese justified its position on the basis that it refused to negotiate under duress.
          Very quickly, over 500 workers were out and full time officials got involved. Stokes, Clarke and Wood attended a mass meeting which voted to go back to work to allow negotiations to proceed. However, the strikers were refused admission to the plant when they attempted to return, thus creating a lock out situation. The company allowed a small number of hand picked men to start work, thus generating a feeling that a crisis was imminent as large sections of the rest of the workforce began to be affected by the lack of work from the spinning sections. Day long negotiations broke up, with the firm requiring an answer to proposals they had tabled by 11am the next morning, but only if a return to work had taken place. The spinners and mixers met at the Spondon Picture House at 9.30 am. Stokes argued that the men had acted unconstitutionally by not communicating with the union before striking, reminding them that the company had refused to talk with the shop steward and only the intervention of the officials had caused negotiations to ensue. The meeting voted by a large majority to end their strike to allow negotiations. But this was only with the proviso that, if the results were unsatisfactory, a constitutional dispute be then declared. Moreover, it was demanded that an apology be extended to their shop steward, Holloway, for the manner in which he had been treated. The resultant absence of comment in the union’s local records would suggest that these objectives were indeed met.
          In 1931, the TGWU was able to report a moderately healthy position in the Derbyshire District, if not in membership terms or on the bargaining front, then at least in financial terms. The district actually maintained a ‘profit’ making situation which helped to subsidise less favourably treated areas of the country. [50]
          Income                                      £1,704            17s     111/2d
          Expenditure                             £1,301              7s     11d
          Returned to centre                   £403            10s     1/2d
          For all the difficulties, the union was making headway and not just financially. The WU had hoped to “get some members in the motor industry at Stapleford” in the spring of 1929. [51] The following year, Wood and Stokes went out on the roads, trying to organise County Council employees engaged in roads maintenance. But it was hard going, especially in the rural areas, and they thought “it will take a long time to get them organised”. [52] Nonetheless, meetings of Derbyshire County Council roadmen were held at Ashbourne. [53] A brewery branch was setup in Derby in 1931, reflecting the work carried out at Offiler’s. While workers at the DP Battery in Bakewell had achieved formal recognition and more. [54] But op scaled down its operations as the recession bit harder and only .12 out of the 40 employees stayed in the union.
          Attempts were made at the recruitment of wire workers at Mackintosh’s, Derby Cable Company and Concordia in Long Eaton, where “mostly boys and girls were employed”. In one fell swoop, 40 workers Joined up at Concordia and recognition of the union was immediately gained. [55]
          The WU/TGWU moved into the area of agriculture in Derbyshire with some seriousness in 1930. The WU had a base in the sector elsewhere in the country, so the move was not out of place even if it was not easy. Clarke, the Divisional Organiser, told the Derby DC that there were “difficulties in trying to organise the agricultural Labourers but he had not given up hope”. [56] Wages were determined on a country basis by the Agricultural Wages Board and this decided that no increase be awarded for 1931. The minimum rate of 8d an hour for a 54 hour week, with an overtime premium only payable on Sundays at 10d an hour, was thus maintained. Female workers received only 5d an hour and 8d on Sundays. [57] As the year progressed, farmers sought to maintain their profit margin by increasing summer hours of working. The aim was to compensate for their losses after food prices began to drastically drop due to lack of demand associated with the recession. The County Wages Committee reduced wages by 2s 3d. Naturally, the workers’ representatives were firmly against this, but the cuts were pushed through by a combination of the farmers themselves and the so-called independent members of the Board. The overwhelming majority of independents were drawn from the ranks of the middle strata of business and professionals, such as solicitors, bank managers and the like. [58]
          Celanese spinners were on £3 a week or more in comparison to perhaps £1 16s a week for farm labourers. Even so, despite these very low levels of payment, prosecutions were still needed to enforce the pittances which the Wages Board ordered. Between June 24th and July 28th 1931 alone, the Ministry of Agriculture had to take legal sanctions against no less than ten farmers in Derbyshire for failure to pay the proper rates to 15 workers. There were four cases in Ashbourne and three in Hatton, with others at Belper, Glossop and Heanor. Arrears in wages of as much as £59 were involved, although most were in the region of £10 and £20. Farmers usually paid up when caught out, but the paltry fine of £1 or £2 for each offence meant very little to the average farmer and many tried repeatedly to evade their obligations. [59] So the TGWU launched a major propaganda campaign amongst agricultural workers. Ten meetings were held throughout Derbyshire and it was hoped that two branches “which had ceased existence will be resuscitated”, it would prove to be a very difficult battle and the union never really made headway. [60]
          3 Unemployed Struggles (1927-31)
          The unemployed were still largely viewed as parasites by the authorities and the notion of a deserving and undeserving poor was widespread. Siddon, of the Derby Board of Guardians, argued in 1927 that skilled workers who had “made no provision for themselves in case of unemployment should be ashamed” of having to ask for public relief. [61] Yet Derbyshire was relatively unaffected by the mass unemployment of this period until around 1930. Workers in the severely affected areas of Britain looked to places like Derby with hope. Many were drawn to seek work in the area, but were often sorely exploited due to their desperation. The engineering firm of International Combustion, which had set up in Derby in 1922, employed youth from the “distressed” areas, such as the mining villages of North East England, Wales and Scotland. One youngster was given details of work at International Combustion and authorisation to work there (a ‘Green Card’) by his own local Labour Exchange. He was told that there would be someone to meet him when he got to Derby. On arriving in the town one night at 10pm, he found no-one to greet him in what must have seemed a strange place, a larger town than he had ever experienced. Perhaps he had expected the factory to be the only one in town? Eventually, he found the location of the factory and was able to work for a grand total of 69 hours, receiving 35/-, after which he was simply sent back home. Haslam Engineering also took on youths from “the distressed mining areas and was paying them 33/- per week”. [62]
          As unemployment grew in 1929, many on the left turned their attention to the struggle to organise those workers left without jobs. Largely on the initiative of the Communist Party, but with the involvement of many left Labour activists, a National Unemployed Workers Movement was once again organised. This was based upon the widespread and popular support which had been received in the previous decade and the movement was to dominate the unemployed struggles in the 1930s. The organisation was well established in Derby right from the start of this period, having partaken in the earlier struggles of the 1920s. A large NUWM conference was held in Derby in February 1929 and the town was on the first of the NUWM’s national unemployed marches – the ‘Hunger Marches’ – that year. Moreover, it was always represented on these marches which took place throughout the 1 930s. The 1929 march began in Scotland and spread throughout the country, along nine routes all of which culminated in a major London event. A strong contingent from Derby was involved in the Midlands stream. The TUC and the Labour Party officially banned Trades Councils and affiliated organisations from aiding the march. But many activists simply ignored the instructions; such were their sympathies with the plight of the unemployed. Yet, in some areas, the instructions were followed so earnestly that working class organisations spurned the marchers, refusing them even humanitarian help such as shelter or food. Churches were often more sympathetic in some towns than local Labour Parties. Even workhouses provided more hospitality than some labour movement organisations. In March, when the Derbyshire marchers returned from London by train, they were able to assist by placing unemployment as key issue in the May General Election. [63]
          The 1927 Unemployed Insurance Act, introduced by the Tories, provided ammunition in the election battle. The concept of ‘Not Genuinely Seeking Work’ (NGSW) particularly gave rise to much resentment amongst ordinary people. To obtain state benefits, the burden was on the unemployed clamant to prove that he or she was in fact looking for employment. Even the Derby Board of Guardians made an all too common criticism of Labour Exchanges in February 1929, that they were too strict in stopping benefits where the claimant could not provide absolute proof of a search for work. [64] Although the Board’s concern would not have been entirely altruistic, since anyone denied benefits would of course come to the Board for relief, thus depleting its funds.
          Labour proposed in its 1929 election manifesto that the NGSW clause be deleted, if they were to achieve government office, and this was a pledge which won it much support from both the unemployed and from concerned employed workers. In a massive mobilisation of activity, the NUWM fought the implications of scrounging which the NGSW clause implied. In many ways this single issue was critical in enabling Labour to win the election, despite the vagueness of the rest of its manifesto on the issue of unemployment. Once in government, with Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister, Labour at first merely tinkered with the administration of the NGSW clause. However, after much campaigning, the onus of proof on NGSW was switched from the unemployed to the authorities. Concern over these matters helped the NUWM to grow enormously in public stature. In April 1930, a march of around 80 unemployed arrived in Chesterfield on its way to a May Day rally in London. Predictably, they were cold shouldered by the labour movement in the town. That year the DMA barred unemployed miners who were members of the NUWM from holding office. But the move was far from generally accepted and the arguments within the union around this resulted in the DMA supplying food and lodgings to unemployed marches in 1930 and in 1932. 
          Unemployment had never gone beyond one million nationally during the 1920s. In 1931 it exploded to the highest level ever recorded up until then of 2.5 million, 21% of all insured workers. Trades unionists expected some action from their government, but things seemed to get worse. Following a major international financial crisis, in March 1931 the Labour Government commissioned a report from a committee headed by Sir George May, chairman of the Prudential Insurance company. The committee’s majority in July recommended a balanced state budget. The accounting assumptions of the May Committee were suspect, since it treated some expenditure as current – contrary to Treasury convention. Nonetheless, out of this emerged the proposal that £96 million be cut in government expenditure, two thirds of that at the expense of the unemployed by reducing benefits of 17/- a week by 20%. By the end of July 1931, the Bank of England was loosing gold reserves at the rate of £15 million a week and total reserves were down to £133 million. Financial policy dictated that the value of the pound as related to the Gold Standard, the internationally accepted mechanism for evaluating the relative worth of currencies, be adjusted. Mine owners in particular felt pressured by the effect on their export prices by the overvaluation of the pound, which had arisen as a result of the war. The severe recession which had begun in the early 1920s saw a sharp fall in wages and prices, but British exports were still uncompetitive at the pre-war parity rate of $4.86 at which Britain had re-entered the Gold Standard. The Government saw the capitalist system as like any mechanical system, available to be turned in any way it desired. Money was part of the system and the theory demanded that a restriction in the supply of money be made. Montague Norman, a leading Tory banker, put it succinctly when he spoke of there being no problem about money, except who has it! No doubt the unemployed would have heartily agreed with him. The Government found itself applying policies which a Tory Government would not necessarily feel unhappy with. Some staunch Labour supporters would explain away the contradiction by arguing the need to support their government, whatever the situation. But for many, there grew a massive disillusionment; power and wealth remained untouched. Little had been done to radicalise British society in any significant way and Tory anti-union legislation was still on the statute books.
          Those who had always ruled still did so. In a move reminiscent of the flippant gaiety so typical of the rich a decade earlier, Arthur Markham, the coal owner’s son, could still humiliate working people by arranging a ‘miners’ party’ at a fashionable restaurant in London. He arranged this jape by stopping miners at the pithead and giving them £10 and a first class ticket to London. A dozen agreed to go with him as they were when he met them, black with coal and in their working clothes. The restaurateur thought it “the most original party he had ever catered for”. [65] The underlying attitude of sneering insensitivity can easily be imagined and one can only hope that the miners took Markham for all they could get out of him.
          Controversy over the lacklustre performance of the Labour Government was widespread inside the labour movement, which began to divide into right wing and left wing factions. In March 1931, the TGWU’s Derby district president, Heyhoe, was “sorry that there was at the present time a disruption in the Labour movement, it was a United Front that was wanted”. [66] Although whether the choice of phrase meant a desire to keep the movement to the militant left may be a matter of doubt, it is more likely that the focus of attention was the increasingly doubts angry about the drift of the Labour government headed by Ramsay MacDonald. The situation would sharpen even further after the majority of the Labour cabinet began to implement a means test and severe cuts in state expenditure on the unemployed. MacDonald turned to the Tories for support as it became clear that his own party would not back him and a ‘National’ government was formed out of a coalition of MPs from all parties in August. Whilst many Labour MPs refused to follow MacDonald, the main divergence in the movement which emerged was between the Parliamentary Party and the party in the country at large. The amazing betrayal of MacDonald shocked almost everybody, but the signs had always been evident.
          J H Thomas sent a letter to the Derby Labour Party EC, dated August 26th, explaining his actions. He justified his support for MacDonald on the basis that failure to act in the way they had done would have resulted in a “crisis in which all would suffer, the working class worst of all”. [67] Even so, Thomas had by this time abandoned all pretence at socialist ideas; a sympathetic contemporary biographer approvingly described him as believing that “the constructive influence of the British Empire will most quickly and efficiently succour the ills of the world”. [68] Thomas addressed the Derby No 2 NUR branch on Sunday 27th September, when he revealed that the National Government would be seeking a vote of confidence from the nation at a general election which was imminent. [69] The Labour Party was still stunned by these events and was unable to mount an effective campaign. Much of its senior leadership had decamped without regard for the damage that this would cause to its credibility as a caring and honest party. The tide seemed to be very much with the National Government, which cleverly acted quickly before the impact of the dramatic new alliance was lost. Moreover, a public scare was created and turned into a major election issue, cloaking the real reasons for the election. The Government argued that if the Labour Party were returned, Post Office savings would be seized to pay for the crisis.
          All of Labour’s supposedly solid constituencies were under attack by the combined forces of Liberals, Conservatives and Labour’s right wing renegades. The Tory, Wragg, took Belper back from Jack Lees, not far short of doubling his vote in the process. Flint took Ilkeston from Oliver for ‘National Labour’ by a mere two votes, with both candidates taking 50% of the poll. The alliance of right wing forces is very clear in Flint’s case, since the Liberal and Tory vote from 1929 plus a few wavering Labour voters, who were attracted by the appeal to national unity, was sufficient to very narrowly win the seat.
                       Labour                   Liberal              Tory               National
          1929    59%                        22.7%              18.3%
          1931    50%                                 –               –                        50%
          The National Conservative took Chesterfield from Labour’s George Benson with a convincing majority of almost 6,000. Frank Lee lost Labour’s seat in North East Derbyshire to a small, but certain majority of around 1,000. Interestingly, the militant activist, Vin Williams, the former editor of the local strike bulletin in 1926, also stood in Chesterfield for the New Party, the short lived creation of Oswald Mosley and four other Labour MPs. Mosley had been a high flyer in the labour movement, deserting the Tories in 1926 and becoming a minister, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1929. His first wife, Cynthia, or Cimmie as she was affectionately known, the daughter of Lord Curzon, had also been elected as a Labour MP. When it was first founded in 1930, incredibly given its later development, the New Party was seen as being a left wing alternative to established politics. But Williams polled only a tiny vote of 1.7% and was immediately disillusioned along with many others and renewed his connections with traditional left politics. The New Party had an ineffective launch at the home of the well-heeled Sitwell family at Renishaw Park, but the connections with local landowners and coal interests, coupled with an increasing Italian link, served to emphasise where Mosley was going. In an extraordinary turn, Mosley rapidly veered to the right and transformed it into the British Union of Fascists, which was bankrolled by Mussolini, perhaps even because it was funded by the dictator.
          In Derby, an even more serious reduction in the Labour vote was registered than elsewhere in the county. A combination of the omnipresent coalition appeal and Thomas’ own personal popularity could have been responsible. But it has been suggested that his “influence failed to extend to other railway towns than Derby”. [70] Thomas’ partner in the contest in Derby was a National Conservative, whilst he himself stood as a National Labour candidate. In contrast, two official Labour candidates stood against them, one being Thomas’ old stable mate, Raynes. The National candidates beat them by something like a proportion of five votes to every two. Whereas Labour had taken around 70% of the vote in 1929, the position was reversed in 1931, with the National candidates winning 70%. Raynes viewed the Labour Party as “shattered and scattered and hopelessly in debt”. It had been a devastating experience. Raynes had lost his seat, yet he remained tremendously forgiving of Thomas, who had not consulted his fellow MP and did not repent his actions. But, if Raynes adopted a phlegmatic attitude, others did not. The mild mannered Les Clay recalled that Thomas ‘lived at Allestree – away from the workers”. (Allestree was – is – a pleasant and affluent suburb of Derby.) “The men in the railway workshops were very bitter about him. Not just the activists, even the average bloke. I saw him outside the Midland Hotel (near Derby station) once and I told him what I thought of him. “You traitor!” I said.” [71]
          The same pattern of humiliating defeat for Labour was obviously repeated in those areas which traditionally had small reservoirs of Labour voters. The National Conservative in High Peak beat Labour by a margin of three to one. Numerically, the National MP’s vote almost exactly combined the 1929 Tory and Liberal votes. Major Graham-Pole lost his seat in South Derbyshire to a National candidate, who also gained the support of the Liberal and Tories. There were serious complaints about clergymen using their pulpit to condemn Labour, as at Spondon parish church. Speaking after the election, Graham-Pole noted that “Labour lost more to the power of the capitalist press, the pulpit and the wireless than to the National Government’s programme”. On this occasion, his personal wealth had counted for little, the National candidate spent twice as much as Labour did on campaigning in the constituency. [72] In West Derbyshire, Labour did not even stand against the Marquis, who was thus returned unopposed. The sole remaining Labour MP left in the entire county was Charles Duncan, who was returned for Clay Cross. His vote was much reduced, but in this rock solid Labour seat, he was able to claim no less than 65% of the poll.
          The result, nationally and locally, was a complete disaster for Labour which was crushed as a national party, with only 56 seats to the 558 seats acquired by the National candidates. The campaign had been marked by great vitriol, with the National candidates labelling their opponents as Bolsheviks, even when many knew quite well this was nowhere near the truth, as they had been colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party. The effect of former key Labour leaders denouncing their own party had predictable results on the confidence of working class voters. Within a week or so, Labour was forced to face a similar test at local elections. In Derby, only two out of the twelve Labour candidates were returned.
          4 Social Conditions in the thirties
          With such a mandate, the new government warmed to its task, imposing a cut on all those receiving public money. All government works projects were axed. In a matter of weeks, in excess of a quarter of a million pounds were taken from unemployment benefit allocations by the newly imposed means test. The very name of which brought fear and loathing into the hearts of ordinary people who had hit on hard times. A Derbyshire man was to write of these fears and experiences, largely based upon his own life in the Ripley area. Walter Brierley’s book, “Means Test Man”, was sadly an unknown work in his own day. More attention has latterly been given to it, albeit posthumously, since he died in 1972. The unpublished manuscripts of Brierley’s novels, stories and plays are all kept by Derby Local Studies Library, whilst “Means Test Man” was published by Spokesman in 1983. The author was born in Waingroves in 1900 and eventually obtained work at McEnvoy’s engineering works in Derby, starting on January 1st 1935. He stayed there for two years, and then obtained a job as a Child Welfare Officer, an occupation he kept until his retirement in 1965.
          The winter of 1931 saw massive and widespread protests against the means test everywhere, including Derby and Chesterfield. On Sunday 11th October, thousands of the unemployed marched to the Town Council in Derby in a mood of considerable anger. Such a mood was borne out of real despair, for life on the dole was oppressive in the extreme. One who experienced the worst excesses of this period was Gordon Street. He recalled that about 1,200 people would be in the dole queue in Belper, “extending from St John’s Road, along the Butts and halfway down High Pavement”. He had to stand for the entire day in that queue before he could sign on the register. At Brettles, where he was normally employed, things were not as bad as elsewhere. Gordon Street was “only laid off a week or so at a time”, but such experiences on a regular basis must have still been very depressing. [73] Certainly, the situation in Belper was critical enough for the Labour Party to run a soup kitchen at premises in Bowling Alley, a street in the town, for the children of the unemployed, so menial were the benefits provided by the authorities.
          The recession hit hard at all working people, but naturally the unemployed suffered the most. The mining areas, which then crept closer to the larger towns than was the case in later decades, suffered dreadfully. A third of insured workers were unemployed in Clay Cross, Eckington and Chesterfield. The women of unemployed families suffered above all others. A contemporary social study of the conditions of working class women reveals the stark severity of the deprivation. This study was commissioned by the Women’s’ Health Enquiry Committee, which was set up in 1933 to review the welfare of women. It was by no means a radical body, Towns Women’s Guilds, the Midwives’ Institute, the Liberal Party and a collection of MAs, MBEs and JPs constituted the committee.
          Entirely random samples of 1,250 women in over 40 towns were intensively interviewed. 39 of these were from Derby and two from Chesterfield. Many were wives of unemployed men, most had large numbers of children and lived in difficult housing conditions. The consequences, in terms of ill health, were appalling. One survey visitor wrote of one unhappy, elderly woman with eight children who lived just outside of Derby: “This woman is very miserable; she has no leisure occupation and cannot read or write. She cannot go out much as her leg is too bad; she only goes to the shops once a week when well enough.” The woman suffered from nerves, headaches, general debility, shortness of breath and a very bad ulcerated leg. It had been that way for twenty years and she had to attend the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary for treatment on the leg three times a week, until two years before. For a while, the lotion the Infirmary had been giving her had eased the pain, but she could not now afford the 1/- bus fare, or the lotion, since her husband had become unemployed. [74]
          While most interviewed in the survey were not well placed, some of those obliged to live in the “slums” of Derby faced particularly distressing circumstances. One case was believed to be a “relatively rare” example of extreme poverty. Not that those women in families with a bread winner were much better off than those women in domestic circumstances where unemployment had struck. The diets of the women were examined in minute detail. A Mrs V lived in a “slum street of small houses in Derby”. She was 40 years old and had three children. Her husband was a railway porter and her housekeeping money amounted to £1 19s 0d. The rent constituted almost a quarter of this budget and the family’s diet was dominated by bread and potatoes. Only 4/9d, about an eighth of the budget, was spent on eggs, bacon, meat and the like. Mrs V’s home was “very bad”, having no bath and a broken boiler, which the landlord refused to mend. Since the bad floods of 1932, when there had been several feet of water in the house, it had always been damp. The toilet was 25 yards from the house and hemmed in by a rag and bone yard and factories, which caused a permanent and unpleasant smell. Her husband had been very ill when she was six months pregnant and she had “great difficultly in nursing (i.e. feeding) the baby”. [75]
          One young mother of 19 years of age lived in a condemned slum court in Derby. Four months after the birth of her baby, hysteria and nervous debility had come upon her. Tied to the house by the baby, she had no recreation and the dirty walls and damp wallpaper depressed her. She had no copper gas boiler for washing clothes, which made washing a crushing, onerous task. There was no sink and no special place to keep the coal. [76] Despite the fact that she too was considered a rare case, 31% of the women interviewed lived in “completely intolerable” conditions. Mrs A of Derby, aged 25, was pregnant and lived with her unemployed husband and four children in a slum court which was due to be demolished. There was no gas supply and no copper, only oil lamps provided light and water had to be fetched from 40 yards away. Mrs N lived with her husband and three children in squalid surroundings in Derby. She suffered from kidney trouble, back ache, constipation, head ache and tonsillitis. Her diet was an unrelieved dose of tea, bread and potatoes. She explained to her visitor that “more food is available on Friday when unemployment insurance money comes. There is then fried fish for supper”. [77]
          For Mrs T of Derby such circumstances were made worse by her surroundings. A young woman of 24, she had three children to look after, all under five years of age. She was in very bad health, “having kidney trouble”. The family lived in a slum court, where the surroundings were very squalid. There were “no facilities for cleanliness at all”. There was no sink or running water in the house, only a tap at the end of the yard. There was a row of communal ‘tubs’, lavatories cleaned by the corporation twice a week. Mrs T had “never been to a talkie”, only silent movies some years ago. [78] Another woman, the wife of an unemployed labourer who had only had two month’s work in three years, lived in a cottage in Derby where “the bugs which are present and bred in the rotting woodwork cause endless extra work in an endeavour to be clean. It has been necessary to sit up all night to keep the bugs off the small baby. The corporation is said to have refused to fumigate the place at present … until the end of the slum clearance scheme.” [italics in original – 79] Most of the women interviewed who attended welfare centres drank water, though some consumed phenomenal amounts of tea. There was a reason for this, other drinks were rarely mentioned, except “in the slums of Derby … mineral water and ginger beer are mentioned, but this is probably because the women have been warned not to drink the water” because of its health hazards unless boiled. [80]
          Mrs D of Derby was 35 years old with five children and lived in a council house, so her living conditions were more tolerable. But her husband was an unemployed labourer and their rent was almost a quarter of the family budget of £2 1s 0d. [81] Mrs C of Chesterfield was 55 years and lived with her unemployed miner husband and three sons in a “very poor old cottage with no copper, no bathroom, no coal-shed”. She had to keep the coal in the cellar with the food and take out the food every time she needed coal to avoid getting dust on it. She had been in hospital three times and had once “went away to the sea” afterwards for convalescence. Rather touchingly, she added that she would “remember that as long as I live”, so pleasant had the experience been. [82j Another miner’s wife faced the hardship of unemployment with dignity. Without the help of her son, who lived with them, she and her husband would have been more severely affected than they were. Despite that help, she so arranged meals that her son would not see his parents eating bread and butter and tea for every meal. As the sole bread winner, the son had the bulk of the weekly groceries, without his knowledge that this was so. The mother did have another son, but he had his own family and was suffering acutely from bronchitis, which prevented him from working. Yet the Public Assistance Committee (PAC) thought that he ought to be in a position to help his parents and thus only awarded them 2/6d a week to live on, even though their rent alone was 5/- a week. “We would rather be dead than go on like this”, the wife bitterly commented. The PAC man’s monthly visits were “dreaded” by the family. “He asks so many questions and is so strict.” [83]
          Housing conditions were so bad that even the Derby Conservative councillor, W H Phillips, was on record as saying that there was very definitely overcrowding of a terrible kind in the town. Over 17% of families, representing 27% of Derby’s population faced serious overcrowding. 50% of the women in the health survey had less than 6/- a head each week in housekeeping money and of these 65.5% were in very bad or poor health. [84] In another study, Sir John Orr estimated that one quarter of all children less than 14 years of age lived in families which had an income of less than 10/- a head per week, less than the minimum allowed for simple existence by the social scientist, Rowntree. He had judged 53/- to be necessary; adjusted to the year of the women’s health survey this would be 55/6d for a town based worker and a family of three children. The Women’s’ Health Committee, arising out of the survey, recommended a wide ranging series of reforms, but nothing of this character would emerge until the Labour Government of 1945. [85]
          With living conditions so bad and leisure activities so limited by lack of money, many working class people looked for cheap or free pleasures. Rambling, or simply walking through the countryside, was one activity which gained enormous popularity in these years. No less than five hundred people went on a Derby Labour Party charabanc outing to Monsal Head in 1926. Yet, even in this aspect of life, a class struggle existed. For the rights of working people to tread the hillsides were challenged by the wealthy elite and this challenge was in turn taken up by a series of mass and deliberate trespasses in Derbyshire.
          5 The 1932 Kinder Scout trespass
             Arguably, the trespassers of private property in 1932 were fighting the same battle as their forebears had generations before, when the Enclosure Acts had been resisted. However, the ambition of the rich in this period was not to gain economically, but to preserve the moorlands for themselves alone. Specifically, the aim was to maintain the grouse which provided elitist shooting ‘pleasures’. Something like three quarters of the southern Pennines and the Peak District was owned privately and the rest was owned by public bodies which admitted no public access. Less than 1% of the moorland was adequately open. Legislation to force land owners to permit the public to partake in their own heritage was the only answer. To achieve this, labour movement activists determined to embark upon a series of mass trespasses to draw attention to their case. The campaign was strongly influenced by the British Workers Sports Federation, which in turn was close to the Communist Party. Activists in the one were often involved in the other. Kinder Scout, an outstanding stretch of moorland, was chosen as the site of the first mass trespass. On Sunday April 24th 1932, ramblers gathered in large numbers at Hayfield, much advance publicity having taken place.
          One third of the entire Derbyshire Constabulary, under the personal command of the Chief Constable, poured into the village! Ramblers who had come from Manchester outwitted the police, by leaving before the stated starting time by a route through which police cars could not follow. [86] A rally was convened in a nearby quarry, addressed by the person most associated with the Trespass then and in subsequent years, one Benny Rothman. Hundreds of young men and women streamed across moorland, heading for the plateau above Kinder reservoir. They were challenged only by some twenty or thirty gamekeepers. Largely ignoring these, the youngsters reached the top where they met another group which had come from Sheffield, via Edale. (Activists from Derby had tended to join the Manchester group, whilst those from Chesterfield went with the Sheffield contingent.) It was an inspiring moment and the whole event was a bold gesture for “the rights of ordinary people to walk on land stolen from them in earlier times”. [87]
          Six young men were arrested after the Trespass and a travesty of justice followed. They were first brought before the New Mills magistrates court. Subsequently, on July 21st and 22nd, the group was brought before the Derby Assizes. A Grand Jury of two brigadier generals, three colonels, two majors, three captains, two aldermen and eleven country gentlemen considered their case. This was no trial by one’s peers; there was not a single working class person and no rambler amongst the jury! [88] They were charged with riotous assembly and assault of a gamekeeper. The most damning piece of evidence, it seems, was a book by Lenin which had been in the possession of one of the defendants. This fact drew the comment from the judge, amidst much laughter: “Isn’t that the Russian gentleman?” [89] Predictably, the ramblers were all found guilty, but sentences of six, four, three and two months jail were imposed. One young man was seemingly extra penalised because he had been selling the Daily Worker, which the Communist Party had launched only two years before. [90] The campaign did not end there. Apart from the demonstrations and activity designed to draw attention to the injustice of the imprisonments, there were other rambling protests. At the end of May, a massive turnout of over 5,000 ramblers demonstrated for the right of access to private lands at Whatstandwell. [91] Whilst on June 26th, some 10,000 ramblers assembled at Winnats Pass, Castleton. [92] Another mass trespass took place at Abbey brook in the Derwent valley and a rally was held at Jacob’s Ladder. With the more pressing activities on unemployment, anti-fascism and solidarity with Spain over the following years, the issue receded from the minds of the labour movement. But it was by no means in vain, the very establishment in 1949 by a Labour Government of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park, a novel concept at the time, was no accident. The ramblers’ struggles had made their point and the transformation of Derbyshire’s moorlands into public property was accomplished with relative ease. [93]
          6 The Left and the Unemployed
          J H Thomas was by no means the only defector in Derbyshire from the labour movement. The solicitor A R Flint and two Labour councillors in Derby, Mycroft – who had been involved in the Industrial Alliance – and Matley, left the Labour Party in October 1931 to join the National tendency. The effectiveness of the Labour Party was much impeded by the disillusionment and despair which was created by the split. In 1931, the Derby Labour Party (DLP) recorded that “the year has been a difficult one for us”, this had been even before the MacDonaldite desertion. “Success in the past’, the DLP thought, “has been brought about mainly by loyalty, enthusiasm, sacrifice and teamwork”. [94] A great amount of these qualities had been needed during the 1929-31 Labour Government, but with the arrival of the National Government the Party was shattered. In the spring of 1932, the DLP reported that “much happened that we regret, but on the other hand we knew that we touched rock-bottom and found our movement has secure foundations”. [95]
          Individual membership plummeted, almost halving in one year from 2,032 to 1,188. In a move to halt the slide, two political heavyweights were drawn in to officiate in the local party. H A Hind became chairman and W R Raynes took over as secretary. They were as affected by the experience as anyone; despite his quiet continuing personal affection for Thomas, the steady Raynes argued bitterly for a motion at the national Labour Party conference which repudiated those former Labour leaders who were by then in the National Government. Challenging the three railway unions to come to some agreement on providing a replacement parliamentary candidate for Derby, Raynes was outspoken in his public condemnation of Thomas. He had seen “the work of 30 years smashed and branches of the great railway union (the NUR) torn with doubt and dissension”. Although they were now building up again, they would “not stand for a repetition of the experience of the past 12 months”. [96]
          While individual membership of the DLP took a hammering, affiliated membership was reasonably unaffected, primarily because more union branches affiliated to the party as a conscious, defensive reaction, Interestingly, as late as 1928, the Derby Trades Council (DTC) maintained direct affiliation to the DLP on a figure of 252 members. These would have been individual members of the party, given the introduction of bans and the sidelining of trades councils which had taken place in the movement. Such reservoirs of loyalty would now stand the DLP in good stead. [97] Trade union affiliation improved slowly, but surely, throughout the next decade and beyond. Some unions affiliated most of their local branches to the DLP. The AEU had 19 branches affiliated in contrast to its attitude to the DTC, with which it had little to do. According to Les Clay, the AEU District Secretary, Arthur Sturgess, had told him not to bother with the DTC, since it was “all for office workers”. [98] A refrain which would echo down the years, as union officials watched with increasing dread the activism of the trades councils movement. But, of course, the Derby Labour Party was viewed differently. In 1928-9, the Workers Union had affiliated seven branches to the DLP and the NUR had six, plus two women’s guilds, a position unaffected by the MacDonaldite fiasco. After the merger with the TGWU, the three original T&G branches (5/95, 5/98 and 5/100) immediately affiliated, joining their new compatriots in the WU in a long standing close relationship with the DLP.
          Affiliated membership of the party of 17,897 before the calamity dipped only slightly to 17,024 immediately afterwards. Clearly, the tight control over union branches and district committees, exerted by people like Hind and Sturgess, enabled them to maintain affiliation levels. Nonetheless, as the fight back ensued individual membership began to lift. This was quite dramatically so in the period from spring 1932 to spring 1933, when a 50% increase was reported. [99] The DLP’s journal, the Democrat, continued to be published successfully. Despite the enormous cost of printing, £41 in 1931-2, the journal did avoid actually loosing money. Affiliated membership was ten times that of individual membership: [100]
          (Note: Individual membership covers period of March of previous year to March of the year stated. The gender split of the individual membership always heavily favoured men. For example, in the 1930 DLP Annual report, 1,246 males and 772 females were reported as being individual members.)
                                  Derby Labour Party membership 1927-1932
          Year                DLP individual membership                    DLP affiliated membership
          1927                           1,589                                                  ?
          1928                           1,905                                                  ?
          1929                           2,018                                                  ?
          1930                           2,030                                                  17,897
          1931                           1,188                                                  ?
          1932                       1,806                                                      20,037
          Despite the experience of a National Government and perhaps because the DLP fell into the hands of competent and charismatic men like Hind and Sturgess, the party remained solidly in the hands of the right of the labour movement. It was almost as if nothing had happened. No real pressure existed to challenge the dominance of the right in Derby. Unemployment hit the town hard, but it was as almost nothing compared with the bitter fight for survival experienced in the coalfields. Massive industrial complexes like Celanese, Rolls Royce and the rail workshops were affected by the recession but, by and large, there was a cushioning effect which reserved some prosperity for some of those lucky enough to have jobs. It was in these and subsequent years that the contemporary character of the local labour movement was formed. These developments made for the perceived historical judgement of Derby as a sleepy backwater, relatively unattracted to militancy. It is in this decade that a sense of Derby’s distancing itself from the rest of the county emerges and this mood would be particularly reinforced by the next two decades of good living, which manufacturing essential to Britain’s defences would bring.
          More fertile ground for the left was amongst the miners of the north of the county. The NUWM national council member for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was Phillip Hicken, the brother of the DMA’s general secretary. In 1931, Phillip Hicken announced his intention of contesting the Clay Cross constituency as a Communist candidate. But the notion came to nought, for he was unable to raise the necessary deposit of £150. [101] An unspoken strategy to counter the effectiveness of the NUWM as the voice of the unemployed was embarked upon by the official labour movement. Influenced by the new DLP leadership, with its strong roots in the trade unions, the Trades Council called together 80 delegates at a county conference at the Kier Hardie Hall in Derby in March 1932. [102] The major concern highlighted was the operation of the Means Test. A tremendous campaign had been launched prior to the conference to attract support for its aims. A petition signed by some 4,500 workers on short time or actually unemployed was presented at the conference. The left on the DTC had not opposed the conference, on the basis that it would seek to be a unifying force. Indeed, the NUWM was represented along with its immediate, local rival, the Derby Unemployed Men’s’ Brotherhood. This had been founded by Alderman W G Wilkins. Its main approach in countering the NUWM was charitable and leisure activities, although it did issue a propaganda bulletin from its headquarters at the Theatre Gospel Hall in Bold Lane. There were many trade union organisations represented at the conference: six AEU and four NUR branches sent delegates, along with the TGWU, the Boilermakers, the NUGMWU, NUDAW, the Iron Founders and the Building Trades Federation. But such an initiative did little to ameliorate the stern outlook of the PAC5 and the Means Test men. Support for the bolder approach of the Hunger Marchers grew. Towards the end of 1932, another major national march was organised.
          The women’s’ contingent of the Lancashire route passed through Derby without any difficulties or restrictions being imposed by the workhouse authorities. There was much controversy at Burton-on-Trent, however. The marchers were told that they had to be in the workhouse by 8pm. In response, the women held well supported demonstrations in the town until nearly midnight, before they decided to return at their own leisure to the workhouse to retire for the night. [103] Only a few weeks later, the message of the march was mitigated in Derby by some good news. Rolls Royce was able to end the year with a big re-engagement of men made redundant during the year, as a large number of new orders came in. [104] But generally the position was none too good. The response of the well off in Derby was to embrace charity. The Rotary Club and Toc H provided boots for the unemployed, while the Town Council set up a recreational centre in Full Street for the seven thousand registered unemployed in the town. Councillor W Smithard was the chair of the committee which ran the centre, which may well have been seen as another initiative to head off the militant influence of the NUWM among the unemployed. The council also proposed a major project in Markeaton park. A pond was drained and an ornamental lake created, thus creating ‘work’ for 140 unemployed for six months. [105]
Derby Workers Defence Committee and Derby NUWM objected to the scheme on the grounds that it was test work, designed to apply the NGSW clause, and would not pay trade union rates for the job. The NUWM issued its basic demand for proper relief or genuine work, but the local PAC was dominated by National Government supporters and refused even to meet a deputation to consider their objections. The Derby NUWM continued to dominate the campaign amongst the unemployed, producing a handbill in 1933 which gives a taste of the vigour of the organisation:
“Employed and unemployed workers of Derby! Unite to defeat test work!
Derby Public Assistance Committee has forced men to take on work which amounts to slave labour! At least 30 men are now on test work and amongst them are cases where men are compelled to work 3 days for as little as 8 shillings and 10 shillings relief, a rate of 4d an hour.”
In response, the PAC secretary argued that the amount of the men’s’ relief bore no relation to the actual work done and thus that the NUWM was misrepresenting the facts. [106]
A mass meeting was called in February 1933 by the DLP to protest against the Means Test and unemployment. But this was marked by dissent and rowdy behaviour. Raynes called from the platform for more of “the Russian spirit’, presumably meaning that more discipline should apply in the movement. But this did nothing to stem criticism by Councillor Gill of the ILP of his role in Thomas’ desertion. Gill argued for more “socialistic principle” in the Labour Party and the need to admit past mistakes and learn from them. Raynes’ interpretation of the Russian spirit increasingly looked like a belief that unity meant no dissent. For the NUWM, A Crawley protested during Raynes’ speech that his organisation had been refused a place on the platform. Raynes justified this action on the rather ludicrous grounds that there was a need to show no disunity to the public, something which the very exclusion of the NUWM was almost calculated not to achieve.
In the spring of 1933, some 250 delegates from all sections of Derby’s working class movement attended a conference called by the DTC. The main aim was to “consider and protest against’ test work. The anonymous ‘worker correspondent’ who recorded the details of the conference for the Daily Worker, complained that the “nucleus of bureaucrats on the EC of the (trades) council showed from the start that they did not intend to allow delegates present to do any “considering” and confined the “protest” within safe limits by putting before the conference a resolution to “send postcards from every organisation to members of the Town Council”. The chairman of the conference started what was going to be a very controversial meeting by his own opening remarks. He over-stressed that the fight against test work was only a fight against the effects of capitalism and not the cause itself. His idea was that only the election of a Labour Government could dent the power of capital and this had to be sought at the expense of the here and now struggle. “To put the question in this way,” thought the Daily Worker correspondent, “seems to me to make little of the fight against test work … to sidetrack the issue.” The main proponent of the DTC EC’s tame approach of a post card campaign was what the correspondent called “our star reactionary, Matt Lowe, of the NUGMW”. Even though the DTC EC was “not of our opinion”, there were some on the platform “who were thoroughly disgusted” with Lowe and those who supported him.
Harry Cheshire successfully moved a collection for the Workers Defence Committee, which raised 21s 3d. Cheshire also apologised to NUWM activists for the unspecified “disgusting allegations made by Matt Lowe”. After much controversy, the platform line put forward by Lowe was “disposed of’, but the chair refused to allow resolutions from the floor. But “the pressure of the delegates forced the EC to agree to send a deputation to the PAC”. Even so, on no account would the leadership “agree to this deputation going with the NUWM deputation which will be going at the same time”, reported the Daily Worker’s correspondent. [107]
Early in May, a deputation consisting of the NUGMW, TGWU and the United Carters and Motormen’s Association was received by the PAC. [108] Their representations were politely listened to, but the NUWM was kept outside. But Labour members on the PAC kept up a constant barrage of criticisms of its public works projects as in fact being test work. Within two weeks, Derby NUWM organised a mass demonstration to press home the point that they were a representative body which should be listened to and that the PAC projects were test work. A large crowd marched from the Market Place, headed by the NUWM banner, to assemble outside the PAC offices. The representative nature of the event is underlined by the fact that H A Hind proposed a resolution at the gathering that no further test work ought take place, after an amendment was agreed that there should be wider labour movement action wherever ordinary full time workers were being displaced as a result of test work.
Following this, the PAC received another deputation, this time from the Co-op Men’s Guild, NUDAW, the AEU and the DTC. Testament to the power of the relative unity of the organised campaign was that the PAC no longer refused to meet the NUWM, so long as the press were excluded. [109] The NUWM asked for the complete abolition of all test work and for relief to be granted to those who refused such work, but the PAC remained unmoved, despite the weight of public pressure now upon them. Figures were produced, supposedly supporting the PAC’s position. Of the 228 on relief work, some 53 had seen their relief money varied and 30 had had it discontinued. On the PAC’s own figures, about a third could have been said to have been affected by the test, hardly a justification for the argument that test work was not a part of the work creation projects. Despite the Daily Worker’s attack on him, Matt Lowe attended a Socialist League conference in June. There, Lowe revealed that unemployed men were in effect being paid as little as 5/- to 25/- for work which would have been normally carried out by Corporation labourers at the union rate. Such a comment explains why the major unions were now backing the campaign, for it was in the direct interest of their members to remove test work.
The Derby Co-op, the DLP and the DTC that summer set up their own “Unemployed Association” (UA) as a counter weight to the NUWM. This would be affiliated to these three ‘umbrella’ organisations of the labour movement, whilst the NUWM would not be. Significantly, a rule was decided upon that members of the Communist Party could join the Unemployed Association, but not hold office within it. Membership of the UA would require transfer to an appropriate trade union on obtaining work and the chief benefit would be the right to representation at public appeals bodies, an activity which the NUWM excelled in. All the local big-wigs of the labour movement were behind the UA, Sturgess, Raynes and Hind amongst them. But the organisation was marginal to the unemployed struggle, for it would remain bound to the official movement’s needs. The UA emerged as a narrow voice for the electoral ambitions of the Labour Party and its ability to act as an independent voice for the unemployed was thus severely constrained. Directly controlled by the employed, the organisation and its secretary, S Grimdell, was never able to shake off the image of being an adjunct of the Labour Party, whose erstwhile leaders had split to impose unemployment benefit cuts. The UA’s affiliation to the DLP shows a pitifully slow growth and a sudden death in 1938. In 1934 it had only 34 members and this had increased to only 40 by the following year. [110]
Meanwhile, the NUWM continued, challenged but largely unweakened in Derby. In the north of the county, Phillip Hicken continued his activities, being summonsed before the magistrates in 1933 for “disturbing the public peace and inciting persons to commit the offence of wilful damage and larceny”. He had spoken at a NUWM meeting on the immorality of the starvation of the unemployed when the shops were full. This was quite unreasonably taken to mean that the unemployed should take to looting. Despite the DMA’s formal opposition to the NUWM, the union provided the necessary finance for legal representation for Hicken. In the end he was to win an appeal against the decidedly unjust three month prison sentence. [111] Not that any of this daunted Hicken. Some 400 unemployed marched from all parts of the county in 1933 to Nottingham to demand an end to the Means Test and an increase in benefits. On one spur were 22 who marched from Chesterfield to Alfreton and then to Nottingham. Phillip Hicken was the chief organiser of this NUWM event, along with J Taiton and Jake Lodge of Alfreton. Other marches went from Ripley and Heanor. [112]
Such continuing protest helped to maintain pressure on the authorities. Derby Town Council was forced to concede that their relief projects were indeed test work, but sheltered behind the argument that it was obligatory on them under the 1930 Act and that they had no choice but to continue with the work. [113] The NUWM faced more and more refusal by the official labour movement to recognise the organisation. Indeed, the DMA decided in 1933 to withhold any future support to the NUWM because of its stance on the character of the official movement. In September of that year, another unemployed march was again refused shelter in Chesterfield. The official level of unemployment had reached three million. This march, which spread across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, was particularly well organised. A printed six page programme listed the demands of the NUWM, the stopping off places were located on a map and there was an expose of benefits and test work. The brochure included the official march slogans and marching songs. [114]
Over 200 marchers converged on Derby from three routes, one from Dinnington, another from Dronfield, Eckington, Staveley and Whittington. Staveley had its own unemployed newsletter, the Spark, which publicised the event. Another route to Derby came from Hucknall. The columns marched for six days, arriving in Derby during a heavy rainstorm. [115] The Derby NUWM unsuccessfully asked the workhouse for a waiving of the rule that casual welfare claimants, which they defined the marchers as, had to spend part of the next day in the institution after staying the night. [116] This restriction prompted the organisers to seek accommodation elsewhere and this was arranged at the Corporation Welfare Centre and the Co-op provided food without any charge. The marchers took to the streets in a spirited demonstration, when they heard a rumour that a reduction in benefit was being planned by the authorities, a rumour which the PAC would neither confirm nor deny. [117] After two days of protesting in the town, the major concession was won from the authorities of free school meals for the children of the unemployed.
i) The United Front
These struggle of the unemployed were very much led and initiated by the Communist Party, with some left leaning Labour Party activists participating, especially ILPers. In 1930, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) had introduced Standing Orders requiring Labour MPs to support Cabinet decisions over party conference decisions. This proved especially problematic for the ILP. Particularly since this party within a party found itself increasingly out of tune with the right wing parliamentary leadership of the Labour Party, even after the MacDonaldite split. Its candidates had fought the October 1931 election separately from the official party and its elected MPs subsequently sat apart from the Labour Party in Parliament. Thus, the issue of PLP discipline was something which the ILP had to square up to. After some prevarication, the ILP formally seceded from the Labour Party in 1932. This historic, if controversial and difficult decision was taken amidst general enthusiasm at a national delegate conference in Bradford. Derby’s ILP, which welcomed the decision was by no means an insignificant force.
DLP annual reports from before Bradford and the consequent disaffiliation, show several hundred members of the ILP. In 1931, there were 225 ILP members in Derby and by 1932-3 this had risen to 270. In addition to this there was also a Derby ILP Guild of Youth, with 30 members. The overwhelming bulk of these members accepted the decision of the Bradford conference, but there were 10 dissenters who argued that at all costs affiliation to the DLP should be maintained. When the local ILP insisted on sticking to the national policy the dissenters resigned; these included Matt Lowe, Frank Porter, W Wilkinson and Councillor Armstrong. But three Labour councillors who were also ILPers remained loyal to the Bradford decisions and resigned from the Labour Party. These were Thomas Markland, John Gill and G R England. Goodwin England, who worked at the DCS drapery store and was a NUDAW activist, very quickly lost his seat, Labour refusing to allow him to stand unopposed. Gill lasted a little longer, whilst Tom Markland survived as one of the last ILP councillors in the country until as late as 1952 and was still politically active in 1960, when he was 90 years of age! A railway guard, Markland had been Assistant Secretary of Derby Trades Council from 1923-7. In the Belper parliamentary division, the ILP was less certain about the new policy, so the Alfreton ILP branch was the only one in the constituency to disaffiliate from the local Labour Party. [118]
The leftward move in the ILP continued. The party held its April 1933 conference in Derby, when 200 delegates attended. A resolution intending to commit the ILP to an open revolutionary position, by advocating the setting up of workers councils, or soviets, was defeated by only 90 votes to 86. But a decision was taken to disaffiliate from the Socialist International, the Second International, and to apply for affiliation to the Comintern, the Third International, albeit by another narrow majority. This was not as surprising as it seems, for the ILP had long taken a midway position on the historic split in international socialism, earning the organisation the epithet of being supporters of a ‘Two and a Half’ International. The rise of Hitler concentrated minds, whatever the faults at the heart of the mutual recriminations between socialists and communists, this calamity seemed to suggest that the over-riding need was for left unity. The Comintern called for a United Front of working class organisations to halt the spread of fascism. Influenced by this, in private session, the ILP’s Derby conference decided to engage in concerted action with the Communists, despite the history of bad blood between the two organisations. [119] The 1934 ILP conference did somewhat modify its attitude to co-operation with the Communist Party but, apart from some grass roots unity, relations proved to be difficult. It was the initiative of Stafford Cripps and others which generated the Socialist League (SL) moves towards formally creating a United Front. The SL brought together socialists who had not followed the ILP into disaffiliation with intellectuals grouped around G D H Cole. Initially a think tank, it began to operate almost as a party within a party until it dissolved in January 1937, when faced with proscription. But not before it had acted as a focus for left unity.
Concern at events in Germany affected the official labour movement, the May Day rally in 1933 was entirely dominated by opposition to fascism. [120] Following the creation of the SL there was now once again a forum for supporters of broad left unity within the Labour Party. The SL had 16 members affiliated to the DLP in 1934 and 33 in 1935, this was a small but very influential body of activists. When 100 delegates of the SL attended a national conference in Derby in June of 1933, Stafford Cripps put their position on the ILP’s new line very clearly. Whilst criticising the dictatorial leadership of Transport House, the headquarters of the LP, the TUC and the TGWU, Cripps argued that “the proper body to advance the Labour Party’s policy was the annual conference”. Wary of expulsion, the SL conference defeated a proposal that a United Front of the SL, the ILP and the Communist Party be set up. [121]
But the SL did not have as good a base as the ILP in Derbyshire, being more a focus for intellectual criticism and organisational manoeuvring with the parliamentarianism of the Labour Party. The ILP in Derby had been an independent political party in its own right only a little over two decades previously. Thus, it proved not too difficult for the ILP to regroup into its old role. The party had such a reasonable base in Derby that it decided to contest the Derby seat at the next parliamentary election. In 1933 Sam Leckie, a local man originally from Scotland, was selected by the ILP as its candidate. Leckie was a teacher, indeed a former NUT executive member. It was at that stage unclear what the official Labour attitude would be. Would the ILP’s candidate be allowed to fight for the working class vote unchallenged? In the event, however, Leckie never did stand. As for the Communist Party, it was less uncertain of itself in this respect, having been excluded from the Labour Party rather than voluntarily leaving. The party did not therefore hesitate to declare its position by deciding to contest the Clay Cross by election in 1933 arising from the death on July 7th of the sitting MP, Charles Duncan. This was a golden opportunity for the much reduced Parliamentary Labour Party to give its leader, Arthur Henderson, a chance to speedily get back into the Commons. He easily won the selection conference on 29th July 1933, with 50 votes to his nearest rivals, S Sales (DMA) with 16 votes and B Smith (TGWU) with 14 votes, P G Barstow of the NUR only received 7 votes. Henderson was thus Labour’s candidate in a very safe Labour seat.
Phillip Hicken was mooted as a possible Communist candidate once again, but it was decided that the dynamic General Secretary, Harry Pollitt, should stand. There was a surprisingly wide response to Pollitt’s appeal for campaign funds, £340 was collected to finance the election address (a four page special broadsheet) and a team of helpers. Interestingly, the campaign began with not a single Communist Party member in the constituency. Pollitt held a series of lively and popular open air meetings, which themselves raised as much as £150 for the election costs. [122]
There was dreadful deprivation in the constituency. Many miners were working only two days a week, taking home eight or nine shillings in wages. Miners’ houses were such that one press correspondent handling the campaign and, being far from his own watering hole in Fleet Street, claimed that he quite seriously found himself unsure as to whether the accommodation was to be classified as houses or stables. Pollitt’s meetings attracted much attention and interest. He was able to make much of the fact that Henderson’s ministerial past responsibilities in MacDonald’s Labour Government drew him £5,000 a year to add to his salary of £1,000 a year as Labour Party General Secretary, all a far cry from eight or nine shillings a week. Critics of Pollitt tried to diminish his growing popularity by suggesting that he advocated violence as a means of political change. The Communist Party leader rebutted this with the comment that he did not want the workers to get rifles, he wanted them to get trade union cards. His own background as a nationally known former London District Secretary of the Boilermakers Union and delegate to the Labour Party conference during the 1920s, when the bans against Communists were being ushered in, stood him in good stead. Moreover, Pollitt proved to be a natural candidate for the area and could call upon the resources of some formidable supporters. Rose Smith, a former propagandist in the district, was one prominent campaigner with local knowledge. While Arthur Homer, the miners’ leader, and Saklatvala, the former Communist MP, were both well known figures who came to provide support.
Of great help to Pollitt was the fact that the local ILP was openly hostile to Henderson, an animosity that dated back to the previous war. The official Labour candidate had also somewhat lost sight of his working class roots and, at 70 years of age, had been a Labour MP since 1903 in various constituencies around the country, opening him to accusations of careerism and shifting loyalty. Pollitt’s relative youth, energy and sheer dash contrasted sharply with the rather sedate, almost moribund, conformism of Henderson. After all, the constituency had been lumbered with an elderly, ineffective MP in the form of Duncan for long enough. Did it really need another? Since the constituency had a reputation of being rock solid Labour territory, it is little wonder that many found it possible, even desirable, to experiment with their vote. There was no chance that the single non-socialist candidate could squeeze through, if Labour was not loyally backed. In the little time available to him, Pollitt did extraordinarily well. The result was in fact startling and largely brought about by the unsuitability of Henderson in the constituency. The Communist vote of 10.8%, in a constituency in which the Communist Party had not one member at the outset, was very much a protest against these many irritants by young, militant miners.
Henderson did not distinguish himself at the election count in his conduct, which seems consistent with his generally off-putting behaviour during the campaign. Even Labour campaigners had been appalled at Henderson’s crassness. To their disgust, Henderson thanked the Returning Officer in his victory speech in fulsome and praising terms. The man was very well known locally to be a thoroughly reactionary Tory. Pollitt was nearby, with his little daughter Jean held in his arms. He later recalled in his autobiography that, as Henderson reached the heights of eloquence in his description of the merits of a man who was a major political opponent of most of those in the hall, the little girl “stated in her clear, penetrating voice, ‘Daddy, I want the lavatory.” This brief remark expressed the feelings of most of the Labour supporters and all of the Communists; they too wanted relief from the drivel they were listening to. It was thus greeted with a spontaneous roar of laughter, which promptly brought Henderson’s speech to an untimely end. [123] The result was then declared, Henderson had a majority over the National Government candidate of 15,628:
A Henderson                 Labour                                        21,931            69.3%
J Moore                          National Conservative 6,293             19.9%
H Pollitt                             Communist                               3,434             10.8%
With the exception of the unusual circumstances of 1931, comparison with previous results is interesting. In the 1929 election Labour polled 80.2% and the Conservatives 19.8%. In this by election, the Tory vote was almost exactly the same, while the combined Communist and Labour vote came within one tenth of one percentage point of Duncan’s 1929 vote. One in eight Labour voters had switched to the Communists; it was not an earth shattering development, but not a bad one for the Communist Party. Pollitt had attracted considerable kudos for himself and his party and the Communist Party did not fail to follow this up. Phillip Hicken polled some 10% of the vote in the County Council elections of 1934. (R C Wildgoose (Lab) 1,134 votes; P Hicken (Communist Party) 112.) [124] Later that year, Pollitt returned to the area, speaking at an ILP meeting in Alfreton in November. Jake Lodge presided over the event, which was designed to launch the United Front in the locality. [125]
The Derby United Front was sufficiently well supported as to be able to win the local Trades Council to organise a demonstration against fascism on Wednesday 24th January 1934. Among the speakers were the Reverend F S Wood of York and G Wellcock. [126] It seems natural, in retrospect, that people would be anxious to protest against the bestiality of fascism. But to many on the right and in polite intellectual circles, Hitler seemed a crude man devoted to basically valid ideals. In late 1933, Derby’s Historical Society received a lecture which concluded that “the only salvation of Germany rested on Hitler”. [127] Again, a few months later, the society heard from T York, headmaster of the private DerbySchool, in the same vein. York called the “Nazi revolution a necessary alternative to the Communist one”. [128]
Thus opposition to fascism was largely restricted to the left, indeed the ideas of Mussolini and Hitler seemed attractive to the wealthy, powerful and the socially well connected. Anti-Semitism, the special characteristic of Hitler’s ideology, was well represented in Britain. But, in modern times, this had been mostly restricted to areas of Jewish settlement and is not openly evident in Derbyshire before this period. The acceptance of Hitler’s rule over Germany gave latent anti-Semitism a new impetus. A letter to the Derbyshire Advertiser was headed “Jew stallholder”, a dubious sub-editing decision in itself. The letter itself complained of the supposed monopoly of Jewish stallholders in Derby’s new market. [129]
The United Front had its own May Day rally in Derby in 1934, on being excluded from the platform at the official labour movement event. The list of speakers was impressive, even it was exclusively composed of ILP and Communist Party members: [130]
Sam Leckie              ILP prospective parliamentary candidate
Cllr T Markland        NUR and ILP
R Kitching                AEU (he was a fitter at Rolls Royce) personal capacity only
W Slater                    ILP Guild of Youth
S Hornsby                Communist Party
J Ryan                       NUWM
ClIr G R England     NUDAW and ILP
The official platform consisted of H A Hind and Alderman Jack Jones, MP for Silverton. Whereas the theme of the United Front rally was concerned above all for the need for working class unity in the fight against fascism, the official rally listened to speeches which were positively obsessive with hostility to the treachery of National Labour.
Britain’s fascists had clearly established themselves as a carbon copy of other, foreign extreme right wing movements, but a division of opinion emerged in the labour movement about how to deal with them. Much of the hierarchy were dismissive of fascist as crackpots, who received more attention than they otherwise would have received by protests against them. The left rejected this view, pointing to the already known degree of repression in Germany and how Hitler had risen from obscurity to Chancellor in only two years. Oswald Mosley, now far from his former leftist stance, saw himself as Britain’s Hitler or Mussolini and drew strong parallels with the situation in Germany and Britain. Massive rallies were organised to hear Mosley speak, along the lines of the Nuremberg events. When he came to Derby’s Drill Hall, some one thousand people crammed in to listen. The Blackshirts, Mosley’s uniformed party members, lined the gangways down the centre of the hall. This guard saluted Mosley, in the fascist manner, as he came onto the platform. Not all the audience were fascists or the curious who were thinking of supporting him, and the Blackshirts had quite a job on their hands keeping hostile elements in control. There were scuffles and exchanged insults throughout the rally. Question time was especially characterised by repeated interruptions Of Mosley. The Derbyshire Advertiser reported that “unruly elements were present and Sir Oswald did not have an altogether uninterrupted hearing”. [131]
But many opponents had failed to gain entrance to the meeting, due to the efforts of the Blackshirts. The United Front committee staged a protest outside the hall which was wrongly described by the press as a Communist demonstration. “Outside the Drill Hall local Communists also staged a mass demonstration against Fascism, members bearing signs attacking Sir Oswald, Hitler and Mussolini … None of these were admitted.” Arising from this event, a local Communist named Charles Thornhill, aged 24 and an unemployed engineering worker, was charged with obstruction of the free passage of the highways. During the course of the legal action against him, the demonstration was continually referred to as a “Communist demonstration”. Countering this, Thornhill repeatedly denied that the Derby Communist Party had organised the event. It was the Derby United Front Committee, he repeatedly corrected the bench. Giving evidence, Thornhill charged the police with ignoring Blackshirt violence against anti-fascists, especially when they had snatched newspapers off demonstrators on at least two occasions. Testifying for Thornhill, Arthur Eaton, the Midlands divisional organiser of the ILP, agreed that the Blackshirts had torn up copies of the ILP’s paper, the New Leader, which were being sold by a young girl. Despite this evidence, the magistrates fined Thornhill 20/- for obstructing the highway. [132]
Such partiality against anti-fascism was to be found at the highest levels of British society. Stanley Baldwin, leader of the National Conservatives, addressed a mass rally in Derbyshire that summer. His view was that “the policy of Fascism is … an ultramontane Conservativism”. The word ultramontane literally means ‘beyond the mountains’ and is a classical reference to things beyond the Alps, which may be viewed as coarse or poorly formed. He was therefore saying that fascism was a qualified Italian form of Toryism. However, Baldwin appealed to younger Conservatives not to be misled into turning to fascism by their “natural impatience”. Tories would do the same job, but perhaps a little more slowly. [133] There were other manifestations of tacit support amongst the establishment for the aims, if not all the methods, of fascism, some more forthright than Baldwin’s. Major L Eardley-Simpson of Quarndon grange wrote to the Derbyshire Advertiser, commending the British Movement, a fascistic front organisation. The Major’s letter used all the key code words of right wing extremism, urging that the notions of “People as a Nation against the interests of any one class” and of “empire … Security … and National planning” be taken up, especially in the fight against unemployment. More respectable even than the Major was the Venerable Archdeacon T Dilworth-Harrison of Chesterfield, who joined in the ever growing view that fascism was preferable to left wing revolutionism. In an address to his congregation, he expressed the view that the Jews “had a great hold on money” and that “Communism was the main enemy”. He had no doubt that Hitler’s ideal of “nations being higher than the ideal of classes” was a worthy one and that Hitler would ensure that there would be “no more war” in Western Europe if Hitler’s demand for ‘living space’ for the Germans in Central Europe were accommodated. [134]
ii) The Unemployment Act
The National Government proposed a new Unemployment Bill in 1934, which suggested a drastic reorganisation of the system of paying benefits by setting up the new Unemployed Assistance Board. The Means Test was to be extended and the NGSW clause tightened up. Actual benefits were to be drastically cut. Part Two of the Bill especially offended and a vigorous campaign developed against the Bill. The 1934 NUWM march was organised against this background and the rising tide of support for the United Front made the struggle all the more easy to fight. The march was marked by violent police harassment, while the Labour Party and the TUC officially disowned the march. A special feature of the event was the women’s’ column, drawn from various areas, which assembled at Derby late on the night of Saturday February 10th 1934, after marching from Scotland. (See pic left: John Gorman’s pictorial collection of labour movement memorabilia, “To Build Jerusalem” also has a photograph of this column with the Derby NUWM banner.) Three unemployed women from Derby joined up that night. The official contingent was chosen at a special conference called at the ILP’s Keir Hardie Hall. The Scots lLPer, John McGovern MP visited the town that day to support the march. All arrangements in Derby were in the hands of the United Front Committee, which was chaired by Councillor John Gill and the vice-chairman was Harry Cheshire. [135]
Wider support than the United Front was forthcoming in Derby, despite the official attitude of Labour. The Co-op Guilds and many trade union branches gave encouragement to the march. Early on the Monday morning the march left Derby, setting off from the Cornmarket and the Market Place. The next stop was Burton­-on-Trent, and the march stayed the night at Swadlincote. The final aim was to join up with other strands in London on February 24th. Few problems were encountered by the march in Derbyshire. But, as the various columns strewn across the country began to near London, the establishment began to condemn the march in vehement terms. The Home Secretary implied that special powers might be exercised, to deal with the march. While the police caused problems for the marchers all along the way. Individual marchers were arrested for “wife desertion”, even when their families supported them to the hilt. The authorities felt almost any action taken against marchers was justified, since they were in receipt of public relief. Out of the fight to preserve the liberty of the marchers to protest, emerged the Council of Civil Liberties (later the NCCL, today’s ‘Liberty’). Support came from H G Wells and other dignitaries. Ramsay MacDonald refused to meet the marchers, but considerable public support swelled for them. Even so, the TUC maintained its refusal to recognise the NUWM.
The 9th Annual Conference of the NUWM was held in the Keir Hardie Hall in Derby from 8th to 10th December 1934. A resolution called upon the TUC General Council to act in concert with the NUWM in the fight against unemployment. Citrine, the TUC General Secretary, curtly wrote that he could not in future reply to “communications from your organisation”, [136] In a move of petty and rather stupid vindictiveness that same month, the TUC sent out Circular No 17 asking unions to revise their rules, so that Communists and members of proscribed organisations deemed to be Communist fronts would be barred. Circular No 16 was sent to Trades Councils and asked for such delegates to be summarily dismissed. Whilst these circulars ostensibly proscribed both Communists and fascists, in practice very few of the latter were involved in the labour movement and then very rarely in a position of influence. In effect, it was a ban on Communists alone. Only in 1943 were the circulars withdrawn, although they had little effect in many unions. In others however they were adopted, creating a serious set back for the whole movement by amplifying division and marginalising many effective activists.
The NUWM’s opposition to the Unemployment Bill was shared by most of the labour movement. Representatives of Derby’s three thousand TGWU members had engaged in their own protest against the restrictive changes in administration and the cuts themselves. These regulations became operative in the second week of 1935 and around a million claimants found their allowances cut at a stroke. Demonstrations and even strikes in protest developed in Britain in almost every town, in some areas quite ferociously. On Sunday 3rd February, almost a third of a million people demonstrated in probably every town in the country. Alarmed by the extent of the opposition, in a rather frightened manner, two days later the Government issued a standstill order suspending the controversial aspects of the Act. Thus, the old levels of benefit under the PACs would continue. The victory caused a temporary lull in the storm and the NUWM did not have another national march until 1936, the last march. This was made up of six contingents. One, of some 185 marchers from East Scotland, travelled through Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Another, of 115 marchers, came jointly from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Probably the most famous march of all was the 1936 Jarrow march. Supported, but not formally organised by the NUWM, the march was conceived by the Town Council of Jarrow and the local MP, Ellen Wilkinson, to publicise the plight of their town in emulation of the NUWM marches.
This march was strictly non-political and attracted support from various elements from without the labour movement and from the churches. Because of the TUC’s circulars advising Trades Councils not to assist hunger marches, the Chesterfield Trades Council ended up ignoring the Jarrow marchers, whilst the local Conservatives fed them!! [137] Ellen Wilkinson recalled the experience, “in places like Chesterfield, where the Trades and Labour Council obeyed the circular the Conservative Party weighed in with meals and a place to sleep. Mostly however the comradeship of the trade unions and the Labour Movement was circular proof.” In retrospect, in the 1980s, some elderly local residents of Chesterfield could only recall support for the men. Les Wilford, then in his early twenties, was a drummer in the welcoming band. “We played Blaydon Races and that really cheered them up. They were very weary, their feet were bleeding, shoes were worn out … Their spirits were fantastic. Chesterfield was right behind them.” Cyril Barnett thought of the marchers that “(t)here was no look of despair or desperation in their faces, it was a look of determination”. They sang “We’re on the road to Anywhere”, as they marched through the town. Ivy Gee recalled her neighbour’s grandmother washing the bleeding feet of a virtually bare footed marcher. “Later she gave him her husband’s best shoes as well.” [138]
The strangest aspect to the march was that it was the least organised by the Communists, the least effective in changing government policy and yet the most respectable and remembered event. In all, the NUWM organised four big marches in 1930, 1932 and 1936. Each of them resulted in concessions from the governments of the day towards the unemployed in major areas of policy. But the official labour movement at best stood idly by and at worst sabotaged these struggles. It was as if the unemployed were of marginal concern to the movement, at least as far as the leadership were concerned, perhaps partly because unions saw themselves as acting principally for the employed. Only late in 1936 did the Labour Party officially set up a Commission of Inquiry into the problems of the depressed areas. The NUWM continued until 1939, engaging in sporadic acts of protest, but it never recovered the massive support it had attained earlier in the decade. For the worst aspects of unemployment gradually receded. The economic situation gradually improved and by the time of the outbreak of war the NUWM no longer really had a function.
7 The Thirties – a political decade
This was an intensely political decade, nationally the membership of the Labour Party doubled and the Communist Party trebled in size during these short years. This political ferment created a thirst for information and knowledge. Derbyshire produced many labour movement newspapers, mostly being produced centrally by the Ripley Printing Society, a division of the Co-op. There was a standard format, with each being eight pages in size. But political interest did not always flow easily into activism. Whilst the DLP emerged organisationally stronger and more confident after 1936, membership growth was not as spectacular as elsewhere. There were conflicting emotions about the defection of MacDonald and his supporters. David Graham-Pole said that they were “never good Labour men, and we are glad to get rid of them. I am glad we have got the real Tories out of the Party.” [139] Others, like Raynes and Hind, were bitter and disappointed.
Labour’s electoral base was so low that things could only improve. There were major losses for the Tories and other National candidates in the November 1933 local elections. The Tories lost 112 seats and Labour gained 181. In Derby, however, Labour was split and demoralised, although the party did poll 2,730 more votes than the combined Tory and Liberal total. Due to the oddities of the electoral system, the Liberal Party held the balance on the council, in terms of actual seats. [140] By the following year, Labour made heavy gains and regained control of the council and there were now challenges to the three ILP councillors. In the strongly working class wards of Normanton and Osmaston, both Labour and the ILP stood. In the former, there was a three cornered contest, with a Liberal intervening. Labour took the seat with over a thousand votes and the Liberal came second with only a few hundred votes less. F Tabberer, the ILP councillor, lost his seat polling 235 votes or 10% of the poll. In Osmaston ward, there was a straight fight between Labour and the ILP, with G R England of the latter polling over 600 votes, or 35%. In Castle ward, Labour did not stand and allowed the ILP’s councillor, Tom Markland, to stand against the Conservatives in a straight fight. There seems to have been some political selectivity in this decision. Les Clay described Markland as “a great orator and such a nice old boy”. [141] Perhaps these qualities contributed to Markland’s popularity and aided his retention of his seat for three decades, unchallenged by Labour.
On the parliamentary front, W R Raynes withdrew as Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Derby only a month after being re-adopted, declaring his intent to concentrate on local and municipal work, but there was some suspicion that he bowed out to prevent the accusation that his long personal association with Thomas compromised his candidacy. Within a very short span, H A Hind, who had now been a full time officer for the TGWU for three years, was selected in Raynes’ place. [142] But there was still the second Derby seat to consider and Leonard Barnes, an Oxford graduate, former Captain and Colonial Office civil servant, was selected. [143] The 1935 election was fought primarily on the issues of foreign policy and collective security. The Tories made much of Labour’s distaste for war, implying a willingness to abandon the defence of the nation. Even so, Labour’s recovery was considerable and the renegade National Labour group of MP5 dropped to the pitifully small number of eight. One of them was J H Thomas, still one of Derby’s two MP5. His re-election must have been largely due to the fact that most local Tories had come to accept him as their MP. Thomas’ personal following, culled from many years as a local MP, certainly aided him and he had his own support committee, which ran in tandem with the local Conservative Association; the victory party being held at their Beaconsfield Club. Hind and Barnes were beaten fairly decisively, although they pulled back some 5% of the poll from the National candidates.
In Ilkeston, Oliver was able to do fairly well in a straight fight with a Tory. His successful opponent was Sir C Markham Bart., the colliery owner. Frank Lee took North East Derbyshire for the fifth time for Labour, recapturing it from the Tories. Benson regained Chesterfield fairly convincingly. Henderson, the MP for Clay Cross, had died, so the seat was vacant at the dissolution of parliament, but A Holland took it for Labour by a three to one vote against a Tory. South Derbyshire was narrowly won back from the Tories by Labour with a young barrister, Frank Lowe, as candidate. For the first time in the constituency, the £363 costs of the campaign came only from party funds but the Tories still spent four times more than Labour. Wragg took Belper again for the Tories, although his majority as a share of the vote over Jack Lees for Labour declined from 20.4% to 2.2%. The stronghold of West Derbyshire was yet again bequeathed to the Marquis of Hartington unopposed, while the Tories also took High Peak in a two to one vote against Labour. The Tories had five of the county’s seats to Labour’s four, while Thomas remained as a National Labour oddity. The Government returned to office, but with a much reduced majority, and Labour had reasserted itself as a political force. There was now very little pretence that the Government was a National one.
Thomas resigned from the Cabinet on May 22nd 1936, after a row about the leaking of Budget secrets to his stock-broker son, and this was an ideal opportunity for Labour to re-establish itself in the Derby seat. In the ensuing by election, the Labour candidate was Phillip Noel-Baker and he was lucky enough to be only opposed by a National Labour candidate, A G Church. Noel-Baker was an intelligent, articulate candidate aged 47. Later in life he was to become a Minister and to live to a great age, achieving something of an international reputation on the issue of peace. The 1936 by election was fought on the issue of re-armament. Labour’s slogan “Scholarships NOT battleships” did much to win opinion for Noel-Baker. Moreover, Lloyd George addressed a monster rally in the Drill Hall in Newlands Street, with overflow meetings in the Market Place and in an adjacent car park where the Council House now stands. Naturally, this intervention won many Liberal voters over to Noel-Baker and he was able to win the seat with a reasonable majority over Church of 5% of the poll. [144]
Another major change for the Derby Labour Party had also come in 1936, when H J T (Harry) Russell became its full time secretary and agent, after Raynes retired from the post. The initial 59 applications were whittled down to seven and Russell was far from being the likely or overwhelming choice. Given his later pre-eminence in the DLP, this would come as a surprise to local veterans, had they but known it. On the first vote at the DLP EC, he was joint leader of the ballot, with 11 votes: [145]
             Russell      11
             Williams     11
             Hunt             8
             Arnold          6
             Salmon        6
             Frazer          4
             Shreeve       2
Clearly, there were a number of possible candidates for the job, once the lower end of the field was eliminated. In a second vote of the highest three, Russell still failed to secure victory, coming second to Williams:
Williams        11
Russell          9
Hunt               5
It was then decided to select the first two as a final short list and for the EC to interview them for a final decision. That some very strong arguments on the EC were put for Russell seems likely, given the decision to go for a thoroughly exhaustive election procedure. This was as well for Russell, for after the interview he was awarded the job he was to hold for very many years.
There was also a change of location for the party. On October 6th 1929, the DLP had moved from 63 London Road to relatively spacious new premises at 93 Green Lane. It was a bold move, “made possible by the generosity of 4 of our members”. [146] But, in the event, it proved to be too much of a financial burden to keep on, especially after the debacle of 1931. So, in 1936, the DLP moved to new offices at 29 Charnwood Street, a decision which removed “a heavy financial responsibility in the matter of repayment of a loan”. [147]
There were problems in building membership of the DLP, but the party made great efforts to recruit. In September 1937, the NEC of the party launched a “Special Crusade Campaign” as a recruitment drive. A E Hunder, President of the National Union of Shop Assistants, came to Derby as part of the campaign and twenty outdoor meetings were held. The next year, over fifty outdoor propaganda and recruitment meetings were held by the DLP. [148] Despite these attempts, membership in Derby had dropped in 1936 and increased only by a marginal amount in 1937 and 1938, the years of the public recruitment campaigns. From the period March 1938 to March 1939, a sizeable and serious drop of 20% was registered in individual membership. Affiliated membership remained unaffected, other than by a decision by the Co-op to affiliate on a larger membership:
Annual Report                         Individual Membership                 Affiliated Membership
           1935                                                      1,415                                     21,525
           1936                                                      1,345                                     22,327
           1937                                                      1,496                                     23,647
           1938                                                      1,502                                     24,232
           1939                                                      1,250                                     24,504
The Derby Co-operative Society affiliated to the DLP on the basis of 5,000 members up to 1933, even though it actually had more than 55,000 members in all. At 2d per member this represented a considerable sum for the DLP. From 1936, the DCS affiliated on a membership of 10,000. Unions affiliated ranged from the 18 strong Street Masons and Paviors Society to giants like the AEU and the TGWU. [149]
As for the ILP, whilst it had moved away from its brief flirtation with the Communist Party, it was some time before the formal breach with the Labour Party was healed. In 1938, the Derby ILP, after a conference at the Keir Hardie Hall, decided to withdraw two of their independent candidates in the municipal elections, H Cheshire and W Wilkinson, and to concentrate on the contest of J Gill in Normanton Ward. The initiative was designed to “avoid that split in the labour movement which the official Labour Party so often deplore but which they have this year made no effort to avoid”. Elsewhere in the country, unity agreements and electoral pacts ensured that the ILP contested certain areas of strength for them as official Labour candidates, with the official party standing down in their favour. But all efforts to this end in Derby were rejected by the DLP, the “local Labour Party refusing even to discuss the question” with the ILP. The local Communist Party, still anxious to be accepted as a part of the left, declared itself “ready and willing to work to its utmost to achieve the return of Labour on November 1st”, following up on the public controversy between the ILP and the Labour Party. The Derby Communist Party declared itself “opposed to any split in the working class vote”. But Harry Russell, for the DLP, was quick to distance himself from this friendly outlook. “Whatever they do, and whatever literature they put out is their own responsibility”, he announced. Even if the Communists helped Labour by pushing leaflets through doors, it would not be with the “sanction of the Labour Party”. [150]
Despite the turn to the left, which so characterised the experience of many labour movement activists in the 1930s, the official leadership seemed unable to make bold or imaginative moves, so obsessed were they with the notion that Communists, or those close to them, were behind every genuine workers’ movement in struggle. As G D H Cole put it, “every sign of trade union militancy can now be attributed to the machinations of a handful of Communists, who have somehow found the art of being in a hundred places at once”. In the same humorous vein, he supposed that if the Tolpuddle Martyrs “got into trouble with the police today, they would probably be told that they were a pack of Communist agitators who deserved all they got”. [151] The involvement of the Communist Party in the unemployed struggles and their militant attitude to trade unionism was largely the reason for the paranoid hostility. But their support for the Soviet Union was another concern. Both aspects were deemed to be vote losers for Labour. Despite this, inside the labour movement there was a great interest in what was happening in the USSR, especially as the capitalist world was racked with economic crisis and Soviet Russia seemed able to attain super-human levels of development.
Such interest was displayed when Mrs Christie, a Co-operative party organiser, returned from the USSR and spoke to an evening lecture organised by the DCS Political Council. This was entitled “From Rochdale to Russia” and Mrs Christie drew comparison in her talk with the aims of the cooperative movement and the Bolsheviks. [152] But such tolerance was not always allowed. In 1931, when H Cheshire and a delegate called Lumley moved that the Derby DC of the TGWU give a donation to the Derby branch of the Friends of the Soviet Union, their proposition was defeated with strong opposition from the leadership. Although, in May 1933, the DC did take the step of sending a letter to the Prime Minister and local MPs protesting against the embargo of Russian trade. But this was perhaps a more practical matter, potentially assisting employment in Britain and the protest was against the National Government. [153]
The Co-op continued to show interest in political education about the positive achievements of the Soviet Union and the former SLP and Communist Party leader, Bill Paul, still based in Derby and who had made several visits to that country, engaged in much propaganda activity in favour of friendship with it. He spoke to the Crewton Men’s Guild of the DCS on “Russia Today” in 1935, for example. Extolling the virtues of economic planning and the resultant growth in the USSR, Paul pointed out that “their final aim is to build a classless society”. [154] The rise of fascism and the dangers of war concerned many and Derby Co-operators and others were heavily involved in the 1935 Peace Ballot, in which eleven million people declared that Britain should remain a member of the League of Nations and that an all round reduction in armaments should be attained by international agreement. Without doubt, the issue which attracted most attention was the overthrowing of a legally elected reforming Popular Front Government in Spain. The first shots fired by fascists in 1936 were seen by the left as leading inevitably to world war. But Britain and most other nations maintained a studied impartiality which gave the fascist insurgents, massively aided by Hitler and Mussolini, an edge which eventually led to their victory. The Labour Party officially backed the neutrality line, but the plight of civilians caught up in the civil war touched many hearts. Rowsley NUR sent a guinea for the “Basque Children’s” appeal in May 1936. [155] Over fifty Spanish children were cared for in Derby and many local people donated to a Mayor’s fund. The refugees were however sent back, it being decided that separation from their families was more traumatic than remaining in their war-torn country. The first batch of 21 returned to Bilbao from Derby on January 7th 1938. By January 15th only four remained at Burnaston House, where the children had resided, the rest having gone to Leicester and Hull. The very last of the refugees left Derby for Spain on January 25th 1938.
Many labour movement organisations donated money as an act of their concern and sympathy. The Derby Co-op donated £50 to provide food, medical supplies and clothing on one occasion in 1936 alone. But there had to be efforts to avoid conflict with the- official position of the movement. “Precautions would be taken”, the DCS journal, Co-op Record, commented, “so that there would be no breach of national policy which might cause trouble”. In all, the DCS gave a very generous £500 to Spain. [156] The shop workers union, NUDAW, circularised collection sheets to members in 1937, raising over four guineas in the Derby branch. This branch was prominent in the anti-fascist struggle, its delegates to the local Trades Council being instructed to win a vote in favour of banning a local fascist meeting in July 1937. Another branch appeal in 1938 raised £12 1 2s 6d for relief for Spain.
The Derbyshire miners were rather more vigorous, frequently expressing support for the notion of the Popular Front and making a direct grant to the International Brigade, the volunteer army which fought in Spain. One young miner who gave his life was Eric Whalley, the NUWM National Council member for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and a Communist Party member from Mansfield, who was killed in action in 1937 at the battle of the Ebro River. Another was Tom Gaunt, of Broughton Lane, Clowne. He had worked at Staveley before moving to London in 1936 at the age of 29. Gaunt, who was the only Derbyshire participant in the International Brigade, was reported missing in action in March 1938 at the village of Belchite on the Aragon front. [157]
8 The unions gain renewed confidence
Trade union density, actual members as a percentage of potential members, had been around 45% shortly after the First World War. But the two depressions of 1921-3 and 1930-3 had reduced this figure to first 30% and then 22%. [158] Unions were starkly affected by mass unemployment, but they were about organising the employed. Many union Ieaderships viewed the unemployed as a financial liability and potentially undesirable politically. To activists the issue was maybe more clear cut. The Derby TOWU DC, with many members having had experience of these matters in the Workers Union, submitted a resolution to their executive criticising the leadership and proposing a way to be relevant to the workless and be financially prudent: “This Derby DC believing that the GEC do not fully realise the menace to Trades Unionism in the unemployment problem demand that the unemployed member be enabled to pay 25% of the contribution while totally unemployed and be entitled to that proportion of cash benefits”. [159]
Consumer prices actually fell at this time and the value of real wages rose significantly, so that a new buying power arose amongst those who were in steady employment. But for many life was still harsh, two thirds were getting less than £2 10s 0d a week and about a third of the population was below the poverty line. Half of those lived in abject poverty, getting not much more than a pound a week. Half of all children under one year of age were from families living below the poverty line. About a third of those were families hit by unemployment, another third simply received low wages. Nonetheless, with the easing off of the recession, a generally increased sense of confidence re-asserted itself. Derby Trades Council organised a “Propaganda Week” in May 1933. Factory gate meetings were addressed by many trade union organisers in an event reminiscent of the ‘back to the unions’ campaigns of a decade earlier. Even the civil service unions, quiet since the legal moves against them in 1927, launched a major propaganda campaign amongst the public and their potential membership in the Derby area in late 1933.
Yet, overall, there was a distinctly different feel to this resurgent confidence, a fading of political and class consciousness is evident. Unions were now playing a game of survival, each protecting its power base and waiting patiently for the turn of electoral fortunes to bring back a Labour Government. But Derby Trades Council tried to play a role suited to a different era, in seeking to be the local centre of the trade unions. Relations with individual, powerful unions were not always good. Les Clay, who described himself as then being a “bit leftish”, at this time queried on the AEU DC why the union was not affiliated to the DTC. Clay recalls that Sturgess, the District Secretary, was a “bit niggled. He said that the Trades Council only catered for white collar workers.” [160] Clay does not recall a specific political objection to the DTC, but both the AEU and the TGWU, under the influence of strong leaders, did seem to rather steer clear of the DTC, in the process somewhat undermining its credibility.
1934 saw the anniversary of the end of the Derby Turnout and the DTC joined with other organisations to commemorate the event. A Conley, that year’s TUC President, unveiled a bronze plaque to mark the occasion; this can be seen, located by the side of the original Silk Mill gates. A souvenir booklet was produced jointly by the DTC and Sturgess’s power base, the Engineering Joint Trades Committee. It was Sturgess who provided a short account of the Turnout. This was certainly a good moment to take stock of where the trade union movement was at. The unions had been seeking an eight hour day, forty hour week for a long time, to no avail. The Derby Tory and industrialist, J A Aiton, JP, argued at a meeting of the class collaborationist Industrial Alliance that this aim would do not a thing to reduce unemployment. The familiar refrain was made that “the menace of competition from the East was of greater concern to British industry than the 40 hour week problem”. The Japanese were “working 60 hours a week at a third or a fourth of the wages paid in Western civilisation”. [161] National unemployment was still as high as 17% in March 1934, but it was only 7% in Derby, lower than at any time since 1930. [162] Outside of the coalfields, the county was increasingly experiencing economic stability. Allied to a cautious moderation in politics, this reinforced the compromising character which now began to be seen as a characteristic of Derby’s brand of trades unionism. A defensive rather than a defiant, phase had been reached.
i) The Transport and General Workers Union
For the TGWU, the initial loss of membership brought about by recession was disturbing enough for the full time organisers to start visiting lapsed members at their homes to find out the reasons for leaving the union. Invariably, the reason given was simply financial difficulties and the need to cut out all unnecessary expenditure. As the newly formed TGWU district developed, a new style of organisation grew. The DC ceased to meet monthly, as had the old WU DC, and met only quarterly “to reduce expenditure”, since delegates were paid an attendance allowance. [163] The DC increasingly was encouraged less to review the work of the organisation and more to have a jolly time. Dinners and teas took precedence over demonstrations and strikes.
The union had some recruitment successes in Derby. Clutson and Kemp, tape manufacturers, and Jones and Strand and the hosiers, Cox and Moore, were all organised by the TGWU. A works council of all union organised departments at Celanese was set up, much assisting recruitment in the process. Less positively, the Co-op resisted another approach from the unions that it insist on union labour only contracts, when seeking services from suppliers. The society took the view that “if a firm is paying fair wages that is sufficient’. Some thirty women came out on a brief strike at Danby’s, “as they refused to work for a reduced rate”. This mix of activities enabled the TGWU to record only a “slight decrease for 1931 of members”. [164] By 1933, the Long Eaton Laceworkers were engaged in a major dispute with their employers. So long had the dispute been on, that the Midlands Area 5 Committee of the TGWU provided a major grant to the “Derby Benevolent Fund” to relieve the distress. [165] Success came however at the Derby Silica Firebrick company in Youlgreave. The TGWU’s paper, the Record, revealed that an agreement which gave “great satisfaction to our members employed by this company” had been attained. [166]
The union locally only now began to seriously think of itself as the TGWU, still largely being based on the old WU. The first delegate from what the WU veterans called the “Transport Section” attended the DC in February 1933. The union began to see the possibilities of expansion in the sphere of passenger transport. Stokes made “special visits to Matlock to try to organise the drivers and conductors of the Bus Service there”. [167] But little came of this at that point in time. The union was of course well organised in the municipal bus and tram service in Derby. In 1932, the union was able to prove its worth to its members by being able to “stave off a reduction of 1/2d per hour from (their) wages”. [168] The assistance of Labour councillors in this was invaluable.
In 1934, some 350 bus workers at Trent Motor Traction made clear their objection to unilateral changes in working conditions, when there was a major protest at a new shift grouping system. Of particular concern was the paid time allowed for signing on and off the job. When there was a lot of paperwork and a lot of cashing up to do, this could take quite a time. Another worry was the very infrequent breaks from unpopular duty shifts and over frequent lay offs. [169] Faced with a mass revolt of the workforce, the General Manager, J C Campbell-Taylor, agreed to a meeting with the union and, as a result of this, new proposals were put at mass meetings of the bus workers. It appears that the new proposals were not easily accepted and some reversals were experienced. Within two months, the company had issued a public statement, one which perhaps protested too loudly. The company claimed that it had “re-instated the recent wage cuts” and “felt it necessary to make a public statement that it was entirely voluntary … and not as a result of representation or request either by the TGWU or by the men themselves”. [170] That such a statement was made at all raises doubts as to whether this was a calculated sophistry. Clearly, the threat of action had influenced the company in February and the implication behind the statement is that the threat still existed. Whatever the truth, some members of the TGWU were not entirely satisfied with the outcome. In October 1936, the Area 5 Committee of the union received a report on the “attempt of a disgruntled member to form a Rival Union for employees of the Trent Traction do., Derby”. But the breakaway came to nothing in the end. [171]
Rank and file bus workers’ movements caused the TGWU leader, Ernest Bevin, some trouble at this time. But he outmanoeuvred the left, introducing new rule changes to strengthen his hand. A national breakaway from the TGWU, the National Passenger Workers Union, was set up with almost exclusively London support. This lasted from 1938 to 1946, but was emphatically not a Communist Party inspired move. Even though many of its members were rank and file leaders of the TGWU bus workers and were expelled or barred from office, the Communist Party argued strongly against breakaways. In later years these leaders were able to re-assert their position in the leading councils of the union. The NPWU failed to establish itself in the Midlands, but there were examples of deep dissatisfaction in Leicester and Northampton in the 1930s. The events in Trent Motor Traction appear to be redolent of just such rank and file spontaneous unrest, which had its origins in the increasing unionisation of a growing private sector bus industry.
Trent was then a privately owned company and like all other private operators was not affected by the national agreement for the municipal tram operators which had existed since 1919. The various municipal bus operators were covered by a new national agreement which came into force in 1936, after long and difficult negotiations. One of the aspects considered was that of spreadovers, flexible rostering or split shift duties which might involve a short duty early on in the day, followed by a very long duty late in the day. It made for an extremely arduous day’s work. Local bargaining resolved many of the difficulties arising out of the needs of timetabling and rush hours, but the question of an agreed standard day remained elusive for many years.
The old WU base at Celanese proved to be a major source of strength for the TGWU. As a new industry, chemical fibres created new problems for the movement. As early as 1927, after workers made increasing complaints, it was clear that there were serious health hazards associated with acetone fumes. Gastritis and eye troubles were reported to be widespread, according to the TGWU. Demands for improved ventilation were frequent. [172] More specific even were the verdicts of accidental death made by the Derby coroner, Bendle Moore, on the incident whereby five Celanese workers were caught by the effects of ethylene-glycol in the “hush-hush experimental department”. The union was however able to obtain legal representation in cases of common-law compensation claims, but it must have been of small consolation to the widows. [173] That year, in one quarter alone, over seven hundred members were won to the TGWU, so the lesson that union legal assistance was invaluable must have been a powerful one. But the TGWU was not satisfied with its progress at Celanese, “in view of the fact that several thousands of workers have had their wages increased many more members should be made”. [174]
The Long Eaton branch at Celanese was making considerable headway. In the five weeks ending November 17th 1934, three hundred members were made, taking the total strength of the union in that area to over a thousand. A special appeal was being unsuccessfully made to women workers and the activities of the 5/325 branch secretary, Miss E Weaver, was decisive. Warning male trades unionists that, as long as they allowed women to remain unorganised, they were in danger of being undercut by low wages, she drew attention to the fact that “wherever they had organised sections of the women the wages paid in those departments were very much in advance of those where the women were not organised”. Generally, the union was reported as “making new members every day” in the Long Eaton area. Moreover, the organiser for the area, E Wood, enthusiastically reported that the special initiative of a “Women’s’ Guild” was a great success. A branch had been set up with a Miss Stevenson as the secretary in 1935. [175] Some idea of the spread of the TGWU in British Celanese can be gleaned from the 1935 list of shop stewards and contribution collectors in both the Long Eaton and Derby areas. [176]
Numbers of TGWU shop stewards at Celanese in 1935
Long Eaton plant                                       Derby plant
Department                       No. stewards Department No. stewards
Spinners                            5                        Spinners       6*
Preparation                       2                        Preparation 4
Process                              4                        Process         1
Celastoid                           1                        Celastoid       1
Weavers                             2                        Weavers        7
Engineering Lab              1
Crane men                         1                        *two stewards on each shift – A, B and C
Bobbin Stores                  3
Warp Knitters                  10
Film Plant                           1
800 Plant                            1
Internal Transport            1
Oilers and Greasers        1
Weaving Labourers        1
Drying                                 1
There were however considerable problems concerning shop stewards’ recognition, especially when in 1935 the AEU sought to gain recognition for the rights of skilled men to be represented by their own shop stewards at Celanese, citing as precedent the existing privileges which the TGWU had within the company. British Celanese queried this, claiming that the TGWU had no agreement, so why should the AEU have any right to elect recognised shop stewards? The twisted logic which the company applied was that a signed agreement only existed with the Workers Union, which no longer existed! [177] After rather arduous negotiations, a new all-embracing agreement was drafted. The unions were especially concerned with the need to prevent victimisation of their shop stewards and argued long and hard for some degree of security for them. Finally, a formula was agreed that a shop steward “shall not be penalised because of his activities as a shop steward in considering a reduction of staff’. [178] For shop stewards always seemed magically to appear at the top of the list whenever the all too frequent, small scale redundancies occurred! Likewise there appeared to exist a more draconian test of good workmanship for shop stewards compared to their members, whenever disciplinary activities took place. Unfortunately, this agreement did not seem to be very effective, for two months afterwards a shop steward named Bates was sacked the same day that he was elected. The firm argued that the union had “unduly rushed this question and had the union given time and thought to the same, Bates’ name would not have been sent in. (i.e. submitted as a nominee for recognition). He was not a satisfactory workman.” [179]
In effect therefore, the company kept a right of veto over the election of any particular shop steward by virtue of dismissal. The union found itself hampered in tackling this problem, for any slight excuse could easily be used. In October 1935, the firm blatantly sacked newly elected shop stewards for wholly contrived reasons. Two stewards, Banner and Balderstone, were dismissed for alleged absenteeism and inefficiency. Balderstone had worked for Celanese for eleven years, with no previous complaint about his work record and Banner was off work on certified sick leave with dermatitis, which he had contracted at the plant. The union was quick to accuse the firm of victimisation, but a Mr Bowers, for the company, said that while they would “look at the method of selection of men for dismissal … he cannot agree to any (suggestion) of victimisation”. [1801
Despite all this, perhaps because of it, the TGWU continued to negotiate with some success over wages, hours and conditions at Celanese. The products made by Celanese had become very marketable and the bargaining position of the union was much improved. Celanese weavers broke new ground, when they established the principle of individual average earnings for holidays as early as August 1935. Membership took off in many areas never before organised at all well. A mini boom enabled the union to recruit 300 new members at Celanese from October 1936 to March 1937 and shop stewards were appointed to represent these. Sixty new members were made in the Dye House and it was reported that “a large number of workers have had their rate increased”, no doubt as a direct consequence of this. [181]
In 1937, the weavers established an average of £2 17s 10d a week, with a fall back guarantee of £2 5s 0d, after a 5/8d an hour increase, which was in turn quickly followed by a further 1/8d per house increase in June. This increase was matched the next year. A mini recession slightly depleted the expected increase in 1938 to 5/8d uplift.
                 increase in fractional pennies            increase in decimal pennies
1937                          3/4d                                         0.75d
1938                          5/8d                                         0.625d
1939                          3/4d                                         0.75d
This bargaining activity went hand in hand with the growing reputation of the new union in the local community. In 1933 the old Workers Union had 22 branches to the TGWU’s six, by the following year, with the accession of the ‘Altogether Builders Labourers’ two branches and three new general and one additional transport branches, the TGWU had 34 branches compared to a combined total of 30 for the three independent unions. [182]
Moreover, the TGWU was able to use its power bases in the WU general branches and the TGWU transport branches to project itself as the major union in the Derby area for workers who had not served their time as an apprentice. Recruits came in from everywhere, 38 joined at Langley Mill, 50 men at the Butterley Colliery Brick Works enrolled. After a new piecework system was introduced, which gave no money extra for more work, the Waingroves brick yards soon organised. Two others followed suit and, in the end, Butterley’s accepted the union and began to pay agreed rates of pay. 53 recruits were made at Roberts and do., while successful propaganda visits were made to Derbyshire cast stone workers, that is to say those engaged in prefabricated concrete products manufacture.
The base which Hind had begun for the WU in the railway workshops enabled the TGWU to stand its ground as a major engineering union. Tremendous possibilities existed for expansion in this sector. In 1935, the TGWU began “propaganda visits to Messrs Aiton’s, Rolls Royce, Parker Foundry and other engineering works, making 60 members in one such sortie”. [183] Over a hundred members were made at International Combustion in Derby at the end of 1936, a fact that made it easy to secure new favourable rates for slingers and drillers. In some cases as much as 3s a week increase was won. [184] Over the period from June 1936 to June 1937, the TGWU made over 1,500 new members including in excess of 400 women. In the three months to September 1937 some 700 recruits came in. Income was raised substantially. [185]
Income and membership in the TGWU’s Derby District
                                                                              1st quarter 1936             2nd quarter 1937
                 Income                                               £1,079                               £1,328
                 Members                                           2,522                                 3,378
A new sense of confidence appeared as demands for the restoration of previously made wages cuts began to be made. Derby Silica Firebrick restored the 5% cut it had made in stages, while dory’s brought back their 5% cut in one move during 1936. Moreover, positive increases were won at firms other than Celanese. G R Turner’s agreed to a 2/- rise, while public refuse disposal workers got a half penny an hour rise. [186] Demands not only for union recognition, but also for 100% membership agreements were now being made. The TGWU won just such an agreement in 1936 at DSF, when four men who had fallen out of membership were the subject of a boycott. “The men refused to work with them until they had paid up (union contributions) … this had the desired result.” [187]
There were tensions between the TGWU and unions which it saw as standing in its way. Relationships with the Amalgamated Society of Vehicle Builders (the ASVB is not be confused with the NUVB) in the Long Eaton wagon building industry were especially poor. Rivalry between the two unions at companies like S J Claye’s and others reached a high point, when in 1937 the Derby TGWU DC severely accused the ASVB of concluding national agreements in the trade without even consulting other unions like themselves. In consequence, the poaching of members by both unions from each other reached major proportions, requiring a national agreement between them. This was signed on September 19th 1938 and provided that each would not tread into the other’s traditional areas of influence. The ASVB specifically agreed not to “interfere with” the TGWU’s membership in Long Eaton. The ASVB later merged with the AEU, which then took over the agreement. [188]
The TGWU emerged as the organiser of the widest possible range of sectors. Maintenance and other engineering workers in the South Derbyshire coalfield saw the union make much improvements in their conditions of employment. Negotiations with the coal owners in 1936 resulted in overtime rates for working bank holidays for the first time. [189] Lead mining workers began joining the TOWU in the Matlock area, after a number of meetings were held there in early 1935. Some fifty new members were made. However, flooding lead to the closing of the Mill Close mines, which employed over seven hundred men at Darley Dale in June 1938. [190] It was not until 1943 that Messrs H J Enthoven’s took over the mines and transformed the operation into a sophisticated lead smelting plant. In 1938, the whole of the 70 workers at Cox’s Lead Works in Derby organised and rapidly won a rise in hourly earnings of a half penny. [191]
In the building industry, the TGWU gained significantly by the decision of the Altogether Builders Labourers and Constructional Workers Society to go for amalgamation with the union and this commenced on July 1st 1934. Although Derby ABL generally welcomed the move, it did receive some opposition. The branch at Aston in Birmingham wanted to form a breakaway, while the main Birmingham branch wanted to split their funds up between individual members, rather than allow them to be swallowed up by the TGWU. [192] A massive demand for building workers in 1935 enabled the TGWU to demonstrate to the incoming ABL membership that it could cater for their needs. “Not since the close of the war has there been such a demand”, noted the union’s journal. [193] There was a serious skill shortage and employers sought to merely increase working time as a stop-gap solution, a move resisted by the unions.
The TGWU benefited from another link up of a less certain sort, which broadened the union’s base. Following dissatisfaction with the outcome of the co-operative insurance agent’s strike, the National Union of do-operative Insurance Societies Employees (NUCISE) was set up. By March 1931, there were 657 Co-op employees enrolled in NUCISE nationally, composed of 166 district managers, 138 assistant district managers, 306 clerks, 42 audit testers and five special canvassers. The union had a strong base in Derby and the general secretary of NUCISE, Will Stokes, edited the union’s journal from his home in 77 Walbrook Road. The executive committees of the individual sectors of NUCISE also all met in Derby. But the organisational task of maintaining such a highly structured network across the whole country from a house in Derby was too much. Rapid approaches were made to the TGWU, which was attempting to broaden the base of its clerical section, largely then composed of tally clerks on the docks. Considerable safeguards were given to NUCISE to enable it to keep autonomy and it affiliated, not merged, to the TGWU’s ACTS trade group, only balloting in 1984 to fully merge with the union.
The TGWU took over from the WU its interest in agricultural workers. The Derby Corporation owned a farm in Eggington which was linked to the sewage operations in that area and this enabled the union to create a foothold in agriculture. So much so that, at the Eggington 5/89 branch social function in November 1935, the branch was congratulated by J Tivey, the full time organiser, on the “nomination of Bro. Murfin to the Derby Agricultural Wages Committee”. Clarke, the Divisional Organiser, told the branch “they had no need to fear being in an organisation, as the Corporation followed the Fair Wages Clause in all contracts”. [194] But this good example was rather lost on independent farmers. Prosecutions for failure to pay even the legal minimum wage determined by the wages councils in the single period of July 22nd to September 22nd 1936 reflected just this. £168 in arrears of wages was paid to five workers in four local cases in Derby, Swadlincote and Wirksworth. Generally, only a £5 fine was imposed. One worker was owed as much as £48. [195] Tivey and Murfin and other union representatives made great efforts in the 1936 negotiations to get an increase of a penny an hour. Farmers vigorously opposed this and argued for a freeze on wage increases for the following year. The independents decided to oppose the increase, but threw in a minor concession of an extra day’s bank holiday. Only after six months of pressure was progress eventually made, with an increase of is 1 1/2d a week on a 54 hour week, or 37s 11/2d in all, achieved. [196]
The road haulage industry was another very tough industry to organise, but there were spectacular developments in the 1930s. The industry had mushroomed after the war and there were very few controls. Wages, hours and conditions of employment were in a chaotic state. This was not simply a concern for the workers in the sector, as Britain’s roads got busier and busier with the increasing mechanisation of transport, public concern grew. A Joint Industrial Council had been set up, but collapsed before it could do any more than adopt a constitution. By 1934, with the assistance of the Government, a National Joint Conciliation Board had been established. Even right wing politicians could see the value in legislative control over the chaos which the industry displayed. Low wages forced long hours on the road and caused a horrific rise in accidents. So much so that the 1930 Road Traffic Act imposed a limit on working hours and three years later a Fair Wages Clause was introduced. The North Midlands Joint Road Transport Board indulged in wages negotiations after a fashion. In 1928, recognising that the cost of living had risen by two thirds over the pre-war level, wages were improved by one shilling a week and six pence for youths. [197] Apart from the traditional and established carters, still rooted in horse transport, and in co-operative transport undertakings, or in the dock yard areas, there was little trade union organisation in the industry. Pickford’s Removals, which had a large base in the Long Eaton area, was one well-established local company organised by the TGWU.
But trades unionism now began to flourish, following the setting up of national controls over wages, in the road haulage sector. 22 drivers at Buoyant Upholstery works in Sandiacre were enrolled in mid 1933. [198] While a great amount of work was carried out in the Darley Dale area in 1934 by the TGWU with “good results”. [199] Speaking at the TGWU Darley Dale branch annual dinner, S Brooks, an official specialising in the industry, urged drivers to observe road traffic regulations. He revealed that he knew of people “in the industry who were contravening the law in every shape and form, but the (National Joint Conciliation) Board hoped in the course of a year or so to bring about such reforms as would make the industry one to be proud of”. [200] Two years later, organisation of road haulage workers in North Derbyshire had reached a sufficiently strong level to invite Corrin, the National Secretary of the TGWU’s Commercial Transport trade group, to speak at a dinner of two hundred members from the Darley Dale area.
But the union faced a daunting task, in organising the industry. Commenting on the dreadfully low pay for the job of lorry driver, J H Stirk, chairman of the East Midlands Traffic Commissioners, declared that “licences will never be granted so long as operators are under paid. I am not satisfied with a wage of £1 15s a week.” Hearing applications for operators’ licences, Stirk stipulated increases in wages in fifty cases before licences were granted. This legislative backing, coupled with a new mood of confidence, greatly aided union growth. [201] In 1935, the TGWU sought the adoption of the Fair Wages Clause in local authority contracts. Derby Corporation was reported as “tightening up the fair wages clause so that only firms adhering to the decision of the National Joint Conciliation Board should carry out work for them”. [202]
Despite these positive experiences, there still remained a need for firmer control and, in 1937, the Government contemplated the setting up of a Wages Council for the industry. The TGWU’s newspaper recorded that “a committee of inquiry, set up by the Ministries of Transport and Labour, were now considering the regulation of wages in the industry, and the Union was taking a prominent part in presenting evidence”. [203] Out of the deliberations came the Road Haulage Wages Act of 1938, which at long last called a halt to the disarray in the industry. Statutory bodies were set up in areas of the country which were capable of defining minimum rates. Even more union organisation followed on from this, while there were considerable increases in wages amongst some. Toft Brothers & Tomlinson of Darley Dale conceded a 5/- increase in 1938. [204] By January of 1939, the inaugural meeting of the East Midlands Road Haulage Board was held. [205] It was a new era for the industry.
Contrasted with the start of the decade, the end was infinitely more optimistic for the TGWU and others, yet even so the picture was by no means all pleasant. A classic, minor depression developed in the very late Thirties, after the boom. In 1938, the TGWU DC noted that “apart from Messrs Rolls Royce employment is not good, the Textile Trades are very bad – many members having been dismissed from the Celanese Works, while the whole of the Lace Workers have been unemployed or are working very short time. The Building Trade’ being slowed down, many men have been dismissed from the Railway Works.” [206] In the latter part of that year, it was clear that there were heavy pressures on shop stewards, when at Celanese it was reported that a shop steward named Jagger had been suspended by the firm for actions perfectly in accord with the union’s agreement on shop stewards. [207] Nonetheless, an overall assessment of the decade must accord the TGWU in Derbyshire considerable achievement. Local membership of the Workers Union in 1921 had peaked at 8,000 and it took the union’s successor many years to climb back to such heady heights, being short of such a target by a couple of thousand by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. But the war blew away the minor depression and brought masses of women into production, ushering in a dramatic boost upwards. Such growth was not merely a Derbyshire phenomena, TGWU membership in the whole Midlands region soared from 13,056 in 1928 to 33,840 two years later and no less than 62,259 in 1939. [208] This was the making of what would become Britain’s biggest union for the next fifty years.
Growth of the Derbyshire TGWU in the late Thirties [209]
                    year                 membership
                   1935                 2,832
                   1936                 3,359
                   1937                 3,943
                   1938                 3,739
                   1939                 4,539
                   1940                 6,000+
(Note: figures do not include TGWU members in the far north of the county, beyond Chesterfield and Buxton, who were allocated to the Yorkshire and North West regions of the union.)
The TGWU in Derbyshire faced the end of the 1930s conscious of its position as incontestably a key trade union in the county town and the county. From 1932 onwards, it had accommodation at the Wardwick Rooms, by 1938 it was evident that these were inadequate for a union of such prestige. Additionally, the district was anxious to preserve the minor condition of the merger with the WU that the Derby office would be accorded a special status within the Area administration. The DC wrote to the union’s leadership, seeking support for better facilities. In January 1939, Wells, the Finance Administrator based at Derby and catering for the East Midlands part of Areas, along with Brown, the building trades officer, were asked to look at sites in Derby. They were later to report to the Area Committee that “suitable land had been purchased in Willow Row, Derby”. [210] The Derby DC noted with satisfaction that their executive had purchased a new site right in the centre of town and was pleased that new premises were to be built. But there were minor difficulties to overcome. By July 1939, there had been no start to the building project, so there was a suggestion that a “sign be erected saying that TGWU offices were to be built’ on that site. But the calamitous events of the next period would put paid to that ambitious plan.
ii) The Engineering Industry
In one example of the pace of technological change in the engineering workshops, the time taken to machine an engine bolt of the same dimensions and material has been compared across the years. It declined from 115 minutes in 1880, to 28 minutes in 1900 and a mere 7.7 minutes in 1930. In half a century, the time taken to do the job had been whittled down to 7% of the original. This process of speed up eroded the dominant position of time served engineering workers, the numbers of these had been halved since 1914, whilst semi-skilled workers almost trebled. [211] A new breed of engineering worker had been brought about and the challenge of new technology had to be faced by the unions involved in the sector. The TGWU was in a strong position to exploit this new situation. Even so, the AEU was still the most significant union in the industry. It had suffered like others from falling membership, but by 1934 it began to experience a return of confidence. As many as a thousand new members were enrolled in 18 Derbyshire AEU branches in the eighteen months to the end of 1934. [212]
Nationally negotiated wage rises began to be won. There were no less than seven between May 1935 and November 1937, mostly in 1/- rises, although the last two were worth 1/6d each per week. [213] But there were also locally negotiated rates. On August 25th 1935, a mass meeting called under the auspices of the multi-union Engineering Allied Trades Joint Committee was held in Derby. This decided to hold a ballot on the matter of “revising the Derby rate to the level of … towns of comparable size”. [214] There was more than enough support to secure the two-thirds majority needed to obtain a mandate for industrial action. The Engineering and Allied Trades Employers Federation was informed of the demand, but asked for two weeks grace, because it was “difficult because of the local claims being pursued at the same time as national claims”. [215] The national claim sought an all round increase of 6/- a week, the restoration of conditions removed in 1931 concerning piecework and overtime and payment of the previously agreed increase to all workers, including apprentices, No wonder the local employers wanted to clear these demands before addressing the local rate increments being sought. The unions were however not satisfied with this answer and pressed for an early reply to their own, local claim. At a conference to discuss the matter, the employers agreed to an extra 1/- plus rate to apply in Derby factories. Corresponding percentage increases would be awarded to pieceworkers and the whole package was accepted at a mass meeting in early October. [216] It was the end of the period of management autocracy, as the balance of power tilted away from employers. Within two years, Bates and Hind, the AEU and the TGWU officials, were back, putting in an application for an increase on behalf of the Joint Committee in June of 1937. Two years later to the month, the TGWU was jubilant in winning an increase of is 6d a week for labourers in Derby’s engineering industry, which was followed by “organising work and over 100 new members were made”. [217]
As the AEU established more and more of a base in the newer mass production industries, it relied more and more on its shop stewards. A symptom of this was the fact that total payments to stewards from the union were three times what it had been before. Nowhere was this new reliance on shop stewards more evident than in the rapidly growing aircraft industry, where a strong sense of skill and unity of purpose easily united engineering workers. An event of more than symbolic importance was the formation of the National Conference of Aircraft Shop Stewards, itself a by product of a 1935 strike at the Hawker factory in Gloucester. Rolls Royce shop stewards’ committee from Derby not only contributed £40 towards the strike funds, but also participated in the convening of an unofficial National Council which came out of the conference. This was founded in 1937 and united some fifty factories in the industry. Its journal New Propeller was distributed in the Rolls Royce plants in Derby and the local shop stewards’ committees provided delegates to the national council. This body would play a very significant role in mobilising engineering workers during the Second World War for the war effort and the emergent rank and file movement would provide much of the impetus for militancy in the boom period of the 1950. [218]
If Derby was not exactly at the fore of the militant battle for an improved status for engineering workers, it was not a silent participant. There were some struggles of note. A major strike of grinders at Rolls Royce was occasioned by some inner-union controversies in the AEU. The men had been negotiating over a claim for a 10/- a week increase in 1937 over the general pay of £3 is 0d a week. This compared poorly with the rate of £3 is 41/od then typical of provincial towns. The company offered 2/6d to 25 skilled men, but this was swiftly rejected, causing in turn a strike of 270 from 18th February and 3,500 workers were immediately laid off. The president of the London district of the AEU, Communist Party member Claude Berridge, was in Derby for an unrelated meeting on Sunday 30th. The strike had been going for a while and there was much pleasure amongst the shop stewards at hearing a solidarity message from Berridge. Whilst the considered tactical advice that a leader of Berridge’s reputation could give was useful. Although the strike had the support of the AEU district committee, the national executive of the union saw this incident as a chance to rid themselves of Berridge once and for all. He was promptly expelled from the union on what was in fact a rather weak charge. Berridge was able to appeal beyond the executive, for the union’s constitution allowed for a final appeals court which could overturn the decisions of the leadership. It did just that and Berridge was re-instated.
Coppersmith apprentices in 1937 at Rolls Royce showed that they were affected by the rising militancy then evident amongst young people. They successfully complained that they were kept working too long a period on the same type of job, inhibiting their ability to gain a wide enough experience. That year, there was major action undertaken by engineering apprentices in the Clydeside, Sheffield and Coventry. In February 1938 Rolls Royce workers were again in struggle. The stewards called a mass meeting in working hours at 4 pm. Five thousand workers heard that the convenor, the shop stewards and the AEU district secretary were unanimous in condemning time and motion study methods then being used by the company. The system was compared to the despised Bedaux system, being used in America and Europe, but much was made of the fact that it was widespread in Nazi Germany. There was also much dissatisfaction over the company’s attempts to cheapen the job by the introduction of boy labour and the de-grading of certain jobs. But the shop stewards had been unable to get any satisfaction from the management. A resolution, carried with acclamation, asked for the withdrawal of ‘experts’ and Mr C A Taylor, chief of the Efficiency Department, as the work study department was called. The membership declared full support for any action that the shop stewards took and subsequently the matter was satisfactorily resolved. The whole affair was covered in New Propeller as an example of what could be done.
As for other unions and others sectors of the engineering industry, the National Union of Stove and Grate Workers once more locally hit the headlines, for the first time for 40 years! The union’s members at Qualcast threatened to walk out in March 1933, but the problems were negotiated away by Jobson for the company and Bennett for the union, with neither party being prepared to make a public statement. The union, incidentally, had expanded the potential scope for recruitment by adding the word “General” to its title.
Another small engineering union active in Derby was the Associated Blacksmiths. In 1932, fifteen smiths were ordered by the LMS Railway Company to move to Crewe from Derby. Quite apart from the dislocation this would cause, the men would actually suffer a reduction in earnings and refused to go. Between them, they had 27 children, a fact which won praise from their full time official, who hoped it would “lead to something being done nationally to stop the Railway Companies smashing up family life”. But the men lost their jobs and at first were even struck off benefit, although this was later reversed by an appeal to the Court of Referees. [219] Small though the union was, for there were very few blacksmiths to recruit, the AB did experience something like an expansion in the late i930s. Daniel Winwood, treasurer of the Nottingham No 1 branch of the union recalled in 1952 in its journal, The Anvil, the “jolly times combined with hard work he had enjoyed helping full time officials to organise at Langley Mill, Belper, Uttoxeter, Long Eaton and Derby, including Rigley & Wright’s wagon works”. [220]
Yet another specialist union, the Foundry Workers, launched a national campaign to level up poorly paid districts. Derby was not by any mean at the bottom end of the wages league, but the local NUFW branch secured a 1/- increase with corresponding piecework adjustments, after threatening a strike over the issue in the autumn of 1935. [221]
The National Union of Vehicle Builders had been seeking an expansion into areas outside the railway workshops for some time. In 1928, Councillor Isaac Floyd, the Manchester based NUVB organiser for the area, reported that he was making efforts “on behalf of our members employed in the Derby … Corporation Tramways who are only on the minimum rate of wages”. Floyd had seen the manager, to no avail as he claimed that he was bound by the policy of the Tramways Committee, the members of which were “not very favourable to the Trade Unions”. [222] The union only increased membership from 235 to 242 in Derby from 1928 to 1929, so no dramatic steps forward were made. Floyd was back again in 1930, to meet the men at the Corporations “car works” to encourage them to join. Being able to point to a claim for 12 days paid holiday, which was put to the Tramways Committee successfully, the union extracted a promise from the men that they would join up. But there were however repeated complaints inside the NUVB that the Derby men were “prepared to ride on the backs of their fellowmen” in failing to meet their obligations, in arranging strike levies for example. [223]
In 1931, Derby NUVB membership was 250, but the effect of the slump dramatically affected this, for in the following year membership was down to 217. In the branch’s stronghold, the railway workshops, skilled men were faced nationally with down grading, reduction of status and short time working. After a series of meetings in all the workshops, including Derby, held to stiffen the resolve of the members, it was clear that no “great amount of enthusiasm for direct action” could be found. [224] Even though Floyd tried to recruit in other areas, like the Midland General Omnibus garage at Langley Mill, where some of the men who were already members were joined by most of the rest, the branch faced serious problems. By 1933 there were as few as 128 in the branch. In 1937, Floyd held a moderately successful meeting of Reeve and Kenning’s motor vehicle repair workers at Pilsley, where the shop was ‘well organised before the depression, and when the slump came it went back, but it will come again with some little help from the men in the shop”. [225] The men did re-join and a shop steward was elected, It was a clear sign that confidence was being restored to men in this trade as with others. In 1935, Derby NUVB was able to win a penny an hour increase for the men at the Corporation depot, while in October 1937 the Chesterfield Corporation maintenance men seriously considered signing up again, after a visit by Floyd. With renewed confidence came a slow and painful re­building of membership. By 1939 the Derby branch had reached the position it had attained a decade before: [226]
Derby NUVB membership
1935   157
1936   165
1937   176
1938   212
1939   240
As the decade expired, the pace of recruitment hastened. The union considered means of recovering its lost strength in the railway workshops. A special meeting of the branch held on January 27th 1938 considered how to do this, especially amongst “juvenile workers”. While the NUVB also played a positive part in the Derby Trades Council’s recruitment campaign of September 1939, with Floyd addressing many open air meetings.
iii) Railway trades unionism
Immediately after the General Strike, railway trades unionism did not adopt a conciliatory stance and neither did the employers. Even the isolated Rowsley NUR branch agreed to a joint meeting in October 1927 with ASLEF to consider co­ordination of all LMS employees. It also affiliated to the “Railway Workers Joint Council South Wales Committee”, an unofficial, militant rank and file body. [227] Joint co-ordination with ASLEF continued in the area at least until 1931. J H Thomas ceased to be NUR General Secretary in 1931, at the very time when rail companies were seeking savage wage cuts. The National Wages Board in March 1931 imposed a uniform reduction of 2.5%, with another of the same magnitude for those earning over £2 a week. Overtime premium time rates were also cut. It would take six and a half years before the rail unions were able to restore these cuts. In the meantime, they had to face a general mood of apathy and caution.
The mood is well exemplified by the experience which Rowsley NUR had when attempting a recruitment drive. The branch hoped for more expert canvassers than they had themselves from the Manchester district to knock door to door in the railway dominated village, to speak to the “non-unionists in the neighbourhood” and to “arrange a mass meeting at Rowsley on completion of the canvass”. [228] A special meeting of the branch was then called to obtain local assistance, but not even two members could be found who would volunteer to go out with the Manchester men, so the whole notion was dropped. [229] Not that this was the whole story by any means, for many wanted to fight back. In the winter of 1932-3, the rail companies sought wage cuts of 10%, but this time such strong resistance was threatened that the Wages Board recommended no cuts. It was in fact only a temporary reprieve, for the rail companies were not about to let the railway workers feel that they had won a victory.
Early in 1933, the Board found for an approach which the railway union leadership liked to think of as a victory, in the face of many of their members who would, they thought, recklessly engage in struggle. The actual decision took from the workers in the industry some one million pounds in wages and in the process the Board cleverly divided the workforce across grades and responsibilities. The resistance was largely left to the All-Grades Railwaymen’s Vigilance Movement, the name harked back to 1919. A national conference of the movement attracted some 120 delegates in January 1933. But support for the leadership was not uncommon, as when Rowsley NUR now displayed loyalty by agreeing that “correspondence received which does not bear official authority and which may come from unofficial sources be not read at branch meetings”. [230] With the tacit acceptance of the union’s leadership, the Board’s findings went through and within weeks the industry was facing a new problem. The railway companies gave notice of termination of the conciliation machinery and wages board agreements. This move was regarded with great alarm by the rail unions in Derbyshire, as elsewhere. [231] The rest of 1933 was dominated by a debate about the proposal, so much so that Rowsley NUR wondered if it were time to once again consider the idea of “one union for all Transport workers”. [232]
By the beginning of 1934, both the employers’ and the employees’ sides of the joint board were agreed on the need to maintain some form of conciliation machinery. But there were strong differences about the constitution, the employers proposing a decrease in the number of independent members by five, together with making the decisions made by a majority vote of the board non-binding. Over the next two years, this question was central to all bargaining within the industry. [233] A new agreement was reached which partially restored the cuts in wages by a staged increase of 3d in October and 3d in January of 1935. The NUR declared itself “not happy” with the result, but accepted it as the next best thing to the only other alternative of a strike. Yet, whilst the national leadership was phlegmatic about the development, the Derby branches were very disappointed. Smedley, speaking for the No. 2 branch in Derby explained that they had “hoped for a complete restoration”. [234]
During the course of 1934 there were some signs of returning confidence, perhaps not only borne out of the stabilising of the economy, but also by the moderate successes of the resistance to the employers’ offensive over the preceding three years. Rowsley’s NUR branch vice president, A Summers, distributed recruitment leaflets on his own to non-unionists in his area. It was a contrast to the embarrassing debacle of 1931, when the branch was unable to mount any kind of initiative. Better still was the campaign launched in 1936, when a special canvas of local non-unionists took place over the period of October 5th to 10th. ‘200 Buttons (i.e. badges) and 50 membership nomination forms were ordered and 8 members volunteered to help”. [235]
Nationally, a three man Railway Staffs National Tribunal was set up to replace the Wages Board. But only in August 1937 were the rail unions able to win a restoration of the 1931 cuts in full. Two years later there were strong expressions of feeling in Derby about the claim for a 50/- a week minimum wage. The NUR No.2 branch felt that the “full force of the union” should be used in pursuing the claim. Despite such desires, the unions were stuck with the restrictive procedure and the conciliation machinery. The official structure of the unions felt increasingly comfortable with this. However, a subsequent National Tribunal awarded a binding decision against the full claim.
iv) Mining
Both Derbyshire’s coalfields now found themselves in a relatively prosperous position, compared with other counties, Between 1914 and 1930, the average increase in miner’s wages across the country as a whole was 44%, but Derbyshire registered a 58% increase and South Derbyshire a 60% increase. Despite this, Derbyshire certainly felt affected by the demoralisation after 1926. The Derbyshire Miners Association (DMA) had lost a vast number of members since just before the General Strike, when it possessed some 43,000. By 1933 there were only 17,000 in the union, a serious loss even taking into account that there were then fewer actually employed in the industry. So the DMA began to make concerted efforts to win new members and build its lodges.
With nationalisation looking increasingly unlikely in the short term, some turned their thoughts on the ownership of the industry to co-operativism and the idea was seriously aired in the columns of the Derby Co-operative Record. The logic behind co­op mines was that if the DCS could supply 70% of the people of Derby with their bread and milk, why not their own co-op coal, then a staple requirement in any family’s weekly budget? But little came of co-op production, although for the next thirty years DCS remained a major supplier of coal. Such diversions made little difference to the reality of aggressive employers and a divided workforce. This tension came to a head in Nottinghamshire, at the Harworth colliery. A series of restrictive rules and heavy handed management action triggered a major dispute made more difficult by the refusal of the owners to negotiate with the NMA even though most of the men belonged to it. The strike dragged on for months, amidst great intimidation by the company and the police.
When the MFGB recorded an overwhelming vote in a national ballot to strike in solidarity, the TUC and the Government looked for a way out. A proposal for the merger of the NDMIU and the NMA was agreed and both organisations were fused into the Nottinghamshire and District Miners Federated Union. This operated in parts of Derbyshire around Bolsover, but unlike the NDMIU it did not seek to roam across the county in competition with the DMA. The experience was an important one, arguably the tide had turned on the bitter defeats of the previous ten years. In 1935 and 1936, a national dispute over the MFGB’s claim for a 2/- increase per shift very nearly developed into a major strike. Derbyshire had decisively voted for strike action if it proved necessary “to enforce the claim”. [236]
                                                    ‘Yes’ Votes            ‘No’ Votes
Derbyshire                                  15,292               1,059
South Derbyshire                       2,698                264
This outcome reflected the national position, for a vote of some fourteen to one was recorded. Oddly, when the MFGB conference did eventually give notice of a stoppage to commence on January 27th 1936, Derbyshire joined with Somerset as a tiny minority opposing the strike. In a frenzy, the Government tried to find a solution and some district settlements were proposed which gave South Derbyshire an increase of 1/-, but no such proposal was put to the main coalfield in the county. Other counties were faced with similar situations and the MFGB carried on negotiations whilst adjourning the strike. Eventually, improved terms including an offer of 9d per shift increase were offered to Derbyshire. The employers had moved only slightly, but the fact that national negotiations of a sort were being conducted was significant. Membership of the mining unions began to improve. By 1937, the DMA had gained three thousand members and was now at a total of 20,000.
The 1938 Act which brought one week’s holiday with pay for eleven million workers was a major step forward for all workers. There had been no general entitlement to paid holidays previously, in effect therefore most workers had no holiday. It had been the growth of negotiated improvements in conditions, including paid holidays, which had largely forced the passing of new legislation. The tradition of the summer seaside holiday had previously been the preserve of the professional and middle classes. Now, almost at once, this tradition became general. The Derbyshire coal owners were notorious for their opposition to annual holidays, therefore the opening of the miners’ holiday centre in Skegness in 1939 was something of an event. The centre had been made possible by a grant of £40,000 from the Miners’ Welfare Fund and by some contributions from the employers. As the centre was to be non-profit making, many miners and their families would be able to have a holiday by the sea for the first time, due to the low costs involved, The camp accommodated a thousand visitors at a time in small wooden chalets. It cost 33/- for a couple and 8/6d for four children, For miners, what had begun as a very depressing decade was beginning to be viewed much more brightly by its end.
v) The NASOHSPD Painters
The New Mills branch of the painters’ union, NASOHSPD, was pre-occupied in 1927 with getting the local plumbers organised by the Building Trades Federation. However, more excitement was generated by 22 claims for “loss of tools” allowance, when a major fire broke out at J W Swindell’s factory. [237] For the branch was parochial in nature and did not distinguish itself by militancy, voting for example by 20 votes to 1 in a ballot against a levy of 3d introduced in the union for the duration of the Belfast shipyard strike, which involved NASOHSPD ship painters. [238] Indeed, the branch exuded an atmosphere of craft unionism reminiscent of earlier days. In 1931, one member, Brother Lowe of Hayfield, near New Mills, had been discovered working overtime without the permission of the branch. [239] The branch initiated an investigation in which Lowe admitted the complaint, but blamed the firm for “allowing overtime without permit’. [240]
The branch was strongly against any amalgamation which would dilute the craft, voting 33 to 3 along these lines in 1931. Even the idea of the union affiliating to the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), an alliance of many unions involved in such industries, repulsed New Mills NASOHSPD. The branch voted against this move by 20 votes to nil for the proposition. [241] There was also a positive vote not to affiliate to the local Trades Council in 1932, reflecting this generally sectional tendency. Although the union changed its name to the simpler and more all-embracing National Society of Painters in 1934, this decision was revoked after protests, no doubt for related reasons. Despite an obvious over emphasis on the independence of the craft society from the rest of the labour movement, in 1934 an appeal from the Amalgamated Union of Asphalt Workers for funds for a strike they were involved in did not go unsupported. Perhaps the sense of solidarity with the building industry weighed stronger than union identity, considering the refusal to assist the Belfast NASOHSPD ship painters.
Not only did the union seek to shed its distinctive but cumbersome name, it also sought to improve its finances. This move was sharply condemned by the New Mills branch, which sent a letter of protest “at the increased union contributions and reduced benefits at a time when we have seen a reduction of wages”. [242] This was signed by the branch president, Alfred Howard, in 1933. By maintaining pressure on the Derbyshire County Council to only use firms which paid the Fair Wages Clause on its building contracts, the New Mills painters managed to keep for themselves a small, tranquil world of constancy in a raging decade for the rest of trades unionism. Their craft was in one sense their greatest weakness and in another their greatest strength.
vi) Textile workers
In 1933, the Amalgamated Society of Operative Lacemakers and Auxiliary Workers (ASOL) was formed by the coming together of the Male and the Female Auxiliary Workers’ unions which had emerged out of the mass of earlier, smaller general unions. Earnings in the trade had been sharply affected by the recession, but the new unity and improved relations between the unions, following the merger of the WU and the TGWU provided opportunities in the more positive environment now emerging. A joint committee was established in the plain net sector of the industry, as a result of which the ASOL gave assistance to the TGWU when it had a dispute in Derbyshire in 1936.
Mergers and amalgamations were generally encouraged by the state of trade in this period. The National Union of Dyers and Bleachers and Textile Workers was formed in 1936 by a merger of three northern textile unions. Two of them, the Amalgamated Society of Dyers, Bleachers, Finishers and Kindred Trades and the Operative Bleachers, Dyers and Finishers Association brought several branches in north west Derbyshire into the new union. These were in New Mills, Whaley Bridge and Glossop. [243]
A similar story of merging very nearly came about in the hosiery trade, but the notion of trade union amalgamation was beset with problems. The Leicester hosiery union made a call in 1935 for amalgamations and this was supported by Jack Brewin, the Ilkeston Union secretary, who had taken over from Bassford following his death in 1928. However, the talks floundered on the perennial problem of satisfying union leaders’ fears of loss of status. But as far as Derbyshire hosiery workers were concerned, there was no problem to such a good idea. The union balloted four to one in favour of amalgamation in 1936. [244] But there was less favour for the idea elsewhere and it would be another decade before the next major step. The Ilkeston Union made progress in the 1930s and some major companies were organised for the first time. The giant “Bear Brand” factory was organised in 1935 and there was a major dispute there some four years later. [245] Membership rose significantly from 3,000 in 1933 to 4,000 in 1939. [246] Earnings in the industry now began to recover. Men had been getting only about 58/- a week in 1931 and this increased markedly to over 72/- in 1935. [247]
vii) The leather, boot and shoe industry
In the curing part of the trade, leather workers were organised in Derby and other areas by both the TGWU and the Amalgamated Leather Workers. After a dispute in 1937, an increase of id an hour and a guaranteed piecework price minima of 25% over day rates were both secured. [248] But as far as the boot and shoe trade was concerned, it consisted of small units spread over a large area, much of which was not trade union organised. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (NUBSO) had branches in Derbyshire but as there were none large enough to afford a full time officer, the attention to the detail needed to sustain recruitment which was needed was not taking place. In Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire together there were about 3,000 operatives, mostly not organised in the union.
Consequently, a national officer handled any problems referred to him by these areas and “few manufacturers … paid heed either to the Union or the (employers’) Federation”. [249] That is excepting the Co-op’s boot and shoe enterprises which were reasonably well organised. In 1936, Ernest Ward was appointed to the post of NUBSO Area Officer for the North Midlands. He had been a part time secretary of the Burton-on-Trent NUBSO branch for some time. After his efforts across the large area he was to cover, “one by one the manufacturers of the district were brought into line”. [250]
viii) The Pottery Industry
The National Society of Pottery Workers had members in Derby and Denby, who were no doubt pleased when, after a long period of inability to make headway in national negotiations, it asked for and got a wage increase of 5% in 1936, even though this did not flow through from the basic rates to additional payments. But the union’s base in the poorly organised sanitary pottery industry in South Derbyshire faced greater difficulties, Six sanitary earthenware factories, not members of the employers’ federation, refused to comply with the March 1937 agreement on minimum rates and holidays. A strike of 160 men ensued and a settlement was reached after a few weeks with two of the factories. The other four firms held out longer, mainly because not all of their employees were on strike and some that were out returned before the strike was over. [251]
ix) The Draughtsmen
At the 1935 conference of the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen (AESD), the question of the union’s political involvement was debated and a resolution calling for a ballot of the membership was lost. This sought to win support and approval for the understanding that the Association’s interests could be best served by having a voice on some political matters of direct concern to the membership. R R Ponton of Derby opposed the motion at conference, re-enforcing the political reputation that Derby AESD had.
Derby draughtsmen’s’ hours in 1935 were longer than in most parts of the country, varying from 40 hours 15 minutes to 43 hours 30 minutes a week, [252] The Derby AESD branch council decided on simultaneous applications for reductions in hours at engineering firms in the town. The employers’ strategy was to keep to individual settlements on a company basis. But the bargaining strength of draughtsmen was improving as industry was beginning to move and this was sufficient to force a cut in hours to 41 a week across the town in an entirely negotiated settlement.
There was evidence of some industrial agitation in the Derby AESD, but not of political militancy. Yet again, at the 1938 conference of the union, Derby distinguished itself by a fervent opposition to any political involvement. A motion to affiliate to the Labour Party was defeated, with Ponton as a key speaker against. He believed that “there was still plenty of work for the Association to do without interfering in political matters”. [253]
9 The decade in retrospect
If there had been many changes during those dramatic years of the 1930s, the essential balance of power and wealth was not one of them. Some workers now enjoyed holidays and many in safe havens of employment such as the co-ops were able to extract important concessions. NUDAW attempted to secure two additional employee representatives on the board of management of the Derby Society, despite the fact that many members of the local union committee opposed the concept in principle. Some unions still saw themselves in their original friendly society mould. Derby AEU distributed £2,000 a year in superannuation benefits in 1927. But others sought assistance from the employer. The first worker to retire under the DCS Superannuation scheme, which had been fought for from since the beginning of the century, retired in 1937 with a pension. The Long Eaton Society had introduced a scheme as early as 1927.
On the wider political front, Labour had made a real recovery as a political force and was looking to getting back into government at the General Election of 1940, which never came due to the onset of war. But the Tories still had a tremendous power base and disillusionment with Labour’s performance, if not with the party as such, was greater than they would have liked. Landed families were still a dominant part of the scene and work shy heirs not an untypical experience. In 1938 Captain Henry Hunloke took the West Derbyshire seat at a by election, succeeding his brother, Lord Hartington. Hunloke was described in the Daily Express as: “The man who will carry the Cavendish banner into battle … (he is) married (to) Lady Anne Cavendish, sister of the new Duke of Devonshire, If Henry had not married Lady Anne, he would not be a candidate in West Derbyshire, ‘I lead a normal life’,” he told the Daily Express correspondent. “I hunt and shoot. Fishing I love too. And I have a passion for billiards and croquet.” [254]
Questions about how deep the economic recovery really was began to be widely posed as a minor depression became evident towards the end of the decade. But it also seemed that capitalism had only one solution to this, by what some considered to be its deep rooted preparedness to drive towards war. A serious international situation made war seem if not inevitable, then very likely indeed. For those unable to obtain work in the developing new consumer based light engineering industry, the only immediate escape from the dreary life of the dole was by joining the armed forces. It was matter of great concern to the authorities that 60% of those presenting themselves as potential cannon fodder were actually being rejected on medical grounds. Mainly because they failed to satisfy the minimum requirement of a height of 62”, or because their chest measurements were stunted. This was of course a by product of the recession, a generation sorely affected by ill-health. Although the Secretary of State for War did later admit that the eighteen months of army food and housing conditions worked wonders for those young men who had only just satisfied the medical conditions to be acceptable to the army. Not that army food and lodgings were that spectacular, but that the raw recruits were simply despairing and starving unemployed.
The unemployed had more successfully than ever before, or since, organised into a mass force capable to some degree of using non-constitutional struggle to force governments to back off from attacking their living standards. After such an experience, trade unions were stronger than before the recession. In the period from 1934, membership of some unions rose dramatically. But there were also the beginnings of a qualitative change evident in the relationship between unions, employers and the State. As Ernest Bevin reported to the 1937 TUC, “(t)he trade union movement has become an integral part of the state”. In 1931, there had been only one Government committee on which the TUC General Council was represented, by 1934 there were six such committees and the number rose thereafter. 1939 would be a watershed for tripartitism. A National Joint Advisory Council being set up to “provide for closer consultation between the Government and organised industry”. [255]
Even more important in the short term, was the fact that the shop stewards’ movement had taken on a new significance, which would play an important role in the coming conflagration. The left political parties, tendencies and groups had come through a tremendously invigorating period. There was much interest, and some distrust too, in and about the Soviet Union. The romanticism of the events in Spain, and other anti-fascist struggles, caught the imagination of the young generation of the day. Unity amongst the various strands of working class opinion had experienced great strains, it is true. But there were also instances of great achievements in the struggles of working class movements. The end of the 1930s saw the most serious efforts to build unity in the political sphere.
Following the difficulties which the ILP and the Communist Party found between themselves over unity, Stafford Cripps and his Socialist League initiated a new approach. But the campaign to achieve joint affiliation to the Labour Party came to naught, destroyed oddly by the ultra-leftism of the ILP. At the 1939 Southport Conference of the Labour Party, Cripps and Aneurin Bevan were temporarily expelled from the party for advocating a United Front. There was no way, the conference determined, that Labour and the Communists, Britain and the USSR, would be allies. Yet, within a few years both Cripps and Bevan would be leading members of a reforming Labour Government. Within two years the Soviet Union would be a political and military ally of Britain. The Red Army would be hugely popular in this country and within four years the Communist Party would come close to achieving affiliation to the Labour Party. A radical mood was clearly abroad. There had developed many links at the level of the rank and file, providing for unity in action. But not everywhere. Derby’s Labour Party, in 1939, expressed “strong disapproval” of Stafford Cripps and the concept of unity of all left forces. [256]
Attitudes would change fast, however. At least on the surface and within a short time. The hate and fury which would be unleashed in the Second World War was made clear by Britain’s Fuehrer, Oswald Mosley, when in February 1939 he made a speech attacking the established political parties. Mosley pointed out that there was, for him, a simple explanation for Britain’s ills, The snare of Judeo-Marxism. The “Labour Party learned all it knew from the German Jew, Karl Marx, while the Conservative Party learned everything from the Italian Jew, Disraeli.” [257]
1    Derby Mercury February 11th 1927
2    Derby Mercury September 2nd 1927
3    Derby Mercury November 11th 1927
4    Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 17th 1928
5    Derby Mercury July 15th 1927
6    Derby Evening Telegraph February 10th 1983
7    TGWU Record January 1929
8    Derby Evening Telegraph February 10th 1983
9    J E Williams “The Derbyshire Miners – a study in industrial and social history” George Allen and Unwin (1962) p742
10 ed A Briggs and J Saville “Essays in Labour History” Vol 3 1918-39 Croom
Helm (1977) p154
11 Derby Mercury May 11th 1928
12 Derby Mercury September 23rd 1927
13 Derby Mercury June 1st 1928
14 R Martin “Communism and the British Trade Unions 1924-1933 – a study of the
National Minority Movement” Clarendon Press, Oxford (1969) p98
15 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 21st 1929
16 Derbyshire Advertiser May 3rd 1929
17 W R Raynes unpublished memoirs p80
18 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 8th 1927
19 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes March 12th 1927
20 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes July 9th 1927
21 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 8th 1927
22 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 12th 1927
23 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes May 19th 1928
24 Derby Mercury December 28th 1928
25 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 14th 1928, September 22nd 1929
26 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes July 21st 1928
27 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 21st 1929
28 Derby Evening Telegraph September 16th 1982
29 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 21st 1929
30 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes August 3rd 1929
31 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 28th 1929
32 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes August 3rd 1929
33 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes August 3rd 1929
34 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 18th 1930
35 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 19th 1929
36 Workers Union (TGWU) Derby District Committee Minutes August 3rd 1929, January 18th 1930
37 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 19th 1919
38 R Hyman “The Workers Union” Clarendon Press (1971) p162
39 TGWU Record June 1929
40 Workers Union (TGWU) Derby District Committee Minutes August 3rd 1929
41 J Hinton & R Hyman “Trade Unions and Revolution – the industrial politics of
the early British Communist Party” Pluto Press (1975) p20
42 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 7th 1936
43 TGWU Area 5 Minutes January 25th 1934
44 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes July 12th 1930
45 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes July 12th 1930
46 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes November 15th 1930
47 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes January 24th 1931
48 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 22nd 1930, July 12th 1930
49 TGWU Record January 1931
50 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes January 24th 1931
51 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes May 4th 1929
52 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes May 10th 1930
53 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes July 12th 1930
54 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 28th 1931
55 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes May 16th 1931, November 21st 1931
56 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 22nd 1930
57 TGWU Record January 1931
58 R Groves “Sharpen the Sickle” Merlin Press (1981) p220
59 TGWU Record August 1931
60 TGWU Record November 1932
61 Derbyshire Advertiser December 13th 1927
62 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes November 17th 1928
63 Derby Mercury March 8th 1929
64 Derby Daily Telegraph February 13th 1929
65 Derbyshire Times February 7th 1931
66 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 28th 1931
67 B Fuller “The Life Story of the Right Honourable J H Thomas: a statesman of the people” Stanley Paul (1933) p235
68 B Fuller “The Life Story of the Right Honourable J H Thomas a statesman of the people” Stanley Paul (1933)” p251
69 J Beadle “346,159 – the story of 14 general election contests in S Derbyshire
191 8-66” DLP (1968) p18
70 J Stevenson & C Cook “The British Slump – society and politics during the
depression” Cape (1977) p109
71 Les Clay – conversations with the author in 1984
72 J Beadle “346,159 – the story of 14 general election contests in S Derbyshire
1918-66” DLP (1968) p1 9-20
73 Derby Evening Telegraph September 16th 1982
74 M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
75 M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
pp 72-5
76 M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
77 M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
78 M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981) pp 110 & 144
79   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
        pp 144-5
80   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
81   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
        pp 176-8
82   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
83   H L Beales & R S Lambert “Memoirs of the Unemployed” Victor Gollancz   (1934) pp214-219
84   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981) p212
85   M S Rice “Working Class Wives – their health and conditions” Virago (1981)
        pp188-9, pp207-8
86   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p24
87   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p36
88   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p41
89   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p43
90   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p44
91   Derby Mercury May 31st 1932 – A photograph of the event accompanies the
92   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p45
93   Benny Rothman “The 1932 Kinder Trespass” Willow Publishing, Altrincham
        (1982) p48
94 DLP 21st Annual Report 1931
95 DLP 22nd Annual. Report 1932
96 Derby Mercury October 11th 1932
97 DLP 18th Annual Report 1928
98 Les Clay conversations with the author 1984
99 DLP 23rd Annual Report 1933
100 DLP 22nd Annual Report 1932
101 Derbyshire Times October 17th & 24th 1931
102 Derby Mercury March 15th 1932
103 Derby Evening Telegraph October 18th 1932
104 Derby Mercury December 6th i932
105 Derby Mercury January 3rd 1933
106 Derbyshire Advertiser March 17th 1933
107 Daily Worker cutting, from the papers of Harry Pearce Snr, courtesy of H Pearce Jnr
108     Derbyshire Advertiser May 5th 1933
109     Derbyshire Advertiser May 26th 1933
110     Derbyshire Advertiser June 9th 1933; DLP 24th Annual Report 1934, 28th Annual Report 1938
111 J E Williams “The Derbyshire Miners” – a study in industrial and social history” George Allen and Unwin (1962) p835
112 Derbyshire Advertiser June 30th 1933
113 Derbyshire Advertiser July 8th 1933
114 P Kingsford “The Hunger Marchers 1920-40” Lawrence and Wishart (1982) p172
115 Derbyshire Advertiser September 29th 1933
116 Derbyshire Advertiser September 1st 1933
117 Derbyshire Advertiser September 29th 1933
118 Derbyshire Advertiser March 24th 1933
119 Derbyshire Advertiser April 21st 1933
120 Derbyshire Advertiser May 12th 1933
121 Derbyshire Advertiser June ‘9th’ 1933
122 Derbyshire Advertiser July 14th 1933
123 D G Goldstraw “Socialism and the Labour Movement in North Derbyshire 1929-51 MA Thesis Sheffield 1983 p59; Harry Pollitt “Serving my Time – an apprenticeship to politics” Lawrence and Wishart (1940) p282
124 Derbyshire Advertiser March 9th 1934
125 Derbyshire Advertiser November 3rd 1933
126 Derbyshire Advertiser January 12th 1934
127 Derbyshire Advertiser October 6th 1933
128 Derbyshire Advertiser February 23rd 1934
129 Derbyshire Advertiser October 6th 1933
130 Derbyshire Advertiser May 11th 1934
131 Derbyshire Advertiser May 25th 1934
132 Derbyshire Advertiser June 1st 1934
133 Derbyshire Advertiser June 22nd 1934
134 Derbyshire Advertiser June 29th 1934
135 Derbyshire Advertiser February 2nd 1934; J Gorman “To Build Jerusalem” Scorpion (1980) p150
136 Derbyshire Advertiser March 16th 1934
137 A Clinton “The Trade Union Rank and File – Trades Councils in Britain 1900-
1940” Manchester University Press (1977) p161
138 Ellen Wilkinson MP “The town that was murdered” Victor Gollancz (1939) pp205-206; Derby Evening Telegraph October 8th 1986
139 J Beadle “346,159 – the story of 14 general election contests in S Derbyshire
1918-66” DLP (1968) p19
140 Derbyshire Advertiser November 5th 1933
141 L Clay conversations with the author 1984
142 Derby Evening Telegraph December 18th 1933
143 Derbyshire May 11th 1934
144 Derbyshire Advertiser October 16th 1959
145 Derby Labour Party EC minutes March 6th 1936 (HJT Russell Papers)
146 Derby Labour Party Annual Report 1929
147 Derby Labour Party Annual Report 1936
148 Derby Labour Party Annual Report 1938
149 Derbyshire Advertiser March 24th 1939
150 Derby Daily Telegraph October 13th 1938
151 G D H dole “British Trades Unionism Today” Methuen (194S) pp540-1
152 Derby Co-operative Record April 1930
153 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 28th 1931 May 13th 1933
154 Derby Co-operative Record April 1935
155 Rowsley NUR May 30th 1936
156 Derby Co-op Record December 1936; Derbyshire Advertiser May 12th 1936
157 Derby NUDAW Minutes February 16th, July 1st 1937, October 10th 1938; Derby Evening Telegraph April 29th 1986
158 I J Beardwell Financial Times September 6th 1983
159 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes December 19th 1931
160 Derbyshire Advertiser October 13th 1933; Les Clay interviews with the author 1984
161 Derbyshire Advertiser February 2nd 1934
162 Derbyshire Advertiser May 4th 1934
163 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes September 9th 1933
164 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 12th 1932, November 19th
165 TGWU Area 5 Minutes January 26th 1933
166 TGWU Record February 1933
167 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes September 12th 1932
168 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes February 12th 1932
169 Derbyshire Advertiser February 16th 1934
170 Derbyshire Advertiser April 6th 1934
171 TGWU Area 5 Minutes October 1936
172 Derby Mercury September 16th 1927
173 Derbyshire Advertiser January 19th 1934
174 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes December 15th 1934
17S TGWU Record December 1934
176 H A Hind – Celanese Notes 1935
177 H A Hind – Celanese Notes 1935 – January 15th and 21st 1935
178 H A Hind – Celanese Notes 1935- March 14th 1935
179 H A Hind – Celanese Notes 1935 – conference at Celanese
180 H A Hind – Celanese Notes 1935 – October 14th 1935
181 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 13th 1937
182 TGWU Weavers Minutes 1935-42; TGWU branch address books 1933-4
183 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 9th 1935
184 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes December 12th 1936
185 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes June 12th 1937
186 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes June 6th 1936
187 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes December 12th 1936
188 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes December 18th 1937; TUC “Bridlington (1939) Trades Union Congress Declaration on Trade Union Membership and particulars of National Relationship Agreements with Other Trade Unions TGWU (1951) p 8
189 TGWU Record April 1936
190 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes June 11th 1938; Derbyshire Advertiser May 12th 1939
191 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 12th 1938
192 TGWU Area 5 Minutes July 1934
193 TGWU Record August 1935
194 TGWU Record December 1935
195 TGWU Record October 1936
196 TGWU Record November 1936, June 1937
197 TGWU Record March 1929
198 TGWU Record June 1933
199 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes October 27th 1934
200 TGWU Record January 1935
201 Derbyshire Advertiser June 1st 1934
202 TGWU Record February 1935
203 TGWU Record January 1937
204 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 12th 1938
205 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 9th 1939
206 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes September 17th 1938
207 TGWU Derby Weavers Branch Minutes March 13th 1938
208 TGWU Record September 1939
209 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes March 9th 1940
210 TGWU Area 5 Minutes January 19th, April 20th, July 21st 1939
211 J B Jeffries “The Story of the Engineers 1880-194s” Lawrence and Wishart
(1946) p207
212 Derbyshire Advertiser November 2nd 1934
213 W Hannington “The Rights of Engineers” Victor Gollancz (1944) p24
214 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes August 31st 193S
215 TGWU Record October 1935
216 TGWU Record November 193S
217 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes June 12th 1937; TGWU Record June 1939
218 Edmund and Ruth Frow “Engineering Struggles – episodes in the history of the shop stewards movement’ Working Class Movement Library, Manchester (1982) p116, pp123-4
219 T Brake “Men of Good Character – a history of the Sheet Metal Workers, Coppersmiths, Heating and Domestic Engineers” Lawrence and Wishart (1985) p307; A Tuckett “The Blacksmiths History – what smithy workers gave to trades unionism” Lawrence and Wishart (1974) p244
220 A Tuckett ‘The Blacksmiths History – what smithy workers gave to trades
unionism” Lawrence and Wishart (1974) p318
221 H J Fryth and H Collins “The Foundry Workers” AUFW (1959) p210
222 NUVB Reports April 1928
223 NUVB Reports October 1931
224 NUVB Reports January 1933
225 NUVB Reports July 1933
226 NUVB Reports for all years stated in text
227 Rowsley NUR Minutes October 20th 1927
228 Rowsley NUR Minutes July 26th 1931
229 Rowsley NUR Minutes October 4th 1931
230 Rowsley NUR Minutes January 29th 1933
231 Derbyshire Advertiser March 21st 1933
232 Rowsley NUR Minutes June 25th 1933
233 Derbyshire Advertiser January 12th 1934
234 Derbyshire Advertiser August ‘17th 1934
235 Derbyshire Advertiser July 26th 1936
236 Derby Co-operative Record March 1933; R Page Arnot “The Miners in Crisis and War” Allen and Unwin (1961) pp165-70
237 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes May 30th 1927
238 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes June 10th 1929
239 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes April 13th 1931
240 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes April 27th 1931
241 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes October 26th 1931, March 23rd 1936
242 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes February 6th 1933
243 Peter Booth “A Short History of the ASD – Research Notes on the History of the NUBDTW” NUBDTW, Bradford (1980) No.1 p13
244 R Gurnham “200 Years – the history of the trade union movement in the Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776-1 976” NUHKW Leicester (1976) p119
245 R Gurnham “200 Years – the history of the trade union movement in the Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776-1 976” NUHKW Leicester (1976) p152
246 R Gurnham “200 Years – the history of the trade union movement in the Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776-1 976” NUHKW Leicester (1976) p103
247 Ministry of Labour Gazette various issues from 1931 and 1935
248 TGWU Derby District Committee Minutes June 12th 1937
249 A Fox “History of NUBSO 1874-1957” Blackwell, Oxford (1958) p481
250 A Fox “History of NUBSO” Blackwell, Oxford (1958) p529
251 F Burchill and R Ross “A History of the Potters Union” CATU, Students
Bookshop, Hanley (1977) p195
252 J E Mortimer “History of the AESD” DATA (1960) p180
253 J E Mortimer “History of the AESD” DATA (1960) pl95
254 Derbyshire Advertiser September 2nd 1927; Derby NUDAW minutes July 9th 1937
DCS Record March 1937;Gracchus (pseudonym for Michael Foot) “Your MP” Victor Gollancz (1944) p34
255 P Hain “Political Strikes – the state and trades unionism in Britain” Viking (1986) p85; A Rogow and P Shore “The Labour Government and British Industry 1945-51” Basil Blackwell, Oxford (1955) p23
256 Derbyshire Advertiser March 24th 1939
257 Derbyshire Advertiser February 17th 1939

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