Unemployed Struggles by Wal Hannington

This book is the memoirs of Wal Hannington from the 1930s. This is the decade remembered for mass unemployment, the decline of the staple industries, the removal of slum housing and the depression. It was an interesting book to read as a primary source for studying the 1930s, however Hannington himself annoyed me. We read about how he was Communist, and was imprisoned for that; how he was an active member of the National Unemployed Workers Movement – and the many clashes with the police he had and all the campaigns he was involved in. It was an interesting read as we don’t hear about him out looking for work, instead we read about him campaigning for better pay for employers, attempting to get trade unions on his side, his problems with the government and the benefits he is on and his general dissatisfaction with the “capitalist government” leadership. Although a very interesting point of view, it was these things about him that annoyed me. I just wanted to tell him to stop moaning and go get a job!! This book was a good historical source, but one must remember Hannington’s bias when reading it.


Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Unemployed Struggles by Wal Hannington

  1. Elisabeth Kirkby

    I have just finished a dissertation on the Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, it has to be remembered that in those days, it was NOT possible just to ‘go out and get a job. In England, there weren’t any jobs and some men were unemployed for up to 15 years. This was the case in the mines, ship building and the cotton trade. The unemployment benefits were very meagre and many men lapsed into total apathy and despair. At least Hannington was fighting to ensure that the plight of the unemployed was brought to the attention of a ‘laissez faire’government. Try Robert Graves’The Long Weekend’ or Martin Pugh’s ‘We Danced All Night’ , J.B.Priestley’s ‘English Journey.They confirm what Hannington was attempting to achieve from a ‘non’ communist point of view.

  2. Katie

    Hi Elisabeth. I am studying for a Masters in Contemporary History so I am aware that people were unable to get jobs, however if you read the review you will see my problem was with Hannington and his attitude – he wrote like he expected everything handed to him on a plate. I would also argue against the idea of the “laissez-faire” government as to a certain extent, what could they do? They had bankrupted themselves in the war, and then ran out of money to give as benefits for the unemployed, and there was the economic slump to take into consideration. Granted, maybe the government needed to be more pro-active and more organised, but I do think they attempted to appease the situation.

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