Prior to 1914, periods of economic depression in Britain had often been accompanied by serious social unrest and radical political agitation. It was not surprising, therefore, that the onset of mass unemployment in the interwar years, and especially in the thirties, seemed to many people to pose a major threat to the political stability of the country. Amongst these contemporaries was Harold Macmillan, who considered that after 1931 ‘something like a revolutionary situation’ had developed.2 A similar view was expressed by Stafford Cripps at the Labour Party Conference in 1931 when he declared his belief that ‘the one thing that is not inevitable now is gradualness.’3 Many modern historians have taken up this theme: Professor Marwick, for example, has characterised the thirties as a decade in which ‘Men of moderate political opinions, or of none, began to talk the language of revolutionary violence.’4 With the sources now at our disposal, however, it is possible to assess more clearly the actual threat of a substitution of ‘revolutionary violence’ for the conventional procedures of parliamentary politics. Up to now it has been the activities of the British Union of Fascists, Mosley’s blackshirts, which have occupied the attention of historians concerned with this problem.
KeywordsTrade Union Communist Party Unemployment Benefit Labour Party Police Informer
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