1930s Political Extremism

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 15:42

Severe economic crisis lead to political extremis and the 1930s did see the triumph of political extremism and dictatorship in several European countries, notably Germany. Other countries witnessed violent conflict between the political extremes of communist and fascist parties yet in Britain, through extreme political parties developed, they never got close to power nor did they seriously disrupt national life.

The Communist Party of Great Britain

The Communist Party of Great Britain or CPGB was founded in the 1920s and lasted until the 1990s. It was always small numerically but it's influence was nonetheless large. The group was based on a distinct philosophy that claimed to provide the working classes and their middle-class supporters with the model for a more equal and progressive society. This perhaps explains why the group appealed to many idealistic young people. The group evidently did have support from some of British society. The Communist Party newspaper, 'The Daily Worker', had a daily circulation of 80,000 copies, whilst the 'Left Book Club', in which communist authors were prominent, had 50,000 members by 1939.

The Conservative Party often exaggerated the threat from Communism was a way from weakening support for Labour. The classic example of this was the fuss made about the forged Zinoviev Letter in 1924 and the allegations of communist influence behind the General Strike in 1926. Certainly communists were prominent in many aspects of British life in 1930s. Several trade unions had leaders who were Communist Party members or sympathetic to it. Communist played a key role in major strikes such as in the Lancashire cotton industry in 1932 or the Birmingham rent strike in 1939. Communist also played a leading role in organisations like the National Unemployment Workers' Movements which had 50,000 members in the early 1930s. The NUWM not only gave useful advice to the unemployed by organised 'hunger marches' and mass demonstrations. Some of the latter resulted in violent confrontations with the police. The CPGB also caused violence when they disrupted meetings and marches held by the British Union of Fascists.

Nonetheless, the group never posed a really serious threat. Communist influence was limited by the opposition of moderate trade union leaders such as Ernest Bevin and by the…


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