Forgotten Pioneers of the National Protest March: The National League of the Blind's Marches to London, 1920 & 1936

Reiss, Matthias
August 2005
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Aug2005, Vol. 70 Issue 2, p133
Academic Journal
Between the First and the Second World War, national protest marches from the provinces to London or Edinburgh became frequent events. The best remembered of these marches is still the Jarrow 'Crusade' of 1936, although the 'Hunger Marches' of the Communist-dominated National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM) were more frequent, bigger and much more complex. Nevertheless, it is virtually forgotten today that the National League of the Blind invented this particular form of protest after the Great War. The National League was a trade union of blind workers, not a charity, and affiliated with the Labour Party and the TUC. To create support for a Blind Persons Act which would conform to its own demands, the League in 1920 sent to London three contingents which converged simultaneously upon the capital. In 1936, the League organized a second march, which, however, failed to evoke a similar public response. The NUWM's extensive use of this form of political protest from 1922 on had discredited it and also diminished its news value. In addition, the National League's leadership was divided about the usefulness of the march. However, the blind had pioneered many of the features of later marches in 1920 and significantly shaped this attention-grabbing form of political protest.


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