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Research

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Publication details for Dr Lewis Mates

Mates, Lewis (2004). 'Britain's Popular Front? The Case of the Tyneside Foodship Campaign, 1938-1939'. Labour History Review 69(1): 35-57.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Though historians have generally regarded the British popular front (1935-9) as a failure, it has been suggested that the project had untapped potential. Most significantly, the geographically widespread and socially and politically diverse campaigns in support of the Spanish Republic in its struggle against a military rebellion (1936-9) have been characterized as a de facto popular front. This article examines this claim by concentrating on one campaign in one locality. The Tyneside foodship campaign involved many from a wide variety of social and political backgrounds including those who were 'non-political'. Though appearing to constitute a de facto popular front, the campaign message was consistently worded in solely humanitarian terms by the main organizers. This had a wide range of implications for the politics of the campaign and therefore the extent to which it can be regarded as a de facto popular front. Other grass roots campaigns in the north east region that appeared to be popular fronts shared the same essential characteristics as the Tyneside foodship campaign. The evidence suggests that these campaigns only managed to achieve this semblance of a popular front precisely because the majority of those from conservative or non-political backgrounds perceived the campaigns as humanitarian. Thus they did not share (either from the outset or after becoming 'politicized') what could be deemed a 'popular front outlook'; an abhorrence of fascism and a critique of Chamberlain's supposed pro-fascist foreign policy