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Last original 1936 Jarrow Crusader dies aged 96

Youth Fight for Jobs is saddened to learn of that the last surviving marcher from the original 1936 Jarrow Crusade, Con Shiels, has died aged 96.

Youth Fight for Jobs is saddened to learn that the last surviving marcher from the original 1936 Jarrow Crusade, Con Shiels, has died aged 96.

Ian Pattison, Youth Fight for Jobs

In 1936, 200 unemployed workers marched from Jarrow in the North-East of England over 300 miles to London. At the time the policies of a coalition government were destroying jobs and tearing communities apart. The 1936 Jarrow Crusade was one of many long ‘hunger’ marches that took place throughout the 1920s and 1930s, against soaring unemployment. After the First World War, unemployment reached over 1m, while people were facing humiliating schemes to get inadequate support. The Communist Party set up the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM), and although they didn’t organise the 1936 Jarrow Crusade (that was to be strictly non-Communist), they did organise many hunger marches during the era. Before each NUWM hunger march each marcher would swear an oath blaming the failures of the capitalism system for unemployment, promising to fight so future generations would never know the horrors of joblessness.

It was this movement, including the 1936 Jarrow Crusade that Con Shiels participated in, that has inspired a new generation to march again. Unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. In Britain, where almost 1 in 4 of us are out of work, and across Europe, where 18.5m people are out work in the European Union (EU), more than half of young people in Spain and Greece. At the end of 2011, in the midst of the worldwide ‘Occupy’ movement, Youth Fight for Jobs supporters traced the steps of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade. We marched the 330 miles from Jarrow to London, holding protests and public meetings in every town and city we marched through. We weren’t there just to commemorate Con Shiels, and the other Jarrow Crusaders, but to fight for real jobs, free education, and our future. The Jarrow Crusade had a lasting effect on the labour movement and the marchers themselves, as it did on the new generation of Jarrow Marchers in 2011.

You can hear more about the exploits of the 2011 Jarrow March for Jobs and its origins in the book written by the Jarrow Marchers themselves, ‘Organising the Lost Generation: Jarrow to London 2011 – March for Jobs’.