1929-1939: 25 Concentration Camps in England - ICG

The recurring theme of forced work for the unemployed.

Submitted by libcom on January 13, 2006

Concentration camps have always existed. Every time that capital feels the need to get rid of some of the labour-force commodity, proletarians are gathered into camps and forced to work. First this is to keep them under control, to prevent them from organising themselves against unemployment and growing poverty. Secondly, as is the case in Italy today with the huge influx of "refugees", it is to avoid having thousands of proletarians roaming about as they might upset the balance of the fragile social peace still reigning in the country. Eventually, when war generalises and death itself becomes "normal", it is a matter of purely and simply liquidating those now useless, dangerous and expensive masses. That is what happened all across Europe only 60 years ago.

Today we are feeling the first symptoms. All over Europe so-called illegal immigrants, refugees, boat people, are locked up. Proposals have been put forward for forced labour for the unemployed. In Southern Italy there has been large scale imprisonment of proletarians and the same in France, albeit on a smaller scale. However, violence is always the same: in Pescara the Italian Navy sank a boat full of refugees from Albania, in Belgium the cops killed Samira Adamu by suffocating her with a cushion because she refused to be expelled.

Today, mostly in the West, democracy (another name for capitalist exploitation) has founded its justification on anti-fascism. It promotes the memory of the atrocities perpetrated by fascism to better ensure that crimes committed by the anti-fascist camp will be forgotten (1). This is, in fact, customary for any "victor" in imperialist war. The victorious side only publicises the barbarities committed by the defeated side.

The information below is from the Sunday Times (9/9/1998) and is another example of labour camps which were built before the so-called Second World War and which could well have inspired the Nazis.

Between 1929 and 1939, under the government of the very socialist Ramsay MacDonald, 25 secret concentration camps were built in the most remote areas of England and more than 200,000 unemployed men were sent to these camps and put to work at hard labour. The men, who were interned in the centres for three-month periods, worked for up to nine hours a day, forced by gang marshalls to break stones, build roads and cut down trees (2). The Sunday Times reports that, when they arrived at the camps, the men were issued with hob-nailed boots and a pair of corduroy trousers before being assigned to a wooden hut dormitory. The men who refused to go to the camps were told their benefit would be stopped once and for all.

It was Sir MacDonald, vanguard socialist in the service of capital, who had this brilliant idea of submitting unemployed proletarians to 3 months of such hideous living conditions and slavery that they would never refuse a job again, even the most vile.

The end of the twenties and the thirties were years of worldwide crisis. Governments obliged the excess labour force - the unemployed - to remain mobilised by imposing forced labour on them, aiming to rid the cities of the emerging agitation. The so-called Second World War, which sent hundreds of thousands of proletarians to the front line, was the fulfilment of this massive clean-up operation. However, for the ten years prior to the war preparations were being made. Concentration camps in England provided very cheap labour and considerably decreased unemployment figures. The proletariat was placed under control and enroled into the labour camps by force before being sent to the army.

Although all the governmental reports "disappeared", some of the prisoners, who are more than 80 years old now, confirm that there were concentration camps, camps of slavery and terror. "The treatment the inmates received was degrading and inhumane. When I look back I realise that the way we were treated was not much different from the way the Nazis treated people" recalls Willie Eccles, who was sent for three months to the camp at Glenbranter when he was 18.

"They were like chain gangs without the chains. It was slave labour. They used to stand over us and bawl and shout at us to work harder, but we used to work hard anyway just to keep warm. None of us wanted to go there but we were forced to." adds Charles Ward, 85, who in 1932 was also sent to a camp for three months.

This policy was called the New Deal (Roosevelt went on to borrow this term and to use it in the USA) and it has recently been put on the agenda in Britain by the very socialist Tony Blair.

Blair's New Deal says that all the unemployed under the age of 25 will lose their employment benefit if they refuse offers of a job. That is to say that, whatever the wage and the working conditions proposed, they have to accept, without question or any demands.

The rule, today as much as yesterday, is "shut up and accept it" if we don't want to die of hunger.

Today, as much as yesterday, the same capitalist causes produce the same camps...

Be it in Italy, Israel and maybe soon in England, the state's concern is always the same: to force the proletariat by terror to submit silently to the successive attacks of this system of misery and death.

If they could throw us into the sea, we would have become fishfood a long time ago. But they cannot (3). Therefore, we are imprisoned in concentration camps, labour camps, refugee camps, detention centres,... They don't give food, they make us docile and stupid in order for us to leave, a flower in our gun, for the next generalised massacre.

However, we proletarians today, devalorised, impoverished, sacrificed on the alter of value, are not powerless. Throughout the world, in a sporadic and non-centralised way, our class resists, rebels, deserts, sabotages,...

We are rich with the historic experiences of our class. Let's reappropriate the collective memory of our struggles of yesterday and centralise our fights of today. Let's organise to put an end to this system that feeds itself on our blood!

It is only for capital that we are excess proletarians; for communism, "proletarian" goes with "revolutionary"!

Let's destroy the monster that is destroying us!

Death to capital!

Long live Communism!



1. eg. the concentration camps in France during the Popular Front, those of the Spanish Republic or the American ones where all the Japanese living on American territory were imprisoned.

2. Cf. In Ireland, at the same period, to prevent starving proletarians from thinking, the government constrained them to build roads leading nowhere. Those roads were named the "famine roads".

3. Although this proposition was seriously made by the some members of the Israeli government to get rid of the "Palestinians".



15 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steggsie on October 1, 2008

Can somebody point me to The Sunday Times (9/9/98) article this is based upon? I've tried searching for this using the Nexis newspaper database, with no success. I am not necessarily questioning the veracity of the story; I just want to know more.