Thursday, 21 May 2009

My Inspiration #2 Tom Mann

In the UK there has always been a strong non-conformist streak when it comes to the Christian faith, especially among those who seek to outwork it in society. I'm often amazed how those who have gone before us seem to be sidelined in the history of faith in this country.

It was with a great surprise that there is such a good record on the life of Tom Mann in places as Wikipedia, Marxists Internet Archive and Spartacus Schoolnet.

Tom Mann was born 15th April 1856 in Bell Green, a suburb of Coventry he left school at 9 years of age to work in a colliery.

Through his various jobs he became exposed to the ideas of William Morris and the principles of socialism and Christian socialism. He wrote the pamphlet, "What a Compulsory Eight-Hour Day Means to the Workers", the first time that a call had been made to limit the working day.

After reading the Communist manifesto by Marx and Engels, Tom Mann embraced communism. He was one of the three main leaders of the successful 1889 Dock Strike. during this time he worked with organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Labour Church to provide support for the strikers. in 1893 he seriously considered becoming an Anglican minister. I do wonder why we have such a problem reconciling the Christian faith and socialist principals today?

In 1894 he was elected as Secretary of the Independant Labour Party and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament three times.

In 1901 he emigrated to Austrialia and returned to England in 1909.

Tom Mann organised the transport workers' strike in Liverpool in 1911. During this time he was arrested and imprisoned for publishing a leaflet urging soldiers not to fire upon striking workers. Sending the troops in was a common technique used to try and end strikes. He was sentenced to 6 months but served only 7 weeks due to public pressure.

Throughout his life he continued to support the poor and dispossessed in society. In 1932 he published pamphlets criticising the cuts in poor relief and was sent to prison under the Seditious Meetings Act. Two years later he was put on trial in Cardiff for sedition but was acquitted.

His article "A Socialist's View Of Religion And The Churches" is worth a read.

Tom Mann died in Leeds on 13th March, 1941.


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