Originally appeared as a series of articles in War Commentary for Anarchism, 1943.
Excerpted from Tom Brown’s Syndicalism, Phoenix Press, London, July 1990.
2000 @ ANTI – COPYRIGHT—This edition is produced and distributed by the Insurgency Culture Collective. All rights reversed: Feel free to reprint anything you like (Please credit the author). “Knowledge should be free.”
About Tom Brown
Tom Brown, whose writings did much to revive interest in Syndicalism and
Workers Control, was that rare phenomenon in the British libertarian
movement, a theoretician whose ideas had been tested and developed by his own
experience in the hard school of working-class struggle.
An able and persuasive public speaker, whether at Speakers Corner in
Park, at indoor meetings, or in the more intimate role of lecturer, he had
the happy knack of relating what he said to the everyday experience of his
audience. The same quality illuminated his writings which mirrored the life
and times of this lifelong revolutionary and loyal comrade.
Born and raised within sight and sound of the Tyneside shipyards, Tom served
his engineering apprenticeship there and was quickly drawn into militant
industrial activity. Much of his working life was spent as an active shop
steward and factory floor activist.
Like many others he was fired with enthusiasm by the Russian Revolution, was
an early member of the Communist Party and, for a time, became its industrial
organizer for the North East. But the double dealing of the Communist Party
and the growing repression in Bolshevik Russia quickly brought disillusion
and he left the party, though never his natural role as a shop floor militant.
Moving south during the Depression, he worked in the motor industry of the
West Midlands and, around this time, was attracted by Anarchist and
Syndicalist ideas. In the mid thirties he and his wife, Lily, found their
way further south to London with their daughters Ruth and Grace.
The Spanish Revolution of 1936, with its takeover of industry and agriculture
by the Anarcho-Syndicalist unions of the CNT in antifascist territory,
especially in Catalonia, reinforced and developed Toms own ideas and he
became a member of the grouping around the paper, Spain and the World, which
was dedicated to supporting the Spanish workers. He spoke at meetings
supporting their struggle, several times sharing their platform with Emma
Goldman. His Syndicalist writings appeared for the first time in Revolt,
which followed Spain and the World after the fascist victory in 1939.
During World War II, as a member of the Anarchist Federation of Britain
(AFB), he wrote regularly for War Commentary for Anarchism and produced his
first two pamphlets, Trade Unionism or Syndicalism and The British General
Strike, both had wide sales.
He helped launch Direct Action in 1945 and continued his close association
with it for well over 20 years.
He and Lily returned to Tyneside in the late 1960s where he made several
lively contributions, on libertarian subjects, on local radio.
Tom Browns activities and writings have influenced and inspired many
Other Essays by Tom Brown
The British General Strike
British Syndicalism, Pages of Labour History
Lenin & Workers Control
Nationalisation And The New Boss Class
The Social General Strike
Trade Unionism or Syndicalism?
Whats Wrong With The Unions?
Editors Note: I noticed, at once, when I start to read this that
written in the masculine gender, as one worker speaking to others. The
reader should remember that this series of essays were written in 1943 when
it was common to use the masculine gender to refer to persons of both
genders. The evolution of gender neutral terminology and their common usage
in written material, are a relatively recent linguistic development. The
reader should also remember that, even during World War II, the number of
women in the workforce was relatively small. The growth in the proportion of
the work force made up of women largely occurred after World War II, with a
significant jump occurring in the 1970s and 1980s when the erosion of the
purchasing power of workers salaries instigated a dramatic increase in
number of two worker households, to where it became common at the end of the
20th-Century. The introduction of gender neutral terminology in the
workplace accompanied this dramatic increase in the number of women workers.
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