J. T. Murphy

Book Review

Tom Mann
‘Courageous man of vision’

Source: Peace News, The International Pacifist Weekly, December 21, 1956, No. 1,1069
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Tom Mann and His Times (Vol. 1.)
by Dona Torr
London, Lawrence and Wishart, 21s.

THIS is a book which should be widely read. Dona Torr has written an excellent study of one of the best known and most lovable pioneers of the modern labour movement. Had she not been too concerned to make Tom Mann fit into the Marxian pattern of history, what she reveals unwittingly would have received greater emphasis, indeed would have been the means of giving us a real understanding of Tom’s career.

It is not enough to tell us that he had a hard upbringing and worked long hours when he was young, and was ideologically conditioned by the Church. These things were commonplace features of the majority of the working population of the country.

I am sure too that it was not the arguments of Bradlaugh, much as he admired them, nor of Mrs. Besant, which turned him away from the Church.

I doubt if he was ever deep in theology or doctrines of any kind, even those of Karl Marx. I knew him well for over twenty years. He introduced me to a book of verse with the title THE LIGHT OF ASIA.

I think that Mrs. Besant gave it to him, and he carried it round as an earnest Christian might carry with him a copy of the four gospels. Why? Because it enlarged his vision of social being, as did his friend, William Morris.

* * *

Tom Mann was not a theorist of any movement; he was a missionary. As he grew from boyhood into a fine upstanding man, he developed a strong moral conscience, a high sense of justice and good fellowship.

His breakaway from the Church in his thirties was a conscience revolt against smug hypocrisy, and sanctimonious social snobbery; it was manly contempt for the spiritual crawlers who were always on their knees. Dona quotes him, “Up off your knees, young men! Don’t go continually begging of God that which you ought to do!”

There is Tom Mann, all of him, speaking. There he is, standing on his own feet, courageous, contemptuous of humbug, a man of vision.

When he stepped out of the Church he did not cease to be religious. Religion is not the private preserve of theologians, popes and priests.

It is an expression of belief, of faith in something, whatever it may be—fact or fiction, science or mythology, money-making or human fellowship.

Tom Mann simply set aside theology and the individualism of the Church with its pie-in-the-sky philosophy, and then with the same earnestness he fastened on to the gospel of social salvation through socialism with its own vision of life transformed.

It was this that turned him into one of the greatest missionary orators of socialism in the modern industrial labour movement. I would add, he could give good reasons re-inforced by much factual knowledge for the faith that was in him.