About Tom Brown
Brown completed an engineering apprenticeship in the Tyneside shipyards, where he was elected as a shop steward. He served as Communist Party Industrial Organizer for the North East of England.
Brown worked in the motor industry of the West Midlands during the Depression, when he became an Anarchist. He joined the grouping around Spain and the World.
Brown was on the Editorial Board of the Anarchist Federation of Britain which changed its name to the Syndicalist Workers’ Federation and affiliated to the International Workers’ Association.
Brown was concerned in two important dockworkers strikes.
Brown served as spokesperson for a residents protest group in London that opposed the opening of brothels in their area. On his way home from working a nightshift he was beaten with iron clubs.
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 or working-class struggle.
An able and persuasive public speaker, whether at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde 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 or this lifelong revolutionary and loyal comrade. Born and bred 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 CP 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, probably 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 Syndicalist unions of the CNT in anti-fascist territory, especially Catalonia, reinforced and developed Tom’s 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 the platform with Emma Goldman. His Syndicalist writings appeared for the first time in ‘Revolt’, which followed ‘Spain and the World’ after Franco’s fascist victory in 1939. During the war, 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 of which had wide sales. He remained a member of the editorial board until near the end of the war, when the AH, of which he stayed an active member, parted company with Freedom Press in unhappy circumstances, but on points of principle.
With others, he helped launch ‘Direct Action’ in 1945, as the AFB’s new voice and continued his close association with it for well over 20 years. Saddened by the failure of an attempt to form an International of Anarchist Federations in the late 1940s, he later supported the AFB’s decision to change its name to Syndicalist Workers’ Federation (SWF) and affiliate to the International Working Men’s Association, of which the CNT was the strongest member, although then underground in Spain. The SWF maintained friendly contacts with the IWW in the States and Tom visited them when he and Lily crossed the Atlantic to see their daughters, who had both married GIs in London and later emigrated. He also went to see the veteran anarcho-syndicalist, Rudolf Rocker, in a libertarian colony near New York. Tom and Lily returned to London after a year and he resumed his SWF activity. He and Lily, who was then in poor health, returned to Tyneside in the late 1960s and his continued activity there included several lively contributions, on libertarian subjects, on local radio.
Tom Brown’s activity and writings influenced and inspired many people. A latter-day Tom Mann, he sowed the seeds of a rebirth for Syndicalism in Britain.
From : Marxists.org / TynesideAnarchistArchive.wordpress.com
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