Skip to main content

Eyewitness accounts: Tom Mann in Russia

Tom Mann in Russia, 1921Tom Mann was born in Foleshill, Coventry, in 1856. Starting work at the age of nine, he eventually found his trade as an engineer in Birmingham and London, joining the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1881. An attempt to become the union's General Secretary in 1892 failed, but Mann had already gained fame as the leader of the 1889 London dock strike, and he became President of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland in the same year (a post he held until 1893). Mann's political interests also developed during this time, and he became Secretary of the Independent Labour Party in 1894. An advocate of direct trade union action, Mann was imprisoned several times, both in Britain and abroad. Mann's career was truly international, and in 1896 he founded and became the first President of the International Transport Workers' Federation. He continued to be active in the labour movement throughout his life, co-founding the British Communist Party in 1920, and becoming General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (1919-20) and its successor, the Amalgamated Engineering Union (1920-1).

Tom Mann first visited Russia in 1921 to attend the founding congress of the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern), where he served as the British representative on the Presidium. Once the congress had concluded Mann travelled along the Volga to the famine-hit areas of Samara, accompanying the Commission of Inquiry headed by Mikhail Kalinin. He continued to travel to the Soviet Union to attend meetings of the Profintern during the 1920s and 1930s.

Selected sources:

If you find the handwriting difficult to read, choose the option to view 'Text' rather than 'Image', or to 'View Image and Text'.