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Labour unrest in the port after 1889, Introduction

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Tom Mann.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H5145
Description: Tom Mann (1856-1941) was one of the leading figures in the history of the British labour movement. After completing an engineering apprenticeship in the Midlands he moved to London. Unable to find work in his trade, Mann did a variety of menial jobs before being employed in an engineering shop in 1879. Mann's foreman, Sam Mainwaring, was a socialist and introduced him to the ideas of William Morris and other reformers. In 1881 Mann joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and soon afterwards participated in his first strike. He also became a member of the Fabian Society and the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). A leading advocate of the eight-hour day, Mann also played a key role during the London Dock Strike of 1889. Ben Tillett asked Mann to manage the distribution of relief tickets to his union members. Tillett's union was demanding four hours continuous work at a time and a minimum rate of sixpence (2.5p) an hour. During the dispute Mann emerged with Tillett and John Burns as one of the three main leaders of the strike. After the successful dispute, Mann became the General Labourers' Union's first President. Mann was now one of England's leading trade unionists. He was elected to the London Trades Council, became secretary of the National Reform Union, and a member of the Royal Commission on Labour (1891-93). In 1894 Mann was elected as secretary of the new Independent Labour Party (ILP). He stood three times for Parliament as a ILP candidate, but was always unsuccessful. In 1897 he helped form the Workers Union and although growth was initially slow, it and eventually merged with others to became the Transport & General Workers Union. After a trip to Australia, where he helped establish trade unions and the Socialist Party of Australia, Mann returned to England in 1910. His old friend Tillett employed him as an organizer for his Dockers Union. Mann also wrote a pamphlet, 'The Way to Win', where he argued that socialism would be achieved through union activity rather than through parliament. He established the Industrial Syndicalist Education League and edited 'The Industrial Syndicalist'. Mann led the 1911 transport workers strike in Liverpool, and although it lasted for seventy-two days, the employers eventually gave in. Opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War, he joined the British Socialist Party, an organisation hostile to the war and in 1917 supported the Russian Revolution. Mann was elected Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1919 but two years later was forced to resign as he had reached sixty-five, the compulsory retirement age. He continued to travel the world advocating socialism well into his seventies.
Creator: Unknown
Date: c.1889
Credit line: People's History Museum, Manchester
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