'Our only ornament': Tom Mann and British communist 'hagiography'

Twentieth Century Communism - ISSN 1758-6437
Volume 2009 Number 1

'Our only ornament': Tom Mann and British communist 'hagiography'
Antony Howe pages -


Tom Mann was a heroic activist of the British labour movement and seemingly an ideal figure for the Communist International to use as the focus of an international cult of personality. This article describes the determined efforts made to exploit Mann’s reputation as part of a wider reclamation of a radical narrative of British history that was to feed into the work of the British marxist historians. A key figure in this development was the historian Dona Torr, and the article describes how for some two decades Torr persisted with the attempt to produce a hagiographical life of Mann. In the end, however, she fails; perhaps inevitably, the article suggests, given the political constraints under which it had to be written, and the heterodox nature of Mann’s own political past. Mann was meant to be packaged as living proof that British communism grew from British conditions and was not a Bolshevik export. But such an enterprise was persistently and unavoidably fraught with contradictions.

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To cite this article
Antony Howe (2009) 'Our only ornament': Tom Mann and British communist 'hagiography', Twentieth Century Communism, 2009(1), -

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