Tom Brown (anarchist)

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Tom Brown
Born1900 (1900)
Died1974 (aged 73–74)
SpouseLilian Brown

Tom Brown (1900–1974) was a British anarcho-syndicalist trade unionist, anti-fascist, engineer and writer.[1] Brown contributed articles to papers including War Commentary, Freedom, and Direct Action alongside authoring numerous pamphlets.[2] Brown was known for his compelling public speaking and ability to communicate effectively in everyday terms.[2][3] He placed a strong emphasis on federated local groups rather than centralism, and on workplace-based revolutionary trade unionism.[4]


Brown was born to a working-class family of shipbuilders in Newcastle upon Tyne, growing up close to the Tyneside shipyards. As a boy he took part in the school strikes of 1911.[5][6] In 1916 he began an apprenticeship in marine engineering at the Armstrong-Whitworth works in Gateshead and became a trade union organiser and shop steward.[1][7][2][8]

Brown joined the Socialist Labour Party before switching to the Communist Party, becoming the party's industrial organizer for North-East England, but he soon grew disillusioned and left the party.[5][6]

Brown moved to Coventry to work in the motor industry. When the May 1926 General Strike ended Brown lost his job and moved to Birtley.[5][9] Later that month he took part in the national lock-out of miners.[5] Brown returned to the West Midlands to work in the motor industry and it was around this time that he took an interest in anarchism and syndicalism while working as a militant shop steward.[2][5]

In 1934 he helped found the Anti-Fascist League to oppose the British Union of Fascists and took part in confrontations with fascists in Gateshead in May 1934.[5][10]

In the mid-1930s he moved to London with his wife, Lilian, and his two daughters and became involved in the Anarcho Syndicalist Union until it collapsed in 1944, at which point he joined the Anarchist Federation of Britain.[11][5]

Brown was inspired by the Spanish Revolution of 1936 and became involved in the anarchist newspaper Spain and the World, published by Freedom Press.[2] Brown was involved in the CNT-FAI Spanish Aid Committees and did regular public speaking in support of the Spanish anarchists.[3] Brown was actively involved in Spain and the World's successor paper Revolt![2] After Revolt! he took an active role in producing the anti-militarist newspaper War Commentary alongside Vernon Richards, Marie Louise Berneri and Albert Meltzer.[11][12] At this time he wrote his first two pamphlets, Trade Unionism or Syndicalism (1942) and The British General Strike (1943).

In 1945 he helped establish the paper Direct Action following an acrimonious split within Freedom Press.[5] In 1946 the Anarchist Federation became the Syndicalist Workers' Federation (SWF, now called the Solidarity Federation).[1]

Brown assisted residents in Paddington to protest against the opening of a Mafia brothel, but one evening was attacked with iron bars leaving him unable to walk.[11][5] He and Lily retired to Low Fell, Gateshead where he remained involved in the SWF and became active in the North East Labour History Society.[5][13] Brown died at home in Low Fell in 1974.[14]



  • Brown, Tom (1990). Tom Brown's Syndicalism. London: Phoenix Press.
  • Brown, Tom (1994). British syndicalism: Pages of Labour History. London: The Kate Sharpley Library.


  1. ^ a b c Kinna, Ruth (2019). The Government of No One: The Theory and Practice of Anarchism. London: Pelican. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-241-39655-1. OCLC 1082407630.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Anon. (1990). "About Tom Brown". Tom Brown's Syndicalism. London: Phoenix Press. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-948984-16-3. OCLC 43652918. Archived from the original on 26 June 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2022 – via Tyneside Anarchist Archive.
  3. ^ a b Tyneside Anarchist Archive 2021, p. 131.
  4. ^ Franks, Benjamin (2006). Rebel Alliances: The Means and Ends of Contemporary British Anarchisms (PDF). Edinburgh: AK Press. pp. 225, 247. ISBN 1-904859-40-2. OCLC 65204095. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 May 2022. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ray, Rob (2018). A Beautiful Idea: History of the Freedom Press Anarchists; The Story of Britain's Oldest Anarchist Publisher (1 ed.). London: Freedom Press. pp. 226–231. ISBN 978-1-904491-30-9. OCLC 1052463857.
  6. ^ a b Tyneside Anarchist Archive (2021). Anarchism in North East England: 1882–1992. Bristol: Active Distribution. pp. 105–113. ISBN 978-1-909798-90-8. OCLC 1290918233.
  7. ^ Brown, Tom. "Tom Brown syndicalist interview" (Interview). Interviewed by Raymond Challinor – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Tyneside Anarchist Archive 2021, p. 177.
  9. ^ Brown, Tom (July 1963). "Pages of Labour History: Into Battle with the Bazooka Bands" (PDF). Direct Action. Vol. 4, no. 7. pp. 6–7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 July 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2022 – via
  10. ^ Tyneside Anarchist Archive 2021, p. 120.
  11. ^ a b c Meltzer, Albert (1996). I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels: Sixty Years of Commonplace Life and Anarchist Agitation. Edinburgh: AK Press. ISBN 1-873176-93-7. OCLC 33948800. Archived from the original on 25 October 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2022 – via The Anarchist Library.
  12. ^ Franks 2006, p. 51.
  13. ^ Tyneside Anarchist Archive 2021, p. 194.
  14. ^ Tyneside Anarchist Archive 2021, p. 203.