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By Hugh Purcell
Sutton Publishing (2004)
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


The Last English Revolutionary: Tom Wintringham 1898-1949 available at

Write Dope on Pnuk part 25

This is a biography of Tom Wintringham (1898-1949), someone you'll end up thinking we should all know a little more about. Born in Grimsby in North Lincolnshire, his family were Nonconformist by faith and Liberal by politics. A great-grandfather had been mayor five times and an uncle was an MP, until he died in the House of Commons and then his wife won the seat.

Into this family was born Tom who passed largely unscathed through World War One, and then, looking for something to make the world a better place, became an early member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Gaoled for apparently inciting mutiny in the armed forces in the run-up to the General Strike, he later went to Spain (on the outbreak of the Civil war there) and was fundamental in the formation of the International Brigades. Expelled from the Party for his relationship with an American (he got off lightly, associates were summoned to Moscow and never seen again) he became a founder of the Home Guard in Britain during World War Two.

At heart a Marxist (though the Communists had rejected him) he co-founded the Common Wealth Party that contested local by-elections during the war and had candidates stand in the 1945 general election.

Throughout his life Tom was so often right (wanting to eradicate poverty and empower the common person) and so often wrong (he could seldom criticise Stalin). His private life was equally confused with his affairs and marriages. He saw himself in a tradition which dated back to John Lilburne, leader of the Levellers, who had opposed both Charles I and Cromwell, when the latter became a dictator. Lincolnshire should be proud of him.


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