Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Tom Mann by Joseph White (Manchester University Press 1991)

" . . . Perhaps the first thing to be noted is its resemblance to a main theme in Paul Lafargue's unjustifiably neglected pamphlet 'The Right to Be Lazy', which was written at about the same time. (Lafargue was, among other things, Karl Marx's son-in-law. There is also something to be said for the contention that he knew only too well whereof he wrote.) If anything, 'What is Ca' canny?' is far blunter than anything Lafargue wrote in 'The Right to Be Lazy', which is in the main a discussion of popular culture and the need for more leisure time. Secondly, whether or not Mann knew anything of Lafargue's literary efforts (and there is no evidence that he did), was he perhaps 'theorising' his own lessons and experiences of 1890, when, as we have seen, the dockers of London indeed engaged in a fair amount of 'ca' canny' of their own? I think it is quite plausible. Finally, one can ask whether the leaflet prefigured syndicalism and was possibly influenced by anarchist thought? Again, there is a strong case to be made that it was. The syndicalists, particularly the IWW, indeed advocated 'ca' canny'. In Dynamite, Louis Adamic tells the story of the construction labourers in Bedford, Indiana, who in 1908 took their shovels round to the machine shop to have them shortened. 'Short pay, short shovel', they said.