MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People



Tillett, Ben (1860-1943)

Tillett The son of a labourer, Ben Tillett was born in Bristol in 1860. His mother died when he was a child and a succession of step-mothers treated him very badly. He ran away from home as a child and found work as an acrobat in a circus. He also worked as a shoemaker but at the age of thirteen he joined the Navy. In 1876 he was wounded and invalided out of the service.

Tillet moved to London after after marrying Jane Tompkins he settled down in Bethnal Green. He found a job as a shoemaker but after he was made redundant he found work in the London Docks. He eventually became a teacooper at the Monument Tea Warehouse.

It was while living in London that Tillett became a Christian Socialist. He attended the local Congregational Church and joined the Temperance Society. Tillet attended evening classes and despite a speech impediment, developed an ambition to become a barrister. Tillet joined the Tea Operatives & General Labourers' Association. Tillett was very vocal at meetings and in 1887 he was elected to the post of General Secretary.

The following year Tillett led a strike at Tilbury Dock. The workers were defeated and Tillett became so depressed that he considered leaving the union. He campaigned for the post as General Secretary of the Gasworkers' Union but he was defeated by Will Thorne.

In 1889 Tillet's union members became involved in the London Dock Strike. The dockers demanded four hours continuous work at a time and a minimum rate of sixpence an hour. Tillet soon emerged with Tom Mann and John Burns as one of the three main leaders of the strike. During the strike Tillett lost his speech impediment and was acknowledged as one of the labour movement's greatest orators.

The employers hoped to starve the dockers back to work but other trade union activists such as Will Thorne, Eleanor Marx, James Keir Hardie and H. H. Champion, gave valuable support to the 10,000 men now out on strike. Organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Labour Church raised money for the strikers and their families. Trade Unions in Australia sent over 30,000 to help the dockers to continue the struggle. After five weeks the employers accepted defeat and granted all the dockers' main demands.

After the successful strike, the dockers formed a new General Labourers' Union. Tillett was elected General Secretary and Tom Mann became the union's first President. In London alone, 20,000 men joined this new union. Tillett and Mann wrote a pamphlet together called the New Unionism, where they outlined their socialist views and explained how their ideal was a "cooperative commonwealth".

Tillett was now one of England's leading socialists. He was a member of the Fabian Society and was one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party. In the 1892 General Election he was the the ILP's candidate in Bradford and only lost to the Liberal Party candidate by 500 votes.

Tillet was one of the founders of the Labour Party but did not get on with its two main leaders, James Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald. In 1908 he attacked the leadership in his pamphlet Is the Parliamentary Labour Party a Failure? and soon afterwards left to join the Social Democratic Party.

In September 1910 Tillett helped to establish the National Transport Workers' Federation, an organisation of 250,000 workers. He became the leader of the union and in 1911 it won a national strike. However, the following year, Tillett's union suffered a defeat at the hands of the Port of London Authority. It was during this strike that Tillet joined with George Lansbury and Will Dyson to form the trade union newspaper, the Daily Herald.

Unlike many socialist, Ben Tillett fully supported Britain's involvement in the First World War. His enthusiasm for aerial bombardment of German civilian centres and his views that pacifists should be severely punished, made him unpopular with many people in the labour movement. Tillett travelled throughout Britain and helped to recruit a large number of industrial workers into the armed forces.

In 1917 Ben Tillett stood as an Independent candidate in a by-election at North Salford. During the campaign he attacked the Labour Party for its internationalist views. With the strong anti-German feeling at the time, Tillett had little difficulty winning the seat.

In the 1918 General Election Tillett stood as the Labour Party candidate in North Salford. However, his views were now very conservative and was unable to obtain a senior position in the parliamentary party. Tillett wanted to become General Secretary of the new Transport and General Workers Union but he had little support and he decided not to stand for the post.

Tillett retired from the House of Commons in 1931. Except for an attempt to organize a boxer's union in 1932, he ceased to be active in the labour movement. Ben Tillett died on 27th January, 1943.


Timpanaro, Sebastiano (1923-2000)

Timpanaro By training a classical philologist, he was long active on the Italian left, in the Socialist Party, the PSIUP and the PUPC. In his work he insisted on the importance of materialism as a constitutive element of Marxism, and worked to reconcile materialism of Lucretius, and the pessimism of the 19th century Italian writer Giacomo Leopardi with Marxism. His most important books were “On Materialism” (1970) and the brilliant critique of Freud, “The Freudian Slip” (1974).

See Sebastiano Timpanaro Archive.


Tito, Josip Broz (1892-1980)

Tito Born in Croatia on May 25, 1892 of a native peasant and a Slovene mother.

Kumrovec lies in the Croatian Zagorje and Croatia was still under Austro-Hungarian rule. Broz worked as a mechanic in small workshops. During World War I, he served in the Austro-Hungarian army. He was captured as a prisoner of war and transported to the Russian interior. He joined a Bolshevik group while in prison and after escaping, he joined the Bolshevik Red Guards several months before the October Revolution.

He was registered as a member of the Communist party. Back in Yugoslavia, he continued his revolutionary work as a secretary of a metal union. He was picked up and spent six years in prison. He was released in 1934 and joined the Comintern in Moscow. Visited Moscow several times and was appointed Secretary of Yugoslav Communist Party in 1937. His success was due in part to the internal rivalry of communist leaders. In January 1939, he was officially appointed general secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party.

After Nazi invasion, set up his Partisans in Southern Serbia in 1941, and led by far the most powerful resistance movement in Europe. By end of the War, Tito’s forces had control of the whole country. Refused to take Stalin’s direction, and was expelled from the Cominform in 1948. Remained leader of the country till his death in 1980.

From then on, Tito had a major voice in all the ensuing phases of the Yugoslav revolution. During World War II, he became commander in chief of the partisan armed forces. In 1943, the Second Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia established the second Yugoslavia as a federal socialist republic of six republics. Tito had to make use of all his charisma to convince his comrade-partisans that all peoples of Yugoslavia should be granted equal rights. The partisan struggle ended with a complete victory of the communists. Supported strategically by their allies, both of the West and the East, complying formally with some demands for a multi-party system, Tito could form his first government on March 7, 1945. The politicians of the former Kingdom and some well intentioned participants of the liberation war were completely neutralized and soon eliminated by the power policy of the Communist Party.

More dangerous for Tito’s political career was the clash with the USSR. The Cominform conflict led to a break with Moscow. Tito’s internal power base was threatened as well, and large-scale purges in the party were bitterly needed. Needed also was an alternative ideology. In the beginning of the 1950s self-management was rediscovered in Marx’s writings and step by step introduced in Yugoslavia. But this timid democratization of the regime again threatened the party organization, now from within. In 1952, Tito was forced to put aside his close aid and once vice-president of Yugoslavia, Milovan Đilas. Another possible heir, Aleksander Rankovic, dominated the Ministry of the Interior and the secret police for years. He ultimately controlled Tito himself and tapped his telephone. In 1966, Tito was obliged to discard his conservative comrade, the second in rank.

After the fall of hardliner Ranković, economic and political liberalization broke through and this threatened the party monopoly anew. The Croatian Spring and similar opposition movements in other republics rose to an unexpected intensity. They were ultimately repressed by Tito in the 1970s after the Karađorđevo crisis meeting. At the same time, on advice of the Slovene Edvard Kardelj, he pushed through constitutional reforms to take the wind out of the sails of nationalism. By granting more autonomy, responsibility and formal self-government to the republics, he hoped to reduce the tensions between the federal units. In the same spirit, he set up a federal presidency structure to ensure the continuity of the system after his death.

In international affairs, Tito profited much from the rivalries of the two blocs during the Cold War. He played a leading role in the movement of the so-called Non-Aligned Countries.

Tito died in May 1980 and the structures set up to ensure continuity functioned more or less satisfactorily for a few years. Then, divergent aspirations could no longer be reconciled and the federal structure exploded. External Western interest had been eroded away by the fall of the communist system in the USSR.

There exist a lot of myths about Tito, beginning with his date of birth, following the different names he carried and ending with the suggestion that part of his official life was not his, but figured by a (German or Austrian) double. Probably, all these histories were not very significant for the course of the Yugoslav history. Anyhow, new stories will present themselves and all of Tito’s biographies should be read with care and suspicion.

One good of the many bibliographies of Tito is: Phyllis, Auty. Political leaders of the Twentieth century. Tito. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1974.

See Josip Broz Tito Archive


Titus, Hermon F. (1852-1931)

titus-hermon Hermon F. Titus was born in Massachusetts in 1852. As a boy he worked on farm, in a butcher shop, and in paper mill while attending school. Took course in Eastman’s Business College, 1867. Bookkeeper and dry goods clerk in NYC for 2 years, attending a college-preparatory school at night. Graduated Madison University, 1873; and its Theological Seminary, 1876. Pastor at First Baptist Church, Ithaca, NY, for 4 years, and in Newton, MA for 7 years. Resigned ministry “because churches did not represent Jesus.” Graduated Harvard Medical School, 1890. Practiced medicine in Newton, MA for 2 years before moving to Seattle, where he practiced for an additional 8 years. Always politically independent, Titus made a brief effort to organize the “Seattle Citizens’ Movement” in 1900. When this effort fizzled out, Titus joined the Socialist Party. Titus was Founder and Editor of The Socialist, established in Seattle, Aug. 12, 1900. Titus was long a bitter opponent of the post-Populist agrarian approach of Julius Wayland and his Appeal to Reason; Titus, by way of contrast, was a staunch adherent of proletarian socialism. Titus and his weekly newspaper was a major force in shaping the ideology of the radical Socialist Party of Washington, members of which included future Left Wing leaders Alfred Wagenknecht, Ludwig Katterfeld, William Z. Foster, Elmer Allison, T.E. Latimer, and Emil Herman. Titus was a delegate to 1904 SPA Convention. The 57-year old Titus left the SPA in Nov. 1909 in protest of the NEC’s intervention in the Washington factional war in favor of his “constructive socialist” opponents. His paper, The Socialist, terminated in 1910.