The Last English Revolutionary


‘Spain woke me up politically. I rediscovered democracy, the power that can come from people working together when a popular front is not just a manoeuvre but a reality.’ Drawing on his political and fighting experience in the Spanish Civil War, Tom Wintringham wrote the best-seller New Ways of War: ‘a do-it-yourself guide to killing people’ but also a highly subversive call for a socialist revolution. He called for ‘a People’s war’ and the phrase stuck. Recalling the English Civil war he likened the Home Guard he trained in guerrilla warfare to the New Model Army and later he helped found Common Wealth, a political party more radical in some ways than Labour. His finest hour was 1940 when he inspired his countrymen to resist invasion.

After gaining exclusive access to the Wintringham archive, now in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, historian Hugh Purcell published a biography of this ‘uniquely English revolutionary’ (Sutton Publishing, 2004). Working with Phyll Smith, librarian in Wintringham’s home town of Grimsby, they have since discovered a wealth of historical firsts, including: the actual leaflet Wintringham wrote that led the prosecution case in the infamous treason trial of the Communist Party leadership in 1925; and additional evidence that in the summer of 1936 Wintringham was already propagating the idea of an ‘international legion’ to fight for Republican Spain. Churchill coined his own expletive as in ‘I refuse to be Wintringhamed’; Hemingway wrote his only play, Fifth Column, based on Wintringham and his lover, a supposed ‘Trotskyite spy’; and photographs show Orwell and Wintringham together in 1940 training for guerrilla warfare to resist a Nazi invasion – such was the dramatic imprint on history of this seminal figure, here revealed in an Enlarged, Revised and Updated edition.