Tom Cashman: R.I.P.

August 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm (good people, humanism, Jim D, Marxism, RIP, secularism, Unite the union, workers)

He was  … “a  friend and partisan of all good causes, always ready to circulate a petition, help out a collection or get up a protest meeting to demand that wrongs be righted. The good causes, then as now, were mostly unpopular ones, and he nearly always found himself in the minority, on the side of the under-dogs who couldn’t do him any good in the tough game of making money and getting ahead. He had to pay for that […] but it couldn’t be helped. [He] was made that way, and I don’t think it ever entered his head to do otherwise or live otherwise than he did.

“That’s just about all there is to tell of him. But I thought […], that’s a great deal. Carl Sandberg said it in this way: ‘These are the heroes then – among the plain people – Heroes, did you say? And why not? They gave all they’ve got and ask no questions and take what comes to them and what more do you want?’ “ – James P.Cannon (The Militant, June 1947)

With comrades cashman,Byrne,Denham andO'Sullivan
Above: Tom towards the end, with old friends and comrades.

I’ve just heard that Tom Cashman is dead.

His daughter, Ruth, got in contact to say:

Hi comrades,

My dad died yesterday. Though he had differences  […]  he considered you all comrades.

We will send round details of the funeral once it has been arranged.

In solidarity,


“For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try and avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth…”

Leon Trotsky — the Last Testament of Leon Trotsky, Mexico, 27 February 1940

Tom had been ill with a brain tumour for a couple of years, so at one level his death is not a shock.

But Tom’s mental and physical strength meant that he’d hung on for much longer than would normally have been the case.

Not necessarily a good or merciful thing, but there we are.

I’ll write more about Tom shortly.

But for now, I’d just like to say:

He was about the finest and most principled person I ever knew.

He introduced me to real socialist politics.

He understood the interaction between trade unionism and socialist politics.

He – together with Graham Stevenson, who had completely different politics – devised the plan that kept union organisation intact on London buses after privatisation.

He was the voice of political sophistication and Marxism on the T&G -going into -Unite Executive, while he was on there.

Best wishes and solidarity to Ruth, Johnnie and all Tom’s friends, comrades and family.

I’ll write more soon.




  1. lynn ferguson said,

    Jim. Tom was indeed a person who successfully integrated his Marxism and trade unionism in a principled yet non sectarian way. He was also a good and loyal friend. I will miss him.

  2. Ken Farrington said,

    Good person whose company I always enjoyed, a true socialist who fought for equality and against injustice all of his life. RIP

  3. Jim Denham said,

    A lovely comment on Facebook from Comrade Jean Lane:

    Tom got stuck in traffic due to massive road closures one time. He was working on a tourist bus at the time and stuck in tooley street for hours. Tom decided to give his captive audience a running commentary in the history of the t&g. Cause where else were they gonna go? One of the Americans got off the bus eventually and said it was the best bus ride he had ever been on in his life. Thinking of you Ruth . So sorry about Tom. Good bloke. Love jeanx.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    From the United Left email list:

    Tom Cashman RIP
    Martin Mayer Aug 11 12:46PM -0400

    To all United Left supporters

    So sorry to hear of the untimely death of our left comrade Tom Cashman who had been ill for some time. A lovable, cantankerous, progressive trade unionist who was a free thinker willing to challenge conventional wisdom and fight for his view to be heard. Those qualities were invaluable (though at time frustrating! ) in his role as TGWU Executive Council member prior to the merger. He was an early convert to industrial organising in passenger transport and was a formidable activist against his employer National Express who punished him dearly for his successes. He also played a vital role pushing for progress in establishing the new UNITE South Region. As a true class fighter he truly made a difference and was a true and loyal member of the T&G Broad Left and subsequently UNITE’s United Left, even when times were hard for us. His tireless commitment to the trade union he loved cannot be underestimated even though for some he could be infuriating at times. For all those who knew him he left an indelible mark in our memories and a genuine sadness to lose a challenging yet lovable friend and comrade. Our thoughts now are with Johnnie his partner who was fantastically loyal and supportive to Tom especially in the recent difficult months as his health deteriorated. It is with great regret that I personally will not be able to get to his funeral as I am in Sofia for the ITF Congress but I do hope some of you will get there to give him the respectful final send-off he deserves. Please see below the details of the funeral arrangements and how to get there.

    Martin Mayer

    Alan Birch Aug 11 07:33PM +0100:

    It is a great shock to here of Tom’s death. He was a tireless worker for the cause and not for self-promotion, as are so many in the movement. If Tom upset people it was generally because he pricked their egos. Tom understood that it benefited no-one to make pious statements when you had no possibility of carrying them through. His strength was in aiming for the possible and energising those around him and leading by example. Who is going to put down those pompous “left wing” pseudo-intellectual self-seekers and careerists now he is gone? I’ll raise a Blackbush with a seperate glass of water on Thursday. Thanks, Tom for your friendship, guidance, entertainment and support over many years (since Passenger 2). Condolences to Johnnie for your loss, and I hope to be there to see you on Thursday.
    Alan Birch (1/290 Branch)

  5. Pete FirminPete Firmin said,

    Not had much contact with Tom over the last 30 years since we parted political (organisational) ways. Before that we knew each other well. We always had a chat when we bumped into each other at conferences or demonstrations. While I didn’t always agree with Tom, he was one of the “good guys” who never gave up. Not seeking the limelight, but one of those summed up at the start of this piece. Thanks Jim.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Thanks for that, Pete (also Lynn and Ken); I’ve posted funeral details a couple of posts on from here and I know that all Tom’s friends and comrades will be welcome.

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