Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library

A LIBERATING THINKER

Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1974), 69, (1), 6–7.

Abstract

into the grammar school at the age of 12, a statement repeated by D. McLellan in his recent biography of Marx. It appears from a letter, now in the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Moscow, written to Marx in September 1848 by a certain Eduard Montigny, asking Marx to find employment for him, that Montigny had in earlier years, when he was a bookseller in Trier, given lessons in handwriting to the young Marx. Nevertheless it is more likely, as Monz says, that Marx attended a primary school, even though evidence on the point is lacking. F.T.W. A LIBERATING THINKER Among the newly published books kindly presented to the Library by their authors is "Thomas Paine-His Life, Work and Times", by Audrey Williamson. A biography of this outstanding man by an English writer (what few serious accounts exist of his life were mainly written by Americans) is very welcome. The deluge of opprobrium that was poured upon him from the moment of his death almost down to our own times might dispose us to guess, as E. Belfort Bax remarked of Marat, that here was a person of unusual purity of purpose and courageous service to the cause of progress; and that it would be an act of justice to him and benefit to ourselves to set the record straight. Mrs. Williamson has brought talent and imagination to the task, seeking and following up new sources, carefully weighing suppositions in regions where Paine's dignified reticence on matters of purely personal importance left gaps in the story. Born in Norfolk in 1737, and working successively as staymaker, sailor, excise officer and teacher, he had established himself by his early thirties as an incisive debater and fearless exponent of enlightened social and political views, no-wise impressed, much less intimidated, by the formidable power of the ruling British oligarchy and its church. He gave proof of responsible attention and practical good sense in his participation in public affairs. Benjamin Franklin, then in England on business of the British colonists in North America, came to know and appreciate Paine's gifts and outlook, and persuaded him to emigrate to America, where, as the struggle developed against the oppressive British rule, he played an ever greater part, first as writer, and then simultaneously as writer and soldier, in the War of Independence, being appointed at its close as Secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs of what had now become the U.S.A. For Britons, however, his greatest services were rendered on his return, when he magnificently vindicated the young French Revolution, then being reviled as the Russian Revolution was in 1917 - and in so doing electrified the movement for democratic reform in his own country. His "Rlqhts of Man", already in course of writing, but given urgency and immediate significance by the denunciatory tirade of Burke ("Reflections on the Revolution in France"), not only defended the determination of the French people 6

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P.B.