Steve Mann

AISA is devastated at the news of the death of Steve Mann, AISA commitee member, one-time Mayor of Haringey and long-standing Arsenal supporter. We all offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his wife Jennifer, and his family. He will be a great loss.

Here is a review of Steve’s book Sadism, Songs and Lost Liberty. It gives an insight into what the reviewer, Steve Flett, describes as “quite a life.”

Street Fighting Mann: review of Sadism, Songs & Lost Liberty

(Taken from London Socialist Historians Newsletter – summer 2014

Steve Mann’s memoir of his youth in the Royal Navy it that unusual thing, a book about politics that is also a compelling and enjoyable read.

A North Londoner Steve signed up for the Royal Navy in the first half of the 1960s for the minimum term of 12 years.

He quickly came to realise that it was not a pleasant place to be. It might be argued that the petty rules and discipline could be found elsewhere too in the 1960s, but obviously in the armed forces it was taken as a given fact of life.

Steve quite quickly realised that a career in the Royal Navy wasn’t for him, but he was contractually bound to stay. Unlike other jobs you could not just walk out and resign. That would be desertion.

As it turned out he did get what appears to have been a good training as a chef and remains, so his trade union colleagues tell me, an excellent cook to this day. Whether this was quite what he had in mind when he signed up is less clear. Certainly he seems to have seen a lot more of land bound training ships than he did the sea and particularly interesting overseas locations.

The book recounts his political awakening as he contacts the Communist Party in North London [they did not allow members of the services to join] and the old TGWU [likewise]. He reads the Morning Star and Socialist Worker and ends up writing pieces for both papers.

His left-wing leanings clearly aroused the interest of the security services who kept a fairly close watch on both his activities- attending anti-Vietnam war demonstrations for example- and who he spoke to.

Steve eventually decided to try and buy himself out of the Navy and did pioneering work with the National Council for Civil Liberties [now Liberty] to see if the law that bound people into the services for long periods could be challenged and changed.

He had made his opposition to the Vietnam War clear and told the Navy that were Britain to become involved he could not fight, in effect becoming a conscientious objector. His statement was not taken at face value. He had to undergo a lengthy discussion with a Navy padre to prove the point

In due course the Navy did allow him to buy himself out, for far more money than he had. Socialists in Hornsey had a fund raising party to Free Steve Mann, which eventually they actually did.

The book is also a record of North London working class life in the 1960s, the cafes and pubs, the music of the day [there is a list of favourite records at the end] and, the major downside of the book, the support for Arsenal.

If you were around in the 1960s you’ll love the book and even if you weren’t you’ll find it a very engaging piece of working class autobiography. It is an important contribution to our understanding of how people became part of ‘the left’ and what it meant.

7 thoughts on “Steve Mann”

  1. My deepest sympathies to all the family for this tragic and sad loss. Steve will be very much missed by all that knew him. Bless you Steve

  2. I worked with Steve for many years. On the CWU National Executive. On the National H/S committee. He was a friend and mentor. We travelled the country together and had fun doing it. There were 3 of us. Myself Tom Cooper, Julia Upton and Steve. Known as Tom Dick And Harry. Steve being Harry. You’ll be missed but not forgotton.

  3. so sad to lose Steve and devastated fro Jen and his family. Having know Steve for many years as part of AISA he was a lovely man, Arsenal through and through, and a committed campaigner. I will miss him and his wise words in committee.

  4. It was a privilege to know Steve, if only for a relatively short time.
    Steve was a real “gentle” man who will be sorely missed by everyone.
    My thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer and all their family.
    Thanks for everything Steve – Rest in Peace

  5. Steve was a great friend and colleague..
    Steve will be so missed a true unionist and Arsenal
    Supporter …

    Thanks for your kind message in your book you signed for me ..

    Condolences to your family and friends RIP

  6. I have taken time to reflect on my friendship with Steve. They say that your soul remains as long as people still remember you. I thought about him every day since I heard the news.
    I first met Steve and Jenifer at a Labour Social hosted by Dame Vera Baird OBE. They had both retired and were thinking of becoming Councillors in Haringey. We are all so pleased that they did. Their hard work as Councillors soon impressed so that they were both elected successive Mayors of Haringey. They both excelled in this role.
    Although Steve, like myself, had a radical past, he realised that the fight was against the privileged Tories who undermine the standard of living of the working class and increase division and poverty.
    Haringey is the largest labour constituency in the country. Through my time it has been dominated
    by the hard left. Who prefer to attack their colleagues rather than take the case to the Tories . It is a mark of Steve’s stature within the Party that he gained the respect of both sides. His unwavering support for a Starmer Government has contributed to a change in the balance of power on the Council. Haringey is no longer being run by the radical left.
    I appreciate that many of you will not be Labour supporters. I, like Steve and Jennifer respect your position. Just as we respect other football teams. It goes without saying that a thriving democracy, like the Premier League, requires politicians and players to do their best for the team. Steve did that all his life and he was bloody good at it. RIP Steven Mann. We will miss you.

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