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Jim Wright was born in Luton in 1919. His father was from a Derbyshire mining family, a gambler who won the Irish Sweepstake and gambled the money away. His mother (pictured left with Jim) brought up the children mostly without support. As a young shopman living in Aldgate in London he was strongly anti-fascist and participated in the battle of Cable Street, which he described as the formative experience of his politics.
He joined the Communist Party and returned to Luton to work in the Vauxhall plant where trade unionism was strongly discouraged and communist work very difficult.
In the early stages of the war and when the Daily Worker was banned he undertook clandestine work in preparation for what was expected to be a period of illegality but after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union he volunteered for military service and was drafted as a craftsman in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He formed a party group in his unit and agitated for the opening of the Second Front. He volunteered for the Parachute Regiment but was turned down. During this time he was held in military detention in Colchester. Nevertheless he was selected to lead discussions in the army’s education branch before being sent overseas to the 14th Army in Burma.
Picture right: Jim as a soldier in Burma
He rarely spoke of his Burma experiences except to remark how lucky he was to survive and how this formed his support for the CND and later the Stop the War Coalition. He formed a link with the Communist Party of India and was presented with a volume of Marx Engels selected works by it. While awaiting demobilisation his unit was told it was to remain in the country to deal with the independence movement. For his part in the ensuring mutiny he was held in detention before demobilisation.
Reinstated in his job at Vauxhall Motors he was an active member of the AEU and of the factory branch of the party, was elected shop steward in the Press Shop and when the management attempted to supplant the trade union organisation with a ‘Management Advisory Committee’ he was one of the shop stewards elected to subvert this manoeuvre.
He met Winifred Bruce, the daughter of Whitechapel veteran SDF and BSP member Fred Bruce, who had been evacuated from London, and they were married in 1946. Win, who worked with Betty Matthews in the SE Midlands party district office, was a seamstress and later secretary of Luton Workers Education Association.
He re-established contact with Bengali and later Bangla Deshi communists in England during the sixties and seventies. Disagreeing with the direction the party took in the 1980s, he remained a Party member until the dissolution of the CPGB. He remained physically active in to his nineties joining the Stop the War demonstrations and the Cable Street anniversary march.
Jim and Winifred in later years