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Jon Bloomfield

Bloomfield was born in London in 1950 and read history at Cambridge University, where he appears to have first dallied with International Socialism, or what was to become the Socialist Workers Party, but then joined the Communist Party. His interest in the events in Czechoslovakiain 1968 led to his taking a PhD on the history of post-war Czechoslovakia, an interest that would become abiding and highly significant for internal Party conflict.

He was active in the Party’s student work and, following some years of temporary incumbents holding the then full-time post of Birmingham City Secretary, Bloomfieldwas appointed by the Party’s centre to the position around 1976.

The move was then internally controversial, not only since it virtually propelled Bloomfield straight from university into the secretaryship of what was then becoming one of the most powerful trade union centres for the British Communist Party, by virtue of the centrality of the car industry, and associated technologies, to the economy.

Additionally, it had always been practice to only make such appointments following recommendations and consultation with local Party organisations and the local Party leadership was stunned by the inappropriateness of the appointment. Despite the Midlands District Secretary, Frank Watters’ (see separate entry) concerns that Bloomfield did not have the kind of skills needed in the city, the Party’s new General Secretary, Gordon McLennan (see separate entry) over-ruled this and Bloomfield moved to Birmingham.

It only made sense when it emerged that Bloomfieldhad become a close confidant of Dave Cook (see separate entry), who had become the Party’s National Organiser after having been Student Organiser. Bloomfield had succeeded him in this latter role and Cook’s strong recommendation to place Bloomfield in Birmingham had seemingly been a most decisive influence on McLennan, who was inclined to favour what he supposedly thought to be the challenging adventurism of younger members.

Increasingly, Bloomfield played a significant role in creating the basis for what would emerge as a significant revisionist challenge to the Communist Party’s heritage, which took the form of a so-called “Euro-Communist” takeover that led to a crisis in British Communism for a generation or so.

This role for Bloomfield began in earnest in the run-up to the Party’s decisive 1977 congress. He manoeuvred to ensure that the Midlands District Committee of the Communist Party was won by a single vote to be supportive of a resolution on the Morning Star, which might in retrospect be seen as the start of a process that began the end of a relationship between the Morning Star and the Communist Party as it then was, which in turn was to lead to major internal controversy, massive decline for the Party, a parting of the ways via administrative exclusion, and initially competing re-founding and formal dissolution of Party forms.

Even so, despite much prior planning, Bloomfieldwas only initially able to nudge the thin end of the wedge resolution through the Midlands District Committee by the narrowest of margins - a single vote.

An EC resolution on the matter of the Morning Star’s future was to be moved at congress by Gerry Cohen, London District Secretary. Bloomfield and his supporters now astutely avoided challenging this directly but moved to amend it. This amendment, whilst retaining the main points of the original motion, claimed that the problem facing the paper regarding finance and circulation was its content, style, presentation and management.

In other words, to boost the paper, it was only necessary to change the content by have less reporting of the trade union world and adopt a style and presentation more geared to the women's, ecological and environmental movements. It was no more than an assertion of the need to diminish commitment to class struggle.

In an atmosphere of confusion the EC's emergency resolution on the 'Star' was heavily defeated. The amendment was carried with 193 in favour to 137 against.

Bloomfield would later appear content when the Birmingham City Committee decided not to sell the Morning Star as part of its campaign during the 1979 General Election. He was already poised to depart from full-time Party work, enabling one Pete Shepherd to take over as full-time Party city secretary.

But this was not before he had become a central figure in the affair of the sacking of Derek Robinson (see separate entry), the Communist convenor of the then giant car factory in Longbridge. It is clear that it was the leaking to Michael Edwardes, the boss of British Leyland of a copy of minutes of a Party meeting to discuss the campaign to save British Leyland from being dismembered, which were written by Bloomfield, that began the process of a judgement to take on the unions and sack a leading Communist.

Whoever actually posted copies to Edwardes, it was Jon Bloomfield who named all those Communists who were present at a private meeting. He had also included lengthy extracts from Jack Adams' report to the private Party meeting, which finally formed the basis of the Shop Stewards’ Combine pamphlet that was in turn used by Edwardes as the excuse to dismiss.

Aside from anything else, the fact that Bloomfield could not see what the problem was about his minutes confirmed for many that what the Birmingham Communist Party had not needed was the appointment of a clever academic to the full time role of city secretary. It is not possible to speculate here about motives but before he died John Rowan (see separate entry) had his own views and evidence about Bloomfield’s true role.

Quite outside of his formal role as Birmingham city secretary, Bloomfield had also been heavily involved in supporting the Czech dissident body, Charter 77; this was a movement hostile to the socialist system, named after a document launched in January 1977. The initiative was made by such persons as Vaclav Havel, who as a later President of the Czech Republic heavily promoted the extension of NATO into eastern Europe.  Charter 77 criticized the Czechoslovak Communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions, such as the 1975 Conference accord on Security and Cooperation in Europe and certain United Nations covenants.

The Charter 77 group has been linked to the National Endowment for Democracy, which was later much adopted by US President Ronald Reagan as his main force for interfering in the democracy of a host of nations. Although administered as a private organisation, the funding of NED comes almost entirely from a governmental appropriation by Congress and it was created by an act of Congress. 

During the early 1980s, Bloomfield’s interest in Czechoslovakianow extended to the peace movement. He was a CND observer at the World Assembly for Peace and Life Against Nuclear War, held in Praguein 1983. Jon Bloomfield was also one of four Communist Party members out of the 26 people elected as CND officers or Council members at the 1983 Annual Conference.

He was, variously, a member of the CPGB Executive Committee and the editorial board of Marxism Today during the 1980s.

During the latter part of the decade, he acquired a senior role in Birmingham city council’s social services department.  He then moved to a role in the development of Advantage West Midlands, the quasi-autonomous skills and economic development body in the 1990s. He was behind Birmingham's failed bid to become Capital of Culture and the city's links with China.

Bloomfield returned to old interests in 1989, when he covered the so-called `Velvet Revolution’ in Czechosolvakia for The Guardian.

Bloomfield, along with other notables of the latter stage of the 1980s CPGB decamped from it as it was folding and about to be formally dissolved. As is well-known, after formally disbanding the CPGB, the revisionist rump that established “Democratic Left”; this was more of a think tank than a political party as such. DL dissolved itself in 1999, in favour of the New Politics Network.

It is only worth mentioning any of this in the context of a brief biographical note on Bloomfield since NPN then merged with Charter 88 in 2007. This latter group of intellectuals, who advocated constitutional and electoral reform, came out of a special edition of the New Statesman and consciously took its name from Havel’s Charter 77, which Bloomfieldhad so much interest in. In November 2007, a new body arose from controversy to form “Unlock Democracy”, a minor think tank.

Having achieved the demise of the revisionist CPGB, Bloomfield’s interests now appeared to focus wholly on the development of New Labour in Birmingham. In the Noughties, he was the head of the city council's European and International Division during long years of New Labour administration. He was both Head of European Policy at the West Midlands Regional Development Agency and Honorary Lecturer in the School of Public Policy at Birmingham University.

By 2005, the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition had decided to rid themselves of him, using the argument that, because he did not wear a suit and had a beard, his image was a poor contribution to the city’s interests.  It was claimed that Bloomfield was forced out because of his close ties with the previous Labour administration. He appears to now be totally involved with the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Local Government Studies.

Amongst his publications from earlier days are the 1970s Communist Party pamphlet “Into action: the campaign on teacher unemployment”; his 1977 pamphlet “British Leyland- save it!”. Bloomfield also edited “The Communist University of London (Papers on Class Hegemony and Party)”.