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Pic: Jones is on the left, welcoming A Griffiths after his 1936 release from prison, when the latter had been imprisoned over an anti-fascist demo in Tonypandy
Author and Communist councillor, he was born 28th December 1897 in Clydach Vale, Rhondda, South Wales. He started work underground at the aged just 12 years in the Cambrian Combine Colliery and soon became active in the miners union.
He attended the Central Labour College in London 1923-1925. While there he joined the Communist Party and was imprisoned for his activities in the Nottinghamshire coalfields during the 1926 general strike for three months. On his return to South Wales he was elected checkweigher at Cambrian Lodge.
In 1929 he resigned, refusing to work with the scab union, South Wales Miners Industrial Union. As the Welsh organiser of the National Unemployed Workers Movement he led hunger marches in 1932, 1934 and 1936 to London.
He led the anti fascist demonstration against Mosley and his Blackshirts speaking at Pontypool town hall in April 1936, in the same year he was elected along with another Communist councillor for Rhondda on GlamorganCounty Council.
Arguable the Communist Party’s “most effective organiser in Wales, and considered a “veritable patron saint of the Welsh unemployed who wore poverty as a cloak. Jones famously did not stand for Stalin during a meeting in Moscow.
He was also a talented writer “We live” and “Cwmardy” are a tour de force of working class literature and working class struggle. In Cwmardy, Big Jim, a miner and a former soldier in the Boer War, and Siân endure a life of strikes and war. Their son, Len, becomes a thinker and then a political organiser. In We Live, we see Len become influenced by Mary, a teacher. The Communist Party dominates his life both in mines and in the union politics. His experiences lead to a decision to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Jones had planned a third book, based on the return of a victorious Welsh International Brigade fighter from Spain.
Lewis Jones died shortly after correcting the proofs to “We live” on the 27th January 1939 on the day he had addressed 30 meetings on support for Spanish Republic and International Brigade and in the week that saw Barcelona fall to the fascists, according to folk memory in the Rhondda he died of a “broken heart” the result of the defeat in Spain.
Dai Smith Lewis Jones (Cardiff 1982); Dai Francis `South Wales Miners against fascism’.
See also Lewis Jones’ Cwmardy: the story of a welsh mining valley (London, 1978); We live: the story of a welsh mining valley (London, 1978)