Born in 1909, Ted worked at Cadbury’s from 1923-1935, where he was a TGWU member. Smallbone was widely thought to have been sent to Moscow “on trade union work” by the local Party during the 1930s, having joined in the early part of the decade. He claimed to have worked at a car factory in the Soviet Union, although, seemingly, he was at the International Lenin School from 1935-37. The apparent contradiction is probably explained by the fact that he did both, working a plant so as to help encourage proletarian ethics amongst fellow workers and also learning to become a cadre at the same time.
He fought with the International Brigade on the River Ebro and other fronts, becoming wounded in action. Much later, he successfully campaigned for a memorial in Birmingham in St Thomas Peace Gardens. On his return, he worked at BSA, Austin and other factories as a toolmaker and was active in the AEU.
Ted was the Secretary of the Central Tenants’ Association (CTA), a federation of individual estate’s associations, during the 1939 Birmingham tenants’ strike. From 1940 to 1950, he served on the Birmingham City Committee of the Communist Party and was an AEU convenor of shop stewards at a variety of establishments. An AEU branch secretary and later branch president in the 1950s and 1960s, Smallbone also attained his union’s Award of Merit. He retired as a toolmaker in 1974 and was active in the peace and pensioners’ movements. Ted Smallbone died aged 84 in 1994.
Sources: Morning Star 14th February 1994; J McIlroy et al, “Forging the Faithful: the British at the International LeninSchool”, Labour History Review, Vol 68, April 2003, p123; Howard Williamson `Toolmaking and Politics – the life of Ted Smallbone, an oral history’ (1987); other sources.
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