Jean Esther Styles was born on October 19th 1927; she joined the Communist Party in 1947.
As branch secretary for the Streatham Communist Party in the mid-1960s, she formally engaged in correspondence with the national YCL over its “Challenge Holidays”, which provided trips to east European socialist states. It’s probable that the rising tensions in the YCL associated with a critical view of the Soviet Union was involved. Those who had voluble pro-Soviet leanings increasingly found themselves excluded from more than just holidays.
A reply from Barney Davies to a complaint from Styles’ branch simply stated the right to “refuse acceptance of any applicant without giving reason for so doing”. Streatham complained to the Party EC about this but got nowhere.
Jean, who was heavily involved in campaigns for tenants’ rights, married Maurice H Styles in 1949 in Wandsworth. He was born in 1923 and was engaged in the coal industry bear Blackwood, Caerphilly from 1943. By 1950, he was working for the GPO and was active in the Union of Post Office Workers.
By 1971 Maurice was the Chair of the union. Shortly afterwards, he later became a full time Occupational Officer for Postmen. [The Union of Post Office Workers changed its name to the Union of Communication Workers in 1980 and five years later merged with the National Communications Union (NCU) to form today’s Communication Workers’ Union (CWU).]
Jean Styles was appointed the first head of a separate national Communist Party Women’s Department, beginning this role in January 1972 after having been elected to the Executive Committee at the national congress the previous November.
Her department was responsible for producing a specific women’s journal for the Party, called Link, but this was increasingly seen by revisionist inclined women in the CPGB as not sufficiently ‘liberated’ enough and unofficially opposed by the more challenging but non-Party publication ‘Red Rag’, which effectively operated as a factional journal for Euro-Communist women.
Her friend and supporter, Maggie Bowden, wrote in 23rd May 1977 to Gordon McLennan, the CPGB’s general secretary on learning that a forthcoming issue of Link was not to be printed. “I cannot understand what is happening to the Communist Party. On the one hand we advise comrades that we want the widest possible discussion on the other we restrict discussion within the Party to two journals, the Morning Star and Comment.”
Jean Styles retired at the Party congress in 1979, to be replaced in 1980 as National Women’s Organiser by Maggie Bowden on a “spare-time” basis. In one of the relatively early signs of factional tension, the appointment was subject to a vote of 26 votes to 10 with two abstentions, the 10 votes against being in favour of Brenda Kirsch.
Jean Styles died on August 15th 2012.
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