We have received the very sad and tragic news that Steve Jones, our comrade, passed away at home on the weekend after a short illness.
After having known Steve for more than four decades, and having worked closely with him over the last 30 years in the leadership of Socialist Appeal, the news of Steve’s death has come as a great shock to me personally, as to many others.
As a young man, Steve joined the Labour Party Young Socialists. Shortly afterwards, in 1972, fifty years ago this year, he joined Militant. It was a year of great upheaval, with the first official miners’ strike since 1926, and a near general strike over the arrest of five dockers.
At that time, Steve worked for the Greater London Council and was an activist in his union, NALGO (National and Local Government Officers’ Association).
My first memories of Steve were in Young Socialist meetings and at its national conferences, in which he participated. I knew him better when I moved to Barking in 1982 and was part of the Outer East London district of Militant, which included Steve’s branch of Dagenham.
I remember the district meetings we held at the Barking public library, where Steve would always get up and make a rousing contribution. In this way, he immediately caught everyone’s attention.
Steve had a unique style of speaking, which was always humorous and very lively. His contributions, which invariably poked fun at the powers that be, seemed to bring politics alive. You always knew that they would be entertaining and well thought out.
He would immediately capture your attention, usually with a joke and hand gestures, and keep your attention throughout. He had his own unique way of explaining things.
Steve held this talent throughout his life – whether in Socialist Appeal meetings or conferences.
I saw him on quite a few occasions at conferences of the National Union of Journalists, which he attended as a delegate from the London Central branch, of which he was treasurer. He really brought the conference to its feet with his interventions. It was truly remarkable to see.
You would invariably see Steve at events. He would always be present at paper sales, covering demonstrations and labour movement meetings alike. There was nothing too small for him.
I remember the important role he played in the split in Militant in 1991-92. I approached him at a paper sale and told him what was happening, and gave him a document explaining the position of the ‘Minority’.
From then on, Steve was an ardent supporter of Ted Grant, and spoke on behalf of the Opposition. He was soon bureaucratically expelled by the Taaffite Militant leadership, and so threw himself into the building of Socialist Appeal.
Steve went on to become a full-time worker for Socialist Appeal in 1994, after giving up his day job. He was prepared to make sacrifices and helped the work in different capacities: on the finances and the bookshop, as well as physically producing and dispatching our magazine.
He had a particular passion for books and theory, and you would often see him manning the book stall at events.
These early years, it must be said, were the most difficult years for the tendency, where we simply managed to hold things together, fighting against the stream. In this, Steve played an essential role.
Not only was Steve very well read, but he also had a special passion for films. His knowledge about the most obscure film or director was remarkable.
The last time Steve addressed a public meeting was last October, at the Revolution Festival, when he introduced a session on Marxism and Cinema. It was very well attended, and his speech was enthusiastically acclaimed. Steve was on top form, humour included.
The talk is available online, and is an important legacy that he has left behind – one that will be admired for years to come.
With this interest in mind, while he wrote widely as a long-standing member of the editorial board, he specialised in film reviews for Socialist Appeal.
Today, our tendency has made giant steps forward. The tendency has been remarkably transformed on the basis of theory, and by an influx of young comrades dedicated to building the Marxist tendency.
Steve would occasionally look back on the difficult years, only to marvel at the progress we have made now.
Steve was loyal to the end and will be sorely missed – but never forgotten. He was part of the generation that laid the basis for our present successes.
We will continue Steve’s work in building the tendency to greater heights.
Farewell comrade. We will redouble our efforts to ensure we bring about the socialist world you fought for all of your life.
As that great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said: “Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”
Our heartfelt condolences go to Su, Steve’s partner, and other family members.
Su has asked that all donations in Steve’s memory go to the Socialist Appeal fighting fund, in order to continue building the revolutionary organisation that Steve dedicated his life and energies to.
Please also see below for a selection of important articles written by Steve over the years, which capture his enormous knowledge, talent, and passion on a wide range of subjects – from cinema, to football, to history, to current affairs.