Richard ‘Rej’ Jones, socialist.
Known to many as Rej, and ‘Red Rej’, Richard Jones passed away on Tuesday 13th December after a long illness. Rej was a Swansea-based campaigning socialist since his arrival as a student, over 40 years ago.
Throughout his life, Rej retained the idealism that brought him to socialism and he remained an activist for a range of causes until his death.
In the heady years of activism in the 1960s, he engaged in student politics and became editor of Swansea University’s Socialist Society newspaper, ‘Red Letter’. His criticisms of the university authorities led to his suspension on two occasions. He was prominent in the anti-Vietnam War campaign and the anti-Apartheid movement, particularly against the South African Rugby Tour in 1969. He became a member of the International Socialists (later to become the SWP).
On leaving university with a politics degree he worked for two years on the construction of the BP chemical plant at Baglan Bay. There he joined the AUEW and began a life-long career as an active trade unionist.
In 1972 Rej turned to teaching, took his certificate at Huddersfield Polytechnic and returned to Swansea a year later for a post teaching English at Townhill Comprehensive School. His thirty year teaching career took him to Dillwyn Llewellyn and Birchgrove Comprehensive Schools. Throughout his time as a teacher he was actively involved in the NUT, became President of the Swansea Branch, and was a delegate to a number of national conferences.
Rej’s trade union activity led him to become active in the Swansea and District Trades Council, then the main focus of the local labour movement. He joined and often led union campaigns to improve working conditions and wages, especially for the lowest paid.
The demands of young children and the legacy the many faction fights that plagued the British left caused Rej to leave the SWP in the 1980s. A brief return and even a dabble with the Labour Party demonstrated his ongoing commitment to his class and so, despite no direct political affiliation, he retained his determination and continued to be active in a range of broad- left campaigns, most notably combating racism and the war in Iraq. He was a fervent anti-racist and was prominent in the Anti Nazi League and actions against the neo-Nazi groups that sought to establish themselves in South Wales. The last demonstration that Rej was able to attend, in October 2010, saw the fascist English Defence League being prevented from meeting in Swansea.
In his later years Rej became increasingly involved in support for the freedom of Palestinians to live in their own state. He eagerly followed the fortunes of the convoys that aimed to take food and clothing into Gaza and he promoted his beliefs through campaign support, the internet and using his talent as a poet. His poetry anthology, ‘A Fistful of Poetry’, focused on Palestine and the Palestinian resistance. ‘A Fistful of Poetry’ then became the title of his poetry blog. His last poem about Palestine, ‘Scientific Breakthrough’, written in November, raged against Zionist settlers diverting water from Palestinian communities.
Throughout his life as a socialist Rej remained consistent in his beliefs. Wherever he found injustice he fought against it. He supported equality and opposed bigotry. With his passing, socialist politics has lost a great protagonist. Nevertheless, through his poetry, Rej left a legacy that will continue well into the future. And for those that knew him well, we have the memory and inspiration of his friendship, commitment and enthusiasm.
Richard Edwin Jones, born 14th October 1947, died 13th December 2011 and survived by his life partner Kath, their daughter, Sally, and son, Richard.
Celyn adds: For our sadness, Rej Jones, in a real reflection of his philosophy of life .. and death, left us a humorous poetic homily, ‘Post Mortem’, a parody of Monty Python’s ‘parrot sketch’, which we append here along with some extracts from comments left on his blog.
‘E’s passed on!
This poet is no more!
He has ceased to be!
‘E’s expired and gone
to mock ‘is maker!
‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life,
‘e rests in peace!
If you hadn’t nailed ‘im
to the page
‘e’d be pushing up the daisies!
‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory!
‘E’s fallen off the twig!
‘E’s kicked the bucket,
‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil,
run down the curtain !!
THIS IS AN EX-POET!!