Friday, 12 November 2010

My hero

It's a while since I nattered on about Welsh literature, my primary passion.

I just received from Academi two packets of postcard portraits of Welsh writers in English. All the usual suspects: RS Thomas, Dannie Abse, the profoundly under-rated David Jones (I have one of his prints in the office), Alun Lewis, Richard Llewellyn that disgraceful fascist hack and many more (mostly male, but not exclusively).

I expected to see one of Lewis Jones (1897-1939). He wrote two wonderful novels (Cwmardy and We Live) and a few short stories. He also managed to be a miners' leader, a Communist Party councillor (though he was repeatedly suspended from the Party and my PhD claims that he was a syndicalist with reforming tendencies), he went to prison for 'sedition', he organised the Welsh branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement (perhaps it's time to restart it) and led their hunger marches, he recruited for the Spanish Civil War (he tried to volunteer but was refused) and he deliberately insulted Stalin, in person, in Moscow, at the height of the liquidations. In the midst of all this, he apparently had a love life that made Lloyd George look shy and retiring, and had a massive… work ethic. He died of a heart attack after speaking to 200,000 people at 30 mass meetings in one day in aid of Spain.

None of us are likely to match that commitment or energy.

Here's the picture I found of him, greeting Arthur Griffiths, another great Welsh socialist who played his part in Irish freedom too, joining the Irish Citizen Army.

Anti-Means Test (for welfare) postcard


ed said...

How did he insult Stalin?

The Plashing Vole said...

He went on a CP conference trip to Moscow. When Stalin walked in, the standard standing ovation consisted of everyone in the room - except Lewis Jones, who stayed seated because he didn't think the cult of the individual was communist.

He got sent home, which was probably the best thing. Harry Pollitt was the British CP leader. The woman he loved, Rose Cohen was 'disappeared' in the purges and shot without aid from British Communists (except Pollitt, whom the Stalinists distrusted) or the British government.