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Brian Jackson: trade unionist, co-operator, environmentalist and communist

Tributes will be paid today to a Leeds communist who was for decades a familiar figure of left and progressive movements in Yorkshire

THE funeral of Brian Jackson, who has died at the age of 90, takes place in the city today.

Jackson, who was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain for much of his adult life, worked in engineering and was a member of the Technical and Supervisory Staffs union (TASS) which, following a series of mergers, is now part of Unite.

He was described by one friend as a “socialist, peace campaigner, trade unionist, co-operator, environmentalist and active campaigner for 75 years.”

Jackson was a dedicated supporter of the co-operative movement.

Michael McGowan, former Labour Euro-MP for Leeds and also a committed co-operator, knew Jackson for almost 50 years.

He told the Morning Star: “Brian used to carry a map with him showing the location of every co-op in the city at a time when there were probably scores of them.

“Brian was self-effacing, quietly spoken, a huge supporter of the co-operative movement. He was extremely well known.”

Former CPGB comrade Anne Lee said: “I first met Brian when I joined the CPGB in the early 1960s, but he did not join the re-established CPB in the late 1980s.

“He was always active in the co-operative movement. I and my children joined the Woodcraft Folk, for which he was an advocate in the co-op.”

She said that with the late Geoff Hodgson Jackson “had the biggest Saturday Morning Star round in Leeds.”

That was in the inner-city district of Kirkstall, where today the CPB still benefits from his work, including participation in Kirkstall Festival, an annual community event.

Jackson was very much a hands-on community activist.

Sue Buckle, who first met him in the 1970s, said: “Any community or political event, he was there, helping and supporting, not just by his presence, but doing whatever needed doing: leafleting, serving on a stall, putting up tents, gazebos and stages, clearing up afterwards.

“You could tell when Brian was at a community event by the numbers of children playing with large bright balloons which he bought from Dewsbury market and gave out to all and sundry.”

He was involved in organising and running an annual children’s trip to the east coast town of Whitby.

In the 1970s trade union and labour mobilisations took place nationwide to welcome and house political refugees from Chile after the fascist coup there. More than 70 refugees were welcomed to Leeds. They were found homes and in the longer-term, jobs. Jackson was part of that.

He picketed alongside Yorkshire miners during the year-long strike against pit closures of 1984-5.

In 1995 the inner-city community of Hyde Park in Leeds was hit by riots and protests over police harassment and heavy-handedness.

The community responded by launching an annual Hyde Park Unity Day which continues more than 20 years later, bringing together different cultures and age groups. Jackson was involved in that and in 1999 he was given a Community Recognition Award by Unity Day organisers.

Amit Roy, one of the Unity Day founders, said: “Brian was always quiet but he was always there to help, whether it was putting up tents before the day, or volunteering to stay overnight to guard the equipment at the end of it; just by being there he made other people feel that they were part of the team.”

Buckle recalled a more recent incident.

“A few years ago, when he was in his 80s, the English Defence League were trying to march in Dewsbury.

“Brian was on the front line of the counter-demo when he was roughly removed by a couple of police and taken to the back ‘for his own safety’ they told him. He went back to the front.”

Jackson was for many years a delegate to Leeds Trade Union Council. He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain until its dissolution. He later joined the Alliance for Green Socialism, standing unsuccessfully as a candidate in local council elections.

He wore shoulder length hair even in his 80s. He was a familiar figure in Leeds at every imaginable left march, protest, celebration and events such as the annual commemoration of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki nuclear bombings.

His political activism continued to within a few months of his death. In October last year when climate activists from Spain passed through Leeds while walking to the world climate summit in Glasgow, Jackson was there to greet them.

McGowan said: “Brian was part of the culture, one of the fixtures, of the left in Leeds.”

Buckle said: “Quietly passionate, solid as a rock, gentle and strong and if you ever needed a penknife, magnifying glass or pair of scissors, he had one. And somehow he managed all his life without a mobile phone or a landline.

Jackson had no known immediate family.

His funeral takes place today, Thursday May 12, at Lawnswood Crematorium in Leeds at 10.45 am, followed by a gathering at the New Headingley Club, 56, St Michael's Road, LS6 3BG.


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