Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Ken Coates: a Eulogy.

with 13 comments

A Flower of the Labour Movement.

Ken Coates (Here) has passed on, at 80, on the 27th of June. (Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent Here, Blog Three Score Years and Ten Here, Five Leaves Blog Here, Keith Flett in the Morning StarHere Socialist Worker Here. Left Futures  Here This is Nottingham  Here)

He had had a heart attack a few years ago. This time one carried him off.

Ken was one of the best and most influential socialist activists, politicians, and writers of the European Left.

From the Institute for Workers’ Control, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, European Nuclear Disarmament, the European Appeal for Full Employment, to Socialist Renewal, he played a leading part in the left and the labour  movement.

Rare are people with such gifts: Ken combined a superb grasp of abstract economic and political issues, with the ability to organise within the board trade union movement and peace campaigns. His experience as a Coal Miner (never worn as a trump against ‘intellectuals’), his easy relations with ordinary working people, and his enduring commitment to grass-roots activity, earned him great respect.

I came into direct contact with Ken during his period as a MEP (1989 to 1999). The European Full Employment Conventions (both held in Brussels at the European Parliament) had a wide echo. Attending them both made  you realise just how widely and deeply Ken was respected. The delegations to each  from Southern England (filling a coach from London) were made up of the kind of salt-of-the-earth left and union activists that keep our movement going. Ken name was part of the draw. The Appeal itself – which demanded decent levels of benefit and real job creation – is still relevant during the present economic crisis. It offers an answer to calls to slash-and-burn the public sector.

Ken stood four-square in the tradition of democratic socialism and promoted the self-management principles of workers’ control with brio. He was evicted from the Labour Party (1998)  over his protests with Hugh Kerr against dropping Clause Four. Efforts to form an alternative through the Independent Labour Network, were not succesful. However, the steady stream of pamphlets from Socialist Renewal,  his articles and books,  and the journal-publishing house, Spokesman continued. They interested, and will keep interesting,  a wide public.

Like many on the left with similar views I have scores and scores of letters from Ken (the most recent was a written reply to an E-Mail about a year back). Ken seems never to have really trusted the Web for writing. His ability to engage in constant dialogue pre-dated Blogs, Newsgroups and Facebook. It was just one of the aspects that made him so deeply rooted in the best sides of the European, and world, socialist tradition.

Ken Coates was a flower of the labour movement.

He leaves behind comrades with warm memories and a determination to build on his achievements.

Condolences to his nearest and dearest.


Update: Ken’s funeral will be on July 8,  14.00 at Chesterfield Crematorium.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Exactly

    Coates was the type of intellectual activist we are so short of these days. He dealt with real life as it is, and not as some leftists wish it to be or some carbon copy of past glories, he also understood it is imperative to defend past gains and intellectualise about how we might make improvements to working class peoples lives based on the reality of the times.

    Mick Hall

    June 30, 2010 at 11:23 am

  2. I had few dealing with Ken when he was an MEP. An outstanding man, reminds me what a socialist politician should be.

    Pete Shield

    June 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm

  3. Nice one, Andrew.

    Thank you and greetings!

    Tony Simpson

    June 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    • Tony, if there is an memorial event, or fund, you are welcome to contact us on behalf of Spokesman and Russell Press.

      Andrew Coates

      July 1, 2010 at 11:52 am

  4. Knew the man only through this blog but I always came back for more. Will miss reading his lively words. Respect.


    June 30, 2010 at 7:08 pm

  5. It has been good to be in the world at the same time as Ken. I write this for David Morris (former MEP and colleague of Ken)who died in 2007. David often spoke of Ken as a great comrade and worker for peace. Together they formed and held together European Parliament CND in the 1990s.
    Ken would want us to carry on the good work for social justice and for peace and disarmament.

    Jill Gough CND Cymru

    June 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm

  6. […] Geschrieben von entdinglichung am 1. Juli 2010 Am 27. Juni starb im Alter von 79 Jahren Ken Coates, nachfolgend dokumentiert ein Nachruf, gefunden auf ESSF, eine weitere Würdingung auf Tendance Coatesy […]

  7. Tony, very sincere condolences to all Ken’s nearest and dearest, comrades, friends and family, from:
    the Singletons;
    the Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice, (University of Bristol)
    and all at Statewatch.

    Ann Singleton

    July 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

  8. […] read Andrew Coates’ eulogy to this great man. Andrew has other links too: Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent […]

  9. On behalf of the Edwards family (Ted and Kate were good friends and comrades of Ken and Spokesman Press) farewell to Ken.

    Catherine Edwards Zara

    August 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    • Catherine you may interested to know that this Post, with other tributes, is published in the latest Spokesman.

      Andrew Coates

      August 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

  10. I only heard about Ken’s death in the last few days. He had been in my mind because of the role he played helping the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed oppose (very unsuccessfully) the Maastricht Treaty. All the arguments that he developed (with Stuart Holland and others) have proven to be too terribly accurate over the last few weeks. He was an important and honorable figure and I am sorry I missed the time to pay my tribute

    Mike Allen

    November 17, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    • They published tributes, including the above, in the Foundation’s journal, the Spokesman.

      Well worth looking at:

      Reinventing Socialism
      Spokesman 109
      Edited by Ken Coates

      Ken Coates – Editorial: Reinventing Socialism
      Sidney Webb – Clause IV
      Clement Atlee – ‘We cannot administer capitalism’
      Ken Coates – Blair’s Initiative
      Ken Coates – A Tribute
      Noam Chomsky – The Radical Intellectual
      Henning Mankell – ‘Maybe we should talk about my books’
      Tony Simpson – What the Spooks Want
      David Kelly – A Fresh Inquiry?
      Bertrand Russell – Why I am a Guildsman

      Andrew Coates

      November 18, 2010 at 10:55 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: