LONDON — Jim Spaul, a leader of the Communist League, died here suddenly March 6, after battling a debilitating illness from working in the mines. A three-decades-long veteran of the communist movement, Spaul shouldered a range of leadership responsibilities, including being elected to the party’s Central Committee from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, and in the Communist League’s mass work.
Subscribers to the Militant in Europe, Africa and the Middle East have Spaul to thank for ensuring they receive the paper in good order. He was in charge of organizing the weekly mailing. Before that, he was responsible for the party’s national finances and shouldered efforts to pack and dispatch Pathfinder books ordered by commercial outlets.
Spaul joined the Communist League in 1989 when he was a coal miner in Yorkshire. He came in contact with members of the Socialist Workers Party from the United States who had come to the U.K. in the wake of the 1984-85 miners strike. Spaul, who had been a rank and file leader of the strike in his area, helped build Justice for Mineworkers, which campaigned for the reinstatement of miners victimized during that fight.
His long history as a working-class fighter helped him rapidly see through the 1988 cop frame-up of SWP member and packinghouse worker Mark Curtis. Spaul could tell right away that Curtis was “guilty” of being an effective union and political fighter, not the frame-up rape and burglary charges the authorities imprisoned him for. He jumped into the defense effort and this is how he met the Communist League, campaigning for Curtis at the Yorkshire Miners Gala.
After joining the League, Spaul helped lead the yearslong Mark Curtis defense effort in the U.K., and the international work alongside the SWP to extend the reach of the communist movement among mineworkers.
Spaul traveled to the U.S. in 1989, speaking out in defense of Curtis and joining SWP members to bring solidarity to fellow miners on strike at the Pittston Coal Company. He visited the U.S. several times over the next decade along the same lines.
In 1992, he helped lead the international effort to defend fellow miner and Communist League member Paul Galloway, who had been physically assaulted while working underground. This was “an attack on Paul on the NUM and on the Communist League,” Spaul told the Militant.
Spaul became a contributor to the Militant, and also penned articles for the Yorkshire Miner, newspaper of the National Union of Mineworkers in that area. His articles included reviews of Pathfinder titles on the Cuban Revolution, of which he was a staunch supporter. In 1993 he joined a work brigade to Cuba, bringing solidarity, learning firsthand more about the revolution and introducing the Communist League to fellow brigade members.
In the mid-1990s, Spaul accepted a proposal from the party leadership to move to London. He took major responsibility for the distribution of Pathfinder books there, while getting a job as a rail worker and becoming active in the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union.
The Communist League is organizing a public meeting March 30 in London to celebrate Spaul’s life and contributions to building the communist movement.