Andrew Price: Fighter, teacher, party campaigner
23 February 1949
– 3 October 2014
It was with great sadness that Socialist Party members and trade unionists across South Wales received the news that Andrew Price had passed away following a serious chest infection.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Enid, children Rachel, Philip and Michael, and grandchildren Josh, Sam, Jack and Liam.
Andrew was an inspirational figure who overcame chronic ill health to continue to play a leading role as one of the most militant leaders of the South Wales labour movement.
He was a great orator, a tenacious fighter and a stalwart of the Socialist Party and its predecessors the Militant Tendency and Militant Labour.
As such he was hated by the right wing of the labour movement who responded with relentless and often spiteful attacks (the right wing vetoed a vote in Splott ward Labour Party to send Andrew a get well card following his stroke).
But Andrew rose above those attacks, reinforced by an unwavering conviction in the correctness of Marxist ideas and the eventual victory of the working class.
Andrew was born in Pontypridd, one of four sons, before his family moved to Cardiff while he was still a young boy.
Andrew grew up a real Cardiffian before returning to Pontypridd and going to Aberystwyth university in 1967.
In Pontypridd Andrew joined the Labour Party Young Socialists, the beginning of nearly 50 years of labour movement activity.
In 1968 he was convinced of Marxist ideas and joined Militant, at that time a small tendency within the Labour Party.
In 1969 he was one of the first Militant supporters to be elected onto the National Committee (NC) of the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) and contributed in no small measure to the success in 1970 of Militant gaining a majority on the LPYS NC, a majority never relinquished until the right wing under Neil Kinnock effectively closed the LPYS in 1989, after all attempts at engineering a political defeat of Militant had failed.
It was at an LPYS meeting in Cardiff in 1968 that Andrew met Enid Phillips. At that meeting Andrew and Enid were in different political trends – Enid was a supporter of Tribune, the left reformist paper of the Labour Party – but they still fell for each other.
It was the beginning of a life-long partnership of deep mutual love and dedication. In later years the Price household, the most political in Tremorfa, appeared from the outside to be the least politicised as Andrew and Enid agreed to display neither Labour nor Socialist Party posters in their window!
In 1971 Rachel their daughter was born, followed three years later by twins Michael and Philip. Andrew was a devoted father, and later grandfather, combining his dedication to his family with his commitment to the struggle to change society.
The 1970s was a period of heightened class struggle against the Tory Heath government which Andrew participated in.
Militant’s ideas were gaining an increasing echo and he played a prominent role in the Cardiff Trades Union Council which he continued until the end.
The election of a Labour government was viewed with great expectation by the working class, but it was led by the right wing who attempted to balance support from the trade union movement with carrying out the dictates of big business.
Andrew clashed in the Cardiff South East CLP (constituency Labour Party) with a leader of the government, Jim Callaghan, who was first foreign secretary, then prime minister.
Labour Party witch hunt
Led by the Tory press, the right wing began a campaign against “Trotskyist infiltration” in Cardiff South East Labour Party.
For 13 years Andrew, together with other Militant supporters, especially Dave Bartlett, fought tooth and nail repeated attempts to expel him from the Labour Party, all of which failed until Andrew was struck down with a stroke in 1988.
Reminding anyone who would listen that it was Marxists who helped form the Labour Party, Andrew fought every attempt to get him out of Cardiff South East Labour Party and off Callaghan’s CLP General Management Committee (GMC).
After the right wing mobilised at Splott ward’s AGM to vote Andrew off the GMC, Andrew remembered that the Socialist Education Association (SEA), of which he was a member, was affiliated to Cardiff South East Labour Party and so got delegated from the SEA.
His right wing opponents were seething as Andrew took his seat at the next GMC meeting. When the right wing responded by mobilising dozens of right wingers from all across Cardiff to join the SEA in an attempt to unseat him, Andrew and Dave Bartlett responded by signing up dozens of left wingers.
The normally sleepy SEA was surprised to see its Cardiff branch mushroom into the biggest in the country! Under Andrew’s leadership the Cardiff SEA became not just a battleground with the right wing but one of the best venues in Cardiff for socialist discussion and debate with many outside speakers invited to speak on educational and socialist issues.
The campaign against Militant supporters in Cardiff South East was very personal and occasionally violent, but he never once faltered, maintaining a principled support for Militant and Marxist ideas and refusing to stoop to the personal and petty levels of his opponents.
The attacks from the right wing did not prevent Andrew from winning wide support from the labour movement in South Wales.
In 1980 he even managed to be elected as the delegate from Cardiff South East CLP to Labour Party national conference and took great delight in reporting back how he voted in the conference to the right wing at the GMC.
He was short-listed as Labour parliamentary candidate in Caerphilly, Torfaen and Cardiff Central constituencies, only missing out in Cardiff Central by a handful of votes to another left winger in1982.
In 1985 eventually the right wing in Cardiff South Labour Party voted to expel Andrew along with Dave Bartlett and Diane Mitchell.
Andrew used the attack as a platform to campaign against the witch hunt and for the ideas of Marxism in the labour movement, travelling all over the country speaking at Labour Party meetings and raising funds for the Cardiff South Defence Fund.
The Cardiff South three successfully won an injunction against the right wing for unconstitutionally railroading the expulsions through.
Dedication to labour movement
Andrew played a prominent role in the South Wales labour movement in the struggles against the reactionary Thatcher government.
During the miners’ strike of 1984-5 Andrew was seen on many picket lines in support of the miners, and when the picket lines were attacked by the police he was often seen where the fighting was at its thickest.
Andrew was also a staunch defender of Militant-led Liverpool council, organising support meetings in Cardiff.
In 1988 Andrew suffered a serious stroke that partially paralysed his left side. His disability made movement very difficult, but aided by Enid, he insisted on returning to work and continuing his political activity.
For the rest of his life Andrew refused to allow his disability to prevent him playing a full role in the labour movement and as a teacher. This would not have been possible without the huge day to day and moral support he received from Enid for the remaining 26 years of his life.
He had already come to the conclusion that the undemocratic changes to the Labour Party had made it increasingly difficult to change it and that it was better to build support for Marxism outside the Labour Party and for him to concentrate on the wider struggle.
In 1989 Margaret Thatcher gave him a golden opportunity with the poll tax. Andrew threw himself into the struggle and soon clashed again with the right wing Labour councillors who decided to implement Thatcher’s poll tax.
He helped set up Splott anti-poll tax union and when summoned to court for non-payment Andrew stood his ground and defied the magistrates.
Andrew’s deep personal loyalty was sorely tested when the Militant leadership split in 1991 mainly over the issue of staying in the Labour Party.
But despite being telephoned a number of times by leaders of the small minority faction who wished to remain in the Labour Party, Andrew supported the position of the majority who realised that Labour was becoming a party wedded to capitalism in which the voice of the working class was silenced.
Teacher and trade unionist
Andrew had begun teaching sociology at Rumney Tech in 1971 and for the next 38 years was an inspiring teacher to thousands of further education students.
Many times he would be sought out on street stalls by former students who were grateful for his dedication and patience.
And Andrew was also a great union organiser in the college lecturers’ union, Natfhe (now part of UCU), serving for many years on its Wales and UK executive committees.
Over the years he was an uncompromising negotiator on behalf of union members at his college and as a Wales negotiator with the Welsh college employers.
With Andrew as one of the FE leaders, Wales was one of the most combative parts of Natfhe and Welsh FE lecturers led by Andrew secured the best pay and employment deals in Britain, including pay parity with teachers that served as an aim for lecturers in England.
Even after retiring Andrew continued to play an important role at the Cardiff Trades Union Council, UCU Wales Retired Members branch and at the Wales TUC conference, at this year’s conference powerfully condemning the bedroom tax.
Andrew was a tremendous orator, always speaking clearly and was able to speak colourfully but also directly, telling it like it is.
Despite being one of the oldest members of the Socialist Party in Wales Andrew had a special relationship with the youngest members.
One recalls: “A fountain of knowledge in the local Socialist Party branch he would answer every question and take time to speak to an annoying teenager (me) at every meeting and activity.”
Another recalls: “Andrew became my comrade and friend but he never stopped being my teacher. He was an inspiration to all around him. The struggles he endured, the respect he had amongst his peers and younger generations. Always willing to patiently explain – many times too patiently to the annoyance of other comrades. Always entertaining to sit down and have a pint with.”
One young member insisted in remaining in Andrew’s party branch even though she didn’t live in the area, so that she could hear his contributions in the political discussions.
After leaving the Labour Party Andrew dedicated himself to arguing the need for a new mass workers’ party.
He understood that this was the main political task for the trade union movement. Labour Party supporters in the trade unions sometimes tired of his interventions, but Andrew understood that this issue was central for the working class to defend itself against the capitalist onslaught.
Andrew also understood that building support for socialist ideas was crucial as well. He never missed a Socialist Party branch meeting except for illness or holiday, even though he had more reason than anyone.
He understood that finance was vital to our success and was an inspiring and determined finance organiser. He was the best district treasurer Wales Socialist Party ever had. In 1987 he and Chris Peace organised a sponsored bike ride to raise money for the fighting fund.
In later years he did not allow his disability to prevent him from repeating the feat, this time on an adapted bike.
For three years anyone who attended an anti-cuts meeting or a trades council meeting was gently “persuaded” to sponsor Andrew. In two years he raised over £1,000, which was paid into the financial appeals at Socialism 2012 and 2013.
This year Andrew will not be here to repeat his ride, but some sponsor money has already been collected.
Socialist Party Wales is setting up an Andrew Price memorial fund with a target of £2,000 to ensure Andrew’s 2014 efforts are not wasted.
For decades Andrew inspired enormous respect and affection, even from opponents, because he had absolute integrity.
He was dedicated to changing society and convinced that the working class, the ideas of Marxism and the methods of the Socialist Party and CWI are the only means by which we can achieve that.
His example is an inspiration to generations of socialists and although he has passed away, his memory lives on in the minds of generations of socialists, who are proud to have known Andrew and shared in his battles. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales