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Obituary: Ken Smith

We are saddened to have to report the death in June of comrade Ken Smith in Cheltenham at the age of 89. Ken first joined the Socialist Party in London in 1944 after moving in anarchist anti-war circles. He had been conscripted but, in his own words, “was invited to leave the Army after twelve-month’s service and a jail sentence for mutiny.” He worked at various jobs and ran a number of businesses. (He was a pioneer of Sunday trading when it was not yet legal).

Over the years Ken was in and out of the Party for various reasons, including a period when he lived in France. In the 1940s and 1950s he was active in the old Fulham branch. Thirty years later he was in Bristol branch and hosted a number of Party Summer Schools in his place at Stow Hill in Gloucestershire, the part of the country he hailed from.

In retirement, he published two books Free is Cheaper (1988) and The Survival of the Weakest (1994). He also wrote for the Socialist Standard. Free is Cheaper is an attack on the waste of the market system, making the case that a socialist society, in which there would be no need for money, would use up much fewer resources. Its claim in passing that capitalism was not a necessary historical development raised some eyebrows but, then, Ken was anything but conventional. His other, less successful book argued that the agent for the change to socialism would not be, as traditionally assumed, the working-class movement but rather the Green and environmentalist movement.