Adolph Kohn

Kohn became interested in politics when very young, taking part in discussions at Marble Arch, Hyde Park, when only  a youth. In 1908 he joined the Party and was soon very active as a writer and speaker; he spoke on the outdoor platform nearly every evening for some years.

Soon after joining the party he started a private book agency and was the principal means of bringing English translations of foreign Socialist classics to many of us at a time when they were little known in England.

Practically all his life Socialism and books were his main interests. He read voraciously and few had his knowledge of books, past and present, on different aspects of the working-class movement. He was a forceful and humorous speaker, both indoor and outdoor, and early in the 1914 war he had some rowdy meetings. At one of his meetings in 1914 at Marble Arch the crowd rushed the platform, after a hectic meeting, and the police had to escort him through an angry crowd of “patriots” and across the road to the tube station.

During 1915, when the passing of the Conscription Act became certain, Kohn left for America, where he remained for about six years and made many friends in Canada and the U.S.A. While out there he wrote and spoke on Socialism and also organised classes. He sent articles to the Socialist Standard from America, and the last one, in 1917, was picked up by the American authorities, who took exception to its anti-war contents and made considerable efforts to trace him. They also pressed the English authorities for assistance, and the latter called Fitzgerald up for questioning and kept him in a cell for a night. They also had his sister along at Scotland Yard for interrogation. However, they never Kohn and the matter was eventually dropped.

Arising out of the above police investigation there were two humorous incidents, which it seems to the present writer are worth recording. Fitzgerald was very methodical and also extremely critical of members whose “stupidity” helped the authorities to collect members whose military position was doubtful. When Fitzgerald was arrested and searched the police found in his pocket his address book, which contained the addresses of most of us! The other incident concerned Kohn’s sister. Although she was secretary of the Party at the time, the police failed to discover that she was even a member of the Party.

Kohn was on the Executive Committee and the Editorial Committee before 1914,and he was again on the Editorial Committee from 1924 to 1929. He wrote many excellent articles for the Socialist Standard and was by nature very lively, full of jokes, and fond of company. Even when he was dying, humour still stirred in him.

A little while before the second world war his health broke down, and in 1940 he had to go into hospital for treatment. While there the hospital was hit by a bomb, and a few weeks later the room where he lodged was badly blasted. After a couple of years out of hospital, T.B. developed, and early in 1944 he was back in hospital again, where he remained until his death on the 28th December, 1944. He was twice evacuated on account of the hospital being hit by flying bombs, finally reaching the temporary hospital quarters in a large house in North Wales where he died at the age of 56.

Kohn’s brain was crammed with knowledge of the international working-class movement, and he was intellectually generous to members and sympathisers—always ready to answer a question or explain a point. He gave almost the whole of his life to the struggle for Socialism.


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