John Rees (activist)

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John Rees
Demonstration against Condoleezza Rice in Liverpool.
Born Wiltshire
Occupation Journalist
Known for Politics

John Rees (born 1957) is a British political activist, broadcaster and writer who is a national officer of the Stop the War Coalition and founding member of Counterfire who was formerly associated with the Socialist Workers Party and spokesperson for The People's Assembly Against Austerity. He participated in and reported on the Egyptian revolution in 2011 about which he made two TV documentaries, Inside the Egyptian Revolution and Egypt in Revolution. For the Islam Channel, he is the writer and presenter of the political history series Timeline and a presenter of the Politics and Media programme. His most recent books are Timelines, a political history of the modern world and A People's History of London, co-authored with Lindsey German.

Early life and education[edit]

Rees was born in Wiltshire and was brought up and educated in Chippenham.[1] His father, William Rees was from Aberdare, South Wales, and was a lifelong trade union activist and Labour Party member. His mother, Margaret Rees (née Shipley) was from Darlington. Rees' first degree was in Politics from Portsmouth Polytechnic[2] and he subsequently undertook research on Hegel and Marx at Hull University under Dr (now Lord) Bhikhu Parekh. The result of that research, The Algebra of Revolution, was published by Routledge in 1998. When Georg Lukacs' unknown manuscript "Tailism and the Dialectic" was discovered and published by Verso in 2000, Rees provided the introduction to the volume.


Elected a member of the National Executive of the National Union of Students in the early 1980s, Rees is a former leading member of the Socialist Workers Party, and was for many years on its Central Committee. He was editor of the quarterly journal International Socialism for ten years and the organiser of the SWP's annual Marxism festival in 1982 and 1983 and again between 1992 and 2002.

A co-founder and a current national officer for the Stop the War Coalition, he has been a central organiser of all its marches including that of 15 February 2003. According to Rees, "Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein."[3] Rees is also vice president (Europe) of the Cairo Conference.

He was top of Respect – The Unity Coalition list in the West Midlands region for the 2004 European Election and the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election. He also stood for Respect in the 2006 local elections in the Bethnal Green South ward of Tower Hamlets, East London where he came second to Labour. Rees was not selected by the SWP Central Committee to be on the slate for re-election and did not stand independently at the January 2009 conference.[4] Shortly after his partner Lindsey German [5] resigned from the SWP in 2010, Rees and 41 other members followed disenchanted with the party's direction, internal regime and approach to united fronts (18 others who had resigned in weeks prior also supported the resignations).[6]

In 2012, A People's History of London, co-authored with Lindsey German, was published. A reviewer for The Independent wrote, "Had these two been political pamphleteers through the ages, one doubts many revolutionary sparks would ever have been lit."[7]

He is pursuing doctoral research on the Levellers in the English Revolution at Goldsmiths, University of London.[8] Rees is currently active in the organisation Counterfire for which he has written two short books, Strategy and Tactics and alongside Joseph Daher The People Demand: A short history of the Arab revolutions.[9]

In September 2013, Iain Dale and a panel for The Daily Telegraph placed him at 85 in a list of the 100 most influential British left-wingers.[5]

Selected works[edit]


  • Socialism and War (1990)
  • The ABC of Socialism (1994) ISBN 0-906224-96-9
  • Marxism and the New Imperialism (1994) (editor and contributor) ISBN 0-906224-81-0
  • In Defence of October: A Debate on the Russian Revolution (with others including Robin Blackburn) (1997) ISBN 1-898876-28-2
  • The Algebra of Revolution: The Dialectic and the Classical Marxist Tradition (1998) ISBN 0-415-19877-1
  • Essays on Historical Materialism (editor) (1998) ISBN 1-898876-38-X
  • Imperialism and Resistance (2006) ISBN 0-415-34676-4
  • The People Demand, a short history of the Arab revolutions (with Joseph Daher)(2011) ISBN 9-781907-899027
  • Timelines, a political history of the modern world (2012) ISBN 9-780415-691031
  • A People's History of London (with Lindsey German) (2012) ISBN 978-1-84467-855-6


External links[edit]


  1. ^ Derek Wall "More on John Rees", Another Green World (blog), 26 November 2007
  2. ^ Islam channel biography
  3. ^ Alan Johnson "The Euston moment",, 21 April 2008
  4. ^ "Changes in the party’s leadership", Socialist Worker, #2134, 17 January 2009
  5. ^ a b Iain Dale "Top 100 most influential Left-wingers: 100-51",, 24 September 2013
  6. ^ "Why we are resigning from SWP: an open letter", Solomon's Minefield (blog), 16 February 2010
  7. ^ Jo Lo Dicio "A People's History of London, By John Rees & Lindsey German", The Independent on Sunday, 29 April 2012
  8. ^ "John Rees", Department of History, Goldsmiths website
  9. ^ Imperialism and the Arab Revolutions, Counterfire Website