Ralph Winston Fox
Ralph Winston Fox (30 March 1900, Halifax, England – 28 December 1936, Lopera, Jaén, Spain) was a British journalist, novelist, and historian, best remembered as a biographer of Lenin and Genghis Khan. Fox was one of the best-known members of the Communist Party of Great Britain to be killed in Spain fighting against the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.
Fox was born 30 March 1900 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England to a middle-class family. Fox studied modern languages at Oxford University, where he was drafted into an officers' cadet regiment. Although commissioned as a lieutenant, the war ended before Fox was sent to the front lines.
In 1919 Fox became active in the effort to halt British blockade and military intervention to overthrow the Bolshevik government which had assumed power in the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was active in the Oxford 'Hands Off Russia' Committee and was instrumental in helping to organise the local unit of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).
In 1920 as the dust was settling from the Russian Civil War, Fox travelled to Soviet Russia, an experience which further moved him towards lifelong identification with the communist political movement. Fox returned to Oxford, where in 1922 he graduated with a first in modern languages.
In the summer following graduation, Fox returned to Soviet Russia, this time as a worker with the Friends Relief Mission in Samara. Back in Great Britain, he went to work as a functionary for the CPGB in its propaganda department. He also studied in at the School of Foreign Languages and wrote his first major book, People of the Steppes, which was published in 1925.
In 1925 Fox returned once again to Moscow, this time to work in the apparatus of the Communist International. He met his wife in the Soviet Union and married in the spring of 1926. In 1928 Fox went to work for the Sunday Worker, the high-profile weekly predecessor of the Daily Worker, launched in 1930.
Fox and his wife returned once again to the Soviet Union in 1929, where he took a position as a librarian at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. During his stint at the Marx-Engels Institute, Fox began a detailed study of the Asiatic Mode of Production as reflected in the writings of Karl Marx. He published an article on the topic, "The Views of Marx and Engels on the Asiatic Mode of Production and Their Sources," in the journal Letopisi marksizma in 1930.
Fox returned once again to England in 1932, going to work for the Daily Worker as a columnist and writing several pamphlets and books for the Communist press.
Spanish Civil War
In 1936, to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War, Fox joined the International Brigades through the French Communist Party in Paris. When he arrived in Spain at the end of the year, he was sent to be trained in Albacete and was assigned to the XIV Brigade.
After some weeks as a political commissar at the base, Fox was sent to the front in one of the first operations in which the Brigades were involved. He died at the Battle of Lopera in the province of Jaén in late December 1936 – although some biographies state 3 January 1937 as his date of death, the day on which his death was made public.
Ralph Fox: A Writer in Arms, a memorial selection and appreciation published by Lawrence & Wishart, appeared in 1937. The bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library contains recent articles on Fox, and the Library holds many of Fox's papers and publications. To date there are only two extended accounts of Fox: Mike Freeman's 2009 study of Fox's life and cultural politics, 'Ralph Fox: Telling the Times' and a biographical essay by Don Hallett in the 2009 proceedings of the Halifax Antiquarian Society. Primary sources on Fox are available at the Working Class Movement Library at Salford, and Halifax Central Library.
A bench in his memorial sits at the Manor Heath Walled Garden, Halifax (previously at the Piece Hall which is undergoing restoration).
- People of the Steppes. London: Constable, 1925.
- A Defence of Communism: In Reply to H.J. Laski. London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1927.
- Storming Heaven. London: Constable, 1928. —Novel
- The Colonial Policy of British Imperialism. London: Martin Lawrence, 1933.
- Lenin. London: Victor Gollancz, 1933.
- The Class Struggle in Britain. In Two Parts. New York: International Publishers, 1933.
- The Colonial Policy of British Imperialism. New York: International Publishers, 1934.
- Communism. London: John Lane, 1935.
- Genghis Khan. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1936.
- France Faces the Future. New York: International Publishers, 1936.
- The Novel and the People. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1937. (posthumous)
- This Was Their Youth. London: Secker & Warburg, 1937. (posthumous)
- Marx, Engels and Lenin on Ireland. New York: International Publishers, 1940. (posthumous)
- Samuel Sillen, "The Man Who Was Ralph Fox," The New Masses, vol. 54, no. 2 (9 January 1945), pp. 22–24.
- Graham Stevenson, "Communist Biographies: Ralph Fox," Grahamstevenson.me.uk
- Brian Pearce, "The Asiatic Mode of Production," Revolutionary History, vol. 8, no. 3 (2003), pp. 369–370.