Leon Kuhn, the socialist and anti-war cartoonist, died shortly before Christmas.
When he was 14 years old, Leon won first place in the Observer newspaper’s national political cartoon competition. He could have had a successful career as a commercial artist.
Instead he devoted all his creativity to lampooning the rich, powerful and corrupt—and that meant turning his back on art school and mainstream art.
Leon was tutored for a time by some of Fleet Street’s best known cartoonists. But he recoiled in disgust at the way some of them were bullied by editors into producing reactionary work to order.
For the past 12 years Leon’s work was most closely associated with the Stop the War movement.
His illustrations were featured in anti-war book Big Bang for Bureaucrats. He also produced Topple the Mighty, a socialist view of statues and public art.
His work appeared in Socialist Worker, the Morning Star, New Statesman, New Internationalist, Green Socialist and elsewhere.
Leon didn’t just express his socialism through art. He was also a long time member of the Socialist Workers Party.
Quiet and unassuming, Leon was active in the day-to-day routine of the party over several decades.
During the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85, Leon led the way in the establishment of local miners’ support groups in the Camden area.
His activity remained undiminished until his untimely death.
There was another side to Leon that few knew—his love affair with Japan and the fact that he was a karate black belt.
Though physically unimposing, Leon stunned Camden branch members in the 1980s by single-handedly chasing off a gang of Nazis intent on attacking our Inverness Street sale.
In the 1990s he invited the branch to watch him fight at a tournament, insisting it would be great fun.
In solidarity a handful grudgingly went along. The first few bouts were well mannered and boring affairs.
When it was Leon’s turn to fight he kicked and chopped his opponent to pieces.
Twice he was warned about his “ungentlemanly” conduct.
Again Leon went flying in and the fight was called to a halt. It was only then that we learnt that Leon’s opponent was a police officer.
Leon’s all-consuming hatred of inequality and injustice was evident in his art and his everyday life. He will be greatly missed.