Preston SWP are deeply saddened by the death of Ron Yates. Ron, who was 86, had been a left activist all his life.
As a young man Ron joined the forces in the Second World War, in his words, “to fight fascism and fight for democracy”.
Indeed he was part of a small British force of 25 which fought with Greek Communist Partisans to liberate the Island of Samos from a German garrison of almost 500 men.
At the war’s end he was stationed in Palestine. There he was appalled at the treatment meted out to the Palestinians by both British forces and Zionist militias.
He returned to Britain shaped by the horror of war and the need to fight for a better world. He joined the Labour Party in Preston, where he held various positions in the leadership of the local organisation.
In the 1950s he threw himself into the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. He drove buses and lorries of CND supporters to marches across the country – including long journeys to Aldermaston and the Holy Loch.
He was also a keen cyclist and was a member of the socialist Clarion Cycling Club.
Like many traditional Old Labour members Ron was increasingly anxious at the direction being taken by New Labour in the 1990s.
When Labour-controlled Lancashire County Council announced they would be closing and privatising local old people’s homes Ron had had enough.
I first met Ron in 2000 during the Preston parliamentary by-election. It was events in 2001 that were to re-ignite his full political passions.
The attack on the Twin Towers and the creation of the Stop the War movement saw Ron in the centre of Preston arguing against imperialism and war. He marched, campaigned and help organise local events against the horror of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When Respect was formed he joined the organisation and in 2005 he agreed to be our candidate in the Lancashire county council elections.
A few months ago Ron was attacked in his home. The attack was violent – the young men desperate to get some money to feed their habit. Ron fought bravely but ended up in hospital receiving treatment for machete wounds.
On leaving hospital he moved to a care home and that’s where he lived out his last few weeks, such a tragic end to a full and active life.
Ron will be greatly missed by all his friends and comrades in Preston and our sympathy and solidarity go out to his surviving children and grandchildren.