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Issue #1792      August 30, 2017

Meeting the challenge

Speech by Bob Briton at the celebration of the life of comrade Marie Lean

Comrades and friends,

People who know me know that I don’t usually wear a suit. Just lately, I’m usually putting it on to take part in an event such as this one. I’ve done it for much loved, great comrades like Alan Miller, Frank Gosden who lived to a ripe old age, Les and Connie Purkis and for Max Cordwell, who was lost to our ranks much too soon. I regret to say, it is a well-worn suit. Today I have put it on for comrade Marie Lean.

Many of those people joined our Party during its hay day and suffered through the big splits in our movement. Some of you here lived through those tumultuous times and maybe still you feel the same about the issues but we all share our dream of a new society without exploitation based on grass roots democracy. And we would all respect the sheer intellectual and physical endurance of people like Marie to keep this hope alive while living in a society based on theft, alienation and division.

I first met Marie when I first came to Adelaide to live in 1990. She was at everything. She was in many committees to do with the struggle for an end to war, for women’s rights and the many other burning needs of the people of the world. She never tired of promoting our Party press. She became State Secretary of the Party at a difficult time caused by the bringing down of the Soviet Union when some drifted away from our movement, disappointed and feeling defeated. Marie was never defeated.

I have to mention here that Marie was involved to the extent she was because of the support she had from Len. And on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, I would like to pass on our most heart-felt sympathy to him and the family. We know that you have suffered a lot during the past few years of Marie’s illness. I hope you can take comfort from the fact that you were always in our thoughts and carried our best wishes.

Comrade Marie was a quiet achiever and leader; not at all of the table slapping, big-talking variety. If I could make one criticism, she never had the appropriate amount of confidence in her well-founded opinions. That is my only and my last criticism of the flip side of her very admirable qualities. It is one of the features of our movement that a necessary spirit of criticism and self-criticism follows even to the grave. It is done in the spirit of comradeship and, in this instance, of love.

Comrade Marie taught us a lot through her stories that she would repeat many times. It may have been a sign of the affliction she would ultimately be struck down by. The story that impacted me most was about when she received her first pay packet as a teenager. She proudly presented it to her father, a staunch Party member, and said “This is what I earned last week”. Her father said, “No, you earned much more than that. This is simply what they have paid you.” Marie and her generation were steeped in the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the world in a way we haven’t been. The loss of her generation is a challenge to us. But we will do it.

As I said, I met Marie at a very trying time for our Party. She left us at a far more promising time. The clubs we are involved in are thriving. We have a new Branch based on the University of Adelaide. We have members of that Branch with ages ranging from 16 to 90 years old. It would warm Marie’s heart to see it. The students are covering the campus with our recruiting posters and are starting to have an impact on the student politics of the university. We are recruiting active and even leading trade unionists. It lifts our spirits to see this development and we owe the opportunity to do this to comrades like Marie Lean and even especially to comrade Marie. We will miss you but we will continue to build our Party in your honour.

Next article – Want a pay cut with that?

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