Memorial meeting celebrates the life of Comrade Jack Shapiro

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) and friends met on the evening of 8 May at Saklatvala Hall to pay tribute to the memory of its late honorary President, cde Jack, and other members of the Shapiro family.  This was not a mournful meeting but a celebration of the lives of outstanding communists.  Video clips of cde Jack speaking in defence of the Palestinians in Gaza and condemning Zionism which he likened to fascism started the evening.

The meeting was chaired by Harpal Brar who was visibly moved as he recalled the life of Jack, of his wife Marie, an internationally known and respected communist in her own right, and of Jack’s brother Michael.  

After going to China to work in the Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, Michael had become its correspondent with the Chinese volunteers in Korea during the war against US aggression. He assisted British prisoners in such things as writing letters home and lectured them on imperialism and how they had been used by their exploiters.  This earned him exile, he was never allowed into Britain again.  Michael lived out his life in China having married Liu Jinghe, a prominent communist.  Their son, Roger, had made the journey from China to be at the memorial meeting.

Comrade Ma Xin, Political Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy spoke of the gratitude of the Chinese people to such firm friends as the Shapiros who had stood so proudly with the Chinese revolution.  Cde Jang Song Chol, Second Secretary of the DPRK Embassy, spoke with great warmth of Jack whom he had met at our meetings several times, and the support the DPRK had had from this family.

The main speech on behalf of the CPGB-ML was delivered by cde Keith Bennett and included the following points: “Comrade Jack’s early political life was marked by intense class struggle against rapacious sweatshop employers, slum landlords, bigotry, anti-Semitism and the rise of fascism, and in support of the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, of the Spanish Republic and of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

Throughout his eight decades of political life, Comrade Jack was as firm as a rock in his defence of the principles of Marxism-Leninism. He defended the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He knew that without revolutionary theory there could be no revolutionary movement and he studied hard throughout his life up to his final days.

He knew that labour in the white skin could never be free if in the black it was branded, and that the movement of the proletariat in the advanced nations would be a fraud and a humbug if it was not most closely united with the struggle of hundreds of millions of colonial and neo-colonial slaves for their national liberation.

The struggle against Zionism was no exception. The Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab peoples had no better friend and comrade-in-arms than Jack. One of his very last political acts was to generously donate to the Viva Palestina convoy, which has recently returned from carrying much needed relief to the people of Gaza.

He knew that ‘women hold up half the sky’ and his own long marriage, friendship and comradeship with Comrade Marie was a true example of how human beings should live.”  Comrade Keith ended by quoting Jack’s own words uttered at a meeting held in his honour some time before: “To enable us to liberate mankind, we must liberate ourselves and we can only do that by pursuing the class struggle and studying Marxism-Leninism so that we become what Lenin said were true revolutionaries that will carry forward the revolution until socialism is built, even in Great Britain.”

Cde Ella read out the poem that she had written for Jack’s funeral and messages honouring comrade Jack’s life were delivered by cde Harsev Bains of the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA GB), and cde Michael Chant of the RCPB(ML).

Cde Roger Shapiro, Michael’s son and Jack’s nephew, was persuaded to speak and paid tribute to the Party and all gathered at the meeting for the honour paid to his uncle and aunt, his mother and father.

Just as at Jack’s funeral, on his insistence, the Internationale was sung with great gusto to bring the formal meeting to an end, to be followed by drinks, dinner and comradely discussion.