Godfrey Andries Cremer: 11 May 1943 – 26 March 2012
It is with the greatest of sadness that CPGB-ML and Lalkar announce the death of one of their staunchest comrades in the early hours of 26 March from pancreatic cancer and further complications arising therefrom. Although he was diagnosed as suffering from this lethal disease only in February, it was already in a very advanced state.
These lines are written not only to mourn the death of Godfrey Cremer, but also to celebrate the life of a remarkable communist, an ardent anti-imperialist, and a thorough internationalist.
Godfrey, having always had a deep concern for other people’s problems and troubles, started his activities from very early on with a religious perspective. He was a Methodist preacher in his youth, in which capacity he attempted to help people with their daily problems. However, in the second half of the 1960s, as a postgraduate student, he became involved in the mighty anti-war movement spawned by US imperialism’s predatory war against the Vietnamese and other Indochinese people. The Nazi-like devastation wreaked by the US forces in Vietnam touched Godfrey, as it did tens of millions of progressive people across the world, to the very core. He participated in many of the anti-war protest movement in London.
This experience made him re-evaluate his whole philosophy and question the value of individual solutions to problems facing humanity – ranging from questions of war and peace to the relations between the exploiting few and the overwhelming majority of the exploited, as well as the relations between a tiny clique of exploiting nations and the vast majority of super-exploited and oppressed countries. The problems of hunger, destitution, unemployment, homelessness, racism and oppression of women, Godfrey concluded, had no individual solution.
With this realisation, he came to look for a different solution to the problems of humanity. This realisation, this awareness, combined with his deep concern for ordinary people, brought him to communism – Marxism-Leninism – whose ideals he was to continue to espouse most passionately until his last breath. Meeting in the early 1970s with Harpal Brar, Ella Rule, Kathy Sharp and a few other comrades, Godfrey Cremer and Iris Sloley (whom Godfrey married in October 1973) began seriously to devote themselves to the task of putting into practice – ideologically, politically and organisationally – their newly-adopted world outlook. They initially formed the Association of Communist Workers, an organisation which played a significant role in the anti-revisionist movement. In particular, it organised lectures on ‘Trotskyism or Leninism?’ which subsequently became the basis of the book by Harpal Brar bearing the same name.
So strong was the comradeship and friendship to become between Harpal, Ella, Godfrey and Iris that many of the comrades in the CPGB-ML affectionately referred to them as the Gang of Four. It is a source of great sadness to the surviving members of the group that this term will lose its resonance.
From then on Godfrey worked tirelessly in the cause of the emancipation of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples of the world. His name is indelibly connected with the movement for solidarity with the people of Vietnam, the people of Korea, Palestine, southern Africa (in particular Zimbabwe), Ireland, Libya, Syria and Iran.
He put politics before all other considerations. It is a measure of his commitment to the struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation, and a measure of his dedication, that on his wedding night in October 1973, he and Iris were busy writing a leaflet and preparing for a demonstration in connection with the Yom Kippur war, which doubtless made them very popular with their respective families!
Godfrey Cremer was an internationalist through and through, as he fully realised that the struggle of the proletariat in the imperialist countries for its emancipation from exploitation could never be accomplished without rendering unreserved support to the liberation struggles of the oppressed nations and people against imperialist oppression, war, brigandage and super-exploitation. From this stance he never wavered, treating with disdain and contempt the opportunist faint-hearts in the working-class movement who pursue a line of conciliation towards their own imperialist bourgeoisie.
It is a gauge of his stature, and the high regard in which he was held, that dozens of messages of condolence on his death have poured in from all over the world – from Cuba to the DPRK, from South Africa to America, Europe, Australia and Africa – all in recognition of Godfrey’s service in the cause of proletarian internationalism.
In a message of condolence from the DPRK embassy in London, Comrade Mun Myongsin, the third secretary at the embassy, expressed “profound deepest condolence to the bereaved family and comrades for the loss of our dear, precious and irreplaceable comrade, Godfrey” (full message printed elsewhere in this issue). The Political Counsellor at the Cuban embassy, Carlos Camps Garcia, spoke to the CPGB-ML’s international secretary, Ella Rule, expressing great sorrow on the death of Godfrey. He attended Godfrey’s funeral service and stayed afterwards for the reception at Saklatvala Hall, Southall.
Avtar Jouhl, General Secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) expressed his sadness at the untimely death of Godfrey Cremer, adding that his “experience of friendship and comradeship is unforgettable”, that his contribution to Lalkar was “immense”, and that “Godfrey’s departure is big loss to CPGB-ML, IWA(GB) and to me and my family” (full message elsewhere in this issue).
Nearly 200 people, representing many organisations, and from varied backgrounds, attended Godfrey’s funeral with feelings of genuine sadness at the passing away of a warm-hearted friend and comrade and an intrepid fighter for the cause of socialism and national liberation.
He stood for the defence of the gains of the working class in socialist countries. His defence of the gains of the glorious Great October Socialist Revolution, the construction of socialism in the USSR under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin, and the mighty achievements of the Soviet Union, in fields ranging from the economic through to the cultural, scientific, diplomatic and military, knew no bounds. In the aftermath of the collapse of socialism in the former socialist countries, he refused to go along with the prevailing torrent of anti-communist propaganda unleashed by world imperialism – a propaganda that swept off their feet many weak elements in the working-class movement.
It is therefore right and proper that one of the messages of condolence on his death should have come from Jacob Jugashvili, great grandson of that legendary proletarian revolutionary, Joseph Vissarianovich Stalin.
Godfrey was also a leading figure, in his political and professional capacity, in the struggle against racism, realising fully that racism is an instrument used by the bourgeoisie to weaken the working class by undermining its class unity, and thus harming the struggle of the proletariat for its own social emancipation.
From 1992 to 2002, he worked as the head of Ealing Racial Equality Council. His work on that body is remembered and cherished by a huge number of people. Many people he had the occasion to work with were in tears on hearing of his death. He worked closely with many organisations of ethnic minorities, especially with the Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain). Godfrey also served as a treasurer for the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL) during that organisation’s existence from 1977 to 1982.
It is a measure of his stature in the community that the Ealing and Southall Gazette of 6 April 2012 carried, on its front page, the news of Godfrey’s death, with a picture of him and the headline: “TRIBUTES TO GODFREY: shock at death of campaigner”. With the subtitle “He had an ardent desire to help ordinary people”, the Gazette went on to record some of Godfrey’s contribution and the tributes paid to him by many people, including the leader and deputy leader of Ealing Council, both of whom expressed their sadness at his passing and their appreciation of his many talents. Julian Bell, the leader of Ealing Council, stated that Godfrey “made a significant contribution to the borough over many years. It is a very sad loss but he made his mark and for that he will always be remembered”.
Considering that Godfrey never hid his Marxist-Leninist views, that he made withering criticisms of the Council’s policies on a host of issues, that he was an irreconcilable enemy of social democracy (the Labour Party) that he quite rightly regarded as an imperialist party which waged wars against oppressed peoples abroad and attacked the working class at home, it is a measure of the deep roots he had struck in the community through dedication, hard work and fidelity to principles, that he could inspire grudging respect even among circles that were in his life extremely hostile to his outlook. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that this remarkable man – forever hardworking, dedicated and self-effacing – while he may have had many opponents, hardly had a single personal enemy. His gentle manner, courteous behaviour, concern for others, and warm concern for humanity obliged even his opponents to hold him in high regard.
It had been the ardent desire of Godfrey Cremer to build a principled and truly revolutionary party of the British proletariat. He grasped with joy the opportunity that presented itself to form such a party when, along with a number of other comrades, he became a founding member and one of the leading lights of the CPGB-ML in 2004. He devoted his all to the defence, consolidation and development of this party, for through it, and in it, he could see his hopes and lifelong work beginning really to bear fruit. He greeted with his characteristic youthful joy every step forward taken by the CPGB-ML.
In his ardent desire to serve the working class, no job was beneath him. He was a dedicated organiser, possessed of great ideological and technical competence, and a keen eye for detail. Without his work, it is doubtful whether Proletarian, the party’s newspaper, or the anti-imperialist bi-monthly Lalkar, would have ever got off the ground.
Godfrey was a scientist and a materialist and he defended to the last the materialist world outlook, as would be confirmed by people who had the opportunity to listen to his presentations to the Stalin Society on Darwin and on the Soviet biologist, Lysenko.
As a materialist he understood that life, like everything else, is in a state of flux, coming into being and going out of existence. He applied this understanding to his own situation after having been found to be suffering from pancreatic cancer, accepting his condition with great fortitude and calling upon his family and close comrades to do likewise. All that mattered to him was that the party’s work would continue to be done and that the gap left by his impending demise would be filled by other comrades. Literally up to a week before his death, a week marked by debilitation, he continued to perform his duties as the London Organiser of the Party, sending emails, telephoning comrades, and supervising the print room of the Party.
“Death is not a misfortune for the one who dies but for the one that survives”, Karl Marx used to repeat after Epicurus.
Godfrey understood very well the truth contained in this observation. His constant worry in the last two months of his life was, not concern for his own self, but how well Iris (his wife), Katt (his daughter) and all his comrades would cope with the work shortly to be transferred from his to their shoulders.
The CPGB-ML and Lalkar, nay, the British working-class movement, is poorer for the loss of this indefatigable protagonist of the cause of the emancipation of the proletariat and the liberation of humanity.
The great Soviet writer, Nikolai Ostrovsky wrote that: “Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength, were given to the finest cause in the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.”
Without a shred of doubt, Godfrey had no regrets for wasted years and no burning shame for a mean and petty past; dying, he could truly repeat after Ostrovsky: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.
The movement of the proletariat and to the work of the CPGB-ML, will continue, but we have lost a selfless and tireless foot soldier to whom we always turned whenever anything needed to be done urgently.
But we are not going to lose heart, if for no other reason than that Godfrey Andries Cremer would not approve of such behaviour. We shall honour this “deceased, living friend”, to use the memorable words of Wilhelm Liebknecht on the death of Marx, by working as hard as he did, with the same persistence, perseverance, steadfastness and selflessness as he displayed in his service to the movement of the working class and the oppressed peoples over a period of more than four decades.
He was a great, warm-hearted comrade, a loyal friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather.
His dedication, cheerful disposition and wit, will be missed not only by comrades of the CPGB-ML but even by our opponents.
All those who had occasion to know him, or work with him, had their lives enriched by the experience.
He will be sorely missed.
With these words we say farewell to a very dear comrade, a friend and a brother.
Eternal Glory to Comrade Godfrey.