A red salute to departed comrades
Towards the end of 2008, we had the sad duty of saying farewell to three outstanding comrades, who had served the proletarian revolutionary cause with great distinction for many decades. At the same time we draw renewed determination and inspiration from the example of their life and work for the cause of communism.
Comrade Cathie Majid passed away in late November at the age of 80. She was a founder member of the Stalin Society and served as its first secretary from 1991-1996. Cathie made an immense contribution to the Stalin Society’s work of setting the record straight on the achievements of Soviet socialism, defending Stalin and his work on the basis of fact and refuting capitalist, revisionist, opportunist and Trotskyist propaganda directed against him
A lifelong communist, Cathie was born and grew up in a Scottish mining town and both her parents were members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). In the early 1950s, she married Kamal Majid, an Iraqi communist, and moved with him to Baghdad. It was a time of great revolutionary upheaval in that country and Cathie plunged herself into the work of the Iraqi Communist Party, which at that time had massive popular support. She edited the party’s English language publication, Iraqi Review. Such was her commitment to the Iraqi people and their revolution that, after her death, an old friend wrote from Baghdad, describing her as a staunch Iraqi patriot as well as an internationalist fighter for communism.
Cathie was bitterly disappointed by the failure of the Iraqi revolution as the party’s leaders subordinated the people’s struggle to Khrushchev’s dirty deals with US imperialism. This experience led her to become a resolute opponent of revisionism for the rest of her political life. Returning to Britain, she actively supported the anti-revisionist positions put forward by the Communist Party of China and opposed the revisionist CPGB leadership’s attacks on Stalin and the Chinese comrades. Inevitably, she was one of the many genuine communists expelled from the CPGB at that time. She became a founder of Friends of China and served as its National Secretary for a time.
Cathie impressed all comrades who knew her, both by her strong revolutionary spirit as well as her great personal kindness and warmth. The Stalin Society held a memorial meeting in her honour on 14 December, with speakers including Comrades Kamal Majid, Harpal Brar, Iris Cremer, Keith Bennett and Stewart Macdonald.
Comrade Marie Shapiro passed away just a couple of days before what would have been her 95th birthday. Marie was born in London on 11 December 1913 and her parents moved back to Poland in 1914. At the age of 15, she joined the Polish Young Communist League and soon after the Communist Party of Poland. Poland was then under the fascist rule of Pilsudski and the communist party was working underground in conditions of illegality. As a teenager, Marie served a prison sentence of nine months for distributing the party’s May Day leaflets. After her release, her parents were able to obtain a British passport for her and she was deported from Poland.
Arriving in Britain, Marie joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and got work as a seamstress in the tailors’ shops in London’s east end. She never stayed in one job for very long as everywhere she went she recruited young women workers to the Taylor and Garment Workers Trade Union and also to the communist movement. Equally, she never held back from taking on the officials of her trade union, when she felt that they were looking after their own interests rather than those of the young women workers. In 1933, one year after her arrival in London, Marie met Jack Shapiro, in a communist bookshop in London. They were soon married and were the closest comrades and best friends until Marie’s dying day.
Marie Shapiro was active in many of the key struggles of the British working class, including the anti-fascist struggle at Cable Street and the work to support Republican Spain. With the founding of the People’s Republic of Poland after the Second World War, she went to work in the Polish Embassy in London, helping to reunite and support families who had been divided and decimated by the ravages of fascism and war.
In 1949, Marie’s brother-in-law, Michael Shapiro, then a communist councillor in Stepney, moved to Beijing to help the Xinhua News Agency at the request of the Chinese Communist Party. Already a staunch supporter of the Chinese revolution, Marie’s own political and personal life was henceforth deeply bound up with the People’s Republic, in whose defence she never wavered. She visited China ten times and taught Chinese comrades, from the embassy, Xinhua, the state-owned banks and elsewhere, both English language and much about British society to assist them in their work. Days before her death, her nephew visited her from Beijing and, in some of her last spoken words, Marie said that she looked forward to visiting China again.
Like her husband Jack, Marie also fought for the rights of people with disabilities, particularly the deaf and those suffering from tinnitus. Both their names are given to an annual award for tinnitus research. She herself battled near blindness for many years.
On 19 January 2008, Marie Shapiro accepted honorary membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). Jack received her party card on her behalf and told of how delighted she was to once again be in the ranks of a Marxist-Leninist party. Marie was a staunch fighter against revisionism and was overjoyed to see the birth and development of the CPGB(ML). She said to Jack that they had waited so long to see the rebirth of a decent communist party in Britain after the CPGB had been undermined and destroyed by revisionism, and that she was heartened to see the emergence of such a party before she died.
A delegation from the CPGB(ML) attended Comrade Marie’s funeral on 12 December.
TEJA SINGH SAHOTA
Comrade Teja Singh Sahota passed away at his family home in Leamington Spa on 11 December following a battle with pancreatic cancer. On 31 December he would have celebrated his 83rd birthday.
Teja was a communist militant in India and played a leading role in the communist and progressive movements in Britain, as an active trade unionist and shop steward, a leader of the Indian workers and an ardent anti-revisionist. He was born in a peasant family in Punjab and was a student at the time of partition. As throughout his life, he was a resolute opponent of communalism and he was actively involved in saving numerous Muslim families from chauvinist mobs.
Having been a member of the Communist Party of India, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain on his arrival in 1953. He settled in the Coventry area, and then in Leamington Spa, working in mines and factories over the years. For more than five decades, he played a leading role in the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA GB). In particular, he was the President of its Leamington Spa and Warwick branch from 1954 until he drew his last breath. He was elected as Vice President of the national IWA in 1959 and served as its President from 1967-1991, continuing in leading posts thereafter.
Cde Teja was a proud supporter of JV Stalin and Mao Zedong and a strong opponent of revisionism. In India, he successively gave his support to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). In Britain, he rejected the revisionism of the CPGB and in 1966, he became a founder member of the Association of Indian Communists in Britain (AIC) and was elected to its Central Committee and Secretariat. In 1967, he was elected as the General Secretary of the AIC. He visited China as a member of AIC delegations invited by the Chinese Communist Party.
As a prominent leader of the AIC and the IWA(GB), Teja worked to defend the rights of Indian workers in Britain against racist oppression and class exploitation, to defend all communities victimised by racism, to support the class struggle of the British proletariat, to defeat revisionism and rebuild a Marxist-Leninist party in Britain, and to support the revolution in India and throughout the world.
Comrade Harpal Brar, Editor of Lalkar, and a delegation of the CPGB(ML) attended Comrade Teja’s funeral on 23 December.
Comrades Cathie Majid, Marie Shapiro and Teja Singh Sahota were three outstanding comrades who did not waver in the defence of Marxism-Leninism.
Lalkar is proud to have known them as comrades and friends. Although no longer with us, their legacy will continue to inspire us, along with future generations. Their steadfast rejection of revisionism and their resolute opposition to imperialism are as relevant today as ever.
They gave their lives to the finest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind. We shall always remember them.