Many in the Marxist-Leninist movement will be aware of the sudden death of Bill Bland, after a short illness in the London Hospital, on March 13th. He had a long history of anti-revisionist activity through various organisations, in particular as Secretary of the Albania Society for 30 years, and more recently as one of the founder members of the Stalin Society. At his funeral on 12th April, Annette Furley, from the British Humanist Association, with the support of his family made a moving tribute to Bill which gave an intimate picture Bill’s life. We reproduce below extracts from her tribute to Bill.
Tribute to Bill Bland
Bill was born in Ashton under Lime in Manchester on 28th April 1916, to Annie and Thomas Harold. He was an only child. He was a very bright child and attended Manchester Grammar but had to leave early due to the family finances, so was unable to attend University. Instead he became an Apprentice Optician and after qualifying continued in this career as an Optician until he retired. His first job was in New Zealand. ..
He set up his own practice in Dagenham in 1960… He was happy here as he liked the people of Dagenham.
While in New Zealand war broke out and so he joined the New Zealand Army. An interesting experience as Bill was not one to take orders very readily. He never actually disobeyed orders though, as he knew that if he did he would be punished. He learnt instead that if you were stupid you got away with a great deal and so, he acted stupid! For instance by marching out of step with everyone else.
Eventually he was sent to the Medical Officer to be examined after a number of similar antics. The Medic soon discovered that he was an optician and so instead of reporting him, ensured he got promoted so that he could serve out the rest of his time as an Army Optician.
In 1950 Bill met Clare at a Communist Party social. Clare already had Ellen who was eight years old and so Bill adopted her and then they went on to have Eve who was born in 1951. They had three grand children Ben and Dom and Joe, who Bill was very close to, and a great grand child, Poppy who he did not really get a chance to know as she was only born in February.
Bill’s biggest passion was his political work, which he lived for. From early on he had been seeking an ideology to live by and so studied theology in order to become a Methodist Minister. This obviously did not fit his ideals and so he became a communist, though he later described himself as a Marxist, Stalinist, Leninist and an Engelsist. Bill was also an internationalist and went to great lengths to get all the communist groups to form an alliance. He was a true believer in the principle of finding out what people had in common rather than what it was they didn’t agree upon.
Bill was a founder member of the Stalin Society, and played an important part in the British Albanian Friendship Society, acting as an unofficial ambassador. He taught himself to speak Albanian in order to do this work better and wrote the first Albanian-English dictionary.
As well as politics Bill had many passions. He loved music and he loved to read, moving from one subject to the other, be it politics or ghost stories or art. He lived in the British Library. His favourite subject was the History of Art. He loved visual arts – theatre and cinema. In the 1950’s he directed his own film called
and he established the New Era Film Society in order to be able to show foreign films.
Bill had many talents. As well as producing a film he also wrote his own ballet and a play. And he wrote a book on Albania and numerous articles. He was a great educator, giving lectures on a variety of subjects, but many on Marxism and Leninism.
So what kind of person was Bill? He had a terrific sense of humour. He was very witty and was the best April fool prankster. And he had the chuckle to go with it. He was described to me as a gentleman and a kind person. He was very shy and usually private. He was very modest and self-effacing. He would have been surprised to know that so many people thought so much of him. He was a unique man who will be greatly missed.
On April 22nd a Memorial Meeting for Comrade Bland was organised by the Stalin Society at Conway Hall, London, at which his daughters, Ellen and Eve, along with many comrades from a wide variety of organisations paid tributes to Bill’s life-long work in the movement.
The Stalin Society is a broad front which brings together those who, although with political differences on other issues, take pride in the achievements of the Soviet Union under the Bolshevik leadership of Lenin and Stalin.
Bill Bland prepared many presentations for the Society and will be much remembered for his contributions on art, most recently
‘Marxism-Leninism and the Arts’
which he presented to a meeting in September 1999 with slides of significant paintings, as well as tapes of musical trends. The text of this contribution is available in pamphlet form from the Stalin Society, BM Box 2521 London WC1N 3XX [cost £1 per copy – cheques payable to ST.S].
If readers want to find out more about what really happened in the Soviet Union and want to assert their pride in Soviet achievements then membership of the Stalin Society is available at the above address [£5 waged, £2.50 unwaged].