On 12 May comrades, family and friends packed Saklatvala Hall in Southall to overflowing to pay tribute to the life of a very special man. This remembrance for Comrade Godfrey, a founder member of the CPGB-ML and a life-long revolutionary fighter, brought together those from all walks of life who had been touched and inspired by him.
A varied cultural programme including items written specially in memory of Godfrey, particularly by Ella Rule, as well as his own poems, both political and humorous, provided a poignant reminder of his life and the example we should all follow. The opening tribute, made by Harpal Brar was based on the obituary he wrote for Godfrey which was printed in the last issue of Lalkar. Many other tributes have been published in previous issues both of Lalkar and Proletarian, so here we will just publish a couple of the contributions made at the Memorial Meeting, along with some other condolence messages more recently received.
Comrade Godfrey and the five C’s – compassion, creativity, communism, craftsmanship and courage
Speech by Iris Cremer, a founding comrade of the CPGB-ML, at the memorial meeting for her husband Godfrey Cremer
” In order to make our Party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty .” Kim Il Sung
Once again I thank every one of you for the comfort and strength your words have given to all of Godfrey’s extended family, friends and comrades. So many of you here, as well as in messages from across the world from Havana to South Africa to Pyongyang, have expressed respect and thanks for the warm-hearted and articulate way that Godfrey supported their causes.
I have been very privileged to spend over 40 years with a husband, friend and comrade who has worked tirelessly to build a world free from racism and imperialist wars, and for a society in which all peoples could live in peace.
I still want to highlight the 3 C’s that I dealt with at the funeral – his compassion, his creativity and his communist principles – they are such significant aspects of Godfrey’s world outlook.
He looked after everyone he met – family, friends and passers by – he treated all with respect and kindness – becoming an ‘uncle’ to so many young friends. But his compassion extended way beyond individual acts of concern.
He started to look for other ways to solve the problem facing people in the UK, as well as across the world. This became a driving force that saw Godfrey campaign for racial equality – working with the IWA(GB) as well as professionally; and an ardent anti-imperialist. Right up to the days before his death he was exhorting us to protest against the attempts of imperialism to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria – it is entirely appropriate that on the front page of the last Lalkar, his picture appears just beside the article on Syria.
He not only grew to have a well formed political outlook, but he was a proper teacher. With images, analogies, poetry, music and photography he found ways to describe the most complex of historical and scientific ideas. In studying Marxism, his careful use of words helped so many youngsters, and those not so young, to grasp the meaning of a new world outlook.
It was his experiences in the 60s and his concern for people that brought him to espouse the ideals of communism. During events in the early 70s we met Harpal and a few others and began to build an alternative to the existing political parties – a genuine communist party in Britain.
However to implement this work Godfrey also saw the need for two other C’s – Craftsmanship and Courage
Whereas I came to see the need for an alternative to capitalism through an emotional response to the experiences I found in Africa in the 1960s – as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania I, fortunately, learnt both of the devastation that imperialism had caused to the peoples of southern Africa and learnt about the spirit of resistance that Julius Nyerere’s ‘Ujamaa‘ gave a voice to, and saw the support that the Chinese were giving, for instance in building railways, etc.
On the other hand, Godfrey was far more rational. His experiences in the anti-Vietnam war days also drew him to find out about ‘alternatives’ and he pursued it in a thoroughly logical manner – studying Marxism as a science. He would be first to admit that he did not study sufficiently, but I know for sure that even in hospital in those final days he had with him a copy of ‘The fundamentals of Marxism‘ by Plekhanov. He studied and thought through all the problems he faced be it:
1. mastering the printing press – the May issue (number 212) was the first Lalkar we have done without his guidance since 1979 – and it was hard – particularly wanting to keep up to his standard – and with his face smiling back at us on the front cover [Katt and I used all our strength to achieve what we knew he expected of us],
2. sorting out how to build literature stalls (transforming a children’s buggy into a mobile stall – using one that he found discarded near a skip ! – and then improving it to increase its mobility – cos it was not quite right !) or
3. organising the communist movement – endlessly meeting comrades, discussing with comrades both to organise national and London regional activities.
He was a true craftsman who fine-tuned his knowledge and approach according to the prevailing circumstances and would turn his hand to anything.
His contributions to Marxist study schools and circles will be sorely missed. From study circles in the 1970s in Tottenham with Harpal and Ella and others, to curry and communist study in Southall, to CPGB-ML party schools, Godfrey has been a stalwart who carefully analysed and honestly answered questions with clarity, relevance, along with his jokes and analogies.
Which brings me to my last C.
It was with immense pride that Godfrey became a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist) in 2004 and could see his hopes and desires of his life’s work beginning to really bear fruit. And he would thus encourage party members to study and be optimistic, adhering to the words of Kim Il Sung who said in 1962:
” In order to make our Party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty .”
To have spent 4 decades with Godfrey, and shared a common world outlook, has indeed been a privilege and a joy. His firm adherence to principles gave him a great confidence and courage, which may seem at variance with his gentle manner and warmth.
In fact his thorough scientific understanding of dialectics and materialism gave him enormous strength in his convictions. He has not only stood up for many who faced racial discrimination – both in his professional work and in conjunction with the Indian Workers Association GB, but he has always been at the forefront of those challenging the rule of British imperialism at home or abroad – particularly in relation to Ireland in the Troops Out Movement, in the Zimbabwe Solidarity Front, and most recently in the Stop the War Movement. His work has been exemplary both in terms of arguments won and lessons learnt.
Having worked so closely for so long, pretty much a double-act, I feel that now, in this difficult period, I have the strength built from my life with Godfrey. I often say to people that I feel like part of his spine is holding me up to ensure that his work goes on. Katt too has learnt how to be strong from Godfrey’s example – so I feel confident that our political work will continue. We have an expanding party that is mobilising the next generation to carry on the struggle.
However , we will all sorely miss his expertise in science, particularly the biological sciences. From Darwin through to the Soviet biologist Lysenko, Godfrey was at the forefront of a Marxist scientific analysis based on his training as a scientist and as a Marxist. He defended Darwin’s materialism and, more controversially, the Soviet agronomist Lysenko by making detailed presentations on their work – which only a few others have done in the recent past.
But the essence of that biological work is that only the new Soviet state could truly enable resources to be used for the benefit of the vast masses of the people. Godfrey’s research dealt with developments in agriculture, but the lesson is similar for other areas of life.
100 years ago Michurin, a Russian biologist, was struggling to improve fruit plants in pre-revolutionary Russia. 20 years later he said that the Soviet system ” had given me everything I need – everything an experimenter can desire for his work. The dream of my whole life is coming true: the valuable new fruit-plant varieties which I have bred have gone from the experimental plots, not into the possession of a few kulak money-bags [rich farmers], but into the far-flung orchards of the collective and state farms”.
He wrote to Stalin thanking him for building a new world in which ” the creative energy surging among the millions of workers and peasants of the Soviet Union fills me too, old man that I am, with eagerness to live and work under your leadership for the good of the socialist development of our proletarian state “.
The “eagerness” of this Soviet agronomist reminds me so much of Godfrey’s enthusiasm for building a new society.
Our tribute to Godfrey must be to use the strength that Godfrey has given us to build a powerful communist movement that can lead to a bright future for all humanity.
A Red Salute to Godfrey, my comrade, my friend and my husband
A contribution to the celebration of the life and political contribution of Comrade Godfrey
Speech by Wilf Dixon, on behalf of the Stalin Society to the Memorial Meeting
Comrades and friends, thank you for giving me this chance to make a few remarks from the Stalin Society to this commemoration today. I am proud to do this because I had a profound respect for comrade Godfrey Cremer and believe his political clarity and method of work are things to be emulated. The abrupt passing of comrade Godfrey Cremer came as a shock to us all and this shows how much we will miss his dedication and clarity of thought in dealing with complex ideological and political issues. Although I found comrade Godfrey a very approachable and friendly person, a quality which has been repeated in many of the tributes that I have heard and read, I knew him primarily through my involvement in the Marxist Leninist movement and since the foundation of the Stalin Society after the total collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Comrade Godfrey was an internationalist striving to support those peoples and nations at the brunt of western, particularly United States, imperialist hatred and demonization. That is, those nations and peoples who strive to resist imperialist dictate in order to build their own economy and independence politically or militarily. As a communist inside the belly of the beast of British imperialism, he understood and was guided by a profound grasp of the importance of struggling against the chauvinism and imperialist mentality as it affects in particular the working class with racist ideas and its would be leadership or mis-leadership with opportunism. One of my earliest occasions to have contact with Godfrey was in the Troops Out Movement whose leadership displayed much the same characteristics as can be witnessed today. Comrade Godfrey’s contribution was guided by the Marxist precept that no nation that oppresses another nation can itself be free.
Further, as a member of the Stalin Society, and I must say that he is not alone in this, he jealously defended Comrade Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership from slanderous lies and the attempts to rewrite history. For every one like Comrade Godfrey defending Stalin, it seems there needs to be 100 bourgeois or revisionist scribblers who can so readily find a publisher for the shallowest of lies and distortions. Such is the value to the working class of propagandists like comrade Godfrey.
Apart from his regular contributions in the meetings themselves, I would like to draw attention to his contribution on Darwin in the bi-centenary year of his birth on the 12-2-1809. In an address to the Stalin Society in commemoration of Charles Darwin and his work culminating in the The Origin of Species, Comrade Cremer whilst paying tribute to Darwin’s consistent scientific method showed his own grasp of dialectical and historical materialism. Comrade Godfrey who I believe had taught and was qualified in the natural sciences used his knowledge to criticize eugenics and other racist distortions of Darwin’s concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’. Also, in a different address to the Stalin Society and in the spirit of swimming against the tide he fought to rescue from unjust criticism the work of Soviet agro-biologist Lysenko on the effects of the environment on inherited characteristics. In the modern world of science which neglects the environment in favour of almost exclusive research on genetic manipulation, this is a positive thing to do. Swimming against the tide, particularly in imperialist Britain must be the spirit of any communist seeking to make a contribution to building a revolutionary communist party based in the working class and oppressed peoples. The bourgeoisie and its propaganda is powerful in the imperialist heartland. In this situation it is particularly necessary to go lower and deeper among the masses. In order to do this it is important to be of a modest character and be able to listen to the masses and isolate the backward ideas from the progressive. I believe comrade Godfrey displayed much of these qualities of modesty and readiness to listen. His contributions to society meetings would pick at the subject drawing attention to facts and revealing the aspects of something from different angles and by so doing win conviction. Comrade Godfrey paid attention to detail. I thought I might be alone in making this point but I see that this quality has been remarked on by many others. He took on the big and little issue with the same care. For example, he regularly carried out the, some would think menial, job of ensuring the availability of coffee and refreshments at Society meetings. But no job is too menial and life is made up of many small and apparently inconsequential things. Dialectics tells us that qualitative leaps derive from quantitative changes. It is of no consequence, but I drink decaffeinated coffee and appreciated that Comrade Godfrey made sure it was available. But anecdotes aside, comrade Godfrey will be remembered for his patience and care with his comrades and friends.
As a member of the society, and I am sure I express the feelings of the Stalin Society as a whole, I would like to send condolences to Godfrey’s partner for 40 years and Secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris, and her daughter Katherine. Comrade Godfrey’s passing has left a great hole in the Society which will not be easily filled. For Iris, Katherine and their family this is also a profound personal loss. But I hope they will take heart from the memories and political legacy he has left behind which will live on in the minds of all those who have known him or come into contact with his political work or writings.
I’m speaking on behalf of the Stalin Society but I think the following remarks by Comrade Mao Ze Dong best express how I would like to finish up this short tribute.
” All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said, ‘Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.’ To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Chang Szu-teh [The Comrade for whom Mao tse-tung spoke these words. For us here today let us substitute the name of Godfrey Andries Cremer] died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai” (‘Serve the People‘ 8 September 1944).
Comrade Godfrey’s life is one of a communist serving the working and oppressed people and his death is indeed heavier than Mount Tai.
In concluding, I would like to state my own determination and make my own appeal to use this occasion of remembering Comrade Godfrey Cremer’s life also an occasion to learn from his qualities and example in deepening the theory and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao tse-tung as applied to the conditions of Britain.
Long live the memory of Comrade Godfrey
The future is bright.
Imperialism and all reactionaries are indeed paper tigers.
Further messages of Condolence
Comrades John Beardshall and Robert Morris, 4 April.
It was with sadness that we learnt of Godfrey’s passing. The proletariat are the poorer for his passing but all the richer for the immense contribution he made during his lifetime. He helped raise and shape progressive political consciousness in this country and throughout his life he actively supported numerous international liberation struggles.
We wish to express our condolences to Iris and Godfrey’s family, friends and comrades. Godfrey Cremer was an exemplary and dedicated communist and all round selfless, warm, gentle man. A genuine comrade in the struggle for the liberation of the proletariat. He will be sorely missed and long remembered.
Michael Chant, RCPB(ML), 12 May
I would like to express a personal deep appreciation of Comrade Godfrey Cremer.
Comrade Godfrey dedicated his whole life to the cause of revolution and socialism. In this world where incoherence and lack of integrity is the hallmark of those who are promoted by the owners of capital and their media and spokespeople, this is a quality of inestimable value.
As a communist Comrade Godfrey was always a leader. But he also possessed the humility of one who was a foot-soldier for the cause of the emancipation of the working class and all humanity. He was more than happy to play second fiddle if that was what the situation demanded, and this quality also is one which defined him as a sincere communist.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Comrade Godfrey was a martyr in the struggle for the progress of humanity. He indeed gave his life in the course of this struggle.
In my personal opinion, Comrade Godfrey Cremer will continue to hold a place of affection and high esteem in the communist and workers’ movement.
With my sincere communist sentiments.
Kwame Akuffo, Chair, Ealing Equality Council and Community Advice Programme. 29 March
I write on behalf of Ealing Equality Council and the Community Advice Programme to express our shock and profound sadness and to convey our condolences and deepest sympathy to you and the family for the loss of Godfrey.
As you know, Godfrey was not only a dear colleague but also a much loved friend. Our ex-Director was a man committed beyond the call of duty; a man of translucent integrity who devoted his entire life to constructive activism aimed at ending social and economic inequality and the promotion of respect and dignity for all.
Godfrey was also one of the nicest men I ever encountered and his passing is a personal and communal tragedy. All who worked and socialised with him experienced his humanity and kindness and his steely determination to work ceaselessly for the most disadvantaged in our community by providing not only institutional but personal help to people. His contribution to anti-discrimination work as Director of Ealing Racial Equality Council was significant and integral to the struggle for equality and justice in Ealing and elsewhere. Godfrey’s selfless devotion to the cause of making this world a fairer and much better place is his enduring legacy and it is a part of Godfrey that will live on in all those who were privileged enough to know him. In your moment of irreplaceable loss, I hope this is a source of comfort to the family.
With deepest sympathy
Dave Roberts, 31 March.
Just heard sad news of Godfrey’s death. Please pass on my sincerest condolences to Iris, family, friends and comrades