Terry Liddle: farewell, Comrade

November 22, 2012 at 6:56 am (atheism, good people, libertarianism, secularism, socialism)

“Comrades when I’m dead and gone, no more than dust on the breeze
I beg you grant me one last wish, comrades do this for me please
Raise a glass of the blood red wine or a mug of the barley brew
Bid farewell to your comrade, one of the foolish few
Who thought we could rearrange the world, dreamed we could make all things new.”

Bruce reports:

Terry Liddle (above) died on November 17th aged 64. Comrades may remember Terry as active in the Socialist Alliance and its successor groups.

Terry’s political career started in the YCL (Young Communist League)  in the early 60s followed, I think, by a brief stint in the Healyites. When I first met him  in about 1968, he was involved in one of many attempts to take over the rump ILP (Independent Labour Party). He was a libertarian socialist who subsequently joined a variety of Council Communist groups.

He spent most of his activity in recent years on secularist / atheist activities, setting up the Freethought History Research Group.

He had been ill for a long time.

Nice tribute from Coatesy, here

Jim D adds: Terry wrote poetry and, in one of his poems (‘Death Song’, quoted from above) calls on his comrades to raise a glass of wine or ale to his memory when he dies and is no more than “dust on the breeze.” I’m doing exactly as he instructed, right now.

24 Comments

  1. Davis Walsh said,

    Will you be publishing details of funeral, etc ? I was a good friend of Terry’s in the 1960′s

  2. Andrew Coates said,

    I’ve written a Tribute as well, though it’s obviously not complete: http://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/terry-liddle-1948-2012-comrade/

  3. Jim Denham said,

    Davis: I will make enquiries about the funeral and post details (probably on this thread) as and when I hear anything.

    Andrew: as you can see I’ve added a link to your tribute. Thanks, as well, for the photo which I’ve nicked from you.

  4. Francis said,

    Here you are, Jim – but please note that Ça ira! is still available from the FHRG, once we have managed to get our stocks out of Terry’s flat…

    DEATH SONG
    Terry Liddle

    Comrades when I’m dead and gone, no more than dust on the breeze
    I beg you grant me one last wish, comrades do this for me please
    Raise a glass of the blood red wine or a mug of the barley brew
    Bid farewell to your comrade one of the foolish few
    Who thought we could rearrange the world, dreamed we could make all things new

    Kiss goodbye to my lovers, whose bodies I warmed with lust
    My body once warm it is no more, naught but a whiff of dust
    Remember how we fought the fight, lost and fought again
    How we bound our bloody wounds, how we endured the pain
    For we knew that like the phoenix our cause would rise again

    The banners are tattered and faded, a paler shade of red
    The devices writ upon them now can be hardly read
    But we know every one of the words of hope, words of struggle and fight
    A dream of a new and brighter dawn after the long dark night
    A world reborn in liberty, a world we have put to right

    Toilers of field and factory, workers of hand and brain
    Will ye not rise like lions, sever the slaver’s chain
    Will ye not cast down priests and kings and the money power crew
    Remember we are millions and the tyrants but a few
    Destroy their rule of exploitation and rebuild the world anew.

    So sup your ale my comrades, drink deep of the heady wine
    Cherish the sprouting barley, the grapes clustered on the vine
    Say farewell to the old world, a world of grasp and greed
    A world where poor folk hungered, a world of want and need
    Raise a glass to your fallen comrade, who planted freedom’s seed

  5. Jim Denham said,

    Thank so much for that, Francis. I’ve amended the main post so as to incorporate an excerpt.

    Maybe you could send us details of how to contact the FHRG and order a copy of his book?

  6. Francis said,

    Well, probably best to e-mail deborahberns(at)yahoo.co.uk and enquire, because if all the stocks are still in Terry’s flat, there may be a little wait. But I’m sure that whoever inherits the FHRG’s pamphlet stocks will be very keen to sell as many as possible. There are articles and reviews by Terry in all the recent issues of the Journal of Freethought History, too..

  7. Bruce Robinson said,

    Gary Holden is organising the funeral. No date set yet.

    I am writing a longer obit for ‘Solidarity’. The above was originally just intended to briefly inform my comrades Terry had died. Thanks to Jim for posting it.

    Davis, are you Dave Walsh late of Lewisham (?) IS?

  8. David Walsh said,

    I will try to send over some recollections later today. Yes, it is David Walsh (finger trouble on last post) It was not Lewisham – that was run rigidly by the local Commissars. For me it was the Erith Group, which as it’s leading lights were two members of the old local anarchist group, would not have gone down well with the leadership (if they had been bothered to see what we were up to – such as collaborating with comrades in Solidarity, etc)

  9. Nick Heath said,

    e known him from the 1960s and his involvement in the anarchist movement when, would you believe it, he was as thin as a weasel. He was a member of the Eltham Sons of Durruti(!) The Workers League, the Movement for Workers Councils etc etc etc etc. His judgement was not always the best ( i.e. when he was lured into supporting the very dodgy Anarchist Heretics Fair, a front for Third Positionist Fascists!) but I always regarded him as a comrade. I’ve lost count of the chats we used to have on demos and at meetings.
    Farewell comrade
    Terry Liddle presente!

  10. David Walsh said,

    It is not often that one can talk of the passing of someone who was, genuinely and really a ‘good guy and a good comrade’ but this is the case with Terry Liddle. I apologise for the length of this post but it is, I believe, justified.

    I first came across Terry in 1965/6 as I lived a few miles away from the house he lived in with his mother in Eltham. I was then involved with the local YCL (and later IS) and it was certainly the case that for the 6th Form commissars who policed both groups that Terry was someone you would not want to involve yourself with. Tough. Terry liked life and the excesses of life. He loved talk, argument, debate and debauched anecdote – and all this, at that time, over a lot of beer. He had a wild intellectual spirit and did not defer to any received wisdom from the left – or indeed from the anarchist or libertarian left groups. Hence his utter inability to stay for any time in any of the various groups who he graced with his presence over the years.

    He had a passion for the revolutionary past. He always ascribed this to his genes, and his late father who had been, before becoming a WW2 soldier, a Miner in Yorkshire, and more distant ancestors who had been activists in the SDF. He also, rather engagingly always tried to assume some ancestral kinship with the Jewish Socialists of the Bund – which although it did not tie in well with life on a LCC estate, was not ignoble, given the horrors that the Bundists underwent from all sides of the political spectrum of the Pale.

    His love for the past led him to befriend and support many older socialists down on their luck but who had tales to tell and memories still vivid. They were often, like Bill Turner of the ILP, (see Terry’s obit http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/revhist/backiss/vol8/no2/liddle2.html ) men who had both to wage class war against employer and landlord as well as struggle, against the orthodoxies of social democracy and the thuggishness of Stalinism. I remember how he, I and others helped out men like Doug Kepper, an old ILP veteran and later a septuagenarian activist in the Committee of 100 and Irishman Hughie O’Hara, a former member of the ILP battalion in Spain, and a man who was one of the team who pulled Eric Blair back to the safety of the line after he had been hit by Francoist bullets.

    To visit Terry at his home on the Mottingham estate was to visit a replica of a Victorian den. In his bed / sitting room you firstly had to clear space amongst piles of books, pamphlets and a mini mountain of gestetnered seecteriana from hundreds of small groups and organisations, before you could get down for talk and scabrous gossips before the visit to licensed premises. Once there he was in his other adopted element. The more dingy and down and heel the pub, the better, and it was in such settings that you would often come across Terry and Bill Turner plotting their dream of a take over of the remains of the ILP and the fabled wealth of its printing house – a dream which the sober sided elders of the ILP saw coming along well in time and easily thwarted.

    I fell out of constant touch with Terry after I moved out of London in the 1970′s but still corresponded and met occasionally. He was still comradely despite what he saw as my fall from grace into the world of the Labour Party, local government, council leadership and becoming a mini regional quangocrat.

    I followed his later progress in and out of activity – the Socialist Alliance, a weird period as a Green Party GLA candidate and – latterly – his work with the Humanists in South East London. (see their obit http://www.selondon.humanist.org.uk/) At heart, he could never be a joiner. If there was a milieu in which he would have really wanted to be at home it, it would have been the world of late Victorian radicalism and socialism, agitating during the day with George Harney along the Thameside industrial settlements, and then heading up West to relax (and carouse) in places like the Autonome Club with the likes of anarchists, secularists and Socialist Leaguers like Dan Chatterton, Frad Charles, David Nicholl and Charles Mowbray.

    Sleep well mate.

    • Andrew Coates said,

      David, thanks for a valuable set of information about Terry.

      I also always thought of Terry in terms of late Victorian and Edwardian radicalism and socialism – and I have my own family connections for that (that is great-great grandparents in the East End, and not just a set of grandparents on the left).

      Maybe even furtehr back than that, to the Revolution in Tanner’s Lane, but definitely the world of Conrad and Gissing. With a bit of Joyce Carey’s Horse’s Mouth and Gulley Jimson in a pub on the South bank of the river with his mates talking about Spinoza.

      I like that world, but there’s also Terry ready to listen to newer, ro new Left, ideas,

      On the ILP’s fabed gold, I’ve heard many stories about attempts to get this,, so perhaps Terry’s was not unique.

  11. Andrew Coates said,

    Sorry for spelling – the Suffolk Internet system is close to breakdown and the whole box was wibbling and wobbling while I wrote.

  12. Nick Long said,

    Our members and suppoters in People Before Profit offer our condolances. Terry had recently joined our Lewisham based community and he was planning on becoming invoked in our Greenwich branch.

    I only picked up Terry last Tuesday from his flat in Sowerby Close, Eltham, to take him to give a talk on the General Strike at Lewisham Trades Council and take part in our discussion.

    Nick Long Unite
    Local Government Branch Lewisham

    • Colin Clarke said,

      After David’s splendid recollections and tribute to our “fallen Comrade”, it’s hard to know what to add. I first met Terry in the mid to late 60s (met David around the same time too). Terry was impressive from the start with his immense knowledge of and affinity with the history and traditions of the Left. He always had the time and the words to explain any point that wasn’t clear (and as a newcomer to the left wing I was often in need of some explanation). Alongside his great understanding of things he was a really nice guy, and I will always cherish the memories of his bed/sitting room in Mottingham, South London, where great debates, arguments, discussions and bawdy gossip would take place, always accompanied by a refreshing glass or two before adjourning to the local hostelry.

      I last met Terry about 10 years ago in central London. I was on my lunch break, he invited me for a drink. Needless to say no further work was done that day.

      You’ll be missed, Terry, I raise my glass to you, a truly politically heretical original.

  13. Jim Denham said,

    Like Colin and (I’m sure) many others, I’d like to thank David for his moving tribute and memories posted at #10 above.

    I’d met Terry a few times, very briefly, at various Socialist Alliance events and at the AWL summer school. He always struck me as very serious and thoughtful, but also very humourous and a thoroughly likeable guy. I’m only sorry, now that it’s too late, that I didn’t get to know him.

  14. David Walsh said,

    A very recent post on Andrew’s site says that Terry had been writing his autobiography, I hope this piece of work (even if incomplete) is in his papers, and has been retrieved.

    • Gary Holden said,

      David – yes, I have retrieved Terry’s memoirs from his computer. Haven’t had a chance to check them but they appear to have been completed.

  15. Gary Holden said,

    Terry’s funeral is now arranged for Monday10th December, 3.30pm at Eltham Crematorium, Crown Woods Way, SE9 2AZ.

    • Ian Pirie said,

      Very saddened to hear of Terry’s death – he was ‘larger than life’ in many senses, always good company, and dedicated to building a better world. Even though I am no longer a ‘joiner’ and have lost touch with much of what’s going on in libertarian socialist/libertarian communist circles, I kept in touch with Terry over the years. My great regret is not having gone to visit him in the last few years…

      I can just fill in a few more bits from his life, I think: I met Terry in the ’70s, when I joined the libertarian socialist group Social Revolution (set up mainly by ex-SPGB people) – hello Stephen Shenfield!! – and we were involved in the usual production of a paper, trips to places such as Aberdeen and Manchester for conferences, etc. The group decided to join Solidarity, as SR didn’t seem to be growing or going anywhere (my interpretation) and Solid was well-established.

      Terry’s views were – as others have noted – idiosyncratic… and I remember with some sadness a Solid Conference where we argued over Terry’s continued membership, since he was working with the Labour Party. I stood by Terry, but the majority view was against. Whether he was ‘expelled’ – or what formula the conference came up with – I don’t remember, but I did feel that the closing of ranks to exclude contact with other organisations was likely to result in such groups always being on the fringes. Solidarity no longer exists…

      Terry spent some years at University of East London, (where i taught) – studying for a Dip HE (a course where students could choose their own subject matter – sadly no longer in existence). He wrote about Kropotkin, Makhno, peasant anarchism etc. I admired his dedication to studying and writing – and enjoyed his visits to the University: conversation with Terry was always lively, spiced with jokes and Yiddish words and phrases.

      Farewell to a rare and precious character – I’ll raise a glass or two or three to you Terry!

  16. David Walsh said,

    Just to say that despite everything, I can’t be at the funeral on Monday as I feel that my own limited mobility, plus work issues, mean a 500 mile round trip is impossible. However, I will have a couple of extra glasses on Monday night, so that I am there in spirit (sic). I hope the day goes well in that people’s respect for Terry and his life will be demonstrated.

  17. Scott Reeve said,

    As one of terry’s oldest friends I have started writing something on Terry but it is far to long for the site so the first few lines will have to do

    Terry Liddle
    1948-2012
    “Atheist, Republican, Socialist, member X369799 IWW”

    Comrades a great revolutionary libertarian socialist is no more. He was always full of hope, full of life. Schooled at Bloomfield a Secondary Modern School in Plumstead, with pretentions to be something it was not. Educated by the London Socialist movement of all types and hues and thousands of books and pamphlets.

    I first met Terry, I think, when he turned up at my Stalinist parents’ house for a Woolwich YCL meeting. We were both 15 year old school boys at the time. Shortly after this he went to public speaking sessions led by Joe Bent, an old Stalinist who had a Communist Party speaking pitch in the East Lane market. Terry said that Joe opened his meeting with these words “Morning I am Bent” It drew a crowd at least.

    I last met Terry in August this year in the Great Harry, a Wetherspoons pub in Woolwich, we reminisced over past times, long gone socialist groups and pubs no more.

    Terry quickly broke with Stalinism joined the Healyites argued against their “Stalinist” methods. Left the League and had to flee, so he said, leave his mother’s council house in Eltham for a room in South West London for a few months. This experience led Terry to abandon Leninism as well as Stalinism and start researching the pre first world war socialist and libertarian movement. But Terry still had Trotskyist drinking companions, Maoist friends like Mike Baker and Maureen Scott. Indeed he married a Stalinist,

    • mike davis said,

      I met Terry in the early 1980s through another old (also now deceased) friend Martin Cook. I was struck by Terry’s knowledge of socialist and working class history, his republicanism and his non-sectarian approach to politics. Perhaps that was due to his spell with the Healyites. He wrote intermittently for and subscribed to Chartist over 30 years. Communist Party, Labour Party, Green Party and many other groups along the way, I always found Terry a friendly and open minded comrade but with a rapier like ability to polemicise and criticise Stalinism and apologists for imperialism. I am only sad we did not meet up more often in the last ten years than we did in the earlier 20 years that I knew him. Des K has written an obit for Chartist. I want to add a little more and draw from Scott and Andrew. Also want to contact Gary H….so any help here welcome.

  18. Jim Denham said,

    From: Scott Republic Sent: Tue Mar 05 10:07:11 GMT 2013
    Subject: Terry Liddle

    The Freethought History Research Group in conjunction with the Conway Hall Ethical Society is organising a memorial meeting for the late Terry Liddle in Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL

    Clever, witty speakers, a great choir, lots of discussion and refreshments!

    ALL WELCOME — FREE ADMISSION

    Time 2.pm

    Date 20 April 2013

    (H/t: Bruce Robinson)

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