Derek Allen, who sadly died last Sunday, was a much loved Socialist Workers Party (SWP) member in Hackney, east London. His passionate commitment to socialism, hard work and incredible generosity made him a popular figure among SWP members and non-members alike.
He was a working class east Londoner who devoted his last few years to fighting in defence of the health service and the welfare state. He was the most reliable member of any SWP branch he was in.
Derek came to the SWP late in life, but he threw himself into building the party and selling Socialist Worker with more enthusiasm than many younger comrades.
Derek’s experience of working alongside people in Hackney from all over the world, and of the behaviour of the police, made him the most convinced anti-racist and opponent of police harassment.
He had married Rachel, who he had been drawn to by her fighting spirit, earlier in life and they had two children, Heather and John.
Derek took great pride in Rachel’s appearance on a 1960s TV programme where she had taken Tory minister Sir Keith Joseph to task over slum housing.
Derek did a number of jobs, including delivering gas canisters around the country and working at Walthamstow College. Sailing was a great passion of his.
He loved to tell people tales of his work and sailing.
He gave up sailing to nurse Rachel when she became ill. Following her death in 1995 he became involved in the SWP.
Derek argued for socialism everywhere he went – with people who he was sitting next to on the bus or people he bumped into in the streets or the queue in the shop.
He enjoyed anything that involved promoting socialist ideas among people – particularly election campaigns for first the Socialist Alliance and then Respect.
Derek was always keen to take part in photo shoots for Socialist Worker highlighting attacks on pensions and pensioners.
He was also highly active in the local pensioners’ group, selling its magazine in the street and to SWP members at meetings.
You could always rely on Derek if you were in a difficult situation.
He put up many SWP members and others if they needed somewhere to stay. Derek took in Dritan Dauti, a young Kosovan asylum seeker who was threatened with deportation, and was a crucial part of the eventually successful campaign to keep him in Britain.
Derek and Dritan became close over this time, and Dritan continued to live with Derek even after he was given leave to remain in Britain.
SWP members and friends attempted to repay Derek’s kindnesses over the last few months when he fell ill by visiting him.
Even during his illness, Derek continued to sell Socialist Worker and showed his support for protests that passed by his flat.
Derek’s friendship and comradeship will be greatly missed by all who knew him and our thoughts are with his family.
Derek’s funeral will take place at the City of London Crematorium South Chapel at 1.15pm on Tuesday 24 July, nearest train station Manor Park. All welcome.
We will also be going to the Marie Lloyd bar on Mare Street in Hackney afterwards where everyone is welcome to join us.