St Albans SWP were shocked and dismayed to hear of the unexpected death of our comrade and friend Bert Freeman.
Bert, aged 78, had a heart attack and died in the arms of his wife Sheila.
He was the second youngest of 14 children and grew up in tenement buildings in London. Although he won a scholarship, he was forced to leave school and go out to work.
Bert worked in various factories and in his early 20s attended his first political meeting.
The great socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was an important influence on him.
Bert was a Kinnockite in the 1980s – and considered his daughter Jackie’s SWP politics too extreme.
But devastated by the Tories election victory in 1992 and disgusted by Tony Blair’s transformation of the Labour Party, he went on his first demonstration – the huge march against pit closures. He went on to join the SWP at the Marxism 1997 festival.
It was a great shame that Bert worked in small, non‑unionised workplaces, as he would have been a great shop steward. There is not a boss alive who could have stood up to him.
Bert took great delight in winding up the police on demos, complaining that his taxes were paying their wages (even after he retired), and woe betide anyone that gave him any abuse on a paper sale.
Bert was a fantastically successful Socialist Worker seller but his mild mannered approach soon changed when “class enemies” denigrated the socialist message.
Throughout his 70s Bert was a regular both on the paper sale and at meetings. He thought nothing about getting the overnight bus from Luton to join the Make Poverty History demo in Edinburgh.
He put younger comrades to shame with his commitment.
Bert had a visceral hatred of the Tories and New Labour and his contributions at meetings were always a highlight.
As well as his commitment to the socialist cause, Bert had two great loves in his life. Arsenal and his family.
His beloved Arsenal was a regular topic of conversation on Saturday sales and he was a man who could become apoplectic when the team failed to perform.
After many a demo we would decamp to the pub to listen to the scores.
He adored his wife Sheila and five children – Lesley, Debbie, Alison, Jacqui and David.
Our sympathy goes out to them. Bert was a much-loved figure by us all, and his death has left a massive hole in our political and personal lives.