Socialist Worker

Jeremy Hardy 1961-2019

by Micki Loebner and Tim O’Dell
Issue No. 2640

Jeremy Hardy at a benefit he organised with Stand Up To Racism for refugees in Calais

Jeremy Hardy at a benefit he organised with Stand Up To Racism for refugees in Calais (Pic: Guy Smallman)


It is with profound sadness that we face the death of socialist and comedian Jeremy Hardy. Jeremy was a wonderful friend, an ally to anyone suffering injustice, and a comrade to anyone fighting it.

The outpouring of love following his death is a testament to how many people he inspired, his humanity and his determined use of his intellect in support of everyone fighting tyranny and injustice. His comedy was a weapon to expose the hypocrisy and cant of the great and powerful. His warmth and humanity encouraged all who fought back.

In the 1980s, as he was first achieving career success as a comedian, Jeremy was also deeply involved in the committees to free the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. For four decades he continued to fight every cause to achieve justice, personally befriending those wrongfully imprisoned and never turning down a benefit gig.

But he was a fantastic comedian – listening back to clips over the last couple of days has just left us all laughing through the tears at how funny, outrageous and uncompromisingly political he was.

That included being an early supporter of the left-of-Labour Socialist Alliance in 2001 and coming to the SWP's Marxism conference.

He campaigned to clear the name of Danny McNamee, whose wrongful conviction for taking part in the IRA's 1982 Hyde Park bombing was overturned in 1998.

His socialist politics meant he wasn’t always popular. In 2000, he was booed by members of the Just A Minute audience when he used the subject “parasites” to begin a rant against the royal family.

In the 2000s his focus became the Palestinians and refugees displaced across the world by war and economic deprivation. It was through this work on Palestine that he met his partner, film-maker Katie Barlow, making the documentary Jeremy Hardy vs. the Israeli Army.

It shockingly ended off-camera with them under fire from the Israeli army and having to be rescued.

Palestinian

Together they became a force for change. The messages from Palestinian and refugee organisations paid tribute to Jeremy’s commitment to the cause.

As ever, it wasn’t just in words but in deeds, as Katie and Jeremy took in a Syrian family under the resettlement scheme in 2015 and on the day he died had been organising the defence of two young Afghan brothers who had entered through the Calais jungle and are now threatened with deportation.

The mainstream newspapers and media obituaries rightly pay tribute to his comic genius—although it wasn't genius that he taught our kids some wholly unacceptable words. We should also remember the Jeremy many of us in the movement knew so well—the person who talked the talk but, fundamentally, who walked the walk. It is with deepest sadness that we mourn with his partner Katie, daughter Betty as well as all of his family and many friends.    

In his final Guardian column he was notably uncompromising—“I do not see my job as keeping our rulers on their toes. I’d rather see them hanging by their feet”.

The fight for socialism has been robbed of a great advocate and comrade.


Article information

Obituary
Sun 3 Feb 2019, 13:54 GMT
Issue No. 2640
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