Socialist Worker

Mike Waterman 1953-2021

by Phil Mellows
Issue No. 2743

Covid has taken the life of  Mike Waterman who died at his Norwich home last Friday after apparently staging a recovery from the virus.

The following evening, at a few hours’ notice, a Zoom event organised by Norwich Socialist Workers Party (SWP) attracted more than 40 people. It heard moving tributes to a comrade and friend who made a difference everywhere he went.

Mike joined the SWP in the early 1970s. As well as being a trade union activist in Wandsworth council in south London he developed a reputation as a resolute anti-racist and fighter for the Palestinian cause.

He was well-read, knew his history, and thanks to his instinct for getting stuck in gained enormous experience. This equipped him to handle every situation and argument with a quiet confidence.

He took that with him to Australia in the late 1980s where he became influential in turning the small International Socialist Organisation outwards. There he engaged in campaigns from the struggle for Aboriginal rights to the fight against the first Iraq war. He supported the 1998 dock workers' strike, all the time drawing the connections between apparently diverse issues.

Mike Waterman

Mike Waterman

Mike was also among the 200,000 protesters tear-gassed at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.

He returned to Britain where he tirelessly galvanised Brighton & Hove SWP for a decade.

Mike was central to launching Stand Up to Racism in the city. He also achieved perhaps his greatest triumph when the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign succeeded in closing the SodaStream shop. It was selling products manufactured in the occupied West Bank.

He had joined the picket there every Saturday for two years, consistently arguing that the campaign was broadened. Winning that argument proved key.

At the end of 2017 Mike moved to Norwich to be close to his sister and once again made an immediate impact. He became a vital force in local campaigns, Palestine inevitably to the fore.

For those who worked with him, he was a rock, the vital centre of every SWP branch he joined. He was a comrade adept at patiently explaining his differences with those who disagreed with us, while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the struggle.

Immediately identifiable by the pork pie hat that seemed permanently attached to his head, he was an influential leader.

And his passions beyond politics were surprisingly diverse.

He loved to dance to ska and reggae and trance music. He was a fan of Leonard Cohen and Chelsea Football Club and liked strong, dark beers and a Sunday roast.

He was a demon on the poker table, and he turned to science fiction for a sense of how our world can be different.

Our condolences go to his sister Julie, his brother Leo, his niece Rachael and her children Eva and Jamie.


Article information

Tue 23 Feb 2021, 09:38 GMT
Issue No. 2743
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