Socialist Worker

Martin Pitt 1944-2021

by Dick Pitt
Issue No. 2773

Martin (right) campaigning in west London

Martin (right) campaigning in west London


It is impossible to sum up a full life in a few words. Martin was a lifelong anti-racist from the anti-apartheid opposition to the South African 1969 all-white Springbok rugby tour, to battles against the National Front in the 1970s to the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage today.

He joined the International Socialists, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party in the heady days of the 1970s. There were a string of industrial victories culminating in the freeing of the Pentonville Five, the tearing up of the Industrial Relations Act and the miners' strike of 1974 that defeated the hated Ted Heath Government.

He was inspired by a vision of a world with no wars, no ethnic hatred, and an end to poverty. He was committed to doing his bit to bringing about that better world.

His knowledge of our politics meant that he had the confidence to listen to newer comrades, mull over their concerns, and give a well thought out reply. He was always cheerful and confident.

He gave up a soul-destroying job in Glaxo to get his PhD in biochemistry. After that, he worked in further education.

While there was mainly a low level of struggle in Britain, there were huge conflicts abroad.

Shah

One of these was the Iranian revolution of 1979. The Shah looked all-powerful, with a massive military and murderous secret police, the SAVAK.

Yet there were protests, followed by repression, large funerals for the killed protesters, and more repression.

When the working class finally moved, it was the death knell of the regime. The working class was central to the overthrow of the Shah.

But while incredibly powerful, it was politically disarmed.

Martin was learning Farsi and had strong personal ties with Mujgan, an Iranian comrade he later married, partly to help her escape Iran.

At the time of the counter-revolution, when the Ayatollah Khomeini regime was destroying women's organisations and murdering the left wing revolutionaries, Martin decided to go to Iran.

I remember him telling me about being ordered off a plane from Tehran back to London.  Given that he had done SWP meetings and written about the Iranian revolution, he was worried that the Mullahs' regime was going to shoot him.

He looked around him and saw that he was surrounded by businessmen. The regime didn’t kill businessmen.  It was then that he knew he would be all right!

The lack of revolutionary organisation of the Iranian working class led to disaster for the left and for the Iranian working class. It reaffirmed in Martin the belief that unless workers are organised, we will lose.

Branch

With his partner Anne, he was totally committed to the thankless task of SWP branch building, the phone rounds, the getting materials and table to the SW sales, the setting of agendas and phoning speakers.

He was less than impressed by comrades who viewed such necessary work as beneath them.

He was always confident and cheerful, and ready to make jokes. When in hospital with cancer, he wrote the humorous pamphlet Men in nappies.

A measure of his commitment was shown in the last months of his life.

He loved Chris Harman's book A People's History of the World. He realised that many SWP members and sympathisers would probably not have time to read such a long book, so he decided to write a short pamphlet explaining the basic analysis.

In close collaboration with his partner Anne, he wrote the Pamphlet The Myths of Capitalism which is available from Bookmarks.

We all have lost a lovely human being and comrade. I have lost my brother.


Article information

Obituary
Mon 20 Sep 2021, 17:50 BST
Issue No. 2773
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