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Iris Mary Jessie Cremer, 1943-2014

Funeral details

Iris at the memorial meeting for Godfrey in 2012, and in Shackleton Hall, Birmingham with Godfrey and Katt in 1984.

Iris at the memorial meeting for Godfrey in 2012, and in Shackleton Hall, Birmingham with Godfrey and Katt in 1984.

Always there, always inspiring others – an unflappable leader, and a humble servant of the working class.

It is with great sadness that the CPGB-ML has to announce the death of one of its key founder members, Comrade Iris Cremer. She died peacefully on the evening of Wednesday 2 April, just five weeks after she had been diagnosed with an aggressive and already far-advanced lung cancer. Comrades and family were at her side.

Iris leaves behind a daughter, Katt, and a grandson, Fred – along with a host of honorary sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters to whom she was a mother, sister, aunt and grandmother in all the ways that really count.

Iris’s contribution to the British working-class movement was incalculable. For 45 years she worked tirelessly and without ego, thinking only of what needed to be done and what would bring British workers closer to socialism. To her own convenience or preference, she was utterly oblivious.

Despite the heartbreak of losing her lifelong partner, husband and comrade-in-arms Godfrey Cremer two years ago, Iris never flagged in her commitment or her activity. Quite the reverse in fact – after his death, Iris not only carried on determinedly with her own work but also did everything she could to fill the huge gap that Godfrey had left in our ranks.

As a couple, Iris and Godfrey set the bar high. With a common purpose in life, the strength of their union was reinforced daily, and their shared priority was always to get the work done, come what may. On the morning of their wedding, they were writing a leaflet for a Palestine demo. And on the morning of the day she died, Iris instructed her daughter Katt to hold off calling the ambulance for 40 minutes while acetates for printing the latest issue of Proletarian were printed out. She left home for the last time content in the knowledge that the printing workers could carry on and that the paper would be published by nightfall.

It was Iris and Godfrey’s great sadness to live in a country and at a time when the communist movement was temporarily retreating. Nevertheless, Iris was the stuff that revolutions are made of – dogged, determined, completely single-minded and utterly uninterested in herself. She would have been as at home on the Long March as she was mailing papers and manning literature stalls – no sacrifice or difficulty was too much for her, and nothing made her hesitate in her commitment.

Iris was a hard taskmaster – but because she drove herself far harder than she drove anyone else, and because she never criticised or scolded, she was able to encourage people to work without them realising she had done so – usually with a smile or a kind word, and always with an understanding tone to her voice that made those she spoke to feel special and valued.

Together with Comrade Godfrey, she lived a life that, just as much as anything they read at study classes hosted in the Cremers’ living room, taught a whole generation just what it meant to really be a communist. Their selfless, work-focused home was as warm and welcoming a place as any of us have ever known, and their example lives on in all who had the good fortune to experience their generous hospitality and gentle guidance.

Indeed, in this world of alienation and stress, where so many people are searching fruitlessly to find individual paths to personal fulfilment, Iris and Godfrey had found a formula for true happiness. A shared purpose and a life dedicated solely to that goal and lived entirely for others kept them calm despite the mountains of work that constantly confronted them, and kept them positive and determined despite the apparent enormity of the task they had set themselves.

Iris’s many political contributions are too numerous to be listed here. Having met her close comrades the Brars in the women’s movement in the late 1960s, she went on with them and Comrade Ella Rule to form the Union of Women for Liberation and then the Association of Communist Workers in the early 1970s.

A committed proletarian internationalist, she opposed British imperial policy in all its forms. In her younger years, she was especially active in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and in her solidarity with the Irish and Zimbabwean armed struggles. Later on, she gave the same dedication to opposing the British imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – never giving an inch to the imperialist propaganda that threw so many in the anti-war movement off their course.

Her hatred of imperialism and its divide-and-rule policy meant that she was equally active in opposing racism at home on the streets of Britain. In fact, she gave many years of her life to working for a progressive organisation of which she was not even a member – the Indian Workers Association (IWA-GB) – since she believed that it gave opportunities to bring revolutionary theory to at least some of the masses in Britain at a time when the revisionist CPGB (and later the CPB) and others who called themselves communist were abandoning that task.

Through the ACW, and through her practical support for Comrade Harpal Brar’s work as editor of the IWA’s journal Lalkar, Comrade Iris was part of a small but vital movement to keep Marxist-Leninist science alive in Britain. To this end, she spent a small legacy when her uncle died in 1979 on buying a printing press, to which she and Godfrey were chained from that moment forwards.

From the time of her involvement with those organisations there is hardly a single ACW or IWA leaflet, nor a single issue of Lalkar or of our own party’s paper Proletarian, that Iris did not have a hand in producing. Understanding the vital importance of theoretical understanding as a guide for the working-class movement, she gladly took on any and every practical task to facilitate bringing the knowledge and the masses together – whether writing, laying out, printing, collating, posting or selling on the streets.

No meeting was too small for her to attend, and no potential comrade too marginal to be worthy of her full attention. If she thought it might further the cause of humanity’s liberation, Iris, like Godfrey, was totally unstinting of her time.

She was also a great organiser upon whom a whole host of practical responsibilities rested. Almost every party stall, demo contingent and public meeting in London was run under Iris’s watchful eye – delegating where possible or simply doing herself what needed to be done to make sure that every event was as successful as possible.

For many years she was also one of the main driving forces behind the Stalin Society. The society was formed in 1991 when a group of anti-revisionist communists that included many of our own leading comrades came together in response to the collapse of the USSR, and in opposition to the deluge of anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin propaganda that followed the collapse. Understanding that the attacks on Stalin were in fact attacks on Leninism and on the building of socialism, the society set itself the unfashionable task of defending the world’s first and mightiest socialist state, and of countering the plethora of lies about its achievements and its leadership.

As secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris for years coordinated its programme, managed the practical aspects of meetings and communicated with the society’s members. She was greatly cheered in her last months to see the establishment of a host of new Stalin Societies around the world. Many of these have been directly inspired by the work of the British society, and all of them are a recognition of the fact that the question of Soviet socialism and Stalin’s leadership of socialist construction is becoming more, not less relevant as time goes by and as the crisis of the capitalist system deepens.

It was the great joy of both Iris and Godfrey’s life to see their long years of struggle come to fruition in the founding of our own party 10 years ago. They had put huge efforts over seven years in the attempt to build Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) into a real alternative to the social-democratic left in Britain, and into bringing a Marxist understanding to the party. However, having been eventually expelled by Scargill and his acolytes for this activity, our founding comrades decided that the time was ripe to found a new, truly revolutionary party in Britain.

Long years of even harder work followed, as our small band had to establish a presence on the ground, to develop a consistent policy and analysis that could demonstrate our worth and seriousness to British workers, and to break through the barriers of hostility and suspicion that greeted our arrival on the political scene.

Iris and Godfrey threw themselves into this work. They never doubted that it was the right thing to do, or that it would eventually succeed. In the last weeks of both their lives, the subject to which their conversation turned again and again was the great encouragement they felt when looking at the direction and growth of our party, and at the seriousness and commitment of its new young cadres.

Comrade Iris lived her life for the struggle – she was truly the stuff that revolutions are made of. As we bid a last farewell to one who was a mother, an aunt, a sister and a comrade to so many, we make the only tribute our fallen comrade would ask of us – we promise that the example she set us will strengthen our resolve and that we will continue to struggle until the final victory of socialism in Britain.

Red salute to Comrade Iris Cremer, soldier of the revolution.

Iris’s funeral will be held on Thursday 17 April. All comrades and friends are invited to come and give her the send-off she deserves.

Godfrey Cremer and the five Cs - compassion, creativity, communism, craftsmanship and courage

Iris Cremer, a founding comrade of the CPGB-ML, speaks at the memorial meeting for her husband Godfrey Cremer in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

Iris Cremer, a founding comrade of the CPGB-ML, speaks at the memorial meeting for her husband Godfrey Cremer in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

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The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Iris Cremer to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.

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Once again I thank every one of you for the comfort and strength your words have given to all of Godfrey’s extended family, friends and comrades. So many of you here, as well as in messages from across the world from Havana to South Africa to Pyongyang, have expressed respect and thanks for the warm-hearted and articulate way that Godfrey supported their causes.

I have been very privileged to spend over 40 years with a husband, friend and comrade who has worked tirelessly to build a world free from racism and imperialist wars, and for a society in which all peoples could live in peace.

I still want to highlight the three Cs that I dealt with at the funeral – his compassion, his creativity and his communist principles. They are such significant aspects of Godfrey’s world outlook.

Compassion
He looked after everyone he met – family, friends and passers by – he treated all with respect and kindness – becoming ‘uncle’ to so many young friends. But his compassion extended way beyond individual acts of concern.

He started to look for other ways to solve the problem facing people in the UK, as well as across the world. This became a driving force that saw Godfrey campaign for racial equality – working with the IWA(GB) as well as professionally; and an ardent anti-imperialist.

Right up to the days before his death he was exhorting us to protest against the attempts of imperialism to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria – it is entirely appropriate that on the front page of the latest Lalkar, his picture appears just beside the article on Syria.

Creativity
He not only grew to have a well-formed political outlook, but he was a proper teacher. With images, analogies, poetry, music and photography he found ways to describe the most complex of historical and scientific ideas.

In studying Marxism, his careful use of words helped so many youngsters, and those not so young, to grasp the meaning of a new world outlook.

Communism
It was his experiences in the ’60s and his concern for people that brought him to espouse the ideals of communism. During events in the early ’70s we met Harpal and a few others and began to build an alternative to the existing political parties – a genuine communist party in Britain.

However, to implement this work Godfrey also saw the need for two other Cs – Craftsmanship and Courage

Craftsmanship
I came to see the need for an alternative to capitalism through an emotional response to the experiences I found in Africa in the 1960s – as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania I, fortunately, learnt both of the devastation that imperialism had caused to the peoples of southern Africa and learnt about the spirit of resistance that Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa gave a voice to, and saw the support that the Chinese were giving, for instance in building railways, etc.

On the other hand, Godfrey was far more rational. His experiences in the anti-Vietnam war days also drew him to find out about ‘alternatives’ and he pursued it in a thoroughly logical manner – studying Marxism as a science.

He would be first to admit that he did not study sufficiently, but I know for sure that even with him in hospital in those final days was a copy of Fundamental Problems of Marxism by Plekhanov. He studied and thought through all the problems he faced, be it:

  • mastering the printing press – this May (issue 212) was the first Lalkar we have done without his guidance since 1979 – and it was hard – particularly wanting to keep up to his standard, and with his face smiling back at us on the front cover [Katt and I used all our strength to achieve what we knew he expected of us],
  • sorting out how to build literature stalls (transforming a children’s buggy into a mobile stall – using one that he found discarded near a skip! – and then revising it to increase its mobility, cos it was not quite right!), or
  • organising the communist movement – endlessly meeting comrades, discussing with comrades both to organise national and London regional activities.

He was a true craftsman who fine-tuned his knowledge and approach according to the prevailing circumstances and would turn his hand to anything.

His contributions to Marxist study schools and circles will be sorely missed. From study circles in the 1970s in Tottenham with Harpal and Ella and others, to curry and communist study in Southall, to CPGB-ML party schools, Godfrey has been a stalwart who carefully analysed and honestly answered questions with clarity and relevance, along with his jokes and analogies.

It was with immense pride that Godfrey became a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 2004 and could see his hopes and desires of his life’s work beginning to really bear fruit. And he would thus encourage party members to study and be optimistic, adhering to the words of Kim Il Sung, who said in 1962:

“In order to make our party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty.”

Which bring me to my last C.

Courage/ Combativeness
To have spent four decades with Godfrey, and shared a common world outlook, has indeed been a privilege and a joy. His firm adherence to principles gave him a great confidence and courage, which may seem at variance with his gentle warmth.

In fact, his thorough scientific understanding of dialectics and materialism gave him enormous strength in his convictions. He has not only stood up for many who faced racial discrimination – both in his professional work and in conjunction with the Indian Workers Association GB, but he has always been at the forefront of those challenging the rule of British imperialism at home or abroad – particularly in relation to Ireland in the Troops Out Movement, in the Zimbabwe Solidarity Front, and most recently in the Stop the War Coalition. His work has been exemplary both in terms of arguments won and lessons learnt.

Having worked so closely, pretty much as a double-act, for so long I feel that now, in this difficult period, I have a strength built from my life with Godfrey. I often say to people that I feel like part of his spine is holding me up to ensure that his work goes on.

Katt too has learnt how to be strong from Godfrey’s example – so I feel confident that our political work will continue. We have an expanding party that is mobilising the next generation to carry on the struggle.

However, we will all sorely miss his expertise in science, particularly the biological sciences. From Darwin through to the Soviet biologist Lysenko, Godfrey was at the forefront of a Marxist scientific analysis based on his own scientific training and a Marxist analysis. He controversially defended Darwin’s materialism and the Soviet agronomist Lysenko by making detailed presentations on their work – which few others have done.

But the essence of that biological work is that only the new Soviet state could truly enable resources to be used for the benefit of the vast masses of the people. Godfrey’s research dealt with developments in agriculture, but the lesson is similar for other areas of life.

One hundred years ago, Michurin, a Russian biologist, was struggling to improve fruit plants in pre-revolutionary Russia. Twenty years later he said that the Soviet system “had given me everything I need – everything an experimenter can desire for his work. The dream of my whole life is coming true: the valuable new fruit-plant varieties which I have bred have gone from the experimental plots, not into the possession of a few kulak money-bags [rich farmers], but into the far-flung orchards of the collective and state farms.

He wrote to Stalin thanking him for building a new world in which “the creative energy surging among the millions of workers and peasants of the Soviet Union fills me too, old man that I am, with eagerness to live and work under your leadership for the good of the socialist development of our proletarian state”.

The ‘eagerness’ of this Soviet agronomist reminds me so much of Godfrey’s enthusiasm for building a new society.

Our tribute to Godfrey must be to use the strength that Godfrey has given us to build a powerful communist movement that can lead to a bright future for all humanity.

A Red Salute to Godfrey – my comrade, my friend and my husband.

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SEE ALSO:
Tribute to Comrade Godfrey in Lalkar
Photos from the memorial meeting
Photos from Godfrey’s funeral
Video: funeral oration by Harpal Brar
Video: Godfrey recites his poem ‘Uddam Singh and Bhagat Singh’
Video: Godfrey speaks on Darwin, Marx and Materialism

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A personal tribute to Comrade Godfrey Cremer

Joti Brar of the CPGB-ML speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

Joti Brar of the CPGB-ML speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

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The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Joti Brar to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.

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Words I would say to Godfrey if he was still here

I would say thank you for being such a rock in my life. For showing that it is possible to be true to your principles in small as well as big ways.

For offering such a shining example of a life well lived. For showing such warmth, generosity and loyalty in your relationships with friends, family and comrades. For demonstrating such selflessness and humility despite your obvious talents in so many spheres. For setting such a shining example of persistence and of devotion to everything that is most important in this world.

Thank you for magic tricks and shoulder rides. For infant school pick-ups and trips to the zoo. For study classes, spare beds and safe havens. For eternal patience and good humour. For taking me completely into your heart and your family. For giving me the best sister anyone could ask for. For coming to the hospital when our Josef was born, for putting away the cot we couldn’t bear to see, and for remembering our littlest comrade at the last.

I haven’t words to express what your presence has meant in my life. A visit to your house was always an adventure. Just the knowledge that you and Iris were in my world gave so much childhood reassurance.

It was in your home and under your gentle guidance that I took my first steps into the movement. Where I read Lenin and Stalin and learned to take a scientific view of the world. In your home I attended political meetings and took part in my first practical activities. In your home I learned that it was possible to overcome all barriers to political commitment. In your home I learned that no detail is too small to pay attention to in the service of the working class.

In your home I felt loved and secure and free to develop. You and Iris had the knack of treating everyone as special and it made your home the most welcoming I have ever known.

What else would I say?

Only that I hope to do better in following your example. Only that I will not forget the promise I made to you in the hospital: we will finish what you and your comrades have started.

We will build the party that you worked so hard to bring into existence. We will turn it into a real fighting force for revolution. We will do everything we can to bring about the society that you longed for so ardently all your life.

And finally, paraphrasing Bobby Sands, I would say that our final tribute to your inspiring example will be the laughter of our children’s children’s children.

We miss you Godfrey. We wish you hadn’t left us so soon. But we are so glad we had you and we are determined that you will live on in us. We are determined to make you proud.

With love, with respect, and with the reddest of red salutes, I would say what you said to me when we talked about your prognosis: no regrets.

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SEE ALSO:
Tribute to Comrade Godfrey in Lalkar
Photos from the memorial meeting
Photos from Godfrey’s funeral
Video: funeral oration by Harpal Brar
Video: Godfrey recites his poem ‘Uddam Singh and Bhagat Singh’
Video: Godfrey speaks on Darwin, Marx and Materialism

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Stalin Society pays tribute to Comrade Godfrey Cremer

Wilf Dixon of the Stalin Society speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

Wilf Dixon of the Stalin Society speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012

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The following speech was delivered by Comrade Wilf Dixon to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.

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Comrades and friends, thank you for giving me this chance to make a few remarks from the Stalin Society to this commemoration today. I am proud to do this because I had a profound respect for comrade Godfrey Cremer and believe his political clarity and method of work are things to be emulated.

The abrupt passing of comrade Godfrey Cremer came as a shock to us all and this shows how much we will miss his dedication and clarity of thought in dealing with complex ideological and political issues. Although I found comrade Godfrey a very approachable and friendly person, a quality which has been repeated in many of the tributes that I have heard and read, I knew him primarily through my involvement in the Marxist-Leninist movement and since the foundation of the Stalin Society after the total collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Comrade Godfrey was an internationalist striving to support those peoples and nations at the brunt of western, particularly United States, imperialist hatred and demonisation. That is, those nations and peoples who strive to resist imperialist dictate in order to build their own economy and independence politically or militarily.

As a communist inside the belly of the beast of British imperialism, he understood and was guided by a profound grasp of the importance of struggling against the chauvinism and imperialist mentality as it affects in particular the working class with racist ideas and its would-be leadership or mis-leadership with opportunism.

One of my earliest occasions to have contact with Godfrey was in the Troops Out Movement, whose leadership displayed much the same characteristics as can be witnessed today. Comrade Godfrey’s contribution was guided by the Marxist precept that no nation that oppresses another nation can itself be free.

Further, as a member of the Stalin Society, and I must say that he is not alone in this, he jealously defended Comrade Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership from slanderous lies and the attempts to rewrite history. For every one like Comrade Godfrey defending Stalin, it seems there needs to be 100 bourgeois or revisionist scribblers who can so readily find a publisher for the shallowest of lies and distortions. Such is the value to the working class of propagandists like comrade Godfrey.

Apart from his regular contributions in the meetings themselves, I would like to draw attention to his contribution on Darwin in the bicentenary year of his birth on 12 February 1809. In an address to the Stalin Society in commemoration of Charles Darwin and his work culminating in the The Origin of Species, Comrade Cremer, whilst paying tribute to Darwin’s consistent scientific method, showed his own grasp of dialectical and historical materialism. Comrade Godfrey, who I believe had taught and was qualified in the natural sciences, used his knowledge to criticise eugenics and other racist distortions of Darwin’s concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’.

Also, in a different address to the Stalin Society, and in the spirit of swimming against the tide, he fought to rescue from unjust criticism the work of Soviet agro-biologist Lysenko on the effects of the environment on inherited characteristics. In the modern world of science, which neglects the environment in favour of almost exclusive research on genetic manipulation, this is a positive thing to do.

Swimming against the tide, particularly in imperialist Britain, must be the spirit of any communist seeking to make a contribution to building a revolutionary communist party based in the working class and oppressed peoples. The bourgeoisie and its propaganda is powerful in the imperialist heartland.

In this situation, it is particularly necessary to go lower and deeper among the masses. In order to do, this it is important to be of a modest character and be able to listen to the masses and isolate the backward ideas from the progressive.

I believe comrade Godfrey displayed much of these qualities of modesty and readiness to listen. His contributions to society meetings would pick at the subject, drawing attention to facts and revealing the aspects of something from different angles and by so doing win conviction.

Comrade Godfrey paid attention to detail. I thought I might be alone in making this point but I see that this quality has been remarked on by many others. He took on the big and little issue with the same care.

For example, he regularly carried out the, some would think menial, job of ensuring the availability of coffee and refreshments at society meetings. But no job is too menial and life is made up of many small and apparently inconsequential things. Dialectics tells us that qualitative leaps derive from quantitative changes.

It is of no consequence, but I drink decaffeinated coffee and appreciated that Comrade Godfrey made sure it was available. But anecdotes aside, comrade Godfrey will be remembered for his patience and care with his comrades and friends.

As a member of the society, and I am sure I express the feelings of the Stalin Society as a whole, I would like to send condolences to Godfrey’s partner for 40 years and Secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris, and her daughter Katherine. Comrade Godfrey’s passing has left a great hole in the society which will not be easily filled.

For Iris, Katherine and their family this is also a profound personal loss. But I hope they will take heart from the memories and political legacy he has left behind which will live on in the minds of all those who have known him or come into contact with his political work or writings.

I’m speaking on behalf of the Stalin Society, but I think the following remarks by Comrade Mao Zedong best express how I would like to finish up this short tribute.

“All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Sima Qian said, ‘Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.’ To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Chang Szu-the [The Comrade for whom Mao Zedongng spoke these words. For us here today let us substitute the name of Godfrey Andries Cremer] died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai.” (‘Serve the People’, 8 September 1944)

Comrade Godfrey’s life is one of a communist serving the working and oppressed people, and his death is indeed heavier than Mount Tai.

In concluding, I would like to state my own determination and make my own appeal to use this occasion of remembering Comrade Godfrey Cremer’s life also an occasion to learn from his qualities and example in deepening the theory and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong as applied to the conditions of Britain.

Long live the memory of Comrade Godfrey

The future is bright.

Imperialism and all reactionaries are indeed paper tigers.

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SEE ALSO:
Tribute to Comrade Godfrey in Lalkar
Photos from the memorial meeting
Photos from Godfrey’s funeral
Video: funeral oration by Harpal Brar
Video: Godfrey recites his poem ‘Uddam Singh and Bhagat Singh’
Video: Godfrey speaks on Darwin, Marx and Materialism

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