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.
Iris Cremer’s funeral will be held at 3.00pm on Thursday 17 April at Mortlake Crematorium in south-west London.
Kew Meadow Path
All comrades, family and friends are welcome. You are also invited to join us from 5.00pm for a wake at Saklatvala Hall in Southall, where there will be food, drink, photos on display and a memorial book for anyone who wishes to write in.
Map showing the hall
No flowers please, but Iris’s family and comrades would welcome donations to the CPGB-ML. Our project to buy a new printing press was particularly dear to Comrade Iris’s heart.
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
The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Iris Cremer to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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