Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gladys Marie Catt and Jean Higdon

When I was posting details of this month's Socialist Standard on the blog a couple of days back, I realised that I'd neglected to include a link to a couple of obituaries from last month's Standard on the page.

I'm neither ghoulish nor wishing to reinforce the stereotype of the SPGB and its companion parties as aging organisations, but that part of me that is susceptible to 'sentimental socialism' thinks that comrades' passing should be marked . . . even if it is only in the pages of the Standard and on my daft blog.

From the April 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard:

Gladys Marie Catt 1918-2008

Marie joined the SPGB in the spring of 1941. The outbreak of war had profoundly disturbed her, along with her family and friends. Her two brothers and her future husband had become conscientious objectors and she became engaged in their struggles to win conscientious objector status. Marie was persuaded about the necessity of socialism partly by the Party's stand against working-class participation in the war, but also by the forcefulness and clarity of the Party's speakers at the outdoor meetings held at Lincoln's Inn Fields and she joined the Palmers Green Branch where she met Sid Catt, her future husband.

In 1957, she, Sid and daughter Jean emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto. After settling in, they became a contact and propaganda centre for the Socialist Party of Canada. They set about recruiting members, holding discussion forums in their home and speaking at Allen Gardens. By 1964 they had organized the first Party Local east of Winnipeg.

Marie continued her activities for many years. She always spoke forthrightly and passionately in favour of socialism in whatever circumstances she found herself. Her grasp of the meaning of the Object and Declaration of Principles was thorough. She once wrote of the significance of these Principles to members of the Party:

"These have remained the sheet anchor for their understanding, proved the strength of their case and their integrity, making it impossible to confuse them with any reformist organization This Object and Declaration of Principles are as valid today as they were at the time of the inception in 1904 of this unique political party."
B.S. (Canada)

Jean Higdon 1934-2007

Jean’s secular send-off was attended by fifty of her family, friends and party members.

Of those who were invited to speak on Jean’s life were her son, Jon, who spoke of Jean’s dedication as a mother; Mike Lee, Chairman of the Auckland Regional Local Bodies’ Council, who briefly outlined Jean’s socialist thinking (production of use, not for sale); and Jean’s neighbour whose fractious child was always comforted by Jean’s pleasant manner, and a party member whose galloping rhetoric brought smiles to what might have been a sombre occasion. Said he, “None of those parasitic bastards in Buckingham Palace, the White House or the Kremlin would be tall enough to polish the shoes of Jean Higdon!”

Jean was for many years secretary of the Auckland Branch of the WSPNZ, taking lengthy notes of the discussions we had, and typed out the minutes almost verbatim.

Jean was responsible for the layout of the party journal, The Socialist Review, from 1971 till 1982 when it folded because we couldn’t find any writers. Jean was also a sometime parliamentary candidate for Auckland Central on the socialist ticket, and with her late husband made a vital contribution to spreading the socialist case in New Zealand.

They are both remembered for their humanity and generosity of spirit.

Our condolences go to Jean’s family.

Executive Committee, WSPNZ, 8 February 2008

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