Monday, 5 November 2012

Past Tense Obituary: Alan Woodward

I am sorry to say that our friend and companero Alan Woodward passed away on Saturday 20th October, 6pm, at the North Middlesex Hospital. 
Alan Woodward was a lifelong working class revolutionary immersed in
support for workplace struggles and other anti-capitalist movements.  He started with the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party). He was then very active in the Haringey Trades Union Council. In recent years he gravitated towards independent libertarian politics, including the Haringey Solidarity Group, believing it was necessary for workers to take direct control of all workplaces and thereby create a new economy and society without capitalism or governments. In his writings he explained he was drawing on what he saw as the best traditions of revolutionary socialism and anarchism.
He actively supported and tried to attend every local workers picket line in Haringey, either as the organiser for the Trades Council or as part of local campaigns. At the same time he helped set up the Radical History Network of NE London and organised dozens of local talks and meetings on a whole range of past disputes and struggles to ensure that the voices of those who took part in them would continue to reverberate and help us all in our struggles and movements today. 
He produced a huge body of agitational, campaigning and radical literature, leaflets, strike bulletins, newsletters, historical snapshots, pamphlets and recently an autobiography. Yet he underplayed his own role as he preferred to promote the collective self-activity of those involved in strikes, disputes and working class movements.
Alan had a fall Tuesday overnight and was admitted to North Middlesex Hospital on Wednesday. At the time he was weak and confused possibly due to sepsis (infection) and also the bang on his head suffered when he slipped / fell. Analysis of the CT scan and investigation by the neurologist indicate that he had had a lacunar stroke. 
In his last day he was able to speak but was very tired. His close family had rallied round during his hospital stay.  Alan is irreplaceable, and will be sorely missed especially In Haringey, but his influence will remain with us all as the struggle for a new society continues unabated. 
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At Past Tense we knew Alan only for a few short years, since the early 2000s, when he started coming to our old South London Radical History Group meetings. But quickly you felt that you'd known him for years and years... He always brought an interesting perspective, consistently positive and optimistic even where us sarf londoners were scowly and grumpy, but always open to a broad range of ideas, experiences and methods. We're proud to have been a part of the inspiration for Alan in the setting up of the North East London Radical History Network [RaHN], and appreciated that while we were always a bit disorganised and irregular, Alan's relentless work ethic saw RaHN outlive us. We shared with him the belief that exploring history, our own and further back, could be crucial in understanding where we are and where we are going. 
We'll miss him. But no-one who has spent their life in the restless search for a freer life is ever truly lost to us... They live IN us. 
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Ps.: In July last year, Alan Woodward organised a talk for me to address the North East London Radical History Network in Haringey on the topic of the Spanish Civil. It was an excellent event and very well attended with intellegent questions about historical methodology and the situation in Spain. He was a great bloke and trade unionist. His death is a blow to all of us who knew him.
Brian Bamford: Editor of Northern Voices

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