From his early years in the Young Communist League in Bermondsey in the 1930s (in the days when the fascists were prevented from marching there, just as they were in Cable Street), to the more recent activities for which he was well known in the Woolwich area as well as nationally, Comrade Pat is remembered as a warm-hearted, hard-working, knowledgeable man from whom all could learn a great deal.
Comrade Pat influenced many with his political astuteness and adherence to principle as he campaigned tirelessly on so many issues, not least during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike, the Iraq War, hospital closure campaigns, and for tenants’ rights and pensioners’ rights.
Family, friends and comrades from a wide range of backgrounds and political organisations came together to pay tribute to Comrade Pat at his funeral at Eltham Crematorium on 6 July. The music selected, ‘The Ballad Of Joe Hill’, and the singing of ‘The Internationale’, were a fitting tribute to a man who so many remember as being a true working-class activist and internationalist ever since his teens.
The CPGB-ML highly valued Comrade Pat’s contribution to its work. At the funeral, Comrade Godfrey Cremer paid the following tribute to Comrade Pat on behalf of our party.
The death of a man like Pat Coulton is always a severe blow. His life was valuable to us all and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife Ellen, his daughters and grandchildren and, indeed, all the family.
But in our sadness there is hope – indeed, there is unbounded optimism – because of what Pat’s life has stood for. It is a real honour to be able to salute the life of Comrade Pat Coulton.
At the same time, we salute Comrade Ellen – his closest comrade. They made a formidable team and we cannot think of Pat’s contribution without thinking of Ellen. There are many partnerships where there is a common interest and cooperative activity, but what marked Pat and Ellen’s partnership was that it was dedicated to the forward march of progressive humanity and worked so hard in the working-class movement.
I have a vivid image, which I know had an impact on many of us, of Pat and Ellen demonstrating while wearing ‘No war for oil’ tabards. Photographs of them appeared in the national press in 2003 and have been repeated in reviews.
Pat began to learn politics at a very early age through long discussions with his grandfather, and I am told that in his early teens he was there on the streets of Bermondsey when the marching fascists were routed. Pat has ever been an activist – but not a blind activist. He knew the importance of theory as a guide to action and to be developed from action.
He and Ellen were long-term members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), upholding the banner of the October Revolution and the building of socialism in the Soviet Union while getting on with work here. Pat was always a thinker and he followed his convictions and rejected the revisionism that grew in the CPGB and joined the New Communist Party, where he worked tirelessly.
Pat’s staunch opposition to social democracy took him from there into the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), recognising the significance of Arthur Scargill’s organisational break with the Labour party. But when the leadership of the SLP showed that it had not really made the political break with social democracy and expelled members, effectively because of their support for the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), Pat and Ellen along with others also resigned and with them became founder members of the CPGB-ML – and we are proud to call them comrades.
Pat has worked all his life – seeing the big picture and also the immediate tasks. Even in sickness he made a significant contribution, including consistent work in the pensioners’ movement.
Comrade Pat’s coffin is fittingly draped with the red flag. Not just a piece of red cloth, but the Soviet flag, the great traditions of which he has always upheld – not least through his work in the Stalin Society. This particular flag is one of many that were commissioned by Comrades Pat and Ellen and distributed far and wide – this one has been in north London. Like Comrade Pat, it is a working flag, not one that has just been sitting in a drawer but active on demonstrations against the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, in support of the Palestinian people, in celebration of May Day and on street stalls in north London
As we give the red salute to Comrade Pat, we also say to Comrade Ellen that our comradeship continues as we carry on the work together to which Comrade Pat was so dedicated.
Comrade Pat gave his life for the finest cause in the world
It was very fitting that the famous quotation from Nikolai Ostrovsky was read out at the funeral in tribute to our dear comrade.
“Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must so live it as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years; so live as never to know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life and all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.” (How the Steel Was Tempered)