Remembering two comrades

Aubrey Bowman and Phil Kaiserman both died on 13 December 2009. At the 20 December Stalin Society meeting, both comrades were remembered for their extensive contributions to the British working-class movement ever since their early involvement in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). They were always proud to be members of the Stalin Society.

Aubrey Bowman is particularly remembered for his wide and expert musical understanding. He was a student of Alan Bush, who founded the Workers Music Association (WMA) in 1936, to bring socialism and music together.

Aubrey dedicated his energy to building the WMA. His knowledge of Soviet music enabled him to dispel anti-communist slanders made against the flowering of Soviet culture during the decades of socialist construction, and he also used his skills to arrange many choral and orchestral events throughout the working-class movement, liaising with choirs in London, Birmingham and Cardiff in particular.

Proletarian and Lalkar readers may recall, among other events, the impressive vocal and instrumental cultural programme he arranged for a 400-strong rally in Southall in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Aubrey helped to enrich our movement by collecting together progressive national and international songs. The Anthem of the Soviet Union, often sung and played on the piano by Aubrey, was a fitting concluding item to the Stalin Society celebration last December.

From his early life in the CPGB in the 1930s and 40s, Aubrey learnt the great importance of education classes then conducted by the party, and how to combine this with his work. This political lesson he continued to emphasise to all he met.

He will also be remembered for his determination to continue political activity, both with the WMA and the Stalin Society, right up to his sudden death, aged 91, in a road accident.

Phil Kaiserman was a staunch anti-imperialist. From a jewish family in Manchester, he joined the Young Communist League and raised money for the Spanish republican cause during the civil war.

When the second world war broke out, Phil found himself posted to India with the RAF, and later to Vietnam, where he saw at first hand “man’s inhumanity to man”. His experiences at the time are summed up in a letter he later wrote to the Morning Star, entitled “The not-so-honourable Attlee”, which exposed the truth of British involvement in Vietnam.

British troops arrived in Saigon on 9 September 1945. The election in England had returned a Labour government with an overwhelming majority. So, for the whole of the time that British troops were in Vietnam, they were under the orders of a supposedly socialist and anti-imperialist government. Yet these troops were used to overthrow a popular, anti-imperialist movement and helped to reinstate French colonialism … The subsequent attack by US forces, 3 million dead and the horror of Agent Orange can all be laid at the foot of the ‘honourable’ Attlee government.” (22 January 2007)

His life as an active communist did not end with retirement. Notable among his work was campaigning for the miners during the 1984/5 strike.

Phil stood out against zionism, and, as ever, turned this into practical action. He sent off the first Viva Palestina convoy from Manchester to Palestine in February 2009, with the Phil Kaiserman Column, named in honour of his work, led by an iconic red fire engine.

We send our condolences to the family and friends of these two fine comrades, and are sure that all will learn from their decades of experience in the communist movement.