National Sections of the L5I:

Dave Hughes Obituary

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The League for a Revolutionary Communist International has lost one of its finest fighters. The working class movement has lost one of its most dedicated and energetic members.

Dave Hughes, a founder member of Workers Power and the LRCI, died on 13 August 1991, aged 43.

Dave was a revolutionary for almost a quarter of a century. He joined the International Socialists (IS—now the SWP) in 1968 while studying at Keele University. Many of the radicals of that period quickly made their peace with capitalism. Dave became convinced that every thing that was evil, oppressive and mean could only be overcome through working class revolution.

In the early 1970s he moved to Birmingham where the IS put his energy and remarkable agitational talents to good use. He became a key organiser, helping to recruit and train an influx of car and engineering workers whose militancy had led to them breaking from the bureaucratic policies and practices of both the Labour and Communist parties.

But Dave’s keen understanding of Marxism, his gradual rediscovery of the authentic ideas of Leon Trotsky and his fervent desire to take the working class forward from militant trade union struggle to conscious socialist action all brought him into political conflict with the leadership of the IS.
After the bombing of Aldershot barracks in 1972, IS dropped their unconditional support for the IRA. This spurred Dave and a number of other comrades to form the Left Faction within IS. Had they not shown both insight and courage, there would be no LRCI today. The Left Faction, which Dave led, was the direct fore runner of our organisation.

The Left Faction challenged IS’s errors on Ireland, women and work in the unions, but they also grasped the methodological roots of these mistakes and the gulf which sep a rat ed IS from Trotsky’s tradition. The IS leadership would not put up with this kind of criticism and the Left Faction was expelled in 1975. Following a brief period of fusion in the short-lived International Communist League, Dave pulled together a group of supporters to refound Workers Power as an independent organisation in 1976.

The subsequent history of Workers Power, and later the development of the LRCI, are Dave’s history. Our very existence, our growth and our firm commitment to the revolutionary class struggle are monuments to his work.

Dave’s contributions to Workers Power and the LRCI would fill a book. In the late 1970s Dave wrote the key documents and articles that guided Workers Power towards consistent revolutionary thought and action. Together with his closest friend and co-thinker, Dave Stocking, Dave wrote a series of articles which laid the foundation stones for our re-elaboration of the revolutionary programme that culminated in The Trotskyist Manifesto (1989).

A lecturer in History at Leicester Polytechnic, Dave could both speak and read Russian. Using his intimate knowledge of the USSR he re-examined the history of the Bolshevik Party to equip us with an understanding of the relationship of programme and party.

Dave was the founding editor of Workers Power newspaper (1978), writing under the name John Hunt. He wrote much of our major work on the USSR, The Degenerated Revolution (1983). In the second half of the 1980s, his concentration on the USSR increased. Month in, month out, he charted the rise and significance of Gorbachev and his policies.

Even while he was ill he read Russian language papers, maintained contacts with the USSR and passed on his in formation and his insights into the death agony of Stalinism.

Like all great revolutionaries, Dave was a man of action. He knew that Marxist theory was barren unless it was rooted in the living experience of the class struggle. Strikes, from the smallest to the largest, were always an inspiration to him. Every leaflet and bulletin he wrote embodied the experience of the workers he talked to, fused with a Marxist under standing of the key steps on the road to victory.

He was Workers Power’s industrial organiser whilst the group built bases in London Transport, in the rail industry, in Ford, in the Health Service and in local government and education. Trade union activist comrades always knew that when they faced a problem—be it mundane and routine, or be it a major question of strike strategy—Dave could be guaranteed to offer sound advice on how to go forward.
The British miners’ strike of 1984-85 brought out his best qualities. He flung himself into the strike, enabling Workers Power to produce a fortnightly newspaper for much of the period and to win a large audience in the ranks of the NUM. Dave’s whole being was infused with an unshakeable commitment to the strike. His work won him the love and admiration of miners in Keresley, Leicester, South Wales, Kent and Yorkshire.

Working intensively with these militants, Dave helped us draw them together in regular meetings to discuss both the strike and the politics of Workers Power. He played a leading role in organising the miners who came together in 1985 at a 150 strong conference to form the National Rank and File Miners’ Movement. Workers Power had entered the miners’ strike with out a single contact in the pits, but entered the rank and file conference with a team of miners from several coal fields committed to our politics and organisation.

Dave’s work in the miners’ strike typified his revolutionary vitality. Everybody who ever met Dave knows that he was an exceptional man. His energy, enthusiasm and love of comrades were outstanding. He al ways had time to listen and talk, to laugh and joke, to discuss and console. His human qualities will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

That a man who had so much to give has died so young is a tragedy. In paying tribute to Dave Hughes—a revolutionary, an internationalist, a working class fighter and a great man—we seek consolation for the terrible sense of loss that we all feel by remembering the contribution he made to all of our lives, the work he under took to build Workers Power and the LRCI, the dedication he felt to wards the working class and its struggles.

Dave’s hatred of exploitation and oppression never wavered. His will to build a revolutionary party carried him through months of illness. He would never give up. Only death could rob the working class of this fighter and rid the bosses of this relentless enemy. But death cannot erase the memory of what Dave stood for. We will see to that. Like him, we will never give up. That is our tribute to a comrade we loved and respected.

We send our most sincere condolences to Kate - Dave’s comrade and companion, to Dave’s family and to all his friends and comrades around the world. He will be sorely missed.