Obituary: Barbara Lewis

May 31 1931 - September 19 1997

It was with deep regret that the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB learnt of the untimely death of Barbara Lewis. On behalf of all Party committees and members we extend our condolences to Peter, Mark and other members of her family. Comrade Lewis was a fine human being who lived life to the full. That is why she was a militant fighter for workers’ democracy, an internationalist and a Communist Party supporter.

Comrade Lewis was a true daughter of the working class movement in South Wales - from the dawn of the industrial revolution till our times one of the heartlands of proletarian Britain. Comrade Lewis stood in and continued the tradition of the Chartist Newport uprising, The miners’ next step, the 1926 general strike and the South Wales Socialist Society.

Her father was an activist in the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and member of the CPGB. In the early 1950s a young comrade Lewis took her place in the Party’s ranks where she quickly rose to prominence. The comrade represented the Party in numerous parliamentary and local elections and served on many Party committees.

Comrade Lewis was no conformist. She refused to accept the male chauvinist ethos that dominated Party life throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. For her the role of female comrades was not organising the tea and biscuits and the annual bazaar. Women could and should take a lead. Invariably warm and humorous, the comrade nevertheless refused to be patronised or pigeon-holed. She demanded equality in the united fight against capitalism and its state.

The headlong rush to the right under general secretaries John Gollan and Gordon McLennan was vigorously opposed by comrade Lewis. She did not believe in a parliamentary road to socialism by way of Labour and communist-Labour governments. Socialism is the revolutionary supercession of capitalism, not its piecemeal reform. That is why she enthusiastically joined the widespread rebellion in the Party against the 1977 draft version of ‘official’ communism’s programme, the British road to socialism. However, she rightly considered the New Communist Party split in July 1977 retrogressive, sectarian and doomed to failure. She knew there had to be something better.

When in November 1981 the Leninists of the CPGB began their open political struggle against all forms of opportunism - Eurocommunist, Stalinite and Chaterite - she welcomed it. The comrade circulated The Leninist - the forerunner of the Weekly Worker - throughout the Swansea workers’ movement. She also reported on developments in Wales for the journal.

As the Eurocommunists began the mass purge of their Morning Star opponents, the comrade sided with those who were being bureaucratically excluded and expelled. Consequently she was herself expelled by the Eurocommunist clique - which quickly went on to formally liquidate itself as the so-called ‘Democratic Left’ (so-called, because it is not democratic and certainly not left). Traitors such as these have no moral right over communists. They certainly cannot deprive communists of their duty towards their Party. Comrade Lewis continued as a communist by being a supporter of the CPGB and its Provisional Central Committee.

More by accident than design she found herself in the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain. That, of course, in no way implied political agreement or solidarity. Despite suffering from chronic bad health the comrade worked tirelessly during the 1992 general election for our campaign in the Rhondda. She also went on to consistently sell the Weekly Worker afterits launch in 1993.

Clearly the Morning Star’s CPB was little more than a living fossil. Hence comrade Lewis joined the Socialist Labour Party shortly after it was officially established in May 1996. Again she continued to fight for the ideas of communism and the principles of working class democracy. She successfully acted as the focus for the rebellion in the Swansea branch against Scargill’s anti-communist witch hunt and won backing for the Campaign for a Democratic SLP and its aims.

The working class has lost a partisan. The CPGB has lost an invaluable supporter. The best tribute we can pay to comrade Barbara Lewis is to continue the struggle for human liberation - as she repeatedly said, the finest cause in all the world.

Provisional Central Committee
Communist Party of Great Britain
September 21 1997