John Pearson, Secretary, Stockport Fights Austerity – No To Cuts
I first met Peter when we were founder members of the Stockport branch of the Socialist Alliance in 2003. I became Secretary and Peter became Treasurer. It soon became apparent that Peter was a highly committed internationalist, revolutionary socialist. In our branch’s political discussions, his input was informed by his extensive knowledge of working class movement history and of Marxist theory. Peter was very dependable and could always be counted upon to play a leading role in organising work, in demonstrations and street work.
In 2005, under the banner, ‘Democratic Socialist Alliance – People Before Profit’, we mounted our first electoral campaign, with me as the candidate, in the Stockport Council election in the Brinnington & Central ward, where Peter’s energy and enthusiasm was invaluable. This was the first of a large number of election campaigns, right up to the most recent one, in that same ward, in May 2021. Peter keenly engaged in conversation, as we leafleted the ward, with anyone who showed an interest, or who just wanted to talk.
Peter was always keen to bring theory into practical work and to offer appropriate loans from his voluminous book collection. During one of our latter election campaigns, he discussed with me as we were working and then lent to me his copy of a very informative book, ‘Lenin’s Electoral Strategy’ by August Nimtz. Previously, he had lent me ‘Trotsky on Britain’.
Sadly, the Socialist Alliance was one of a number of socialist unity projects – preceded by the Socialist Labour Party and followed by Left Unity – which failed due to the political opportunism of the leaderships, who inevitably came from the larger of the participating groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party and the International Socialist Group. I joined the Stockport branch of Left Unity, upon its foundation in 2014 and Peter became a member in July 2016. As well as its electoral work and an active programme of political discussion meetings, in several of which Peter conducted the opening presentations, Stockport Left Unity supported the united front organisation, Stockport United Against Austerity (SUAA).
SUAA had been founded, out of a successful campaign in 2015 against cuts in mental health services within the Borough. Left Unity members took up leading roles in SUAA. Peter, for his part again became Treasurer, a role he performed for many other organisations too.
SUAA became a prominent campaigning group in Stockport, fighting the year-on-year neo-liberalist onslaught upon public services and welfare provision, which was targeted at the working class. One of SUAA’s most sustained campaigns was support for social security claimants, at a weekly stall outside Stockport jobcentre. Peter was a regular participant in the job centre campaign. As SUAA was a united front, with active members from the Green Party, the Labour Party, the SWP, as well as Left Unity and the ISL, it did not do electoral work. The latter fell, initially, to Stockport Left Unity.
In 2017, the undemocratic bureaucracy which led, (sorry, misled), Left Unity pulled the plug on electoral work, because it no longer wished to stand against Labour Party candidates, (be they of the left, or the right wings of the Labour Party), after Jeremy Corbyn had won the 2015 Labour leadership election. Myself and the Branch Chair, Ashley Walker, were suspended indefinitely, without recourse to the proper disciplinary procedure, when the branch resolved unanimously to support an ‘End Austerity’ candidacy in the Brinnington & Central ward.
That candidacy was the first of a series of collaborations with the Old Swan Against Cuts group (OSAC) in Liverpool, which was led by members of Peter’s party, the International Socialist League, in running ‘End Austerity’ election campaigns. Peter was a stalwart of OSAC’s campaigns and, whilst continuing to support OSAC’s work in Liverpool, he brought his energy. enthusiasm, and his experience, to the organisation of our End Austerity campaigns in Stockport. How we will manage without Peter, should we go ahead with a campaign in May 2022, presents us with a daunting challenge!
In 2019, Stockport Trades Union Council, to which Peter was a delegate from his National Education Union branch, played a leading role in organising the bicentenary commemoration of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, of workers fighting for the right to vote. Peter immediately brought his historical knowledge to bear, finding invaluable archive material documenting the prominent role of Stockport workers in the movement at that time. He presented his paper, ‘Stockport and Peterloo’ at a meeting of the post-Left Unity forum, Stockport Socialist Discussion Group.
Peter was a lifelong, dedicated, principled revolutionary socialist and trade unionist who will be greatly missed by all of the people who knew him and organisations he was a part of. The legacy of his work will endure!
I offer my heartfelt condolences to Peter’s family and to his comrades of the ISL and the IWL.