Around 80 of Pat Longman’s friends, family and comrades gathered in central London on Saturday 11 September to commemorate her life. Pat was a Trotskyist for 44 years, and a member of the AWL tendency for most of 39 years, until her death on 2 August from chronic liver disease.
The attendance and the speeches at the event reflected Pat’s life and spoke of a woman who was a committed revolutionary, for whom Marxism was far more than a passing teenage fad, and who was kind, compassionate and caring as a person.
John Bloxam chaired the meeting: “Pat was a revolutionary; she wanted to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a system based on the principles of solidarity and human need. That was a cause to which she devoted 44 years of her life — the great majority of it. She didn’t waver from that conviction. She held those ideas as firmly at the point at which she died as she did when she first developed them in her teens.
“Pat also had tremendous warmth and sympathy. She was a very kind and considerate person.”
Jean Lane, who joined Workers’ Liberty’s predecessor organisation as a young woman in the 1980s, reminisced on her experiences of staying with Pat in London. “I used to go back from those visits with my head buzzing. I thought ‘who are these people who spend their lives doing politics, and don’t define themselves by who their boyfriend is or what music they listen to or what kind of clothes you wear?’ That had been my life until that period and it was a profound experience for me to meet those people. Pat made me think about myself and my role in the world.”
Talal Karim, who had been a Labour councillor in Islington with Pat in the 1980s, also spoke from the platform, as did Martin Thomas from Workers’ Liberty
“One of Pat’s most striking traits”, said Martin, “was the range of her human sympathy. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who I can never remember being peevish or sulky… All those qualities explain why Pat was so well-liked and well-respected, both inside the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and well outside it.” Martin also remarked on Pat’s “stubbornness” in her politics, particularly in refusing to go along with the sell-out on Islington Council where her fellow Labour councillors caved in and refused to side with working-class communities or council workers.
Martin, like many other speakers, emphasised Pat’s exceptional commitment and conviction; she was one of the diminishing few among those activists who came into the revolutionary movement in the late 1960s and early 70s who had stayed the course, bringing continuity and memory to new revolutionary generations.
Martin quoted Percy Shelley’s epitaph for Robert Emmett, which talks of the future when the “day-beam” of his revolutionary cause would shine through the passing storm clouds brought by those “caressed by fortune”. “The cause that Pat fought for when it was the cause of thousands will become the cause of hundreds of thousands and millions. We don’t know when that will happen — in five years’ time or in 25 years’ time — but it will happen. What we can do now to remember Pat is to organise to carry forward the cause she fought for and to speed the time when the ‘day-beam’ of working-class struggle shines again.”
The meeting also heard from people whose main experience of Pat was as a friend rather than a comrade. Those people, too, emphasised how strongly Pat’s political ideas flowed through who she was as a person.
Izzy, who knew Pat in Nottingham, said: “Pat influenced me a lot in terms of political ideas. But she was also exceptional in practice.” Izzy related the story of an occasion when Pat intervened to assist and support a woman distressed after domestic violence, potentially saving her life. “What I remember so well about that is how clear Pat was about women’s rights. She was unflinching. She saw that this woman needed help, and she did what was needed. That’s the kind of woman Pat was, and I feel lucky to have known her.”
Pat’s close friend Sally shared memories and experiences of her time working alongside Pat for a women’s training scheme in north Nottinghamshire. “To put it euphemistically, most of the employers had a fairly traditional view of women. It’s a real tribute that over the time she was at Nottinghamshire Women’s Training Scheme she found employment and work placements as plumbers, joiners, electricians and motor-mechanics for hundreds of working-class women in the Bassetlaw area. That was no mean feat.” Sally spoke of Pat’s role as a shop steward in their workplace, “thwarting many attempts at reorganisation” before finally leading workers and service-users in a six-week occupation against closure. Although the occupation was ultimately defeated, Pat had staved off redundancies for six months.
“Pat was passionate,” Sally said. “She was caring — both on an individual level and in terms of caring about her causes; the causes of working people’s fight against oppression, against capitalism. She always sought to involve as many people as possible in that fight; she drew people in and made sure they took part and understood what the fight was about. I trusted, admired and loved Pat as a colleague, a comrade and a friend.”
The meeting closed with the singing of the Internationale, the traditional anthem of working-class socialism, and took a collection for the Pakistan Labour Relief Campaign — a working-class effort to gather aid and solidarity for victims of the Pakistani floods. The message of the memorial was clear — that Pat Longman was a woman whose immense natural resources of human sympathy and compassion led her to dedicate her life to the cause of revolutionary socialism, a cause from which she never wavered despite setbacks and defeats. Hers is an example from which we can all learn.
I knew Pat as a comrade in the Trotskyist movement and the women’s movement in the 1970s.
Pat’s work on Women’s Fightback, the Working Women’s Charter and Women’s Voice was politically indispensable, trying as we were to link the working-class fightback against the Tories and the 1974-9 Labour government with the women’s movement. We were trying to make inroads politically into the women’s movement and to link that movement with the struggles of working-class women. We did it with some success, until all the movements went into retreat with Thatcher’s victories.
Pat was very involved in such battles as those to stop the closures of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and the Royal Northern Hospital, and the Grunwick strike.
We could always rely on Pat to be there and intervene; very quietly, but she did it. She was once described by a comrade as a “foot soldier”, and she was — but in the good sense. She contributed as a thinker and a writer to our aims and strategies, but she never left the practical work to others.
She carried on and on, and she would have carried on for many more years but for the illness which killed her. She was a fine comrade, and she will have died with — as Trotsky put it — “unshakeable belief in the communist future” and in the working class.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
I first met Pat Longman in the early 1980s. She immediately struck me as a dedicated, sincere and committed socialist. We became good friends through many struggles at the time.
She was elected to Islington council on a landslide in the 1982 local elections and took up her duties in St George’s Ward with great gusto and commitment. Dedication to people and community were her watchwords. In an echo of current times, the government tried to impose huge cuts by restricting funding to local councils. Pat was a huge part of the resistance to this.
The miners’ strike in 1984-5 was a seminal moment for the whole labour movement; like many others, Pat campaigned for political and industrial solidarity with the miners. In Islington we collected over £100,000 and council staff would voluntarily donate from their pay.
Pat made sure that many of the then-advanced policies on positive action, discrimination and social justice were pursued by the government.
As a union activist, Pat campaigned for print-workers’ jobs and conditions and opposed News International in the enormous dispute at Wapping in 1986-87. I want to thanks Pat for her dedication, her principles and her activity. She did well for Islington and its people, for her union and its members, and for the cause of socialism.
Pat Longman had strength and stubbornness in the cause in which she enlisted before she was 16 and worked for all of her life.
Of the sizeable number of people who have travelled part of that road with AWL, Pat was one of only a few who travelled the distance with us as we confronted the problems and contradictions of the would-be left and tried to find consistent revolutionary socialist answers.
More gregarious than some of us, she would have felt our isolation and unpopularity. But Pat was sustained by our belief that the beginning of all revolutionary wisdom is to tell the truth and go on telling it — no matter what. As Marx said, in Dante’s words, at the beginning of Capital, “follow your own course, and let the people talk.” Pat will be greatly missed.