The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, October 27, 2003

More on John Sullivan

A memorial meeting for this British socialist, satirist, and scholar has been arranged for Saturday 17 January 2004 in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, England. Some of his writings on the national question can be found, for now, at his own website. They display the same sharp mind and sharp tongue as his satirical pamphlets on the sectarian far left.

I recently received this email, which I reproduce with permission:

Thanks for the link on your site re John - he was a long time friend of
mine and I shall particularly miss the bookbuying trips to Hay On Wye
with him and Al Richardson, editor of Revolutionary History. John always provided a mixture of erudition and grim humour about the left and much else whether it was a biography of Shelley or South Park.

I remember discussing " The Star Fraction" with him and as one would
expect the humour of it greatly appealed to him although surprisingly he was critical about the remarks about the greens - this was a bit like hearing Trotsky criticising a comrade for being too harsh about liberals.

John always tried to keep the left alive to the international and historical dimensions of the struggle organising for example meetings on Rosa Luxemberg with Normas Geras when the movie of her life came out or a meeting at Transport House In Bristol on the Spanish Civil War with a comrade of George Orwell, Staff Cottman, speaking and veteran
communists who had expelled Staff 50 years earlier turning up.

Mostly we will miss the jokes like the one about internationals being devices for filtering out reality on a world scale and the time at Bristol Trades Council when in the midst of a discussion on the "Off the Shelf" campaign to get pornography out of newsagents John got up to speak, standing just over 5ft 3in, and gravely instructed everybody that this was a serious issue worthy of debate as he himself had become embarassed at asking women taller than himself to get the magazines down for him.

The trade unions in Bristol and the left in general were inclined to
be resentful of his relentless and accurate piss-taking but those who
can't take a joke have no business trying to change society.


Dave Bennett ( UNISON ).


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