dave spencer: an obituary

Jim Schofield, a friend of 50 years, remembers Dave Spencer.

Dave Spencer was my dearest friend and comrade for many years. We were at University together in both Leeds and Leicester, and were thereafter immersed in socialist politics for the rest of our lives. But he was also the most friendly and dedicated person you could possibly meet. We even went to Paris together when we had almost nothing, and still had a great time.

But, as with these things, we both got married and went where the jobs were, and gradually lost touch. Dave was a true socialist, and this meant that he joined and left various organisations as soon as it was evident they were not as dedicated as he was to the working class. And this was demonstrated in the years we worked together when we achieved some worthwhile gains. We broke a protection racket on immigrant workers in Leicester, and recruited previously warring mods and rockers into the Young Socialists in a small town in Northamptonshire, and within a very short period our tendency provided the national secretary of that organisation (Dave’s lifetime friend, also from Coventry – Dave Ashby) I cannot relate what he did in the years that we lost touch because, for a while we were in different countries and even different continents, but surprisingly our subsequent careers mirrored one another in a surprisingly resonant way.

And when I found him again via The Commune, we immediately met, and it was as if we had only been
apart a few days. He was still the same, dear friend and comrade, and it was revealed that in those years before our reunion he did some great things.
The work he did setting up arrangements for the mature education with working class women was
exemplary, and his research in that area earned him a doctorate. The women who he worked for knew who they could trust and went to him with many different problems, only recently he organised an action to provide a play area for their children when one of his women students asked him to help, which was successful.

One raised eyebrow from Dave was all I ever needed to “think again”. And one look at Dave’s surprised reactions always caused me to look again, and see what I had evidently missed. And Dave was still writing significant stuff to the end.

It has to be said that the many organisations we participated in did not develop theory as was absolutely necessary, and when I think back many of the very best people I knew were used up in activism, without any perceivable development in the methods of analysing situations and organising appropriate actions.

Dave Spencer is without any doubt a great loss to us all, and my heartfelt sympathy is for his wife Corinne, his son and his grandson, who he delighted in.

He will be greatly missed. We could certainly do with more like him

2 thoughts on “dave spencer: an obituary

  1. Memories of Dave Spencer ———– From Dave Green

    It is difficult to know where to start when talking about Dave but I’ll just relate a couple of stories about him.
    I first met Dave 50 Years ago on a ‘Hands off Cuba Demo in Coventry’ (during the threatened USA invasion of Cuba) in 1962.
    It was down at the bottom of Hertford Street, Coventry, on an old bomb site – they were still about then before the building of the precinct, near the Bull Yard and the Three Tuns Pub.

    It was a big demo of a few hundred and I was with a contingent of Communist Party youth – the Young Communist League – who were fine but a bit serious and a little humourless, and I remember looking over at a bigger contingent of the Young Socialists, who were Trotskyists I was fearfully and whisperingly told, who seemed full of life, singing songs, playing guitars and chanting socialist slogans. A fairly alluring sight in contrast. But anyway it was there that Dave approached me, from the trots – spoke to me and got me —- and later reeled me in with talk of real social change and revolution -not the peaceful coexistence of Soviet bureaucrats or the stale staid reformism of Labour.

    From then on it was CND, Aldermaston marches and support for the Vietnamese against American Imperialism for me and through Dave a closer aquaintance with ideas of how our society could and needed to change.
    The result was that Dave became a real influence on me and it became that he was always a friend, as he was to so many of us – a guy you could talk politics with – or history or music and many other things – and how to change our world to a better Socialist one.
    But while clearly there was in those days, a strong political line within Dave that sprang from a Marxist and Trotskyist perspective (he was to change more recently) Dave was never a doctrinaire who shut out discussion or a willingness to change if experience and ideas proved him wrong.

    We all know of his warmth and genuine interest in his friends and his fabled love of anecdotes and the foibles of himself and his fellows, which is perhaps why he loved Dickens and Shakespeare. Not for him the dull uniformity of regimented socialists and an unimaginative acceptance of a sterile dogma. This approach got him into many arguments and spats with many of the socialist groups he joined or mingled with, who used to think – as his good friend Jack Williams, the fine old contrary trotskyist shop steward from the Jaguar/Daimler used to say – that they’d come down from the mountain with the ten leninist commandments carved on tablets of stone, and who weren’t going to brook any deviance from the party line.
    On this theme, I well remember him, out on the street one evening after a meeting, being silenced and open mouthed (which didn’t happen often!) at a supporter of the group around the Militant newspaper, who when Dave expressed some doubt whether the socialist movement had the answers to environmental disaster, changes in the economy, consumerism and other issues, was told that all the solutions to the problems we faced in the world today were to be found in the pages of this group’s weekly newspaper and monthly theoretical magazine. – No wonder Dave was expelled from so many socialist groups and the Labour Party (twice I think – or was it three in the LP’s case?) as he challenged orthodoxy and dogma in his pursuit of ideas that could change the world for the better.

    Dave as we’ve said had a profound interest in how ideas could change people and through them change the world. He was rightly proud of his adult education work, the schemes he introduced and pioneered, and the impact they had across the city and upon hundreds of adults who remember him with fond memories.

    But Dave was not just a debater, an educator and a philosopher of radical ideas, he was an activist in the socialist movement who tried to put his ideas into practice through his work in that movement and wider community.
    There was not much of ‘the remote academic in an ivory tower’ about Dave, although he could easily hold his own against such people and was well read and wrote a lot himself. For he was always down supporting those in struggle against injustice, those on the picket line and those opposing racism and sexism.
    I remember him coming down to support a strike in Northampton where a mutual friend, and steward, had been sacked, and sitting down chatting with us and supporters about how he could help build support. — And on this theme of being a serious debater of socialist ideas but also of getting stuck into the everyday battles against injustice – I remember him smiling as he retold many a time an anecdote about how during the miners strike he was outside the Co-op in Earlsdon (in Coventry) high street collecting cash and food to send to the miners, probably with people here, and how he commented to a friend and supporter next to him, that one of the greatest Marxist theoreticians in the UK, who was a Professor at Warwick University, had just gone by and made a donation, and how the immediate reaction from the guy he’d told was that this Marxist can’t have been much of a Marxist if he wasn’t out here himself collecting with us for the miners and their cause! Dave thought that comment was ‘spot on’ – and that typified the view of Dave himself to life, ideas and involvement to change society.

    So, we can all remember many, many stories about Dave and no doubt we’ll exchange them now and well into the future, and it’s with a heavy heart that we face that future without Him.
    His closest, who he loved dearly, Corrine and family, His son John and his wife, his grandchildren and Margaret will miss him sorely and so will the rest of us —– But better to have known such a guy, a ‘good decent bloke’ in Dave’s language, even though we have now lost him, than not to have known him at all. Take care Dave — You did yourself and us proud….


  2. I had the pleasure of knowing dave from my first involvement in left politics. we were involved in the same orgqnisation only twice in isg and trotskyist faction of cmp.
    like dave i shared a similar weariness of the faction above party / faction above movement approach.
    Dave questioned in detail this leadership down approach and would never bow down to any of the annointed.
    He was a tireless class fighter blessed with an obstinate stamina. He will be missed. WHat i took from dave spencer was that we have to fight for a socialist future with our own indepedent thought and our humanity.
    We need to practically model a future society from our practice as revolutionaries and beware we don’t exclude the many by not listening.
    rip dave spencer


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