On June 25, Russell Miles, a proud member of the International Socialist Tendency and widely-loved community activist, ended his life.
Russell was born in Leeds in Britain on August 7, 1966. As a young man he threw himself into radical politics, joining the Socialist Workers Party). He was involved in the working-class fight back against Margaret Thatcher's Britain, particularly the fight against fascism, anti-racism and Thatcher's poll tax.
A memento of Russell's British class war days hung on the walls of the Socialist Alliance West office in Footscray. It was a SWP poster produced at the end of Thatcher's regime, showing Thatcher with a noose around her neck and the phrase "Gotcha" printed beneath her dangling feet.
In 1992, Russell moved to Australia and became active in the SWP's sister party, the International Socialist Organisation.
Russell welcomed the formation of the Socialist Alliance in 2001 as a way to develop genuine left unity. He and his partner Sharon were founding members of Melbourne's Socialist Alliance West branch. Both were state and branch executive members and national conference delegates. He set a high standard for how to work together in common cause regardless of tactical or programmatic differences. This did not mean he shied away from debates, engaging with other revolutionary tendencies about the way forward for Socialist Alliance.
Russell helped organise Socialist Alliance's solidarity for trade union disputes at local factories, particularly the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia's Feltex dispute in 2001 and the Electrical Trades Union's Smorgons dispute in 2003.
Russell and his partner Sharon were mainstays of branch fundraising. They regularly ran the bar for dinners and Russell's patronage of the office fridge provided a weekly income stream. The sausage and beer letterboxing afternoons at Russell and Sharon's place ensured the branch was well-fed and well-watered (often too well-watered to get much letterboxing underway)!
Russell experimented with various ways to bring socialism into the local community. He was a National Union of Workers delegate. An avid dance-party activist, he and Sharon organised political raves under their "Insurrection" banner. He helped organise local Big Day Out events for the Braybrook Neighbourhood Association.
Russell believed in the power of working people to make fundamental change. His life as a socialist activist manifested his deep love for, and confidence in, ordinary people. He was a joyous, easy-going and gentle soul. His departure leaves an irreplaceable void among the radical left and the western suburbs community.