David Matthews — 1927-2007


The socialist movement lost a strong supporter with the death from cancer of David Matthews — my father — on September 30 at the age of 79. David joined the Socialist Alliance soon after its formation and remained a financial member and a strong supporter of the campaign to bring the fractious left together.

David was born in Nottingham, England. He left school at 14 and worked as a farm labourer and gardener for the rest of his life. His interest in politics began in 1945, when as a young man of 17 years, he cycled the 10 miles to hear Labour candidate for Cannoch, Jenny Lee, speak. Later he joined the British Labour Party.

David immigrated to Australia on the Stratheden in late 1959, and during the trip met his future wife, Margaret Johnstone. On arriving in Australia, David spent two years living on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, constructing soldier-settlement farms. For half that time he was the delegate for the Federated Engine Drivers and Fireman's Association, for a work force of 200 that included workers of 19 different nationalities. As a minority spoke English, holding union meetings required various assistants translating his words into other languages — the genuine migrant experience in Australia.

In 1962 David relocated to Yass, where he married my mother. Until the mid-80s, he was a sometimes member of the Labor Party branch, offending the local leadership on more than one occasion by refusing to toe the party line uncritically. By the mid-80s, with the Hawke-Keating government in full flight, he left Labor for the last time.

From 1987, David subscribed to Direct Action (forerunner to Green Left Weekly), always careful to pass on his copies to others in the town who showed the slightest interest in progressive politics. He subscribed to GLW from its first issue, convincing other Yass locals to subscribe over the years. David was also briefly an associate member of the Socialist Workers Party (a former name of the Democratic Socialist Perspective); although it was in Socialist Alliance that he found his final political home.

A warm and compassionate man, with an abiding concern for the environment (notably the impact that the Gunns pulp mill would have on Bass Strait and Flinders Island), he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. His desire for a strong and unified left lives on in the potential of Socialist Alliance.

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