Salute to Gail Lord (1952-2007)

Friday, July 13, 2007

We mourn our friend and comrade Gail, who lost her valiant battle with cancer on July 2.

It is so sad, a life cut short. But it was a life well lived, a proud life, a productive life, a life on the side of the poor and oppressed of the world.

Gail was such an inspiration to others, with her 40 plus years of struggle. She never gave in. She never accepted the injustices, the crimes, the rottenness of the system.

Working people are weighed down every day in their battle for survival, earning a living, bringing up a family. Gail had all that, but she also fought back.

By fighting back you've already had a major victory over the system, over the rulers of the world, over the millionaires and billionaires who run it. And Gail maintained that proud resistance throughout her life, taking arms against the sea of injustices.

Gail fought on the big issues, of worldwide importance, and she fought on the local issues, in the struggles of her community.

She was a true internationalist. She campaigned on Vietnam, Palestine, Indonesia and East Timor, the Kurdish and Irish struggles for freedom.

She was passionate about Cuba and was a long-term activist in Central America solidarity. Time and again at political meetings, no matter what the motion up for discussion — uranium mining, child care, abortion on demand, elections, opposition to privatisation — she always managed to bring Cuba into it. Some might have thought Gail was off the point; in fact, she never wavered from the line of march.

Along with her life-long partner Ted Lord, Gail was one of the few Australian leftists to have firsthand experience of the Grenadian revolution, and she was very inspired by the current developments in Venezuela.

Gail also fought on workers' and trade union issues, for women's rights, the rights of gays, on environmental issues, for Aboriginal rights, refugee rights, and in anti-war campaigns. She was always in touch at the neighbourhood and local level, and maintained a network of pen pals around the world.

Gail joined the socialist youth organisation Resistance in late 1967, as a high-school student. It was just after she'd been part of a delegation to the Soviet Union from the Junior Eureka League, the Communist Party's organisation for very young activists.

To the end of her life, Gail was a great supporter of Resistance and, sick as she was, wrote earlier this year about her delight at the good results of Resistance's orientation week efforts on campuses. She would have been so proud of Resistance's latest efforts at the Talisman Sabre peace convergence.

Gail was a founding member of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), and a loyal builder of the party for four decades. She was a consistent seller and promoter of first Direct Action and, since 1991, Green Left Weekly.

In a hierarchical party, Gail would have been termed a "rank and filer". But in a party such as ours, she was a genuine leader.

Gail served on executives when we established branches in the western suburbs of Sydney, where she lived and raised her family, but she was never a member of the national leadership body. Although she always attended the national congresses, she was not always a delegate. But Gail was a real leader in the best possible way — by the example of how she lived her life as a true revolutionary.

Gail's revolutionary politics were not confined to paying her party dues, attending a branch meeting every two weeks and doing a couple of hours of selling the paper each week — although she did travel long distances on public transport to attend branch meetings on work nights, staying to the end, getting home very late and then getting up early the next day for an equally long trip to work in North Sydney.

Gail was a full-time revolutionary who took her politics into every aspect of her life: talking to the young worker on the supermarket checkout, active in neighbourhood campaigns, on the job, on picket lines of striking workers at nearby factories, at protests outside Richmond air base, and in international solidarity.

Her commitment never diminished during the darkest days of her illness. Even at her lowest ebb, she gave all her effort to the struggle for socialism. Late last year, having just come home from hospital after the killer cancer had returned, Gail was in Penrith leafleting and selling GLW at Your Rights at Work and other public meetings. There's no doubt she would have talked to the hospital workers about the impact of Work Choices on their lives.

At tributes to Gail at DSP branch meetings, many comrades talked about Gail's humanity, her care and consideration for others, her deep sense of comradeship and her passionate support for Resistance, which included a concern for the material needs of poor student comrades, dropping off food parcels to them.

Gail was always keen to catch up on the latest news of our families. No baby was ever born to a comrade without a visit and present from Gail. She always had little Christmas gifts for comrades' children in the creche at the DSP's annual congresses.

And Gail shared with us her pride in her own family. You were always brought up to date with the latest in Melinda and Jason's lives, and about how Ted was coping and how strong his support was for her.

In conversations with comrades at the last DSP congress, Gail talked calmly about what lay ahead of her and how many months she thought she had, always trying to be reassuring. Of course, she struggled on longer than the estimate she gave; typical of Gail to underestimate her capacities.

Near the end, Gail had no need to put her life in order. There was nothing left undone — just to use the time to prepare us all for when she would no longer be with us.

And Gail would have urged us, while we are mourning, to follow the advice of US workers organiser Joe Hill before his execution: "Don't mourn, Organise!" She would have wanted us to continue the struggle she carried on for 40 years.

Bertolt Brecht described Gail's life when he wrote:
"There are those who fight a day and they are good.
There are those who fight many days and they are better.
There are those who fight many years and they are very good.
But there are those who fight all their lives and these are the indispensable ones."

It helps us in our daily struggle, swimming against the stream, to have revolutionary heroes. We all have our favourites — Che Guevara, Alexandra Kollontai, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and others. We have another hero to inspire us in what can often seem a mundane life — Gail Lord.

Issue