Vale Ernie Tate: ‘May there be many more comrades like you’

Issue 
Ernie Tate

The life of veteran Canadian socialist Ernie Tate will be celebrated in an online memorial tribute from Toronto on May 30. Expected speakers include Phil Hearse, Tariq Ali, Sam Gindin and Barry Sheppard.

John Riddell attests that Tate was an “outstanding partisan of global anti-imperialist solidarity” who contributed with his partner Jess MacKenzie “to building revolutionary Marxist groups and to promoting socialist unity in Canada and Britain”.

Tate was born in 1934 and joined the socialist movement in 1955. He remained an active participant until his death in February.

The socialist movement in Australia — particularly the Democratic Socialist Party and, more recently, the Socialist Alliance — has long known Tate as a friend and collaborator.

Peter Boyle sent solidarity greetings to the memorial meeting on behalf of the Socialist Alliance.

Boyle wrote: “Most of us are from subsequent generations of comrades, many comrades from the earlier generations here having passed or dropped back from political activism.

“We’ve kept going at our work putting out our newspaper Green Left, trying our best to keep up with the digital media age, building the movements of resistance to capitalism, educating comrades in Marxist ideas and learning from new revolutionary movements.

“Through all this we’ve been in touch with and encouraged by a small group of revolutionary uncles and aunts in Canada, one of whom was Ernie Tate.

“I hope these comrades don’t mind me describing them in this way, but I cannot think of a better way to describe the deep comradely love, appreciation and respect we have for them.

“Any revolutionary who keeps up the fight for 65 years deserves respect. But there is a special respect that is due to comrades who keep up the hard slog for so long in countries like Canada and Australia, wealthy, liberal-ish junior imperialist states.

“We share the frustrations of having to work for decades in small revolutionary groups when what we are trying to build are mass revolutionary parties of the working class. So when we see comrades like Ernie keep up the struggle for a lifetime without succumbing to sectarianism or demoralisation, determined to take whatever step is possible to advance the struggle, that inspires and deserves a special respect.

“Vale Ernie Tate, may there be many more like you!”

Canadian author and socialist Bryan Palmer wrote: “Ernie Tate was a literate and cultured man, able to reflect engagingly on art and literature, film and music. He could build a cottage and renovate a house, organize a demonstration, engage a crowd, and convince others of the need to use their particular talents to fight for a better world. A love of food and sociability, valued friendships and good health, were paramount in his everyday life.

“Tate was an example of what the working class is capable of at its best. He found in revolutionary Marxism answers to big questions. This body of thought defined his approach to life within a capitalism whose accomplishments he recognized but whose acquisitive individualism, exploitative essence, and myriad oppressions he abhorred.

“Ernie understood well the strengths of the Old Left in which he was educated, but he appreciated as well the promise and possibilities of the many New Lefts that he saw come and go, all of which he regarded with a critical but buoyant hope.

“Revered and respected among Trotskyists throughout the world, Ernie was a man of deep convictions. He held to them, through thick and thin. Compromise over cherished principles was not something he could countenance. Yet he was also capable of great warmth and generosity, which he routinely bestowed on those with whom he disagreed. His smile enticing, he could laugh at himself as well as the absurdities of a social order he knew was sick to its core.”

Canadian socialists James Clark and Pam Frache wrote: “With Ernie’s passing, the socialist movement has lost one of its fiercest fighters, someone whose deep commitment to working-class emancipation inspired nearly seven decades of political activity and changed the course of history. The greatest tribute we can pay to Ernie’s life is to share the countless lessons he leaves behind and pass to a new generation of revolutionaries the tools they’ll need to build a better world.”

[More tributes to Tate’s life can be found at Links — International Journal of Socialist Renewal including from John Riddell and Phil Hearse.]

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