Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Tribute to Neil Harris

Robyn Harris
by New Worker correspondent

COMRADES and friends gathered at the Party Centre over the weekend to pay tribute to the life-long commitment of Neil Harris to the communist cause. Neil passed away in March after a long battle against cancer. He was 59.
Leading comrades had paid their last respects to Neil at his funeral in Richmond in March. But they, and many others who knew Neil well returned to the Party Centre last Saturday for a memorial social to remember his life and his immense contribution to the work of the New Communist Party.
After finishing school Neil went to study at the London School of Economics. After graduation he had a number of jobs including working for the Co-operative Wholesale Society and a record store before taking up law. He scored in the top ten in the entire country in the law exam when he finished and for over 20 years he worked as a criminal defence solicitor in West London. He was proud to serve as a duty (legal aid) solicitor. He wanted to help the people who couldn’t afford to pay legal fees and he often extended his services to them outside of the courtroom and police station. He would encourage his clients to better themselves by looking for opportunities for them to change their lives.
Neil supported the Labour Party in his youth, even standing unsuccessfully for Labour in a council election in Berkshire, before turning to revolutionary politics, which he readily embraced when he joined the New Communist Party in the early 1980s, His enthusiasm and effort led to his inevitable election to our Central Committee in the 1990s. He remained on that committee and the Political Bureau until illness curtailed his mobility.
Neil loathed fascism and racism. He was active in the Rock against Racism campaign and the other anti-fascist movements that sprang up to combat the National Front and the British National Party. He was active in the fight against apartheid. He supported the unions and joined the solidarity campaign for the miners during their epic strike in the 1980s.
But above all he was a dedicated communist. While always on hand to provide legal advice to the Central Committee Neil was also an activist, organiser and writer who dedicated his life to the communist cause. Neil played a leading role in struggle against revisionism within the Party and drafted the proposals that were incorporated in the new Party constitution that followed. Neil sat on many NCP Congress committees
Neil organised and took part in many NCP meetings and was always ready to give out leaflets or carry the banner on protests and demos. He also wrote a number of keynote articles for the {New Worker}, in his own name as well as a couple of pen-names, which can be read online or in pamphlet form.
His last major effort, when his battle against cancer began, was a one-man campaign to improve St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, which revolved around the Help me sort out St Peter's! blog that he established in 2012 and remains on the Web as a record of his thoughts over the past six years.
Comrades who knew Neil well, including NCP leader Andy Brooks and National Chair Alex Kempshall, shared fond memories during the evening while Daphne Liddle and Theo Russell recalled Neil’s dedication to the movement over the years. Some of these stories were new to Neil’s widow, Robyn, but all of them reflected an eternal truth about a comrade whose life was so sadly cut short by a terminal illness.
Neil Harris was a man who enjoyed life and lived to help others. He loved music of all kinds. One of his favourite songs, Enjoy Yourself It’s Later Than You Think, was played at his funeral. It was, appropriately, played for his friends who had come to pay one last tribute to Neil’s memory.

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