Last Saturday saw veteran communist Jack Shapiro honoured by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) at a meeting in Southall's Saklatlava Hall chaired by Harpal Brar.
Jack Shapiro was born in 1916 in the middle of the First World War into a Jewish family in the East End of London. His political career began in the Young Communist League. The nineteen-thirties saw the rise of fascism at home and abroad. London's East End was a major battleground. Jack was one of those communists who mobilised the people against Mosley's blackshirts at the 1936 Battle of Cable Street and on many other occasions.
He was also active in the rent struggles of that period sometimes erecting barricades to prevent landlords evicting hard pressed tenants. The housing struggles were an important part of the anti-fascist struggle because by taking a firm class line of opposing all slum landlords equally, including Jewish ones the anti-Semitism peddled by the fascists had a much reduced audience.
His contribution to anti-fascist struggles included assisting with rescuing Jewish children from Europe and taking over the bomb shelters in London's Savoy Hotel to highlight the poor provision for the less well off. Long before it became fashionable Jack supported the rights of the Palestinian people and opposed Zionism. In addition to opposing the British Road to Socialism Jack supported the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s. Apart from his directly political work Jack was heavily involved with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and in promoting the interests of the disabled in China. When the British establishment offered him an Order of the British Empire he rejected it on the grounds that he spent his life fighting to overthrow the British Empire. To this day his letters enliven the correspondence column in the Morning Star.
Jack's life was closely paralleled by his brother Michael who became a Communist councillor in Stepney. During the Korean War he lectured British prisoners of war helping them write letters home. For his pains he was denounced as a traitor in the House of Commons and forced to spend the rest of his life in China where worked for the Xinhua news agency. He also helped translate the works of Mao Zedong.
Appropriately tributes to Jack's work came from the London embassies of both China and People's Korea both of whom presented with small gifts to mark is services to proletarian internationalism.Keith Bennett, a friend of the Shapiro family, praised Jack as an outstanding Marxist-Leninist throughout his seven decades of political activism.
In replying to these well deserved tributes Jack responded by welcoming the growing resistance to United States imperialism even in the most unexpected places. He remained confident that while Britain had the oldest and most cunning bourgeoisie in the world they will be eventually defeated.
photo: Jack Shapiro, Harpal Brar and Keith Bennett