Paul Foot won thousands to socialism
It was with great sadness that the Socialist Unity Network report the
death of the great socialist campaigner Paul Foot.
Below we have reprinted the text of the obituary in Socialist Worker
and below this we have included some links to obituaries that have
Paul Foot 1937 - 2004
Paul Foot won
thousands to socialism
Socialists across Britain are mourning Paul Foot, who died on Sunday.
Chris Harman looks at his extraordinary life
PAUL WAS a brilliant socialist writer, a speaker more able than any
other to make people see what was wrong with capitalism, a tireless
campaigner against injustice, and an investigative journalist whose
revelations caused the resignation of a Tory cabinet minister and
exposed the corruption of businessmen, big and small.
He became a revolutionary socialist when he was a young journalist
working on Scotland’s Daily Record.
He came from a privileged background. His father was governor of
British-run Palestine and then British-run Cyprus, and Paul attended
Shrewsbury public school, joining the Liberals when he was at Oxford
It was contact with the realities of working class life and the
working class movement in Glasgow in the early 1960s that transformed
his ideas. He was never to look back.
Within a couple of years he was editing the precursor of Socialist
Worker, Labour Worker, and then went on to write three devastating
Immigration and Race in British Politics detailed the scapegoating of
successive generations of immigrants, from East European Jews in the
1890s to Afro-Caribbeans and Asians in the early 1960s.
The Politics of Harold Wilson tore apart the record of the Labour
government elected in 1964. And The Rise of Enoch Powell showed how the
political establishment—including Labour—capitulated to the racism of
the far right.
Meanwhile Paul was also exposing the faulty evidence that had led to
the hanging of James Hanratty for murder in 1961.
In his fortnightly column in Private Eye he began an investigation
into the network of corruption around the systems-building of high rise
This led to the jailing of Labour’s Newcastle supremo T Dan Smith,
and the resignation of Tory home secretary Reginald Maudling.
He was at the heart of the wave of struggle of the 1970s, from the
occupation of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971 through the miners’
strike of 1974.
It was then that he began a six-year spell working full time on
He used his journalistic skills to bring the spirit of the struggle
into the paper, to show the machinations of the upper classes, and to
convey socialist ideas in a language that was accessible to people who
had never come across them before.
His book Why You Should Be a Socialist took the message to thousands
His energy did not flag with the downturn of the struggle in the late
He was with the miners when they were driven down to defeat in 1984-5
just as much as he had been with them when they were victorious ten
His weekly page in the Daily Mirror of the 1980s became a beacon of
light in the dark Thatcher years.
It ensured that the meetings he did in all parts of the country,
often two or three times a week, always got an enthusiastic audience.
When a new management purged left wing journalists from the Daily
Mirror in 1992, Paul was in the forefront of those putting up resistance
and lost his job as a result.
His journalism in these years exposed one of the great miscarriages
of justice—the case of four men convicted of “the murder on the farm” of
It also brought to light the amazing story of how Colin Wallace was
used by British intelligence in Northern Ireland to smear the 1974
Labour government and then framed for a killing in a south coast town.
Paul was first taken ill five years ago, and that reduced his
capacity to speak at meetings.
But his commitment continued, with a fortnightly political column in
the Guardian and a fortnightly page in Private Eye.
He ran for mayor of Hackney as the Socialist Alliance candidate 18
months ago, and stood on the list for the London Assembly as a Respect
candidate last month.
Just a fortnight ago he was promising to resume his regular column in
Socialist Worker, and just a week ago he had an audience spellbound at
the Marxism festival of socialist ideas as he laid into New Labour.
He will be missed by everyone on the left, by every active trade
unionist, by every opponent of racism, and by everyone who simply wants
a better society.
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