(1937–2000) Fred Green

IT is with great regret that we announce the death of Fred Green on 25 November 2000. Fred was and remained a Trotskyist for 40 years. In 1999 he survived surgery and the treatment of cancer with great fortitude and optimism. This year he took early retirement and looked forward to having time to concentrate on political work and to see more of his family. At several meetings of the Workers International executive committee and at our third congress, he joined in discussions on future work, including the production of a series of pamphlets. He enthusiastically agreed to carry out research and translations as well as editorial work and to learn page makeup. But this was not to be. He became ill again early in October when cancer reoccurred–this time with no possibility of treatment. The next issue of Workers’ International Press will carry an obituary of Fred. We send our sympathy to his family

Workers International Press November/December 2000

(1937–2000) Fred Green 

FRED GREEN died on 25 November 2000 at the age of 63. Surgery and preventative treatment in the previous year had convinced him to take early retirement on 31 August 2000. His quality of life was excellent at that time and he was looking forward to having time to carry out political research, translation and editorial work for Workers International. 

Unfortunately cancer of the liver overtook him. He died peacefully with friends and family at his side, in Denmark where he had lived and worked since 1993. 

Born and brought up in Surrey (in the south of England) he was educated at grammar school and Nottingham university from which (his diary tells us) he ‘dropped out’ in 1959. He became a trainee journalist and print worker for New Park Publications, the publishing company of the Workers Revolutionary Party and its forerunner the Socialist Labour League. 

However in October of that year he was required to do his two-year ‘national service’, but ended up joining the Grenadier Guards for three years. Following that he worked in the wages department of Westminster City Council and then in 1966 he started work at APVs, an engineering factory in Crawley, Sussex. He remained with this company until he retired, transferring to its Derby factory in 1989 and then to its Danish establishment. 

While at university from 1956-59 in Nottingham he joined the National Association of Labour Students and the Labour Party. He keenly followed the political discussions arising from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Khrushchev 20th Congress exposure of Stalin in the same year and became a Trotskyist in association with Ken Coates who was, at that time, a member of ‘the group’ of Trotskyists inside the Labour Party, led by Gerry Healy. From then on, apart from his years in the army and for a short time afterwards, Fred remained a member of the organisations which developed out of ‘the group’ for the rest of his life: the Socialist Labour League, the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Workers International. He was conversant with the history of the Fourth International in a way that made it seem that he had actually lived through all its struggles. 

It was a political decision that made him change his job from Westminster to APVs in Crawley, a ‘new town’ with a large factory estate and thousands of working class families. Here and in his home town, Burgess Hill, working from a flat he shared with his brother Peter at that time, he assisted with the development of (Trotskyist) Labour Party Young Socialist branches in Crawley, Burgess Hill, Brighton and Oxted. He was an active trade unionist. 

Fred was a linguist, an archivist, a historian. He could speak fluently in French, German, Danish, Spanish and could read other languages. Before he even went to work in Denmark he was known by the workers there as the unusual Englishman who would converse with them on the telephone in their own language. He would pick up the telephone at work and speak to the caller in his or her own language quite naturally. 

He could converse with anybody of a serious intellectual nature on a wide range of subjects, including anthropology, geography and archeology. His interests included a love of walking and he joined with other ramblers to campaign against the closure of public footpaths across the English South Downs. 

Fred was well liked by his work colleagues, who saw him as a friend and a bit of an eccentric. Never a ‘natty dresser’ he would wear his clothes till they almost fell apart. Amusing stories are told about how he finally bought a pair of trousers in a supermarket for £8. His friends understood that although he would only spend this modest sum on the trousers, he would not think twice about spending double that on a book. 

On his 60th birthday one of work colleagues sketched him in typical mode — cycling to work. This card was signed by all the others, who presented it to him when they turned up singing outside his house on the morning of is birthday. In these last years of his life he spent many happy hours with them on works outings. 

For 40 years Fred built up an enormous archive of his family tree, and could fascinate us with tales of his ancestors. His brother Peter remembers the time when his two children were singing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ at a family Christmas party when uncle Fred pointed out that they were related to the murderer of the ‘Good King’ who lived around 1,000 years ago! He also discovered family connections with Vitus Baring who travelled from Alaska to Siberia in the mid 18th century, and after whom the Baring Straits were named. 

We, in the Workers International, knew Fred best as a principled fighter for the Fourth International. He always took his decisions on the basis of independent study and research. When the Workers Revolutionary Party exploded in 1985 after the corrupt practices of Gerry Healy, the main leader, were brought to light Fred did not hesitate in joining those who moved Healy’s expulsion. Subsequently he enthusiastically took part in the work of the Steering Committee for the organisation of an international conference of Trotskyists. He worked alongside Paul and Polly Henderson in the Midlands branch of the WRP after he moved to Derby in 1989. When the Workers International was launched in 1990, Fred assisted its executive committee as a translator. 

With his move to Denmark Fred continued to maintain his connections with the party through the Midlands branch. He never failed to meet and discuss with his old comrades on his visits to England, especially George Ellis, now in his nineties and a Trotskyist for over 60 years. From his home in Denmark he kept up a lively correspondence with a number of comrades. 

When the executive committee of the Workers International split in 1997, Fred could not at first understand this. Unfortunately he had not received any of the internal discussion bulletins, and did not know why we had founded the Workers Internationalist Faction. He had not realised that the Cliff Slaughter tendency was liquidationist. At that time he was being invited by John Robinson and Jim Smith to join them in support of the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL), and some of his old friends and comrades were calling upon him to oppose the Faction. 

True to form on his way back to Denmark after one of his visits, he took with him a huge file of internal bulletins. About six weeks later he telephoned to say that he was uncompromisingly on the side of the Faction, and we received his re-registration form and a bankers’ order for his monthly subscription and fund donation. At the same time he made up his mind that he could not support the JRCL. He especially confirmed this when he found that this organisation supported Milosevic in the Kosova conflict. 

Fred was non-judgemental. He took everybody as they came. He did not break off relations with those who did not agree with him. However, he took clear decisions and knew where he stood. He died as he had lived: a Marxist, a Trotskyist – a fighter for the Fourth International. We are proud to have known him as a comrade and a friend and to have received in trust his extensive political archives and library.

Dot Gibson

Workers International Press February 2001