In Solidarity With Comrade EF: Militancy in the Face of Adversity
An article like this has never appeared before in the pages of Internationalism. But this is a special situation, quite unprecedented in the 35 years that Internationalism has been published. Readers may have noticed that articles signed “EF” or “Eric Fischer” no longer appear in the pages of Internationalism, and have not for some time. In fact several readers have inquired if EF is still in the ICC. The answer is yes, he continues to be a militant of the ICC but under very difficult and tragic health circumstances and is no longer able to write for the publication.
For the past few years, the comrade has suffered from an early onset of Alzheimers disease, a condition which especially affects his short term memory. This is a degenerative disease and while medications temporarily slowed the rate of degeneration, there is no hope for recovery. He is on100% disability and no longer able to work. His situation is particularly dismaying because he is comparatively young (57 years old on his next birthday), and has a strong thirst for life.
In the face of this great adversity, EF has demonstrated a revolutionary courage that has inspired many comrades. Four and half years ago he attended what we knew would be his last ICC congress in Europe. He discussed with comrades from many countries about the nature of his disease, how his condition would inevitably worsen, and his desire to maintain his militancy in the communist organization and to contribute as much as he can for as long as he can. As he put it, “I have been a revolutionary since I was 19 years old and the class struggle is important for the future of humanity. I may be losing my memory, but the last thing I will forget is that I am a revolutionary.”
Rather than surrender to the disease and succumb to depression and demoralization, comrade EF consciously grappled with the serious question of how a communist revolutionary should face such an affliction. And in this he has been supported firmly by his partner, F, who has confronted this disease with him and supported his efforts both in medical treatment and in the struggle to maintain his political activity. In addition to maintaining his communist militancy, the comrade also participated in various Alzheimers support groups and fundraising efforts to support research and treatment. He also continues to write poetry, a lifelong interest. In New York, the section continues to meet with him to read and discuss political texts, which is a central aspect of militancy and an important part of his life. He also participates in the work of mailing out the subscriptions to readers.
The comrade’s situation has given concretization to the meaning of solidarity between militants in a revolutionary organization. Last Spring, the 16th Congress of the ICC discussed EF’s situation and sent a letter to him expressing its profound solidarity. In part the letter said:
“the [Congress’s] discussions on the organization’s activities made clear to all of us, if it was not so already, how important has been our difficult struggle in recent years to understand what it means to be a militant in this epoch. We understand far better than we did before the fundamental, critical importance of solidarity among the comrades. We understand better also, how important is the confidence of the organization and its militants in the possibility and necessity of the proletarian revolution. We want to express to you our immense respect for the example that you have shown in your own participation in the organization, despite your illness…. If the ICC is able to act as a pole of reference, then it is not just because of the political positions we defend, but also because of the example that we give of what it means to be communists. And in this sense, the whole congress wants to salute the example that you give us, in confronting your illness, of what it means to be a communist militant…We are proud to be militants with you in the ICC.”
At the National Conference of Internationalism in March 2005, comrade EF made an intervention as the conference drew to a close that deeply moved all the comrades present with his reaffirmation of revolutionary commitment and expression of confidence as a revolutionary in his class, in himself, and in his comrades. Fighting tears, the comrade said:
“I always wanted to be a revolutionary and that’s what I want to do with my life. Thank you for that. I want to die that way. I remember being in another organization where if you couldn’t do something they would kick you out. The ICC is different. I have troubles with my life, my brain doesn’t work the way it use to. But this work has given me meaning in life. Since I was a young kid I wanted to be a revolutionary. I may not be able to do what I could before, but I want to contribute whatever I can. I told my wife I want to be with the ICC as long as I can. It’s been the most important thing in my life for a long time. I want to participate in this for as long as I can.”
Reflecting the solidarity felt by everyone present at the conference, one of the comrades responded, “There is no question about your commitment or your seriousness. No matter what happens, even if you are lying in a coma unable to move, you will always be one of us. You will always be with us and we will always be with you. You will always be a comrade of the ICC. No matter what. Someday, when the history of the workers revolution is written, there will be a chapter about your struggle. You will be remembered.”
Any readers wishing to send messages of solidarity to Comrade Dick, may send them to Internationalism, Post Office Box 288, New York, NY 10018 or send a webmail message to Internationalism at the ICC’s website, Internationalism.org.
Here are two poems by our comrade.
Forgetting is only the flip side of remembering
But that being said just how do we collect memories
And how do we take the edge off painful dreams
Which reflect in fantasy fashion
Our dreams unfulfilled.
And our hopes and plans that have come to naught
As the challenges which we encounter are the ones
Which we have come to own and to take seriously
Fighting the odds to make
Progress and perhaps win.
The challenges undertaken in true pursuit
And in honorable circumstances without shame
To take up the hopes for tomorrow and beyond
And working toward realization of hope
And joyful freedom as a great endeavor.
Piece Parts of a Life
Left only with piece parts of a life
That had unsuspected twists and turns
Requiring a tune-up now and then
I keep trying to live out my life
With dignity and hope but sometimes
It is hard to keep trying to live productively
As the illness I have wears me down
In small increments from day to day
And I fight the best way I can
With medicines and doctors’ visits
As well as exercising routinely
But by now I doubt that
There will be a magic bullet
To make me whole again in my lifetime.
When I got the diagnosis
I had mixed feelings
First of all, I recognized that my problems
Lately, were not a sign of horrid
Hallucinations confronting me daily
But a medical condition which
Over time picks out brain cells and
Lets them die as if it was a war of attrition
Going on in my head where I can’t
See exactly what’s going on, but
The evidence is clear that by now
I am losing cells in my head
Which I would have much preferred
To have remained perfectly healthy.