In memory of Graeme Imray (1950 -2008)
Comrades of the ICC and World Revolution in particular want to express our sorrow that an old comrade of the left communist Workers' Voice group of the early 70s - Graeme Imray (whom contributors to Libcom may know by his pseudonym, Dave Graham) died, aged 58, at the end of 2008 after a short illness. We very much regret the passing of a comrade who was closely involved in the discussions between the international tendency that was the fore-runner of the ICC and the Liverpool-based Workers' Voice. We send our sincere condolences to his partner and his two sons. We remember Graeme with some affection, even though politically our paths diverged rather drastically, resulting in a 30-year separation between us. We nonetheless understand that Graeme was a militant of our class and indeed made a real contribution to the passing on of left communist positions, not least the reproduction of texts from the German Left and from the Workers' Dreadnought of Sylvia Pankhurst which were such a feature of the political evolution of Workers' Voice.
Graeme was indeed an expression of the wave of militants that appeared after 1968, passionate about participating in the struggles of our class, especially from 1972 onwards. Graeme attended the LSE in the late sixties and was radicalised by this experience. He also worked in the DHSS and helped to set up a London based Claimants' Union under the pseudonym "Sunshine Supermouth" in the early days of WV. Graeme moved on to work on the railways in the North West as a booking clerk and was a constant contributor to the Workers' Voice magazine, often under the pseudonym A Moss. WV' s development of communist positions, especially on the basis of their direct experience of the unions and the shop stewards' movement, was an important reference point for the whole international milieu and still bear reading today. They put "the flesh and bones" of reality on the discussions that were taking place, particularly during the international conferences (the phrase was used by a WV comrade writing a report of one of these conferences).
Most importantly it was Graeme's search for the clarity of the communist left that propelled him and WV to search out and discuss with the international milieu at that time. Graeme, along with another comrade of WV, travelled extensively on the continent to seek out and discuss with groups such as Daad en Gedacht, meeting and being very impressed by the Dutch council communist Cajo Brendel. WV as a group also relied heavily on Graeme's ability to translate from French and German to understand the development of the internationalist milieu.
Graeme made many contributions in the series of international conferences set up by the US group Internationalism. Although these conferences resulted in groups like Internationalism, Revolution Internationale and World Revolution moving closer together and forming the ICC, Workers' Voice followed a different trajectory. Despite a short-lived fusion with Revolutionary Perspectives to form the Communist Workers' Organisation in 1975, the Liverpool group soon split away and dissolved into local activity, influenced by councilist ideas which expressed a distrust of the project of forming a centralised revolutionary organisation. Graeme did not abandon political activity however, and was in contact with groups like the Anarchist Federation and the councilist group Subversion in the 80s and 90s. In particular, he played an active role in the long-running dockers' strike of the mid-90s. A detailed analysis of this dispute, written by Graeme, can be found at http://www.libcom.org/library/dockworkers-disputer-dave-graham-1. In our view, Graeme's immersion in the support campaign around this struggle represented a retreat from the clarity about ‘rank and file' trade unionism which he had reached in the 70s, but the article is nonetheless a serious contribution to the debate about the significance of this and similar long-drawn out strikes.
Graeme worked for many years as a teacher in Liverpool and the comments published on his school's website after his death show that he was an inspiring teacher who was extremely well-liked and respected by his colleagues and pupils.
The ICC certainly has profound differences with the direction that many comrades from the old Workers Voice took after our initial discussions, in particular on the question of working within a union framework (see also our obituary for comrade Chad, another old comrade of WV) but we remember our own and we salute the memory of an internationalist communist - comrade Graeme.