2012: Julie Waterson
When Julie died, the SWP set up a website on which tributes and condolences could be published. I submitted this brief piece, but for some reason it was never displayed.
I first met Julie in 1979, and I regularly came across her in her various Party roles over the next thirty‑three years. For some time in the late eighties she was North London organiser, in the difficult period when we had to hold the Party together after the defeat of the miners’ strike.
I suspect that many people, like me, were slightly intimidated by Julie. She could be fierce, though it was soon clear that there was no malice there; she was a warm, kind-hearted person, but she believed passionately in what she was doing and tried to communicate that urgency to others. She worked tirelessly as a poorly-paid and overworked full-timer for more than twenty years. I remember her coming to speak at a public meeting and scrounging some chips from a contact we had got along – obviously her schedule hadn’t allowed her time to eat. She didn’t spare herself and she didn’t spare others either.
Thus I remember her scathing comments on a poor paper sale outside a supermarket: “Four papers! They must have been inside, selling in the freezer cabinet”. Once on an anti-BNP demo we were told to assemble in Whitehall and mingle with the crowds. I stopped walking for about ten seconds to speak to someone; immediately Julie loomed up and told me “Keep fucking moving”.
And she never compromised with her broad Scottish accent. On one occasion she came to the Enfield branch to tell us about planned tactics for a forthcoming demonstration. “We dinnae want a rammy” she told us, using what I was later told was a Glaswegian word for punch-up. All the orthodox members of the branch nodded their approval, though I’m sure none of them had any idea what she meant.
But the overriding impression Julie made was of energy, enthusiasm and optimism, even when things were tough. I remember talking to her at Bookmarks in around 2002; she had just spent some time in Lancashire and she told me rather more frankly than she would have done in a public meeting that the BNP were progressing and were going to make gains in the coming council elections. It must have been a depressing time, but for her there was no alternative to the determination to keep fighting.
Contrary to the idea that socialists want to make everyone the same, one of the most inspiring things about the socialist movement is the way it produced such a range of different types of people. As Marx put it, my style is my individuality. Julie fought for a shared cause, but she did it in her own unique style, and none of us who worked with her will ever forget her. My most sincere condolences to all who were close to her.