In June 2014, Adrian Blakelock, a supporter of the International Bolshevik Tendency, died in London after complications from liver failure.
Adrian will be remembered for his empathy and wit, as well as his enthusiasm for ideas and the need for revolutionary change. He was a link to earlier, if distorted, manifestations of Trotskyism in Britain. A creative man, a poet, a painter and an imaginative thinker, he had a passion and talent for cricket.
Adrian was influenced at an early age by the politics of his mother’s family. His grandmother Muriel MacSwiney was a Communist with a strong nationalist tilt who was married to an Irish freedom fighter, Terence MacSwiney. This sparked in Adrian a lifelong interest in Irish republicanism and independence. His mother’s father, Pierre Kahn, was a leading figure in the French resistance and a journalist for the French Communist paper, L’Humanité.
At home in Kent, his parents were involved in the Labour Party, and Adrian grew up in an atmosphere of leftist activism. He left school with few qualifications and worked in low-paid jobs until his mid 20s, when he began to study social work at Croydon College, a career move that also took him in the direction of the struggle for justice and a better world. His political journey was a long one.
Moving further to the left as he became actively involved with trade-union work in the Croydon branch of NALGO (the National and Local Government Officers’ Association – forerunner of today’s UNISON), Adrian was a union leader within the social services department throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. He also shared responsibility for building a new leadership of the Croydon branch by serving as an elected Executive Committee member in 1981–82 and 1983–84. He offered a radical perspective on national and international issues, and was actively involved in mobilizing support for miners and their families throughout the year-long miners’ strike of 1984–85.
Adrian recognized the need to resist attacks on jobs, salaries and services and therefore the need to challenge the right-wing leaders of his branch. He believed in solidarity with other trade unionists. For example, on 2 April 1980, he helped organize a NALGO delegation in support of an “Education Action Committee” lobby confronting the Tory controlled council. Adrian’s report about this lobby was circulated to hundreds of local NALGO members. He explained how Tory proposals would reduce building maintenance in schools, reduce support for pupils with special educational needs, decrease the nutritional standards of school meals and impose massive cuts in adult education.
Frustrated by the union leadership’s lack of action, Adrian started to explore what the avowedly socialist groups could offer. He studied the publications of the International Socialists (forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party), the International Marxist Group and the Workers Revolutionary Party, and actively engaged in numerous discussions with each of them. In 1981, as a result of this careful process, he chose to join the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) together with his wife Lin.
While a member of the WRP, as part of the Croydon branch with Dot and Peter Gibson and others, Adrian participated in demonstrations, organized community events, attended educationals and took part in the WRP’s hard regime of selling its daily paper, Newsline. When the WRP imploded in October 1985, like many others, Adrian became disillusioned with left politics. He continued to attend major events of the Cliff Slaughter splinter until about 1988 but was no longer as active as he had been. In the following years, he maintained contact with his comrades in the party, searching for answers, exchanging ideas and never losing interest in world events.
On 15 February 2003, Adrian marched in London with up to two million others against the Iraq war. It was on this demonstration that he met comrades of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) and recognized the historical tradition of the IBT as containing the better elements of what he had learned in the WRP. He still retained his perspective of the need for a revolutionary vanguard party of the working class and shared this understanding with the IBT. After a few months of discussions in which he began to properly reassess some of the revisionist politics he had defended during his time in the WRP, and once again reviewing the British left, Adrian joined the IBT. He was an active member for a couple of years but then dropped to sympathizer status when ill health prevented him from contributing in the fuller way he would have liked. Adrian struggled with bipolar disorder, a debilitating mental health condition, and, sadly, in the last year of his life, his physical health also deteriorated fairly rapidly, due to alcoholism. This prevented him from engaging in many activities, political or otherwise.
Adrian will be remembered fondly for his passionate hatred of inequality and oppression, his admirable ability to reassess his political outlook relatively late in life and his dedication to the IBT’s revolutionary program. Right to the end, he maintained his will to make sense of the world through his Marxist understanding. Adrian was proud that his daughter and her partner are supporters of the IBT. To them and to his wider family, we express our condolences.