Obituary: Dave Spencer – founding member of the Socialist Alliance
Dave Spencer was active in local and national politics for over 50 years from his time in Apartheid and CND, as a left wing Labour County Councillor, and as an activist helping to build the Labour left in Coventry in the 1970s and the Socialist Alliance in the 1990’s.
Dave was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) in the 1960’s, at a time when the SLL dominated that organization and made it difficult to hold open discussion. Dave helped persuade his local Coventry Labour party to open up its headquarters and a downstairs area was turned into a sort of youth club where young people could meet up without fear of intimidation. Dave helped pioneer this. He remained active in the Labour party, and became one of the first Marxists to be elected as a Labour candidate when he won a seat on the West midlands County Council. He helped build up a genuine Labour Left within his own Constituency and Coventry District Labour Party, and was part of the Left that took control in Coventry in the 1980’s. It was at this time that Dave, as an FE lecturer, set up a the Eburne Project, named after the deprived area of Coventry where he based his scheme to encourage working class people, especially women, back into education. The Project was acclaimed locally and nationally, and a number of women in particular became empowered through it.
He helped set up the very first Socialist Alliance in Coventry and Warwickshire in 1992 with, amongst others, Dave Nellist and myself after 127 of us were all expelled from the Labour party – although Dave remained inside the party a little longer. He did as much as anyone to build that local SA into a fighting force with over 300 supporters, sitting on its Organisation Committee and helping with its monthly Newsletter – indeed, we used to meet at his house in Earlsdon to produce it every month. He helped build the SA nationally over the next six years, and attended all the national meetings. Not always on the same political side as Dave during these years – he backed a deposed Labour Party MEP against the SA in the 1999 Euro Elections for example – I always appreciated that Dave continued to work tirelessly for and with the SA nationally as it became a large orgnanisation and stood 98 candidates in the 2001 General Election. He remained active locally also, despite some political differences which remained after 1999. He helped us try and prevent the SWP from closing down the SA in 2005, and was a leading member of the Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform within it. When the SA was re-launched later that year, Dave did not agree with the direction it took and he did not re-join locally or nationally. This is when he joined the Democratic Socialist Alliance, which had split from the re-launched SA. However, he was happy to remain on the local CAWSA mailing list, and he attended most of the local socialist events that have taken place in the last few years. We remained in touch, and we always spoke together at these events
Dave always spoke his mind and was never really in anyone's "camp" – this meant he would take on other socialists he disagreed with in quite a an assertive way! He was a member of many different trotskyist groups at various stages of his political life, though pointedly never the Militant/SP
The fact that there were hundreds of comrades at the Celebration of his life that was held earlier in May speaks volumes about Dave. People traveled from all over the country to pay their last respects, many with an individual story to tell about how Dave influenced the development of socialism. The music played at the Crematorium was the music of protest – so fitting for the person dubbed by the local newspaper as ‘Champion of the less fortunate’. What an accurate epitaph.
Dave had very sadly and suddenly died on April 24th
Pete McLaren SA National Secretary