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Vol. 72/No. 30      July 28, 2008

Meeting in New Zealand celebrates
party-building work of Mervyl Morrison
AUCKLAND, New Zealand—“If you were going into battle, Mervyl was the sort of person you would want by your side,” said Mike Tucker of the Communist League at a meeting here July 5 to celebrate Mervyl Morrison’s three decades in the communist movement.

Tucker cochaired the event with Nick Fowler of the Young Socialists. Morrison died in early June at age 71.

The meeting of 26 people featured a panel of six speakers, including Manuele Lasalo from the Communist League in Australia and Joel Britton from the Socialist Workers Party in the United States.

Tucker described how Morrison was influenced by events of the 1960s and 1970s, including the movement in opposition to the U.S.-led, and New Zealand-backed, war in Vietnam; the struggle against apartheid in South Africa; and the fight for women’s rights. Union struggles and the fight for Maori rights were also on the rise at the time.

It was in her thirties, while working as a nurse, that Morrison came across Pathfinder books. She wrote to her brother Dick, who also became a member of the communist movement, that the speeches of Malcolm X would “knock your socks off.” She joined the Socialist Action League, the predecessor of the Communist League, in the mid-1970s.

A display at the meeting illustrated aspects of Morrison’s life. Photos showed her marching for abortion rights in 1977, protesting the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, joining a 2006 protest by locked-out supermarket workers, and attending a protest rally last November on Burma.

In the late 1970s the Socialist Action League made a turn toward the industrial unions. Morrison got a job at a large car assembly plant, Todd Motors, in Wellington.

Manuele Lasalo was one of a layer of young workers attracted to the party at the time and he worked with Morrison at Todd’s. “Mervyl was a real party builder,” Lasalo said. “She’d always have a paper with her going around the factory, talking with workmates.”

In 1983 Morrison moved to Auckland. Brigid Mulrennan, a supporter of the Communist League, recalled her effectiveness on the job in building solidarity for unions in struggle and her enthusiasm for selling the socialist press.

Diane Rainey, another supporter of the league, described how in her retirement Morrison remained a stalwart of the communist movement and determinedly pursued her lifelong love of reading. “She was one among many to benefit from the political decision by Pathfinder to increase the font size in their publications,” said Rainey.

Winding up the panel, Joel Britton, on behalf of the SWP leadership, saluted Morrison’s political example and the party she dedicated her life to building. He pointed to sharpening class battles in the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest among meat packers and immigrant workers, as signaling political openings for the communist movement today.

Members of Morrison’s family, including Dick Morrison, attended the meeting. During the program Fowler read out messages from the Communist League in Canada and from Morrison’s former comrades.

The evening concluded with a supper provided by supporters of the Communist League. Participants contributed US$1,400 towards the long-term publishing projects of the communist movement.  
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