Obituary: Robert Barltrop

Robert Barltrop

Former member Robert Barltrop died on 26 April after a short illness. He joined the SPGB in 1946 as Robert Coster. A prolific speaker and writer for the Party, his work including the pamphlet Schools Today (1959). He resigned in 1959, before drifting into the fringes of the anarchist movement, and for a time even became an independent local councillor before rejoining the Party in 1970. He wrote prolifically for the Socialist Standard (and drew its first ever cartoon-strip feature), also serving for several years on the editorial committee. He left again in 1982.

Born in 1922, in his youth, he was, amongst other things, an enthusiastic boxer, and always retained an interest in the pugilistic arts. He worked as a school-teacher. He was an excellent artist, especially line drawing, and an expert in calligraphy. Very proud of his London heritage, he wrote several books on the cockney patois, a pride also reflected in three short autobiographical works published by Waltham Forest Library and in his regular weekly column in the Newham Recorder. He also notably wrote a book on the American author Jack London.

He was best known though for his work The Monument (1975), which remains a fascinating and entertaining introduction to the history of the SPGB. The book was largely written in the 1960s while he was out of contact with the Party, which explains the contentiousness of some of its many stories, anecdotes and perceptions.

Robert Baltrop was a controversial figure in the Party but he was always very civil to younger members who had not crossed swords with him politically. With him vanishes a great London character.

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