Obituary: Pieter Lawrence
We regret to report the death at the end of March of comrade Pieter Lawrence of South London branch. He was born in Western Australia in 1932 where his parents had emigrated to try to make a living as farmers (his mother was Dutch, hence the spelling of his name) but the great slump of the 1930s forced them to return to England. In 1951 he joined the Socialist Party, of which his elder brother, Charles, was already a member. A conscientious objector to National Service, after a short spell in Wormwood Scrubs he agreed to go into the medical corps. Then, disliking being a wage slave to an employer, he worked on his own, first as a tree surgeon then as an antiques dealer. He was for many years an active member of the school parents association in his local village.
In the Party he was a writer, outdoor speaker, indoor lecturer and a memorable contributor to Party conferences. He served on the Executive Committee on a number of occasions, most recently in 2006, as well as on the Editorial Committee of the Socialist Standard, and the World Socialist, and also on the Party’s Education Committee. Arising out of the latter he was instrumental in the setting up of an ad hoc committee about Production for Use, to examine the evidence for how, once the barriers of minority class ownership and production for profit had been removed, the world could produce enough to supply all its inhabitants with adequate food, housing, clean running water, medical services, education and other amenities. The committee also looked into ways in which socialist society could organise the production and distribution of goods and services without money, involving a self-regulating system of stock-control. One result of this was the Party’s pamphlet Socialism As A Practical Alternative, the first edition of which was published in 1987 and which Pieter drafted.
The practicality of socialism as a solution to the problems created by capitalism remained his primary concern thereafter. This was reflected in the publication last year of a political novel The Last Conflict (reviewed in the December 2006 Socialist Standard) and of an on-line book Practical Socialism: Its Principles and Methods which can be found at www.pieterlawrence.com. He also actively promoted the view that socialists needed to reflect on our attitude towards the need for some coercion and restraint in a socialist society (particularly its early days), though not all aspects of his views on this found majority support within the Party, especially regarding whether law and legal institutions would continue into socialism.
Our sincere condolences go to his partner, comrade Phyllis Hart, and to their son and grandchildren.