Obituary: Edmund Grant

Edmund Grant, a life-long member, died, at the end of November after being incapacitated and out of circulation for the past six years. His father was a Party member and he himself joined in 1950 at the age of 16 and was a member of successive North London branches. As a conscientious objector to “national service” in the State’s killing machine, he was ordered to work instead in Colney Hatch psychiatric hospital. Partly brought up in Argentina, he was a fluent Spanish speaker and also spoke other European languages, which helped him find employment as a shipping clerk. Later he was employed by Remploy. He was a member of the Executive Committee for many years and the Party’s candidate at the 1964 and 1970 General Elections. He spoke outdoors, at Hyde Park, White Stone Pond and elsewhere, and indoors at lectures and in debates, including one against the National Front. He wrote occasionally, mainly on Spanish and Latin American affairs, for the Socialist Standard. He was an early member of the William Morris Society and of the old ASTMS trade union. Our condolences go to his wife, children and grandchildren.

S.C. writes: Eddie Grant personified Oscar Wilde’s ‘soul of man under Socialism’ and served as a model as well as a mentor to many of us who had the patience to learn from him. (Eddie was not given to abridged versions of the case for Socialism – or of anything else.)

Eddie exemplified a boundless humanism: kindly, jocular, literate, cosmopolitan and never dogmatic. He hated what he called ‘narrowness’: that particular sclerosis of the intellect which characterises the true believer who knows because he knows. What made Eddie’s knowledge so remarkable was his capacity to explore the peripheries of his own experience and understanding, searching for reality in global corners too easily overlooked by others. His linguistic ability helped here, but more important was a deep and uncommon cultural sensibility to different ways of living, thinking and working. His knowledge of European and Latin American history and politics was extensive, as was his great appreciation of music, dance, fine art, literature and the theatre.

Given these broad aesthetic enthusiasms, Eddie’s life-long interest in the art and socialism of William Morris is hardly surprising. He was an active member of the William Morris Society and encouraged many others to explore and learn from Morris’s constructive approach to socialism. Indeed, like Morris, there was something about Eddie that was particularly unsuited to the absurdities of the money system; doing a job; possessing a passport; or confronting the anti-social. (I was with Eddie when he was mugged one night on the way home from the Executive Committee; his combination of genuine incomprehension and indignation so frustrated the knife-wielding muggers that in the end they jumped off the train at the next stop in search of a less verbosely recalcitrant victim.) Of course, this was nothing to compare with the legalised robbery against which Eddie fought with no less determination.

Many of us gained from Eddie an inescapable core of socialist consciousness. He gave us a foundation for seeing and making sense of history which could only have been absorbed through personal interaction with someone whose principles and behaviour were in accord. His sensitivity to both the personal and global dimensions of power inequalities led him to develop a sophisticated commitment to socialism as a mode of living as well as a system of production. Until his health finally prevented him from doing so, Eddie pursued this commitment with a vivacity and joviality that none who knew him could forget. His truly awful puns reflected a mind that could not resist mocking the absurdity of the world around him. He enjoyed laughter and refused to believe that politics must be deadly serious. Above all, Eddie inspired his fellow socialists not simply to get what they want from the world, but to want more and better from the world – a world that is poorer for his absence.

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