VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


Jack Shapiro: A star shining in our sky

Jack Shapiro, “Our British Correspondent”  died on 29th January, 2010 at the age of 93. Through several generations and many decades his comradeship with our party was both deeply political and deeply personal. How lucky we are to have been his comrade! Our ideas were shaped through his articles, through conversations and letters. No book written by Comrade Ted Hill was published without Jack's clear analysis and criticism. He stood shoulder to shoulder with our party in the struggle against the revisionism that tried to take the revolutionary heart from Marxism-Leninism.

As our party's message of condolence published in the last edition of Vanguard said of him, “Alongside his wife and comrade, Marie, he made an inestimable contribution to the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) … in his unwavering commitment to Marxism-Leninism as a science which must be deeply studied and constantly tested against reality in order to be developed.
“Jack truly embodied what the word 'communist' means. He dedicated his entire life to the service of the ordinary people of the world. He knew that if they were led by a working class imbued with Marxism-Leninism, they were an unstoppable force. But he knew that this would not happen spontaneously, that without the guidance of communist parties, organised and steeled in the particular struggles of their own countries, capitalism would continue to triumph.”
The finest cause on earth
Jack was born on the anniversary the storming of the Bastille by French revolutionaries, and he too took a revolutionary role in momentous events.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), the CPGB(ML), described some of his contributions, “Born into the working-class Jewish community in east London, Jack served a full eight decades in the communist movement; decades that took him from a young teenage militant in the ranks of the Young Communist League to Britain’s most cherished veteran communist fighter.
“To paraphrase the words of Ostrovsky in 'How the Steel Was Tempered', our Comrade Jack can have no regrets for a cowardly and trivial past. In dying, he can truly say that all his life and all his strength were given to the finest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind.
“It is indeed appropriate that his final speech should have been given from his wheelchair on 3 October 2009 at our party’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese revolution.”
In his final years Jack became the Honorary President of the CPGB (ML) and of “Hands off China!” The CPGB(ML) wrote that for their party, he was “truly a star shining in our sky”. No better words describe his contribution to our party as well.
Mass line
Jack was fierce in the struggle to implement for the mass line.
“Listening to the workers on the job is vital, for in what they say can be detected the wisdom that carries onto the path of correct activity. That was what Mao meant when he said 'all wisdom resides in the masses'. By listening to those in the front line of the struggle and applying our understanding we can give leadership,” he wrote.
On another occasion he pointed out, “The main thrust must be to get rid of US hegemony. In Australia and even in Britain, the heavy hand of USA imperialism holds down the people of the world. The USA has bases in 172 countries. It moves its soldiers and their armaments from one place to another either to clamp down or stir up or to move in with its local collaborators.
“In the process of struggle many people begin to see the evils of the USA dominance and it is precisely in the course of this struggle that there will be found people who want to do more than get rid of USA dominance and are then ready to embrace the revolutionary way forward.”
A garden grows
The breadth of Jack's connections amongst the people was extraordinary. The ceremony to award him Honorary Life Membership of the CPGB (ML), drew 100 people, among them the Chinese First Secretary, the North Korean Ambassador, and the Director of Xinhua News Agency. With characteristic modesty he said, “I had to pinch myself that it was all about me.”
As well as various other left publications, the conservative 'Times' newspaper carried an obituary for him. Last year he was a runner-up in the first Times/Sternberg Active Life Award, which celebrated the achievements of older people, for his work on behalf of deaf people and those with tinnitus. In that work he drew in Lord Astley and the Duchess of Devonshire but it was with ordinary people that he worked most closely.  
The Times' article contains an extraordinary list of achievements, rightly describing them as 'prodigious'. He truly served the people. Yet 'The Times' did not mention that he was a communist, or include any of his directly political work.
Jack wrote of the genesis of his work for the deaf, “Many years ago I posed a question to Ted Hill. As there was no ML party here, what could a restless person like me do? Well, said Ted, you could write for Vanguard and raise some funds...but then I asked Ted, what about the deaf (as I am) and those with tinnitus (like me)? Ted encouraged me to plunge into the work for deaf people and also suggested that we form a Tinnitus Association for people to help themselves as there was no help elsewhere.”
In 2002 he wrote in the British Tinnitus Association magazine, 'Quiet”, “The future holds much promise. The BTA can fulfil the hopes of all people with tinnitus. The watchword is always HOPE.”
That hope for the future was at the core of his work as a communist. He wrote of his much-loved garden as a metaphor for the revolutionary change be knew to be inevitable, “But the buds are swelling on the magnolia tree, the grass is green and many of the plants already indicate that Spring is on the way. Shelley says, 'If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?' He meant it in a political sense. It augers well for us.”
Farewell Comrade. You have helped plant and tend a garden of the people. The buds are swelling on your magnolia. Here the beautiful Australian wattles set their autumn buds, buds of revolution that you from so far away helped nurture.