Obituary: Alf Filer: 1953-2011

Fred Leplat pays tribute to our comrade and friend:

Alf died tragically and suddenly in a road accident on Thursday 23rd June while returning home from a Socialist Resistance meeting in Brighton. We did not get a chance to say goodbye.

I knew Alf since the late 1970s when we were both in the International Marxist Group (then the British Section of the Fourth International). Alf was well known on the left and the labour movement in Brent, North London, since the early 1970s. He was involved then in Brent East Labour Party, mobilised for the Grunwick strike, helped organise the campaign to deselect the sitting right-wing Labour MP Reg Freeson, and was for several years the Constituency Labour Party Secretary.

Alf had been raised in a Jewish family, but early on, he rejected religion and became a socialist and anti-Zionist. He remained committed all his life to socialism, and in particular revolutionary Marxism, internationalism and the fight against racism and Zionism. He was always delighted when there was a letter in the local press from a member of the Brent Jewish community condemning him for opposing Israel.

With his irrepressible sense of humour and his knowledge of Judaism, he would always find incredibly amusing the ideological contortions of Zionists used to justify the existence of Israel or the continuation of obscure religious practices. But his intransigent opposition to Zionism also made him an intransigent opponent of racism, including anti-Semitism, and fascism.

Alf was one of the key people building opposition to the attempts by the English Defence League (EDL) to march through Harrow in 2010. It was through the efforts of Alf and others that they were stopped, catching off guard both the EDL and the police with the huge mobilisation. He was particularly proud of all the students from his college who bunked off lessons to join the demonstration.

In the mid-1980s, work and personal commitments forced Alf to play a less active role in politics, although he reappeared from time to time when he could. During that time, he raised his two sons, Leon and Lawrence, on his own, taking them to judo competitions and having a regular stall at car-boot sales to make ends meet. Given his ability at talking people into buying socialist papers, I had no doubt he was able to sell the most unsaleable objects.

But despite this stepping back from activity in politics, Alf kept to his political principles. Throughout these years, he remained an internationalist and a revolutionary, and a sympathiser of the Fourth International. Of the far left organisations, he considered the FI to be the least sectarian and dogmatic. It was also the one which understood sincerely the need to build a new mass party on the left which could be a home for all types of socialists since the Labour Party had fully embraced neo-liberalism. Alf renewed his active connection to the FI in 2008 by joining Socialist Resistance.

Alf worked as a lecturer at Harrow FE colleges for over 30 years, where he was very popular with his students.

One of them, Raphie, on hearing of Alf’s death, posted the following on the Socialist Resistance website: He was my A-level Economics lecturer and he was the best teacher, period! I got an A in economics thanks to Alf’s approach of teaching us ‘outside the book’.

Alf always said “this is the best time to study economics because you lot are witnessing the recession, first hand, seeing people lose their job, and restaurants, cafes and shops closing down as a result of the 2008 recession.”

Alf retired in September 2010 and moved down to Worthing near Brighton in October, partly to offer his son Lawrence a less stressful environment.

With his usual energy, he immediately threw himself into the local political scene, joining the Worthing Solidarity Network campaigning against the cuts, organising a meeting against the war, and helping to re-launch the Trades Council. He had organised a meeting on ecosocialism, which as a tribute to him, went ahead despite his death the previous week. Alf’s funeral at the end of July was packed with people who knew him from London, Brighton and Worthing.

He will be missed and remembered for his energy, commitment, and his sense of humour which meant you could have a good laugh during some pretty terrible moments.

A celebration of Alfs life is being held on Saturday 10 September, 7-11pm at The Tin Tabernacle, 12-16 Cambridge Avenue, NW6 5BA
very near Kilburn Park tube (Bakerloo line) and Kilburn High Rd overground stations
and 6, 16, 31, 32, 98, 206, 316, 328, 332, 632 bus stops
The evening will commence at 7pm and hot food from the excellent local Indian restaurant Shamrat will be served at 8pm at a cost of £7 per person. There will also be a bar run by the people who run the Tin Tabernacle (which hasn’t been a religious building for many years) at below pub prices.

Following the food there will be a series of tributes from people who knew Alf well – and space for those who decide they want to add something on the night.
There will be entertainment from Ian Saville and music to end the evening.

There is no admission charge for the event but we are asking those who can to make a donation with the money going to Leon and Lawrence to defray any outstanding funeral costs and to donate to whatever cause(s) they think would be closest to Alf’s heart.

Because we are ordering food, we are asking people to RSVP if they can to by Thursday 8th

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