A long struggle for principles
Malcolm Gerreyn 1925-2014
A World to Win mourns the loss of our comrade Malcolm Gerreyn, who passed away on 8 October. Malcolm was a principled Marxist political thinker and activist for all of his long adult life.
A tribute by Corinna Lotz
With his sharp insights (and sometimes surreal humour) he inspired political colleagues as well as family, friends and acquaintances to challenge the status quo, in ideas and in practice. He was passionate about all economic and political transformations as well as new discoveries in science. He wanted above all to participate in a revolutionary transition from capitalism to a more advanced kind of society.
He was born in Colombo, Ceylon, today’s Sri Lanka, to a family of Dutch Burgher ancestry. His great-great grandfather, a Dutch ship’s captain, arrived on the island when it was a Dutch colony and fell in love with the country, remaining there for the rest of his life.
Malcolm joined the newly founded Communist Party of Ceylon at an early age. Ceylon was a dominion under British rule at this time and in 1958 Malcolm left for England, where he found work as a film editor for MGM studios and later as a film editor at the BBC. In 1961 he met and fell in love with Jelena Sukuljevic, a young member of the Yugoslav League of Communists who was in London training to be an interpreter. After Jelena’s return to her country, the couple overcame extraordinary difficulties to rejoin each other and marry.
Always a revolutionary socialist and man of principle, Malcolm broke with Stalinism and joined the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League in the 1960s and became a founder member of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International. After the 1985 split in the Workers Revolutionary Party, Malcolm joined the Marxist Party and contributed articles for its magazine, Marxist Monthly, amongst them "Shoot to Kill – Review of Stalker" and “The Blind Watchmaker”, under the nom de plume Adrian Edgar.
Malcolm relished his job as a librarian in the British Library during the 1970s and 1980s, as he was madly in love with books. He had a huge interest in philosophy and scientific developments. As one of his London neighbours wrote of him, before his departure for Australia last July:
“Malcolm was a full-on Marxist and intellectual engagement was his forte. He saw himself as an agent of historical materialism that was undermining the roots of capitalism and since 2008 history seems to be going his way.”
As Malcolm’s son Boris said so humorously at his Melbourne commemoration, he could see the bigger picture in politics – though sometimes he missed the point in other, more mundane matters.
He also wrote poetry and many plays, including political satires. In later years he learned the art of drawing and oil painting, making portraits of his family and intriguing depictions of his home and garden. He loved the cinema, theatre and jazz music. Above all, he was a devoted companion to his wife, helping her in every way possible. Everyone was made to feel welcome at their Wandsworth home, surrounded by paintings that revealed Malcolm’s Sri Lankan heritage as well as Jelena’s Yugoslav-Serbian history and culture.
During the last decades of his life, Malcolm was a strong supporter of the Movement for a Socialist Future and A World to Win, an active participant in conferences and meetings. He helped to spread our ideas and promote our publications amongst everyone he knew. In our last discussions with him, he was struggling like so many to work out a political response to the economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath that could put an end to the capitalist system.
With his endless sense of humour, acumen and huge curiosity – as well as anger and frustration – combined with a determination to discover how history could be moved on, Malcolm was a shining example to all those who knew him.
Edgar Malcolm Augustine Gerreyn
born Colombo 28 August 1925, died Melbourne 8 October 2014