Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Remarks in Honor of George Fishman

by Norman Markowitz

On Sunday I spoke at a Celebration of the Life of George Fishman, my friend and comrade, who passed away recently at the age of 92. The celebration was held at the Peoples Center in New Haven, Connecticut and speakers included Ben Sears of our board, Jarvis Tyner, Executive Vice Chair of the CPUSA, John Olsen, President of the Connecticut AFL-CI0 along with trade unionists and local political leaders, Communists and non-Communists, who came to celebrate George's lifetime of struggle and achievement. His daughter, Joelle Fishman, CPUSA leader in Connecticut, was among the most moving speakers as she described what her "papa' meant to her and to society. Rarely have I seen the personal and the political so beautifully synthesized. The program was titled "A Life with a Purpose: Carry It On." Here are my remarks, dedicated to all, but especially to his life comrade, Edie Fishman, who continues the struggle.Anyone who know George should feel free to come forward with comment

George Fishman: Scholar, Activist, Communist

I knew and know George and his life comrade, Edie, over the last three decades.George was a teacher, a scholar, and activist But he was no lone ranger of activism.

From the last years of the great depression to the end of his life , he was a Communist, a member of the YCL and the Communist Party USA, a partisan of the greatest liberation movement in human history, the movement which produced the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, made the major contribution to the defeat of fascism in World War II, and the collapse of colonialism after World War II. It is the movement which
since then has been key to the struggles to keep the victory over fascism from being reversed by the recrudescence militarism, nuclear war, racism, and jungle capitalism. This movement nurtured George and
Edie and they in turn contributed to making it better.

George was both an internationalist and a patriot. His internationalism and his patriotism were best expressed in his lifelong struggle against racism. In the U.S. a specific form of racism rooted in slavery and segregation more than anything else deformed all of American history and served as the "role model" for the U.S. denying the rights of people through the world. George understood this and worked to end it You can read his dissertation and book, The Struggle for Freedom and Equality, The Development of a Peoples Identity, 1624 to 1850 published by Garland Press. You can also read in past issues of Political Affairs and the present Peoples Weekly World and its predecessors, his writings on the African American freedom struggle, labor and other questions. You can also read For a Better World, a collection of George's writing from 1952 to 2000 on the African American Freedom Struggle in New Jersey which George and his daughter Joelle compiled.

In the 1980s, I worked with George and Edie and others in a local organization, CROP(the committee against racism and other prejudices) which fought against racial profiling and for the removal of dehumanizing prejudices from daily life. We also campaigned to keep Robert Bork from being appointed to the Supreme Court.

On peace issues, we acted to make Highland Park a nuclear free town and took to the streets against Ronald Reagan, his government and policies, more times than all of the B movies and bad TV shows that Reagan made. And we continued to take to the streets against his Country Club successor, George HW Bush. When there was a petition to sign to advance something humane or stop something inhumane, there was George and Edie, getting people to get up and work, act, always in a dedicated way, never becoming frustrated and angry, always encouraging everyone around them to "keep on coming."

When George and Edie left New Jersey to come to New Haven, our loss was Connecticut's gain

When I think of George I think of an old joke liberals told about Communists and an old story from the French resistance. The joke was this: What is heaven.like. It is filled with Communists who are organizing to make it better." That was George. The story from the French resistance. A Communist resistance fighter was captured by the German fascists and put before a firing squad. When the officer asked him if he had any last words, he said, Long Live the Communist Party of Germany." That in its internationalism was also George.

Let me conclude this tribute to George by saying that he lives through his lifetime of achievements. His life, to use a concept derived from Marxism, had enormous use value, in that it contributed to making his community, his country and the world a better more humane, safer place.