You do not look forward to visiting a grave! When you are young you think that some ‘spirit’ resides in the graveyard, and it might affect you. Adversely, of course. And when you are of my age, the number at which Bingo caller says ‘Your Place or Mine? – Number Sixty-nine’, you are not afraid of the ‘spirit’, but you discover that some of your contemporaries are already resting there! ‘Your Place or Mine? – Number Sixty-nine’ rings in the ear again!!
I had planned to visit Highgate Cemetery. The reason? Karl Marx is buried there. For two years it was on my agenda, but it never happened. Something kept me away. This year I kept it as the first item on my ‘to-do’ list when I planned my trip to London.
This story is not about Karl Marx and his grave. I will be writing a separate blog post on it. It is about the men lying in some of the graves there.
A communist leader in India informed me that there were many eminent comrades who were buried close to Marx’s grave, so I looked around and clicked photographs. I did not know any of them, but then Google always helps. This is what I discovered. And then came a twist in the tale! A surprise!! I was not prepared for it.
First the comrades!
Veteran British communist Jack Shapiro, a veteran of the anti-revisionist movement and lifelong communist, who was a member of the CPGB-ML was lying there.
Claudia Jones, was a Trinidad-born journalist and activist. She became a political activist and black nationalist through Communism in USA. As a result of her political activities, she was deported in 1955 and moved to the United Kingdom. She founded Britain’s first major black newspaper, West Indian Gazette, in 1958.
Mansoor Hekmat Zhoobin Razani born just four days after I was born, was an Iranian Marxist theorist, revolutionary and leader of the worker-communist movement. He opposed the Shah and, after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, led the Worker-Communist Party of Iran.
Chris Harman was a British journalist and political activist, and a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party.
Paul Mackintosh Foot was a British investigative journalist, political campaigner, author, and long-time member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
I moved around clicked more photographs. As I returned to the gate, I saw one grave. With the ‘head’ on it. Curious, I clicked a few photographs. ‘Bruce Reynolds’ it said, he was born in 1931 and had died in 2013. I noted the last two digits 31 and 13! Interesting, I thought. Click, click!!
I expected him to be a comrade. Given that he was buried near the entrance and had a beautifully made grave with a sculpted head sitting on it, I guessed he may have been a noble man.
In 1963 I was a school boy who read crime stories. One story which kept repeating on many magazines was the daring robbery of a train. ‘The Great Train Robbery’ it was called. The Royal Mail train was looted by a gang of sixteen men who had plotted the crime carefully. The robbers had decamped with over £2.6 million (equivalent to more than £53.5 million today). It was shared equally among the sixteen! Thieves also have their sense of fair play. As they say in one Bollywood movie, ‘choron ke bhi kuchh usool hote hain!’ It was a shocking story. No weapons were used. Films have been made on this story and books written.
It took some time for the police to track down the robbers. Finally, they caught the man who led the robbery – Bruce Reynolds!
A robber, whose ways differ only in detail from the ways of some capitalists, is laid to rest not too far from the grave of the man who opposed the capitalists – Karl Marx!
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”