Danny Rubin Henry Winston Tribute


It is hard to overstate the importance of the contributions of Henry Winston to the Party  and to me personally.  My mother, my wife of 58 years, Dorothy, and Winnie were the most important adults in my life. When Winston returned to political life, it was consciously decided he would mentor me. I had just graduated from youth work and had become Organizational Secretary. We spent hours together every day for ten years. And we remained close in my succeeding assignments. I happened to be in the Soviet hospital along with John Pittman the last weeks of Winnie's life, reading to the two of them and discussing developments under the new Gorbachev leadership.

Winston was one of the most remarkable human beings and political leaders I ever knew and had the privilege of working with.  He had a very strong grasp of Marxist theory, of politics and was a master of the theory and practice of Party organization. He knew a life of hardship from childhood and throughout his life which he faced with great fortitude, steadfastness, and humanity. For a man blinded in prison, who was not able to go to school beyond junior high and yet write two masterful volumes, and do everything else he did on a daily basis, is quite remarkable. His devotion to his class, his people,  his Party and to his family, friends and co-workers was unshakeable.  His concern for people, their lives, their families, their jobs and health was just part of his nature.  And he was a great mentor and teacher to all around him, a teacher by example, in the first place.
What he taught us stands in great stead today when the people of our country face so sharp a choice of direction, when they face an extreme right that wants to take everything severely backward, versus the Obama Administration, with all its limitations, is open to moving forward from where we are in the interests of the great bulk of the people.  What does Winston teach us?  To recognize the sharpness of the danger, that a major section of monopoly wants to reverse everything and together with the most backward political trends and organizations to enrich big monopoly at the expense of all working people. He teaches us to recognize whose self-interest runs in the opposite direction, the need for the widest unity of major sections of the population, starting with the multi-racial working class, the racially and nationally oppressed as a whole, women, youth, seniors and many more.  He teaches us that racist ideology and practice and anti-communism are the greatest weapons of reaction to divide the people. The labor movement and working class as a whole needs to lead the way.  The Communist Party needs to show this strategic course and play a special role in uniting the necessary forces and defeating the attempts at division. These are lessons for today even more than they were when Henry Winston wrote his two books and lived the remarkable and heroic life he did.

I believe Henry Winston is one of the heroes of our people for all time. We have gone through periods when new movements for social progress felt they needed to start afresh, that there was little in our history to draw from. We are in such a period. I believe, as did Winnie, that a mass sustained working people's movement for democracy, progress and then socialism must learn from history. It must draw on all that is positive in our history. It must have men and women who remain heroes, to be a truly popular movement. To Marx, Engels, and Lenin heroes were people who made outstanding contributions in leading and moving with masses of people in a forward direction. They were not without weaknesses or faults, nor did they always win.

In our history the heroes include Crispus Attucks, Tom Paine, Samuel Adams, Hariet Tubman, Chief Joseph, Wendell Philipps, Abaham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Parsons, William Z Foster, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Sen Katayama, Jesus Colon, W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King,Jr. Lorenzo Torrez, Henry Winston and many more . Internationally, they include Marx, Engels, Lenin, Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxembourg, Georgi Dimitrov, Dolores Ibarruri, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, and many more.

Winnie sought to teach me and others many things. You will have to be the judge of how well we learned. He taught me about the centrality of the struggle for full equality and against racism in relation to the class struggle and the entire front of struggle for democracy, peace, jobs, progress and socialism. He taught me and corrected me on many things that have to do with the sensitivity of whites to national oppression and that white Communist leaders have to fulfill a high level of responsibility in fighting racism among white working people. But he also taught me much in every area of Marxist theory and practice, including on the necessity for the Communist Party to exist and grow.

Winnie was a teacher up to the last few days of his life. Just before he passed away in the Soviet hospital I read to Winnie and John Pittman, who also was nearly blind, from the Soviet press translations about the state visit of Gorbachev to India where he met with Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister, son of Indira Gandhi and grandson of Nehru. The last sentence of the joint communiqué sounded to me like a pacifist position and I commented, that it must have been placed there by Gandhi. Winston said, "No, that last sentence was not Gandhi, it was Lenin." I was startled, but since Winston said it I acceptedd it. When I returned to the States, I found the quote in the Lenin Collected Works. This was Winnie's last gift to me, his last lesson, which  I shall forever treasure. Lenin wrote in The Question of Peace, July 1915, LCW, V.21, p.293, "An end to wars, peace among the nations, the cessation of pillaging and violence - such is our ideal..." Thank you so much Winnie for that final lesson.

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