Many lives in one life
Francois Rouleau, as we knew him, would not have wanted us to write about him. But since he was a rebel through and through, we think he might have understood our decision to do so anyway.
Workers’ Fight wouldn’t exist if it were not for him. Thirty-three years ago, he launched a bulletin called Workers’ Platform with a train driver from King’s Cross railway station in London. That was, ﬁttingly, on the 1st of May 1987.
The idea at the time wasn’t for this activity to lead to a group called “workers’ ﬁght”. It was just meant to be a “demonstration of possibilities” - to encourage other communist activists to do likewise. But as it turned out, this did not catch on. So the few of us who were convinced it was a good idea, took it up regardless and luckily for us, we had Francois to help us. He stood with us through thick and thin, even though he had to split his time between London and Paris and his responsibilities as an active member of Lutte Ouvrière.
Francois would never allow an opportunity to escape him. When he had returned to England in the mid-1980s to forge links with political groups here, on behalf of LO, the miners were on strike. He immediately looked up an old friend and comrade from his days in the CNT, who was now a Welsh coal miner - and they proceeded to organise a joint strike with the dockers nearby. He despaired that the miners had been unable to spread their strike themselves, that truly, they were lions led by donkeys.
With a Gauloise in the corner of his mouth whistling bits of Ravel’s Bolero or an Irish Civil Rights song - he was able to inject enthusiasm into any discouraged activist he came across, and inspire him or her to take up the struggle again. Francois shamed us all. He knew more about the political history of the British working class than any of us. But then he also managed to know more about the history and politics of India and South Korea - and South Africa and China... And not only that: about mathematics and science - and music and the arts… He insisted that everyone should absorb as much culture as possible. And he regularly debugged and reprogrammed all our computers into the bargain!
Francois fought a never-ending battle against our ignorance, stubbornness and prejudices. And this allowed us, who thought we already knew Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, to meet them all again - and as if for the very ﬁrst time. We often wondered whether we even deserved the great input of energy we got from him. He wasted not one minute, trying all kinds of new initiatives. Under his guidance, we produced what seems today, when we look back, a disproportionately huge amount of political writing.
He wrote his ﬁnal editorial for the Ford Dagenham bulletin - about the movement sparked by the killing by US cops of George Floyd - on 10 June 2020.
These are the last two paragraphs:
“Yes, whether in the US or in Britain, there has to be a ﬁght - not just to get rid of the plague of racism, but to get rid of the class-based system, dividing us, to control us.
Of course, the virus of greed which infects the bosses and their decrepit, outdated system, has only one ultimate cure: social change, which many of the protesters in America are talking about today. For them it may just be words, said in fury. But the truth is that there is no way to reform this system. That has been tried over and over - and in much better circumstances than today - to no avail. It will have to be overthrown”.
Francois used his ﬁghting energy to the very last. He lived so many lives in one life, we were lucky to have had him around us for as long as we did. [11 March 1947 - 25 June 2020]