Party News

Bruce Groves (1949–1999)

15 June 1999

Workers Power is sorry to report the death of Bruce Groves, a founder member of our organisation. Bruce was an active revolutionary in Birmingham and the Black Country from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. In the last few years ill health compelled him to reduce his political workload. This frustrated Bruce but he remained a loyal supporter of Workers Power and the League for a Revolutionary Communist International, contributing to our work in every way he could.

Bruce was a revolutionary from his school days, attracted first to anarchism, but later to the International Socialists (IS—the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party). His working class background, the experience of family and friends around him in the Black Country, led him to an immediate and natural identification with workers’ struggles. But Bruce took this further. He identified with the struggles of oppressed people wherever they were and generalised from this, seeking a deeper understanding of the roots of oppression and exploitation.

Bruce joined the Left Faction in IS. He agreed with the Faction’s critique of the IS leadership’s abandonment of critical support for the IRA after the Aldershot bombings in 1972. He argued fiercely that revolutionaries in Britain had a duty to support the IRA’s fight against the British army. At the same time he had no sympathy for the petit-bourgeois nationalist politics of the republicans and still less for the romantic illusions peddled by their sympathisers in Britain.

Bruce participated in the debates and discussions on programme, on economism and on the Portuguese revolution that led the Left Faction to widen its critique of IS, which led to our expulsion and then to the formation of Workers Power in 1976.

At the age of 17 Bruce suffered a serious accident that left him wheelchair bound. Only the devoted care of his family, particularly his aunt and uncle, together with his own fierce determination, enabled him to be so active for so long.

He attended meetings, went on demonstrations, helped organise all kinds of activities, putting up with discomfort and the inevitable indignities to do so. The trouble was worth it for Bruce because he wanted to fight back against the system.

He played an important role in the growth of Workers Power and contributed to its programmatic and theoretical work. Keen to understand the scientific basis for the Marxist programme, Bruce not only pursued his own education but played an important role in educating others. He developed a sound grasp of the basics of Marxist political economy.

When Workers Power expanded in the 1980s, Bruce, although unable to play a full part in solidarity work with the miners or the printworkers, contributed by running educationals for young people who were attracted to our organisation.

He applied his knowledge, maintaining his interest in Irish politics, and developing our understanding of the unfolding crisis in southern Africa. He participated fully in our debates about the nature of the Stalinist states.

Bruce had a fierce hatred of racial oppression and injustice. He developed an increasing interest in the theoretical debates around feminism and the wider questions of social oppression. This, together with the day to day experience of discrimination and confinement that capitalist society imposes on most disabled people, led him to develop a theory of disabled oppression at odds with that of the majority of the group. He conducted the argument as always in a determined and loyal fashion.

In developing this interest in the politics of disability, Bruce had no time for sentiment nor for the ‘right to lifers’. He argued that it was possible to fight for the right to full participation in society, but to still support the scientific advances that could prevent some forms of disability.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Bruce’s personality was the contrast between his physical confinement and the wide breadth of his interests. He had a powerful intellect and developed a wide knowledge but he also possessed that ability to make a lead of imagination, the ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes on the other side of the world. His interests were wide and varied—in contemporary scientific debates, in art history, not to speak of opera, the theatre, rock music and cricket.

This sharp contrast meant that Bruce could never be resigned or contented. At times he fell prey to depression, born out of personal isolation. But his last few years were marked by an important change when he met and married Tina, and became a stepfather to Hayley. And last year we were able to celebrate the birth of Bruce and Tina’s daughter Imogen.

To them and to all Bruce’s family and friends, we extend our sympathy and condolences. We shall miss him very much.

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