[Marxism] John Boyd 1945-2014

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 9 01:15:12 MDT 2014


I have been asked by John’s family to say a few words today.  I spoke at
the funeral of John’s beloved son, Robert, and now I speak at the funeral
of the father.  I have lost a good friend, and his family have lost a good
father and a good grandfather. We are all grieving and I have no words to
ease that grief, especially that of his family.  Grief and death are part
of the human condition.  We all live and we all die and there is nothing to
be done about that.  What is important is how we live.  And I can say that
John led a good life. That is what we must hold onto now. He lived and died
a generous, warm hearted man.  I personally could always rely upon him for
love and friendship and understanding. Just before he died I told him that
he was one of the very few people in this world that I could talk to about
anything with an absolute sense of trust, and he thanked me for that.

I first met John in 1980 when he joined the International Socialists after
he moved from Mt Isa to Brisbane. This was during the reign of
Bjelke-Petersen, the far right premier of Qld.  There had been strong civil
liberty struggles against Petersen’s attempt to ban the right to march.
John led the movement against the ban on street marches in Mt Isa.  Those
of you who have been to Mt Isa will know how incredible an achievement it
was to create a radical movement in that town.  John played a key role in
two struggles during his time in Mt Isa.  He was prominent in the
anti-uranium movement and also fought for the rights of Indigenous
Australians.  He played a key role in the founding of provision of
Aboriginal Housing. Mt Isa was and remains a deeply racist town. Taking up
the cause of the First Australians was a brave and generous thing to do and
it was typical of John.

During our time in the International Socialists we took up a range of
struggles.  These led to direct confrontation with Bjelke-Petersen’s police
force.  One of my favourite stories about John was of his arrest during a
march in support of women’s right to access abortion.  Petersen had
threatened a bill which would make abortion illegal for all reasons
including rape and incest.  During the rally and the March that followed
John was responsible for carrying an effigy of Bjelke-Petersen.  I cannot
recall if we were to hang or burn the effigy.  In any case, John was
intercepted and arrested and the effigy was confiscated,  and we never saw
it again.

John duly turned up in court to face a ridiculous range of charges which
would have cost him thousands.  Just as the trial was about to begin the
prosecuting officer got up and advised the court that the police were
dropping the matter owing to the sudden death of the arresting officer.
There was a silence which was almost broken by John’s laughter, but he
managed to repress the urge.  The magistrate looked at him and said “It
seems, you are a very lucky man, Mr Boyd.”  John got up grinning and said,
“Not so, your honour, I am confident I had a very adequate defence
prepared”. The magistrate replied to that, “Well, we will see you again, Mr
Boyd, I have no doubt”.

He was right about that, because John continued to take up many causes on
behalf of those who were the victims of power.  One of these causes that I
know he would want me to mention was that of the Palestinians.  John did
great work in the Palestinian solidarity campaign in the early 80s. I still
remember his outrage at the massacre of the thousands of Palestinian
refugees in the camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

Even though John dropped out of active leftist politics when his health
began to break down, he remained to the very end a man deeply committed to
the emancipation of all oppressed people everywhere. He spent a life time
on the side of the people and he never wavered from that.

Towards the last years of his life John moved into a flat not far from me
down the Ipswich Road.  I used to visit him on Sundays and we would read,
chat, laugh and drink together.  Those were very good moments and I will
remember them to the end of my own days.  We read everything together –
poetry, classic short stories, novels and Shakespeare. John, though,
especially loved Charles Dickens’ work and so we read *Hard Times*, *Great
Expectations* and had started on David *Copperfield*. One of John’s
favourite books by Dickens was *A Tale of Two Cities*.  It is as you know
set in the French Revolution, which John had made a special study of when
he studied at university.

I will finish with a quotation from that book.  The hero Sydney Carton has
given up his life for others and he goes to his death saying

“… it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

John is at rest now. And for those of us who remain, our task is to grieve
for our loss and also to give thanks for having had the privilege of having
known this good man.

Gary MacLennan

8th August 2014

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