We’ve been inundated with tributes for Julie Waterson, who died on Friday 16 November. Here is an edited selection of them.
You can send condolence messages, tributes or memories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie’s funeral service will take place on Friday 30 November, 3pm, at Golders Green crematorium in north London.
Assemble 2pm at Golders Green tube station for a march to the crematorium on Hoop Lane.
I’m very proud (and always have been) to say that Julie was my cousin… well my second cousin to be exact. As she was a bit older than me she had already moved to the Big Smoke even when I was a kid. So when Julie came home to Boghall, West Lothian, it was always a rare treat. I remember her as very smiley and happy and loud—the last one being a Waterson trait!
It wasn’t until I was a teenager and taking an interest in politics myself that I realised the full extent of what Julie was involved in. I remember travelling down to Brixton in 1993 or 1994 on a rickety bus to attend Rage Against Racism, an ANL march and gig. So proud was I to have my cousin as one of the organisers. Quietly watching her that day, so busy, so vibrant and full of life and passion—this is exactly how I shall remember her.
She will be sadly missed by those who knew her. As a family member I feel that her work down in London with the SWP was her life. Fighting for justice and fairness always came first for Julie, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s testament to the kind of person she was.
I met Julie when I was “wee bairn” (I was actually 20) through the SWP and fell for her brilliant wit, charm and politics immediately. Life took me away for a while and although I didn’t see Julie as often, I never ever forgot how much I loved her. We bumped into each other eventually at Paul Foot’s memorial and we instantly became very close again.
Julie was responsible for reigniting my passion for politics and in particular the SWP. Her compassion and kindness never blurred the truth and when she was wrong she was humble enough to say so. Her humour could be wicked, dark and sarcastic but always funny.
Going to conferences and meetings were always so much better and clearer when I went with Julie. I will miss her getting told to “shush” by other attendees as it was inevitable she would have something to say through the whole thing.
Politically, socially and privately Julie was a huge support. Never one to say no to a party, we had many a night on the lash. Her death has left a huge hole in my life. In my head I can hear Julie’s voice calling me “son” and I will miss that.
Dean Harris, east London
Julie Waterson was one of those comrades who made you proud of our revolutionary tradition. In the dark days with the BNP on the rise, Julie was a consistent and brave promoter of the traditions of the Anti Nazi League. For those who had been involved in the fights with the NF in the late 1970s, the thought of a resurgent Nazi movement was depressing enough to be demobilising. But Julie’s uncompromising politics and upfront attitude transcended surface impressions—it was true revolutionary leadership.
I have very many memories of Julie, all of her as a fighter. The outstanding one is the ANL gathering before the march on the BNP headquarters in Welling. She stood at the top of the hill, dwarfed in height by a police inspector shadowing her every move, but towering above the man in every other respect.
Malcolm Povey, Huddersfield
Your passion and wit inspired and moved people. Your fearlessness simultaneously comforted, strengthened and terrified your comrades. The image of you walking through the crowd at Welling in 1993, bloodied but unbowed, is indelibly printed on my brain. You were brilliant, woman.
Rhetta Moran, Manchester
I first met Julie on a Stop the War demo in 2001. I was struggling to make a megaphone work when Julie snatched it from me and brought it to life instantaneously. She handed it back with a stream of comradely invective about how useless I was—quite scary. And I was always a little wary of her tongue but we continued to engage in friendly banter and the occasional drink from that point whenever our paths crossed.
During the Lebanon war in August 2006 Julie worked in the Stop the War office and a small team of us prepared a demonstration of more than 100,000 which went from Hyde Park to Parliament Square. Our office manager Robin Beste called her a “tour de force”. She brought close to 30 years of political experience into our work for that march which was built in a week. A sad, sad loss for the movement as a whole.
Andrew Burgin, London
I have so many memories of Julie, it’s difficult to pick one out. One that sticks in the mind though is selling Socialist Worker alongside her on the huge anti-war demo on 15 February 2003, and her grinning from ear to ear as the marchers just kept on coming. “We did this,” she said at one point, not boastfully but with a mixture of pride and disbelief.
“We” was always the most important for her—we the party, we the movement, we the class. She was always exhorting us to do more, but at the same time always giving us the confidence that we could do it.
She drew people out, built them up, pushed them to do what she believed they were capable of—and she held herself to the same high standards she set for others. God help anyone who exaggerated or claimed to do something they hadn’t, though—she had the sharpest ear for bullshit I’ve ever come across.
For such a determined fighter, she was a very gentle person, and most comrades will have memories of her small kindnesses, or just her willingness to listen to personal. An implacable enemy of fascists, racists and all oppressors, she was equally fiercely loyal to her friends and comrades.
And she was fiercely proud of her working class background, and particularly keen to push forward working class comrades, especially women. She would tell anyone who would listen about how the SWP had pushed her to read, learn and develop in the 1970s, and she was determined to carry that tradition on.
Here in Hackney we knew she was ill, and had been for some time. But until very recently we always though that she would be back, and I still can’t really believe that she won’t.
Charlie Hore, Hackney
Julie was how all socialists should be but most of us aren’t. How anyone can be so passionate, rude, lairy, sensible, wild, warm, friendly, anarchic, loyal, clear-headed, insightful, disciplined, funny and daft all at the same time? I haven’t seen her in ages but the world suddenly seems diminished.
Steve Harrison, south east London
Last year we were on the anti-EDL demo in Tower Hamlets. As usual, a mouthy, energetic Julie Waterson was down at front of a police barrier between us and the Nazis. A gang of our kids were singing one of their favourite tunes: “Follow your leader, shoot yourself like Adolf Hitler!”
She turns to me and says, “That’s good parenting, that is.” It was one of the best compliments we’ve ever had. We will miss the wee socialist spitfire fae Boghall who lived life to the full and inspired a generation of us to stand up and be counted.
Julie Hunt and James Conway, Islington SWP
I had the same feelings about Julie as I had about Tony Cliff—by stating the obvious in a new setting and with a special kind of energy, she made us in the audience feel ten feet taller, that everything was possible.
She was part of building our small group here in Sweden. I brought what were to be my first comrades to her meeting on revolution during the EU summit in Copenhagen 2001. It was a perfect clash: a self taught Scottish working class intellectual with fire in her voice was just what some Swedish activists with an academic tinge towards postmodernism needed.
Julie was in my mum’s house during the Gothenburg riots. The press were witch-hunting like crazy and you could cut the atmosphere at home with a knife. My parents didn’t approve of all these activists (they have since realised what really went on). In storms Julie and used all the ink in my mum’s printer for petitions demanding that the Swedish prime minister resigns. It was a strange and funny moment.
Åsa Hjalmers, IS Sweden
Julie was an outstanding comrade, warm, generous and courageous. She was one of the most alive people I have ever met and the walking definition of the word “feisty”. We will miss her so much, but the best way to remember her is to do all we can to follow her example of commitment. Don’t mourn, organise.
Sarah Cox, west London
The news of Julie’s death has saddened many who remember her as the ANL organiser during the fightback against the BNP in Burnley. She was passionate, relentless, brave and supported our activities by leading from the front—in every way.
On a personal note, I got to know Julie well because she stayed in our home when she came north. I was fond of the wee lassie and visited her in the summer. We reminisced and it was good that she knew that there are no BNP councillors in Burnley now. The fight went on and Burnley & Pendle Unite Against Fascism will not forget her nor will we give it up.
Helen Christie, Burnley
Julie was a one-off—once met never forgotten. She was a wee woman with a massive personality, a Marxist to her bones and better read than many a famous academic. She was a brilliant and fiery class warrior, fearless in politics as in life. She hated pretension and snobbery, and lampooned it mercilessly. You knew there was going to be trouble whenever she cried “I smell shite!” in a political discussion.
Julie inspired and motivated countless numbers of people, and had a rare talent for making people feel good. Her integrity meant she was respected even by those she broke with politically. She was as happy analysing The X Factor as the declining rate of profit. She was also one of the most fun people I ever knew—a rare combination of immense political depth, tear-down-the-statues class hatred and huge warmth.
Roddy Slorach, east London
We have many great memories of Julie Waterson—a great socialist fighter and a feisty, brave, bold, difficult, warm, honest, strong woman. She was right in the face of the BNP and a vital part of breaking them. Condolences to her family and friends. We’ll be away in Denmark for the funeral but hope there will be a night to celebrate her life soon.
Nina and Red Saunders, Hackney
Julie’s fire and commitment impacted hugely on Swansea and South Wales. It was Julie who urged us to quickly visit the hospital where racist attack victim Mohan Singh Kullar was being treated. It was Julie who helped us to organise a subsequent “South Wales United Against Racism” demo in Cardiff—a large, united demo which really shaped the oncoming fight to throttle the emerging Nazi threat in Wales.
We remember around 50 people turning up for a meeting in Swansea university on Ireland. Julie was expecting a small meeting but took on Tories, nationalists and pacifists—and rallied the socialists among us to continue to fight for justice in Ireland.
Julie also found time to take a genuine interest in the comrades’ lives here. She would look at your holiday snaps, share a joke with you and, if you hadn’t seen her for a while, would spot you in a crowd, come over and greet you with a big smile.
Martin Chapman, Swansea SWP
I knew Julie for about 30 years. She was SWP student organiser when I was a law student at North London Polytechnic in the 1980s. I also knew her from recent activity in the Hackney Coalition Against The Cuts campaign.
Although we had political disagreements, I admired her tenacious spirit and determination to never give up a fight. She could hold her corner against the most vociferous adversary, be they male or female, and was a great source of support to her many friends within the socialist movement.
I last saw her a few months ago on her way home from a meal at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Islington, full of glee and spirit—which is how she will no doubt be remembered.
Wendy Pettifer, Hackney
I heard of Julie’s death with great sorrow. I remember her clear arguments during International Socialist Tendency meetings in London. Her arguments were frank, outspoken and direct, but never lecturing.
And I remember her catching laughter, her wit and sense of humour. She had what Georges Danton demanded from Revolutionaries: “Courage, courage and again courage.”
Volkhard Mosler, Berlin, Germany
I joined the SWP in 1989. Angry though I was about what was happening in this country due to Margaret Thatcher, I would never had joined the party had it not been for Julie's charm and persistence; every time I bumped into her on a demo or at a meeting she just said 'you should join the party' and before long I did.
When I bumped into her on a demo in 2005 with my 7 month old baby daughter in tow, I was no longer active in the party, but she was as friendly as ever, and cooing over my daughter. Julie was always uncompromising in her politics, and would not suffer fools, but I will never forget her genuine warmth and interest; she just made people feel special.
Nicola Viinikka, south west London
We were all inspired by Julie’s confidence, strength and kindness. She will be sorely missed by us all.
Carlo Morelli, Dundee SWP
I remember Julie’s innate ability to interact and communicate with everyday folk—a true working class revolutionary. She was a good dominoes player and between us we beat the men in my local pub.
Cynthia Hadcroft, France
It was with great sadness that her friends and comrades in Norway learned of Julie’s untimely death. Julie visited us on several occasions during the exciting times of the late 1990s and early 2000s. We witnessed her legendary leadership and organising skills at close hand during the anti-capitalist protests in Gothenburg in 2001.
But it is perhaps for her less obviously visible qualities Julie will be so fondly remembered here. Be it a large public meeting, internal strategy discussion or informal one-on-one conversation, Julie had a remarkable ability to understand people’s arguments and needs. From experienced comrades to teenagers new to politics she could argue and encourage, always hearing and never patronising.
Julie embodied two things which make socialism both necessary and possible: relentless anger at injustice and immense human warmth. We send our condolences to her family and friends.
Randi Færevik, Internasjonale Sosialister, Norway
I accompanied Julie Waterson and Claire Dissington at most of the demos they set up. Their partnership gave demos an effectiveness that I have rarely seen elsewhere.
I will also remember her for her wit, delivered in a lovely melodious Scottish accent. The way she understood and cared for Leon Greenman was a real experience for me.
She is a real loss to the socialist cause. But let us follow her example and fight for fairness and humanity to honour her life.
I first met Julie in north London where I had recently joined the SWP and thought, “Wow! What a dynamo!” Nothing seemed to daunt her. Her passion for socialism was infectious, but it was her humour, honesty, compassion and humanity that I will remember.
Whenever I saw her she greeted me with a big smile, a big hug—and usually said something outrageous that made me laugh, even in the most sombre circumstances. I’m sure there will be many laughs as well as tears at her funeral. Farewell comrade.
Helen Tingate, Swansea
I have known Julie all my life, and although we were the same age she was always my “wee cousin”. Our families shared a number of things, such as caravan holidays in Dunbar and North Berwick and taking in foster children.
I had lost contact with Julie after leaving school but we met up again when I was invited to speak to a group of students protesting about cuts in grants (remember them). My role was to advise on benefits available and to my surprise Julie was also invited to speak. She advocated barricading the doors and windows and taking possession of the building—typical Julie.
I first met Julie in 1992. I was then a black nationalist who was fighting against what I thought was “white oppression” and I remember how upset I was to see her. “How dare this little white woman hijack our events!” I thought.
But Julie was not the type to be intimidated. This soon became apparent after numerous arguments where she displayed acerbic yet disarming wit, followed by well reasoned logic for black and white unity. It definitely caught the attention and furthered the cause.
Had it not been for her attitude and insistence, I doubt I would have had much truck with anti-fascism or SWP. But her ability to organise will remain with me.
Characters such as Julie will be sorely missed during this latest assault on working class. As the crisis of capital deepens and attacks on the working class become more vicious, I wish we had the ability to clone Julie’s mind and body. I’d like to think that her impact on me and no doubt many others will serve as the next best thing.
I won’t be able to attend the funeral, bur I’m sure that she would rather I attend the next SWP meeting, which will be my fitting tribute to her.
I first met Julie in 1998 as a first year student. I’d recently joined the SWP during a 36 hour long student occupation at Leeds university. We were campaigning for free education, and Tony Blair’s New Labour had just imposed tuition fees.
She had come up to do a SWSS meeting in the middle of our occupation. Her passion for socialism and contempt for the capitalist system shone through. I remember being amazed at someone who could talk so knowledgeably and powerfully about the world for over half an hour from so few notes—I think she had about five words written on the scrap of paper in front of her.
I had the good fortune of getting to know Julie a little better while involved in Anti Nazi League campaigning over the next few years around Leeds university—fascists Mark Collett and Chris Beverley were both students there in this period. I learnt then just how truly a thorn in the side of Nazis Julie was. She was courageous, brave and inspiring in her tireless, indomitable opposition to them. That the British far right is currently so weak stands as a tribute to Julie’s life and work.
Despite the harassment and intimidation she faced from the Nazis, she always remained a wonderfully warm and cheerful personality, ever ready to challenge and take the piss out of any kind of egotism, arrogance, hubris, hypocrisy or downright betrayal—especially when it came from those supposedly on the left. And many socialists loved and respected her for this.
Socialists trying to build our movement in Britain will have to do so without the contribution of one of the greatest and most dedicated class fighters we’ve seen over the past few decades. Julie will be sorely missed in the struggles ahead.
Christian Høgsbjerg, Leeds
I’ll never forget Welling. You were an inspiring comrade and friend who will be remembered by everyone in Sydney who had the privilege of knowing you.
Mike Grewcock, Sydney, Australia
Julie was an inspiration to all who had the good fortune to meet her. When I went to my first SWP meeting, it was mainly teachers and university graduates. To someone from my background this had me thinking, had I made the right decision here? But as soon as I met Julie I knew I’d made the right decision—there were working class folk in this organisation after all!
I had a serious lack of confidence when it came to doing meetings. One day I was cornered by Julie in the print shop. “Why won’t you do meetings?” she asked in her soft dialect. Now I had been in prison when I was younger and Julie knew this.
“So what are you scared of, Mr Tough Guy? You’ve been in places that most folk dread, and you came out still in one piece. Wouldn’t you like to get back at those that put you there and kept you there?
“You can get back at them by telling a room full of people what you know about these places and the police you dealt with. Not many comrades have experienced what you have experienced.”
And that’s all it took. I did my meeting four weeks later on the police.
Julie was someone who inspired me to try something I was totally fearful of doing and gave me the confidence to believe I could do it well. The revolution will remember comrades like Julie who played a very important part along the way.
The photo which Socialist Worker ran in announcing Julie’s death showed her as she was for so much of her vibrant life—defiant, indomitable and laughing. She was a brilliant socialist, an inspiration to all who knew her and a warm, lovely human being. Her passing is a great loss on every level. I can’t believe we’ll never hear her laugh again.
Sasha Simic, Hackney SWP
Socialist Action was saddened to hear of the death of Julie Waterson, a passionate fighter for socialism, equality and justice. She played a central role in the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement for many years, and we fought alongside her in many struggles.
Julie was a dynamo of the left in whatever struggle she was engaged in, a fearless exponent of what she believed to be right in every circumstance, a proud defender of the views of the SWP—and a mighty loss to her comrades and friends.
It’s with great sadness that I and colleagues at the Institute of Ideas heard of the recent death of Julie Waterson. Many of us from our Revolutionary Communist Party days knew Julie well. In that context, it is obvious that we were often at odds with her on a range of positions relating to left politics, whether how to fight racism or win strikes. But it is equally true that Julie was a formidable opponent and political operator and won our admiration as such.
Strong, opinionated, articulate women who commit their lives to political change are sadly few and far between on the British left and Julie always impressed with her courage, conviction and action. Sincere condolences to all her family and comrades on the sad, untimely loss of a genuine fighter for the cause.
Claire Fox, Institute of Ideas
I was so saddened to hear of Julie’s passing. My son, late wife and I worked with her on many occasions at the Anti Nazi League in the 1990s. Julie was a great and passionate fighter and socialist and I was proud to know her and to able to call her a friend.
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridge SWP
Julie was a formidable anti-fascist who had devoted her entire life to fight against racism and fascism. When the Anti Nazi League was relaunched in the early 1990s and she became its national organiser, I worked closely with her many times, especially in the west London area.
At the 60,000 strong Unity march on the BNP headquarters in 1993, I was with her in the front line when we were attacked by the coppers. Julie, who was the chief steward, was badly injured. While bleeding from a head wound she insisted on carrying on but comrades persuaded her leave the protest and to go to hospital. She was a fearless fighter and will be well remembered and sadly missed.
Julie’s contribution was outstanding: leading the Anti Nazi League, launching Love Music Hate Racism with Ms Dynamite, organising campaigns and marches against the BNP and racist murders, and the 150,000 strong Rage Against Racism carnival in May 1994 that included the Levellers, the Manic Street Preachers and Billy Bragg.
Losing Julie is a tremendous loss for the anti-fascist movement at a time when the sort of dedication and commitment that Julie demonstrated is badly needed. My thoughts and condolences are with her family, loved ones, friends and comrades.
Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary, Unite Against Fascism
At the International Socialists in Denmark we knew Julie from the earliest days of our existence as an organisation in the 1980s. She played a supportive role in the growth of the IS in Denmark, particularly when we came to Marxism and meetings of the International Socialist Tendency.
Later in the 1990s when we were fighting the Nazis in Denmark, Julie was an inspiration with her untiring organisation of the Anti Nazi League in Britain against the BNP. Later she led the IST at the anti-capitalist demonstrations of Gothenburg and Prague which many Danish comrades attended.
Julie also took part in our annual events and when we had internal strife, she helped us along. Many comrades will remember her inspiring presence and great sense of humour. Julie was also a very likeable person and became friends with many of us. She always took time to talk to the Danish comrades that she knew. We will miss this great comrade, wonderful and inspiring organiser and lovely human being. Let us carry on her struggle.
Charlie Lywood and Jørn Andersen, IS Denmark
I joined the SWP in 1991. I had been active in lesbian and gay politics (as it was known then) and had been a member of the Labour Party. I was ready to have my ideas shaken up and my politics reworked with the notion of the working class being made central.
Julie’s meetings at Marxism in those early years startled me with her knowledge of so many political subjects and periods of history. Her passion, clarity and power were dazzling. Her strength, conviction and confidence made you feel strong, convinced and confident.
She was a working class woman comrade we could be proud of across the wider movement. I was proud of her whenever I brought new people along to meetings and to Marxism. I knew she would wake up their minds and ignite their hearts. That feeling of pride never changed over 20 years.
In 1993 we marched in Welling to close down the BNP. The police adopted what could have been a deadly tactic, blocking off the march route alongside a park where there could be no dispersal.
Julie, then national organiser of the Anti-Nazi League, was covered in blood from being hit by police. But she took responsibility for the safety of everyone and used every fibre of her being to warn people to stop moving forward, heading off a potentially fatal crush. Those near me got the message in time and we pulled down the railings, allowing the crowd to spill out onto the grass instead of meeting truncheons, hooves or a crush.
When I went to work at the Women’s Resource Centre in 1995, I surreptitiously put the SWP on the organisation’s database so we could refer callers. Each year we mailed all those organisations for updates. I remember receiving in the post the party’s pamphlet on abortion, with a friendly note from Julie who had no idea I would be opening it.
She was scary, she was caustic and she never suffered fools in any mood whatsoever. But once I saw her respond to a young school student’s question about what a future socialist society would be like. All the sarcasm melted away. Without any hint of being patronising, she spoke directly to that boy about the kind of world he and his sister could and should be aiming for, and how we could not dream of how things could be because it would be so different, so creative and so different from anything we had known. You could hear a pin drop.
Julie was one of those giants whose shoulders we stand on in our struggle to change this stinking world. Her death is a terrible loss. We can’t not mourn—but we have to keep organising.
Nicola Field, Southwark SWP
Just to say it is so sad that someone so talented in our tradition died so young. For me Julie was a tough cookie, sharp and informed in argument but great fun to be around. We can say the ideas drive us along but it is also comrades like her that make you proud to be a revolutionary socialist.
I was fortunate enough to work with Julie briefly, at the Anti Nazi League in 1997 and 1998. She was a brilliant socialist, hard working, committed, politically and theoretically astute. Most important of all, she possessed a beautiful and wicked sense of humour.
I remember once we went to celebrate Leon Greenman’s birthday at a crowded restaurant. Julie gave a speech in honour of Leon—not just to the comrades, but to the whole restaurant. And it wasn’t a short speech either!
Ben Selwyn, Brighton
It was with great sadness that Solidarity in Australia learned that Julie Waterson had passed away. It is a tragedy that a revolutionary with such a love of life should be taken from us at such a young age.
We often talk about politically punching above our weight—and Julie certainly packed a punch. Her visits to Australia brought a very practical, grounded element and a sense of proportion to the International Socialist Organisation, as we were then.
She was down to earth to the point of brashness on occasions and woe betide you if you were on the wrong side of the argument. But if passion and fighting spirit were enough to topple the ruling class, Julie’s alone would have toppled them long ago.
She had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour and was quick to turn that wit and cutting comment on anything that smacked of pretension. Our sympathies and are with her comrades, friends, and her family. The revolutionary cause has lost a fearless fighter.
Ian Rintoul, Solidarity, Australia
I first met Julie at Paisley Tech in the late 1970s. We lost touch for many years but met up again when she covered CPSA union conferences. We never totally saw eye to eye, as I was a member of Militant and now the Socialist Party, but our common commitment to socialism and the working class was always evident.
Danny Williamson, PCS industrial officer
Hard, to the point, but with a friendly smile. Julie engaged everybody around her. I worked with her during the years of the anti-capitalist movement. She pushed Danish comrades into the streets to build the movement . At the same time she was an attentive friend. She will be missed but her revolutionary spirit stays with us.
Jakob Nerup, IS Denmark
It would be difficult to sum up my impressions of Julie. Sometimes fierce, sometimes aggressive, nearly always laughing, tireless, fearless, principled, hard working... I could go on.
For those of us in Lancashire she will always be remembered for her anti-Nazi work, and the vast amount of time and effort she put in to the anti-Nazi campaign in Burnley.
Michael Lavalette, Preston
I first met Julie at Thames Polytechnic (now Greenwich Univeristy) in Woolwich in 1983. We had invited her to speak at our SWSS meeting on the subject of Greenham Common. Julie was about 23 years old, politically spot on—and also very funny. While she supported the Greenham women, I remember her saying “I just don’t get why nappies have to be hung on the railings or the airy fairy ethereal symbols.”
Julie was an inspirational speaker. Her meetings were no-nonsense, humorous and always with an undercurrent of “what are we going to do about it then”.
When Julie decided to work in further education she distributed her CV. She could have had a job at my old college, RNIB, but took on something nearer to where she lived. Imagine having a firebrand like Julie in the workplace. I heard when she took up teaching management were quite frightened by her. Julie, comrade! You will be so missed.
Lynne Chamberlain, Plumstead & Woolwich Branch SWP
Julie was a committed socialist and fighter for justice and equality. She always stood by her colleagues and friends and had time for everyone. She was a tireless worker in the local UCU, and many members benefited from her representation. She will be greatly missed by her students who were motivated by her passion and commitment.
Julie will be sorely missed not only on the picket line and at union meetings but by her many colleagues in the UCU and wider movement. The best way to honour Julie’s memory is to continue our fight for social justice
Viv Acious, City and Islington College UCU
I was saddened to hear the news that Julie Waterson has passed away. Julie was such a passionate steadfast comrade, always there in the thick of it fighting for the working class, be it against the bosses or the fascists.
I remember her pulling up in a car full of placards during the Essex firefighters’ dispute, giving a bloke from another left wing group short shrift when he called her “love” in a patronising rather than friendly way.
Straight after she was making sure we were on the mettle handing out our placards, speaking to the firefighters, selling Socialist Worker and demonstrating our solidarity. Such a sad loss—she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Dave Fagan, Liverpool SWP
I first met Julie when I was a jumped-up little revolutionary with way too much nervous energy and a conviction that Thatcher’s downfall and socialist revolution would happen in Portsmouth.
We would meet every year at Marxism and catch up on what we were doing in our lives. More recently she also helped me with various performance projects I made for the UK and Europe. She gave me her time in the massively generous way that she dealt with everyone she knew. Her engagement with this was something like a razor blade and a warm blanket all at the same time… perfect.
For me, she was always right because she knew what it was like to be wrong, and she taught me how to figure that out. The world is so much less without this fantastic, forthright, revolutionary, intellectual woman in it. Julie I will miss you so, so much.
Alex Bradley, Bristol
Very sad to hear this news of Julie Waterson’s death. When I first joined the SWP in the 1990s she was one of the most inspiring individuals in the party and one of the best speakers. You could always be confident taking people to hear her speak that they were in for a treat.
Such a gutsy fighter, so full of life. I remember her pushing comrades to stand up to the fascists with politics and humour—better to be arrested now than gassed later! Julie always had time to say hello and ask after you, usually with a bit of friendly abuse, a punch and a cheeky smile.
While many other comrades agreed but bottled it, Julie was ready to second a contentious motion at party conference. She would tell comrades what she thought whether politically or about their housing or healthcare.
Whether people wanted to hear it or not, they knew she was doing it because she thought they mattered and she cared. Julie’s enthusiasm, commitment and courage was both inspiring and infectious. She will be missed.
In a cold morning on 20 January 2001, we visited the Socialist Worker print shop. There, we were warmly received by the comrades who made us feel like home. It was the first time we were abroad and activists like Julie made us experience how real working class solidarity was. Comrades told us about the newspaper sales, the talks with the workers in the streets, demonstrations and factories, about workers rights, socialism and how to change the world. This is the kind of experiences you treasure. And the people that shared those moments with you remain in your heart, accompanying you in every struggle. So we say “hasta siempre compañera”.
Marina Rivero and Javier Carlés, Montevideo, Uruguay
One of my earliest memories of Julie comes from when I was a raw young socialist. I can still picture Julie sitting in my London bedsit trying to help me to be a better branch secretary for my local SWP branch.
Julie’s leadership of the Anti Nazi League must be the achievement that inspired me the most. I'm proud to have helped with the leafleting on the Isle of Dogs that contributed to Derek Beackon’s downfall, and to have taken part in the Welling demonstration that was key to closing down the BNP headquarters.
Julie was certainly a tough fighter for her class, but she was also a kind and warm-hearted person. Like the best socialists, Julie wasn’t interested in personal stardom, nor was she impressed by those she called “tinpot Bolsheviks”. She just wanted to help us to be the best we could, and that’s what she was doing in my flat all those years ago. I’m still working at it.
Celia Hutchison, Manchester
I’d known Julie for years but my overwhelming memory of her was when she came to Leeds before the Welling demonstration against the BNP bookshop. I had small children at the time and my telephone number had gone out for the coach contacts. Julie gave me the telling off of my life for using our number when she heard that we had death threats from the Nazis.
She was the most tremendous support and although I hadn’t seen her so much in recent years she still greeted me with a hug and a “hello hen”. I will never forget her, she was an inspiration.
Kate Mayer, Leeds SWP
We were shocked to hear of Julie Waterson’s untimely death. Some of us from Turkey met her while in Britain through her anti-fascist work. Others remember her from her magnificent leadership at the Prague demo in September 2000, right at the very beginning of the anti-capitalist movement in Europe. Everyone remembers her fighting spirit, her humour, her courage and her determination.
Chris Stephenson, Marx 21, Turkey
I first met Julie in around 1981 and it was immediately obvious that she was a very special person. Over the intervening years Julie has been a source of inspiration, political clarity and loads of laughter. Julie was a force of nature, unstoppable and always honest about herself and others. I admired and respected her massively and will miss her terribly. She is a great loss to all who knew her and to the socialist movement in general. Goodbye Julie and thanks for being around.
Rob Murthwaite, north London
I was the Anti Nazi League organiser in Oldham from 2000 to 2003 when the BNP was on the rise there. It had scored its best post-war general election result and there had been a full scale riot provoked by Nazi thugs. In the early days we were relatively isolated, with the local paper and police openly siding with the BNP and local anti-racists intimidated from campaigning by Combat 18, a violent far right group.
Julie’s personal grit and determination was vital to leading the campaign against the BNP in Oldham to victory within the space of a couple of years. She was a colourful and vivacious presence, and I am proud to have known her.
What a heart, what an appetite for life and what a mouth Julie had. I remember her so well when I was a young student and she was our SWP organiser. She could, in the space of a few minutes, regale us with a hilarious bit of gossip, explain a key Marxist concept or conduct a serious discussion on strategy and tactics, shriek comments about a spot one of us had sprouted and get right back to educating us about the struggle. I don’t think I have ever known anyone with less sense of distance and personal barriers—nothing and no one human was alien to Julie.
I am so sorry for the loss to Julie’s family and friends for the loss of someone so irreplaceable to the SWP and workers’ movement. A bright shining light has gone out and it is a greyer world without her.
Elane Heffernan, east London
I had the pleasure of working alongside Julie for several years at the SWP centre and print shop in Bromley-by-Bow. I remember seeing Julie speak at several meetings before I joined the party and I was always struck by her passion and sharp political sense—she was a pretty formidable character and never balked at speaking her mind. It was only when I got to know her a little better that I realised she was also a generous, extremely funny, and warm-hearted person.
Left wing politics attracts more than its fair share of apparatchiks and phrasemongers, but Julie was one of those people who had little patience with sectarian point scoring or empty abstractions. She realised the importance of changing the world, as well as understanding it, and she made a real impact, especially in her anti-fascist work. Julie embodied all that is best in the SWP and the left, and it is her passionate humanity I will recall most vividly.
Julie Waterson was a brilliant comrade and a real force of nature. I can vividly remember her energy and inspirational leadership as a district organiser in North London in the late 1980s. I find it hard to fathom that someone so full of life is not with us any more.
Ben Morris, Sheffield
Julie Waterson was warm, sarcastic, funny, sharp witted, clever, tough minded, brave. I haven’t been a member of the SWP for nearly 20 years but Julie was and shall always be a dearly loved friend. I can hear her voice in my head right now taking the piss out of me for being sentimental. I wish she could have been with us this week at Unite the Resistance conference and on the Gaza demos.
Fabulous, larger than life, warm, funny, loud, brilliant, a friend and a committed comrade. Thanks hen and go well.
I last saw Julie some years ago at a comrade’s 40th birthday party in Liverpool. That comrade’s uncle was an Elvis tribute act and Julie had to be convinced that wearing his stage outfit was not one of her better ideas. We also had a conversation that evening about combating the far right. The combination of those two events on the same evening—the fun and the politics, and passionate in both—is not a bad final memory of Julie.
Pat Riordan, Liverpool
The first time I heard Julie speak was 22 years ago, I felt so proud that a woman with as strong a working class accent as mine was speaking in front of 500 people. The growl in her voice, her eyes like thunder—it wasn’t a speech, it was a performance and she was reliving the history she was speaking about.
In Prague I watched her lead a chant in front of 2,000 knackered people who had been demonstrating all day and had hardly had any sleep the night before. When she started the chant there was silence. She shouted out the same slogan about five times—still nothing. I thought, oh my god, how embarrassing, but she never gave up and the chant got louder. She started waving her arms into the crowd, walking along the platform and then it came—the response that she was looking for and our spirits were revived.
Losing Julie is very painful, she was the most amazing women someone who was hard as nails but with the warmest, caring heart and a wicked sense of humour.
It is with complete disbelief that York comrades learnt of Julie’s death. We will always remember Julie as a formidable fighter for her class and for socialism. She was able to both explain patiently but also argue to the point of taking no prisoners when needed—and often, given the battles we face, both attributes are required.
I well remember meeting Julie at the Dundee Timex picket line when, in the thick of the battle, she told us rather inexperienced York comrades to “get rid of the bloody banner” that we were holding. I don’t think we ever got it back!
Chris Fuller, York SWP
In spring 1997 Julie led a British contingent of anti-fascists from London to Strasbourg to oppose a Europe wide gathering of the far right. This was the first demo I’d ever been on and I had no idea what to expect. I liked Julie instantly. Her courage and sense of fun were infectious.
She was a natural leader who seemed to me to be able to do anything. When the TV screen on our coach wouldn’t work the driver got off to check the electrics. But Julie simply strode up and confidently thumped the set which instantly sprang to life to an enormous cheer from all of us on the coach.
If you wanted to know how best to act as a revolutionary socialist in any given situation you could do no better than to watch and try and emulate Julie’s example. I last saw her a couple of years ago in Bradford on the UAF protest against the EDL. She was in the thick of things as ever. She will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.
Peter Allison, Dundee SWP
Julie was always irrepressible, always inspiring, never without a sense of humour even when she was giving you a tongue lashing (and most often then). In the early 2000s she was a fellow worker at City and Islington College. She came to my leaving do at the college. My friend Steve Overy had produced a leaving card for me which had pictures of ten greatest “heroes” which I had had to select.
Julie looked at the card, noted the photo of Tony Cliff among the ten and said to me with her eyes sparkling, “I was going to murder you if he wasn’t there”. The last time I spoke to her was at a lunch queue at SWP conference in January—she teased me as was her wont. Despite all her health problems she was still the same Julie Waterson. She will not be easily replaced nor easily forgotten
Neil Rogall, Kingston SWP
I am so shocked and gutted by this tragic news. One of my first exposures to the politics of the SWP was at a women’s meeting in north London back in 1985, when Julie spoke she was truly electrifying and inspirational and everything she said about the issue of women’s oppression resonated as the truth. I was awestruck by her clarity and passion and she is always somebody I have wanted to emulate, as I am similarly outspoken and upfront.
Our cemeteries have no graves, for our dead are not buried. This is our army of shadows surrounding us. And our army of shadows are there to make our silhouettes grow in the light of the flames, to make us tall enough to touch the sky.
Denis Godard, France
I am so saddened to hear we lost that wonderful, funny, feisty woman. Bipin and I will always remember her fondly.
Julie showed us that we can fight and win. She inspired and still inspires us to fight for a better world. Her legacy lives on. What an amazing person. She is sorely missed.
A class fighter who held her own and her politics in any forum. A great loss to the struggle.
Richard Milner and Ann Dudgeon
You paved the way to believe and fight for righteousness and just causes. Thank you for all that you were, and for the memories that you have left behind of your extreme courage.
What a substantial loss this is. Both politically and personally, Julie will be missed by many, me among them. All the best for a future with an important part missing from it.
Melanie Wilson Jones
I knew Julie during the 1990s around the fight against the Nazis. I’ll always remember how she brilliantly combined absolute intransigence against oppression and oppressors with compassion for her fellow comrades.