Caroline Lund, a lifelong fighter for socialism, workers’ rights and women’s liberation, and a contributing editor of Links, died at her home in Oakland, California, on October 14, aged 62. She will be sorely missed by her friends and comrades in the us and around the world who knew her, especially her lifelong partner and comrade Barry Sheppard.
Caroline succumbed to the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (als, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, physicist Stephen Hawking being a long-term sufferer.)
Caroline was won to revolutionary socialist ideas in 1962 when she attended Carlton College, a small liberal arts college just south of Minneapolis. Caroline quickly became a leader of the swp’s youth organisation, the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). In 1965 she moved to New York where she met and married Barry Sheppard, a key younger swp leader. From 1967, she was often on full time for the swp in a range of assignments—leading different campaigns, organising, international work and writing for the socialist press.
Since the founding of Links in 1994, both Caroline and Barry have been contributing editors and distributors in North America. In recent years both have been strong supporters of Green Left Weekly and collaborators of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia. But both played a special role in helping the development of the revolutionary Marxist current in Australia during the late 1960s and 1970s, as leaders at the time of the swp and the international Trotskyist organisation, the Fourth International.
The 1960s and early 1970s were a period of great political advances for the swp and ysa. The party had led many political upsurges, especially the mass movement against the Vietnam War, and had recruited the best of the radicalising youth. This new generation took over. Jack Barnes became the swp national secretary, and Barry Sheppard for many years was national organisational secretary. Caroline was elected to the swp national committee. This period of growth and political advance is described in Volume 1 of Barry’s history of the swp (The Party—The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988. Volume 1: The Sixties, A Political Memoir, Resistance Books, 2005). The book was written with the editorial assistance of Caroline. Barry’s introduction recognises his indebtedness to his comrade—“This book would have been impossible without her”.
The second volume, which Barry is currently working on, has to analyse a sadder period, the decline and degeneration of the swp.
At the end of the 1970s, the party decided on a “turn to industry”, a push to get nearly all its members into industrial jobs, in anticipation of a deep capitalist political and economic crisis and a sharp upsurge in the us class struggle and radicalisation. Unfortunately, that projection didn’t eventuate, but the swp leadership persisted with the turn, “deepening” it, and increasingly losing touch with reality. The swp and ysa’s political work became increasingly sectarian, a sharp contract to the exemplary united-front campaigns they led in the 1960s and early 1970s. Democratic norms were abandoned. Hundreds of members were expelled. Barry and Caroline were also pushed out, in 1988. They moved from east to west and settled in the San Francisco Bay area, where they could be near their old friend and former swp comrade Malik Miah, who had been expelled a few years earlier. The dsp had broken our relations with the swp as we saw it degenerate, but renewed our collaboration with former swp leaders as they were expelled or forced out—first with Pedro Camejo, then with Barry, Caroline and Malik.
Caroline had taken her first real industrial job at a gm plant in North Tarrytown, New York, in 1980 as part of the swp’s turn to industry, and for the rest of her life she was an active union militant. In the 1980s she was an autoworker, a garment worker, an electrical worker, a telephone worker, an oil worker and a steelworker. In the Bay area she briefly worked at an oil refinery, then at the Toyota nummi plant from 1992. At nummi, Caroline was a production worker until early 2006, when she went on disability due to her illness. For the last eight years, Caroline produced a newsletter at nummi which was a model for rank-and-file union militants. Called The Barking Dog, it defended workers against the company’s abuses and criticised the union bureaucrats when they did not.
Caroline attended the dsp December 2003 congress, writing a report that concluded: “Overall, the congress was very inspiring, full of energy, commitment and idealism. It reminded me so much of the us swp in its good days of the ’60s and ’70s”. Caroline also attended the Third Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney in March 2005.
Comrades who met her warmly remember this passionate, courageous comrade, and deeply mourn her death. Her lifelong commitment to her socialist principles and activity will continue to inspire us.
[John Percy is the national president of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia.]