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Richard Thompson, 1945-1979

Socialist Voice, October 1, 1979

by Richard Fidler

Richard Thompson, a former leader of the revolutionary socialist movement in Canada, died in Toronto in early June. He was 34 years old.

A partisan of the program and objectives of the Revolutionary Workers League, Richard was not a member of the RWL. In the early 1970s, however, he was a member of the League for Socialist Action and a prominent leader of the Young Socialists, two of the organizations that fused in 1977 to form the RWL.

Richard was one of a group of leaders of a "new left" organization, the Committee for a Socialist Movement (CSM), in Saskatoon who in July 1970 decided to join the Trotskyist movement. He brought with him a keen understanding of the new left milieuóits positive features and its fundamental weaknesses.

He first became involved in radical politics through the 1965 "Selma sit-in" in Toronto in solidarity with the Black struggle in the United States. Later he went to Saskatchewan to work on the Student Union for Peace Actionís Neestow Project, doing community organizing on Native reserves. He became a director of the Company of Young Canadians, and then an Ontario organizer for the Canadian Union of Students.

For some years Richard was a prominent critic of the Trotskyist movement. But he and some other leaders of the CSM came to the Young Socialists in 1970 in the wake of a struggle within the CSM in which they had argued for a class-struggle approach that combined fighting for socialist policies in the New Democratic Party with working to build a revolutionary organization capable of leading the Canadian socialist revolution.

Shortly after joining the Young Socialists, Richard moved to Toronto, where he worked full-time as editor of the Young Socialist newspaper and as a staff organizer for the YS. Still later he played a leading role in building the Edmonton branch of the League for Socialist Action.

His comrades valued highly Richardís profound dedication to the movement, his serious, scrupulous approach to his work. "He was a strong and persuasive writer, whether outlining a theoretical argument or drawing up a leaflet," recalls Robbie Mahood, an RWL member who was a close personal friend of Richardís for many years.

"It was certainly that combination of intellectual clarity and personal dedication which earned him the respect of all those who knew and worked with him, and also from many with whom he had fundamental and irreconcilable political differences."

An intensely shy, unassuming personality, Richard set extremely high standards for himself in his political work. Around 1975 he dropped out of active politics, feeling he had not been able to become an effective militantóan opinion not shared by his comrades.

In his final years, Richardís health was not good. In June, he took his own life.

Despite the personal problems that he faced, Richard remained confident of the ultimate triumph of the working class.

In his political activity Richard Thompson set an outstanding example for all who knew him, and the many more yet to come. We salute his memory.

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