by Eddie Clynes
Blanche Clynes died unexpectedly at the age of 86 in the evening of November 19. A long-time supporter of The Guardian, Blanche and her late husband Joe often sold the paper at demonstrations and meetings. Blanche was for many years a regular contributor to the Press Fund, expressing her strong commitment to the struggle for socialism. Born in Manchester, England, Blanche was the youngest of six girls in a family of eight children. She knew poverty when young, often knocking on neighbours' doors to borrow money for food for her family. When young, Blanche developed a strong sense of justice and a humanitarian spirit. One of her teachers used to hit students on the arm with a ruler. School friends advised Blanche to bring an apple for the teacher to prevent being hit. Blanche did, but still got hit. When walking out of class, Blanche snatched the apple back! She always had a good sense of humour, but driven by her sense of right and wrong. Despite winning the "Lord Mayor of Manchester Prize" enabling her to continue schooling, she left school at 15. Girls weren't encouraged to gain an education in the 1920s. Blanche worked on buses and in factories and soon joined the Communist Party. Her political work became the driving force of her life. She was an avid seller of the Daily Worker, often talking of selling "reams" and "quires". In Australia she was an enthusiastic and energetic Guardian seller. Fascism was on the rise in the 1930s. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was fascism's dress rehearsal for WW2. The worldwide, communist-led solidarity movement drew many young people, including Blanche, into anti-fascist activity. Blanche (and Joe) helped organise solidarity meetings, distribute literature, collect food, clothes and funds for the cause of Republican Spain. Blanche's strong anti-war outlook was reinforced by her mother's horror at the enlistment of her two sons in WW2. In Australia, Blanche helped build the anti-Vietnam War rallies, the Palm Sunday and Hiroshima Day marches. Her trademark was her peace earrings and necklace. In her youth in the Communist Party of Great Britain, Blanche was involved in "agitprop" activities, acting and singing at political events and parties. One of her favourite songs was Casey Jones. Blanche married Joe in 1947 and emigrated to Australia in 1962 with their three children. In her 50s she studied to be a bookkeeper and topped Australasia in some exams. Blanche assisted many party election campaigns, the last in 1998, when 84, giving out leaflets in Newtown to gain support for the CPA. Blanche and Joe were active in the pensioner movement, lobbying parliamentarians in Canberra and as office holders in their local branch of the Combined Pensioners. They also campaigned with their local Public Tenants Association for example, to maintain bus routes for pensioners. Blanche was passionately pro-working class. She hated the exploitation and abuse that working people suffer. She was a strong supporter of the socialist countries, visiting Bulgaria and the Soviet Union in 1982 with Joe and her grand-daughter Julie. Blanche will be remembered for her good humour, her warmth, kindness and commitment. She spent her life helping people. She died prematurely, a sad commentary on our underfunded, drug-driven public health system, when an easily treatable ailment leads to death.
* * *The Guardian expresses its sympathy to Eddie, June, Julie, Jackie and Glenn.