Alan Green

posted Feb 11, 2010, 4:22 AM by Dick Pountain
For me, like many others, I think it has only just begun to sink in just how Nina was woven into the texture of my life. I think that the warmth and deep humanity of her spirit had a particular aspect, which expressed itself in very vigorous and generous engagement with other people. She possessed an organizing and connecting impulse which meant that she infused herself into our lives and the connections between our lives; many of which,of course, she had created.
I'll come back to this, but I think it would not be right to leave Nina in a sort of warm, cosy haze. She was often not a comfortable person for those around her. Her originality and vitality meant that she was often challenging and disturbing; literally so when she wanted to get you out doing something! Nina was a true radical. I don't mean the adoption of a vague political position, but a total approach to life, to history, to the world of ideas. She was a radical in the true sense: going to the root of things and arriving at often surprising and provocative positions. She was also not satisfied with the world of ideas; her radicalism was deeply pragmatic, looking for applications of her ideas and then setting out to apply them; and to organize others into helping her.
I want to give two examples. Both had a major influence on me, but much more importantly they had a deep significance in UK politics at the time. They are both from the 1970s.
Like many in the mid-'70s I was confused and in something of a political limbo. After the extremism and craziness of the late '60s I had been given a crash course in real life by becoming involved in the Trade union movement, but could find no political framework to make sense of the clearly momentous political events taking place at the time. I had included here some comments about the sort of political ideas that were available then...but on an occasion like this I don't want to be too negative! I can't remember how I stumbled on a cheaply-produced booklet issued by the British & Irish Communist Organisation called ' The case for industrial democracy' - a booklet written by Nina it turned out. It was as if someone had turned on the light! Here was writing from a left perspective, using concepts of class, of power, of social and political development, but expressed clearly and eloquently. Above all it showed a firm grip on the practical possibilities in the current world, gave them a pithy theoretical context AND made concrete proposals for their realisation. Here's an odd thing. I think Nina's major contribution to the politics of her time was to strengthen and develop the tradition of radical reformism: but these writings were truly revolutionary.
My second example finds a good few of us in despair in those same 1970's: in despair at the deeply reactionary and chauvinist position of the UK left on Europe and membership of the then-European Community. Nina's response was a classic piece of ' Don't weep, organize!'. She organised a group of us into the 'Campaign for a Socialist Europe' to engage in the battle of ideas over this key issue. I believe that Nina's organizing skills and her energy - which she went on to pour into other organizations focused on Europe - made a real contribution to the long, slow shift in the position of the left that took place in the 80s. Radical pragmatism again.
I'll end where I began.
Nina's promotion of friendships and working relationships was legendary. There are very many people who would not have worked together, campaigned together, discussed and argued together, eaten and drunk together, gone to the opera together, if it had not been for Nina. I think that it is in the relationships between us all that we find Nina's memorial. They will last as long as we do and always remind us of Nina; which will at the same time make her death easier to bear and much, much harder.