Tony Greenstein | 11 October 2021 | Post Views:

In Memory of Mike Waterman, former Chair of Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who died of COVID earlier this year

From the Boycott of Sodastream to Aborigine Rights Mike drew the lessons from Jewish history that Zionism has effaced

Mike Waterman, known as ‘Mike the hat’ died earlier this year aged 67. I knew him for well over a decade in the Palestine solidarity and anti-war movements. From 2015-2017 he was Chair of the local Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Mike played a crucial role in the campaign to close down the Sodastream shop in Brighton’s Western Road. This was the biggest single victory in Brighton of the Palestine solidarity movement and took over 2 years to achieve.

Mike was a dedicated Jewish anti-Zionist for whom the slogan ‘Never Again’ meant never again for all peoples, rather than the Zionist belief that it applies only to Jews.

Below there are a few appreciations from members and also his obituary in Socialist Worker. Mike was a long-standing member of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Tony Greenstein

A Mensch

There’s a Yiddish word that springs to mind when I reflect on my times with Mike Waterman – Mike was a mensch. A human being of noble character, a person of rare integrity. Mike was an idealist who put his boot soles on the pavement, and achieved great victories in doing so, not least shutting down Sodastream in Hove. He also had a deep grain of humour, and immense patience with others who might just need more information to open their minds. He loved science fiction, and came to the launch of my first SF novel at a book shop in Hove, joining in the fun but also – I recall with immense admiration – finding a way to discuss Israel-Palestine with another guest that made significant changes to their point-of-view. I am terribly sorry to hear of his loss, which will reverberate widely, and send all my sympathies to his loved ones.

Naomi Foyle

Mike will always be remembered as a committed person to the cause of the oppressed and underprivileged, as much as he hardily campaigned and communicated to the public as much as he wanted to improve the understanding of the cause of injustice caused the oppression… For years I had known Mike his fearless campaign in the streets of Brighton, for public issues in the UK, workers right, NHS, anti-war, anti-imperialism and International he campaigned for the rights of Palestinians against the Israeli colonisation (as he used to call it) and other indigenous people around the world…. Enjoyed many drinks with him after a long campaigning day and he was a great person to befriend. Will greatly be missed…


Remembering Mike W

Many’s the time Mike Waterman and I met up for a pint and a chinwag, and I look back with nostalgia.  The setting was usually the Beer Dispensary; I would get through two pints of pale ale and Mike would frugally have two halves of porter.  He was good company, and chatting with him was always an education; what he didn’t know about politics and history wasn’t worth knowing.  And Mike was such an optimist.  If you got to feeling defeated about what’s going on in the world, talk to Mike – he would lift the spirits.  He was never disheartened, not at all negative about things.

He was also resourceful, as I was to learn when he asked me to assist him in organizing BHPSC’s discussion group. This regular meeting proved to be very successful and it rolled on for years. Amazingly Mike never failed to come up with a subject to discuss, every month, always topical, interesting and informative.

His resourcefulness was once again demonstrated when he got his bus pass. To celebrate, he planned a trip from Brighton to Norwich – by bus – which involved multiple changes cross country! It took the better part of a day, and the delight was that it was all free!

Mike finally moved to Norwich to be close to his sister and her family. He was very happy there, particularly when he reached retirement. But of course, activism being part of his DNA, he continued to organize meetings and motivate his Norfolk comrades.

It was a great surprise to learn of his passing. He left us too early!

Judy Granville

Mike Waterman 1953-2021

by Phil Mellows

Covid has taken the life of Mike Waterman who died at his Norwich home last Friday after apparently staging a recovery from the virus.

The following evening, at a few hours’ notice, a Zoom event organised by Norwich Socialist Workers Party (SWP) attracted more than 40 people. It heard moving tributes to a comrade and friend who made a difference everywhere he went.

Mike joined the SWP in the early 1970s. As well as being a trade union activist in Wandsworth council in south London he developed a reputation as a resolute anti-racist and fighter for the Palestinian cause.

He was well-read, knew his history, and thanks to his instinct for getting stuck in gained enormous experience. This equipped him to handle every situation and argument with a quiet confidence.

He took that with him to Australia in the late 1980s where he became influential in turning the small International Socialist Organisation outwards. There he engaged in campaigns from the struggle for Aboriginal rights to the fight against the first Iraq war. He supported the 1998 dock workers’ strike, all the time drawing the connections between apparently diverse issues.

Mike was also among the 200,000 protesters tear-gassed at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.

He returned to Britain where he tirelessly galvanised Brighton & Hove SWP for a decade.

Mike was central to launching Stand Up to Racism in the city. He also achieved perhaps his greatest triumph when the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign succeeded in closing the SodaStream shop. It was selling products manufactured in the occupied West Bank.

He had joined the picket there every Saturday for two years, consistently arguing that the campaign was broadened. Winning that argument proved key.

At the end of 2017 Mike moved to Norwich to be close to his sister and once again made an immediate impact. He became a vital force in local campaigns, Palestine inevitably to the fore.

For those who worked with him, he was a rock, the vital centre of every SWP branch he joined. He was a comrade adept at patiently explaining his differences with those who disagreed with us, while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the struggle.

Immediately identifiable by the pork pie hat that seemed permanently attached to his head, he was an influential leader.

And his passions beyond politics were surprisingly diverse.

He loved to dance to ska and reggae and trance music. He was a fan of Leonard Cohen and Chelsea Football Club and liked strong, dark beers and a Sunday roast.

He was a demon on the poker table, and he turned to science fiction for a sense of how our world can be different.

Our condolences go to his sister Julie, his brother Leo, his niece Rachael and her children Eva and Jamie.

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Tony Greenstein

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