Bill Savery

Statement from Ursula Jensen, on behalf of the International Bolshevik Tendency, which was read at a memorial meeting for Bill Savery on 11 September 2010 in Oakland.

We will remember Comrade Bill!

William Parker Savery was born on 3 November 1944 in Plymouth, Massachusetts where his father made a living as the captain of a fishing boat. When he was young man in the 1960s, Bill went to sea as a member of the National Maritime Union (NMU). He was soon won to the class-struggle political program of the NMU's Militant Solidarity Caucus, supported by the then-Trotskyist Spartacist League (SL). In the mid-1970s Bill was involved in a serious industrial accident from which he was not expected to fully recover. He won a large financial settlement, and used a chunk of it to make a six-figure contribution to the SL to help purchase a building on Warren Street in Lower Manhattan, which still serves as the group's headquarters.

Bill was a remarkably tough individual. In the mid-1980s, after recovering from his injuries, he moved to the Bay Area, and once again became active as a maritime militant in the Inland Boatmen's Union (IBU - Marine Division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, ILWU). Bill played an important role in the 1987 IBU strike against Crowley Maritime.

Bill's move to the Bay Area coincided with a shift in political allegiance to the Bolshevik Tendency, the basis of which he explained in a November 1984 letter to the SL entitled "Whither Spartacism?" Eloquent in its honest simplicity, Bill's statement clearly expressed his profound dismay at seeing the organization on which he had pinned his hopes degenerating before his eyes.

When Bill died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in Oakland on June 21, 2010 it came as a nasty shock to all of us who knew him and had worked with him. Comrade Bill was not only an exceptional proletarian militant with a profound understanding of the application of the Trotskyist program in the unions, he was also personally a wonderful guy: modest, serious and fun. And he always knew where to draw the class line!

All of us who knew Bill are saddened by his passing.

Whither Spartacism?

Bill's November 1984 letter to the SL, which we publish here, marked an important stage in his political evolution. It was also representative of the difficulties faced by a layer of SL supporters who had begun to have doubts about the direction of the group. When Bill composed this letter he was not ready to finally and completely break with the international Spartacist tendency, even though he was in substantial agreement with many of the criticisms put forward by the External Tendency of the iSt (ET--forerunner of the IBT). Bill resolved this contradiction soon afterwards and came to the conclusion that the SL was no longer a revolutionary organization. From that point on he openly identified with the politics of the ET/BT.

Posted: 13 September 2010