A tribute to Celia Hollingworth who died in Greece last month:

This is truly awful and tragic news. More so for any who knew Celia.

It’s difficult to read this news account.

Celia was a lifelong socialist. Totally incorruptible and a fighter for the oppressed. She was also a thoroughly decent person.

I last saw her a few years ago. Me and my boyfriend bumped into her by pure happenstance in a bar in western Crete on the old hippy trail. She loved Greece and often holidayed there – heading off to read, explore and always enchant new friends.

She told us she, as the union rep, was running three industrial actions at her university. Then she quickly corrected herself – “Actually – three disputes. One has gone to action to defend several people from redundancy. The others are just disputes.”

At which point I remembered her fastidious accuracy. As a student in Oxford I shared a house with Celia and two other comrades.

It was within two minutes walk of one of the main gates at the Cowley car plant. So there was no excuse for not bringing agitation and propaganda, selling Socialist Worker and handing out leaflets, at some ungodly hour to those going on and coming off shift.

And Celia didn’t allow an excuse – but gently. She was a forensic Socialist Workers Party branch activist who had cut her teeth during the miners strike and in struggles before. She inspired those of us a good few years younger to put a socialist message, which she was still so fired up about in that place just south of Chania on Crete years later. As was I.

While we were a bit puffed up with our grasp of theory back as students, she brought us down to earth by simply insisting that we explain what we meant and then citing her own reading of Marxist classics and things we had pretended to have absorbed properly, but clearly hadn’t.

It was a lovely meeting on Crete a few years back, drinking Chelsea Sidecars. She was looking forward to retirement – not from the struggle of course.

This is so desperately sad.

Deepest condolences to family, comrades and friends, of which she had many.

Celia refused to accept the way the world is and at every stage looked beyond angry rejection of it to identify the cracks in the system through which it might be changed.

That is a way to live. And with great kindness.

Kevin Ovendon

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