7 Sep 2021
My friend Chanie Rosenberg, who died at the age of 99, was a remarkable and inspiring revolutionary socialist, active in Britain for more than seven decades after arriving in 1947 with her partner, Tony Cliff. She is one of the last survivors of the Revolutionary Communist Party (1944-49), then in 1950 participates in the foundation and construction of what has become the Socialist Workers Party.
Chanie was born into a middle-class Lithuanian Jewish family in Cape Town, South Africa (one relative was poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg). Anti-black racism disgusted her, as did anti-Semitism amid the rise of fascism in Europe.
First drawn to left-wing Zionism as an antidote, she studied Hebrew at the University of Cape Town, after graduating from Good Hope Seminary, and in 1944 moved to Palestine to live in a kibbutz, where she witnessed anti-Arab racism.
In Palestine, she met and married in 1945 Ygael Gluckstein, a Palestinian Jewish Trotskyist, better known by his pseudonym Tony Cliff. She herself joined the small Trotskyist movement and, after the couple moved to London, was a courageous and determined activist of the Socialist Review Group (where her brother Michael Kidron also played a leading role), later the SWP.
Chanie challenged right-wing stereotypes that Marxists were austere and humorless. She worked as a math teacher in Islington and Hackney elementary schools, then for 12 years at John Howard School (now Clapton Girls’ Academy) and was secretary of the Hackney National Union of Teachers. As the main breadwinner, Chanie combined family life, union activity, writing, art, sculpture, music, swimming and political activism, with a verve few could match.
She has remained politically active her entire life, from the Aldermaston marches against the bomb in the 1950s to the Stop the War coalition in the 2000s; from the confrontation with the fascists of Oswald Mosley in the Ridley Road market in the 1940s to the mass protests of the Anti-Nazi League against the National Front in the 1970s.
I remember traveling to Burnley with Chanie (80) in 2002 for an ANL protest against the BNP. While some of us were anxious, she was totally fearless. Tear gas, water cannons, fascists and riot police did not stand in the way of the tireless Chanie, who visited Prague in 2000 and Genoa in 2001 as part of the major anti-capitalist mobilizations.
Throughout, she was cheerful, warm and extremely optimistic about the struggles for a better society.
Tony passed away in 2000. Chanie is survived by her four children, Elana, Donny, Danny and Anna, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.