Last night I received an email from Petersburg informing me of the death of comrade Vladimir Morozov, who passed away on August 24. This news was a terrible blow. Vladimir, or Volodya as he was known to his friends, was a key figure in the ranks of the supporters of the International Marxist Tendency in Russia.
“Man's dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the Liberation of Mankind” — Nicolay Ostrovsky
Last night I received an email from Petersburg informing me of the death of comrade Vladimir Morozov, who passed away on August 24. This news was a terrible blow. Vladimir, or Volodya as he was known to his friends, was a key figure in the ranks of the supporters of the International Marxist Tendency in Russia. To me, it was a terrible shock. It is hard to believe that Volodya is no longer with us. He had only recently had his 43rd birthday. I spoke to him just before I went to Italy to attend the World Congress of the IMT. From our phone conversation, I could tell he was not very well, but I could not have imagined that this was the last time I would speak to him.
Volodya had been seriously ill for a long time but he never complained, and always played down his problems. For the last fifteen years he had been living with no kidneys. From what I understand, the problem was inherited. His mother also died young from the same disease. Before he fell ill fifteen years ago, Volodya was a keen sportsman, very fit and active. It seems that in 1996 he went swimming in a lake. The water was freezing and he caught a cold. He was 26 years old at the time and typically paid no attention to it. Some time later he collapsed and went into a coma. His kidneys were affected and he lost both of them.
Ever since then he has been living on borrowed time. Every other day he had to go to the hospital for dialysis. This must have been very painful and it disrupted his whole life. Both his arms were full of large lumps left by years of injections. He always returned from the hospital in a state of total exhaustion. But Volodya was a proletarian fighter and was not prepared to allow this handicap to prevent his participation in the revolutionary movement. He was one of the most active members of the Rabochaya Demokratiya (Workers’ Democracy) group in Petersburg – or Leningrad, as the comrades prefer to call it.
Volodya was born and bred in Leningrad, the birthplace of the October Revolution, the son of a working class family in the Vyborg side – that strong bastion of the Bolshevik workers in 1917. Following in the family footsteps (his father was a fitter and turner), he entered the factory to work, first as a metalworker, then as an electrician. Fate destined him to live in a period of colossal turbulence and upheaval. The collapse of the Soviet Union, as the result of the crimes of Stalinism, prepared the way for the victory of the capitalist counterrevolution in Russia.
As a class conscious young worker, and a committed communist, Volodya was naturally opposed to capitalist restoration, but he was also critical of the corrupt bureaucracy that had undermined the gains of the October Revolution and, in most cases, gone over to capitalism. Looking for a radical alternative to the bureaucracy and capitalism, he first joined a small pro-Albanian Stalinist Party. He was present at the founding congress of the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RKRP). But in the early 1990s, when Russia was plunged into a maelstrom by the capitalist counterrevolution, Volodya began to study the works of Trotsky. Through experience and discussion, he broke with Stalinism and wholeheartedly embraced the ideas of Leon Trotsky, the genuine continuer of Bolshevism-Leninism.
For the last two decades of his life, together with his inseparable comrade and friend Alexei Petrov, he threw himself into the building of an organization of Revolutionary Marxists in Russia. Always a dedicated internationalist, he played a big role in getting the Workers’ Democracy group to join the International Marxist Tendency (which was then known as the Committee for a Marxist International). Although he could not travel, he followed the life of the International very closely, mainly through Marxist.com. He translated into Russian several hundred articles and reports of the International, and was the initiator of the publication of several collections of articles and books.
This work was all the more remarkable for the fact that Volodya could not speak English. He made a serious attempt to learn French and Spanish, and made some progress with French. But he was able to read English only with the aid of an automatic translator. Nevertheless, he persevered, and, with this or that minor fault, succeeded in translating the fundamental ideas of the International adequately: “He translated more than anybody else,” Alexei Petrov told me: “In fact, he translated more than those who know English – myself included!”
This fact indicates just how determined this comrade was not to allow any obstacle to prevent him from building the Marxist movement. That is a very important lesson for all of us. Trotsky once wrote that there were many kinds of people in the Bolshevik Party: some were well educated in theory, others less so, some were stronger in character, some were weaker, and so on. But there was one thing that stood out as the most fundamental characteristic of the Bolsheviks: an iron determination to overcome every obstacle in the path of the revolution and never to surrender to difficulties, no matter how great. In this sense, Vladimir Morozov was a model Bolshevik.
In spite of the severe restrictions imposed on him by losing, in practice, every other day of his life, when he was not in hospital attached to a kidney machine, he dedicated every moment of his available time to intervening in the workers’ movement and building the revolutionary organization. Volodya was present in every strike, in every picket and on every demonstration. In the last photograph we have of him, taken two years ago, he is on the May Day demonstration in Petersburg.
As a result of this tireless activity, he had very good relations with the trade union activists, especially in the car factories in Petersburg – Ford and Nissan. He regularly sent us reports of the workers’ movement, such as the strike at Ford and also of the recent protest movement of the Russian miners, as well as the more recent article about the uprising in Kyrgyzstan. By a sad coincidence, on August 24th, the day he died, I received an email from the leader of the Nissan factory in Petersburg asking to be put in contact with the Nissan workers in the North of England. This was undoubtedly the result of the outstanding work of comrade Volodya.
Last winter it seemed as if his heath was improving, or at least stable. The doctors’ diagnosis was positive, and he was discussing ambitious political plans for the future with his comrade, Alexei Petrov. But these hopes were soon dashed. In May he broke two ribs, having exerted himself too much while doing some exercises. The injury was very painful. He could not sleep and was forced to take a lot of painkilling drugs. This was the tragic background to his final illness.
He developed what seemed to be a minor infection of the inner ear. Because he (and also the physicians) did not see this as an urgent problem and the specialist was absent from the hospital, precious time was lost. The presence of an inflamed abscess was hidden by the painkilling drugs he had been taking. As a result septicemia set in. When the condition was finally diagnosed last month, Volodya was admitted to hospital. But the operation on his ear came too late. By this time Volodya had lost a lot of strength and was too weak to withstand the operation.
Volodya Morozov was a very courageous man, an excellent comrade and a good friend. I always had the highest opinion of him, both personally and politically. He was a man of high principle who would not change his ideas or his political affiliation easily, as so many others have done. But there was nothing fanatical about him. He had that kind of open, sincere good-natured character that one finds among the workers of Russia, as in all other countries.
He was completely free from the narrow sectarian spirit, and had not the slightest trace of egotism, vanity or personal ambition that one finds so often among petty bourgeois “left” circles. For these reasons, he was held in high esteem by everybody he came into contact with. His death has caused shock and dismay not just among his friends and comrades, but in general in the Left in Petersburg and further afield. Even those who were his political enemies held comrade Volodya in high regard.
In the obituary that appeared on the 1917.com website, we read the following appraisal of Vladimir Morozov:
“An ardent communist and indomitable optimist, he lived in an era of defeat and general social crisis. Time did not give him a chance to change the world. He was working on the Vyborg side, the son of fitters and turners and, together with the working class of Russia, he experienced a long line of retreats and defeats for decades. In these rearguard battles, he became hardened as an indefatigable propagandist. Beginning as a Marxist on an instinctive, unconscious level, he became known in the left movement as a talented writer and diligent translator. Proclamations were his favorite genre. ‘Working men and women ...’ – he spoke the language not of an individual worker, but in a kind of inner language of the class, close to the hearts of all and accessible to everyone.
”It is hard to believe this, but for most of his adult life Volodya struggled with a severe hereditary disease. This lover of sport and travel was dependent on an artificial kidney machine. The disease undermined his strength, but did not make him a pessimist. With all-consuming optimism, he lived and fought for the communist future of mankind. Disease broke his life, but in his articles, ideas and organization, he is immortal!”
The loss of Volodya is a heavy blow for the comrades in Petersburg. It is also a big loss for the whole International. I have told the comrades about him many times and said what a pity it was that he could not come to meetings of the International. I know, too, that Volodya wished with all his heart to be able to travel abroad, to participate in World Congresses and in the life of the International generally. He always dreamed of visiting Paris. But that was impossible because of his condition.
There was always the hope that one day he could have an operation that would allow him to travel. We spoke of this many times, and comrades in the International made a collection to pay for a transplant. Now that is all in the past. His last journey will take place tomorrow, and, sadly, it will not be to Paris. Vladimir Morozov will forever remain part of his native Russian soil. But his heart and soul will always be with the workers of the world.
On behalf of the International Secretariat, and of each and every member of the IMT, we send our condolences and solidarity to all Volodya's friends and comrades. We will honour the memory of comrade Volodya in the only way he would wish – by continuing his work of building the revolutionary Marxist International and fighting for the communist future of all humanity.