Max Neill

Max Neill   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Obituary: Max Neill, 1966-2016

Socialist Party members in the North West and beyond were saddened to hear of the loss of longstanding comrade, Max Neill, on 29 February.

Max joined Militant (forerunner of Socialist Party) in Blackburn while a teenager. He was immediately thrown into the maelstrom of the struggle against the careerist right wing of the Labour Party. The campaign in defence of the ‘Blackburn Six’ – Militant supporters expelled from the local Labour Party – was in full flight and in the national media.

As a student at Lancaster University, ‘Max the Militant’ was a stalwart of the Labour Club and organised solidarity action for miners during their heroic 1984-85 strike, including a “miners’ wives sponsored swim” at the university pool.

Max moved to Preston after graduating and played a crucial role in running the local Militant group. He could always be relied upon to carry out any task required, including braving the elements for early morning Militant paper sales at the town’s BAE and GEC plants.

While modest and generous, Max never shied away from debate on important issues with those on the right or the left of the movement. He had an impressive grasp of Marxist ideas and applied them to the living world.

Max was also physically courageous. I was with him when a group of BNP thugs attacked our Militant street stall in Preston town centre. We defended the stall but Max was left bloodied. Max did not retreat in the face of these fascists but led our successful campaign to mobilise all the rest of the left and the local unions to defend our stalls.

Poll Tax battle

Max Neill leading (left with bullhorn) anti poll tax demo in Preston

Max Neill leading (left with bullhorn) anti poll tax demo in Preston   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

It was probably during the titanic anti-poll tax struggle where Max most excelled. The Preston Militant comrades decided to test out the water by holding a public meeting in October 1988 against the iniquitous tax – one of the first outside Scotland – and hundreds turned up.

For the next few years, Max was at centre of the long campaign in Preston and across Lancashire to organise working class people against the tax. He was crucial in the formation of the Preston Anti-Poll Tax Union and Lancashire Anti-Poll Tax Federation.

In 1991 Max did a one-man protest in Accrington during a carnival parade that was inspected by Tory MP David Trippier. A press photo shows Max, who somehow got onto the viewing balcony behind Trippier, holding aloft a Militant placard – ‘Stop Poll Tax Jailings’ – in protest at the cruel jailing of a World War Two veteran.

  (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

After the magnificent victory over Thatcher’s flagship poll tax, Max’s focus centred on bringing up a young family and his work with people with learning disabilities, where he made an important contribution to the field of Person Centred Approaches. When diagnosed with cancer, Max bravely blogged about ‘end of life planning’, which was featured in the national press.

Max remained committed to socialist ideas and loyal to the Socialist Party. When I visited him in February he was enthusiastic about Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party but added that bold socialist policies need to be adopted, and a mobilisation of the working class, to see off the Blairite plotters.

The Socialist Party sends condolences to Max’s partner and comrade, Lorraine, and all his family and friends.

Niall Mulholland

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 March 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.