Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 9 February 2001 page 3
Spanish civil war veteran, educationalist and indefatigable campaigner for pensioners' rights
Dave Goodman, who has died aged 85, was an influential figure in the pensioners' movement, a former Communist party organiser, and a lifelong political activist. He was one of the last surviving members of the International Brigade which fought for the Republicans in the Spanish civil war, and an inspirational adult educator.
Dave's early years were spent in Middlesbrough, where his parents, fleeing the persecution of Jews in the Russian empire, had settled. His father opened a general store and Dave was brought up within a liberal family, one that fostered his lifelong passion for books and education. He attended Middlesbrough High School and, after working for his father, became a travelling salesman.
In 1930 he joined the Young Communist League. This involvement led to his volunteering to fight in Spain in January 1938. After being wounded in the leg, he returned, as commissar, to the fourth company of the British Battalion. He was taken prisoner in the spring of 1938, remaining in captivity - in San Pedro de Cardena, concentration camp -for nearly 10 months. Of his life in the camp, Dave recalled in an interview for the Guardian last November: "It was grim. No windows, just bars. It was cold, even into late spring. There was a stone floor and no bedding. Sanitation was minimal. You'd get a very small loaf of bread once a day, otherwise only beans... People made chess sets from bits of bread and we organised classes. We endeavoured to keep ourselves mentally, as well as physically, alive."
On his return to England, Dave continued to work for the Communist party and was a CP organiser in the 1940s and 1950s in Devon and Cornwall. During the second world war, as with many ex-Brigaders, he was banned from enlisting in the army and blacklisted from war work.
His family had been too poor to enable him to attend university in the 30s, but he became a mature student at 50 and, having graduated in economics from Hull in 1969, worked as a lecturer in trade union studies at Cauldon College in Stoke-on-Trent, later becoming warden and tutor-organiser for the Workers' Education Association at the Wedgwood Memorial College, Barlaston (1972-79). There he pioneered a programme of studies including summer schools for North Staffordshire miners and, for the Open University/WEA, on the renaissance and the reformation.
After retiring as warden, he continued organising and teaching adult education programmes. Some reflected his 1930s experiences, such as the successful Spanish civil war summer schools. Others illustrated his new concerns for the rights of older people, as with the programmes he organised for the National Pensioners' Convention. His educational achievements were honoured last year with an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University.
In the last phase of Dave's life, he invigorated the pensioner movement. His vision of dignity and independence was built around restoring the link between the state pension and earnings. Chairing the North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention from its inception in 1991, he characteristically paid for the advertisement announcing its first public meeting. This was a tumultuous 300-strong event at the Hanley Museum where Dave and another Brigader-turned-pensioner, Jack Jones, spoke. Through the 1990s he served on the National Council of the Pensioners' Convention.
He was a superbly effective writer. He wrote a Grey Power column in Stoke-on-Trent's paper, The Sentinel, and in his book No Thanks to Lloyd George (1998) he dealt with the development of state pensions. He was active right up to his death, always armed with facts, figures, and rational arguments. A fighter and a tough opponent, Dave Goodman was also a man of great compassion and generosity.
He was married twice. He is survived by his daughter, Carol, and two grandchildren. Chris Phillipson
David Goodman, political activist, born February 25 1915; died January 3 2001