Gordon McLennan

Gordon McLennan (1924-2011)

Gordon McLennan, a past General Secretary of the Communist Party, died on 21 May at the St Christopher’s Hospice, after a long battle with cancer.

Gordon was born in Glasgow on 12th May 1924. Having joined the Young Communist League at the age of 15, McLennan served on the YCL Executive Committee from 1942-1947.

He worked as an engineering draughtsman but became a full time worker for the Party in Scotland, first as Glasgow City Organiser, then Glasgow City Secretary, then Scottish District Organiser and, in 1956, the Scottish Secretary. Having joined the National Executive of the Party in 1957, he became National Organiser in 1966 and General Secretary in 1975, succeeding John Gollan. He remained in post until 1989.
He contested numerous constituency seats: the Glasgow Govan constituency in the general election 1959, West Lothian in a 1962 by-election, Govan in the 1964 and 1966 general elections, St Pancras North in the 1970 and February 1974 general elections.
In his role as National Organiser, he became responsible for the Young Communist League, which he steered to make major changes in the 1960s and early 1970s in a revisionist direction. In the 1980s, he played a decisive role in creating circumstances where a major division of the Communist Party ensued. Enormous numbers of committed activists left or were excluded or expelled and some re-established the Communist Party in 1988, leaving the increasingly fragmented shell to continue for some four years.

Latterly, Gordon was a prominent activist in the Lambeth pensioners’ movement and was active in the Stop the War Coalition. In 1992, he joined the Communist Party of Scotland. He was a supporter of Respect led by George Galloway in the 2005 general election.

1 Response to “Gordon McLennan”

  1. 22 May 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I knew Gordon both as a colleague at St John Street, when I worked there as one of the CPGB’s archivists in the latter half of the 1980s, and as a fellow member of the Brixton CPGB branch. He had many good qualities, not least his transparent honesty and commitment to the cause. Gordon used to pull his weight in the branch, taking his turn at paper sales and routine activity. As that branch was also a rather free-thinking branch, Gordon had to argue for the party line against all sorts of sceptics, which he did without pulling rank.

    The notice posted above is derived to a considerable extent from the website of Graham Stevenson, a leading member of the CPB, which means that he has a certain axe to grind, as can be seen in his use of that ridiculous CPB euphemism for their split in 1988: “re-establishment”. It would be more accurate to say that the divisions within the CPGB, which had existed since at least 1968, and largely centred on whether it was ever acceptable to criticise the CPSU (“revisionism”, in the jargon of the CPSU-sycophants), could not be overcome, despite Gordon’s best efforts in the first 8 years of his general secretaryship. To be sure, the task of keeping the CPGB together proved too big for Gordon. I rather suspect it would have been too big for anyone.

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May 2011

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