6 November 1919-10 June 2014
Vladimir Derer, who died on 10th June aged 94, was a true friend of nuclear disarmament and of CND.
From the 1970s onwards, as secretary of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, his support for Labour CND’s efforts to promote unilateral nuclear disarmament and reductions in military spending, helped ensure these issues stayed at the forefront of Labour Party debates. With his assistance, Labour remained committed to nuclear disarmament throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, despite growing opposition from successive party leaders.
Vladimir was one of the most important post-war figures of the Labour left in Britain. His vision of a democratic and participatory mass party led him to found CLPD in the mid-1970s, promoting reforms to the Labour Party’s policy-making procedures and greater representation for women and minorities. Vladimir put CLPD on the map and – unusual among Labour campaigns – helped keep it there for four decades.
At the height of his influence, Vladimir’s strategic understanding was responsible for some of the most important democratic reforms of the 1970s-80s – giving party members a greater say in the selection of their MP and choice of party leader. Despite the erosion of these reforms during the New Labour years, CLPD continues to campaign to make Labour more like that party Vladimir envisioned.
Vladimir Derer sought neither payment nor public recognition. Unusual among figures of all political persuasions, he was a back-room person: well-known among labour movement activists but rarely seen or heard in public.
I first met Vladimir in 1975 with his wife Vera, part of the CLPD team throughout, whilst helping produce the Campaign’s early newsletters, and continued to work with him from the 1980s to 2006 as secretary of Labour CND. Though failing health restricted the role he was able to play in recent years, Vladimir continued to take an active, often critical, interest in the affairs he’d spent the majority of his political life overseeing.
I last visited the Derers around 18 months ago with CND Vice President Walter Wolfgang. As always, we passed several happy hours in hot debate about the state of Iraq, Libya, Syria, the British economy and – not least – the Labour Party. Vladimir was a good friend to me and the many others who worked with him. We shall miss him all the more for that.
12 June 2014