On Friday 11th November, the Lambeth branch of UNISON lost one of our most respected and admired retired members.
Hitesh Patel, 64, a true friend and comrade, died unexpectedly whilst receiving treatment for the long running degenerative condition, the consequences of which he had borne with great fortitude for several years.
I had known Hitesh since soon after he arrived to work in Lambeth Council around the turn of the century. He was a loyal and solid trade unionist and it was entirely appropriate that he soon became a reliable and hard-working shop steward.
In a trade union branch notorious for having a diversity of socialist activists, Hitesh bridged the gap between the politically motivated comrades, most of whom (myself included) often failed to relate to our ordinary members like human beings, and the other shop stewards (who did not try to sell each other newspapers).
Hitesh was a principled and committed anti-imperialist, but he was never trying to recruit anyone to anything (apart from UNISON), promoting any Party or faction (although he was always on the side of the left) or pursuing any personal agenda or ambition.
Hitesh had a gentle kindness and generosity of spirit which is, sadly, all too rare in our movement. He brought together the commitment to a better world and the desire to help each individual which together make the best socialist shop stewards.
As a Branch Secretary, I knew that Hitesh was someone upon whom I could rely to take on an individual case, to stand on a picket line or to attend a demonstration.
He applied the courage and determination which made him such a fine trade unionist to coping with the enormous health challenges which he faced in recent years, and which led him to retire from the council last year.
More than anything, he was my friend. I am devastated that we have lost him at such an unreasonably young age, and I know that many others who knew him will be feeling the same.
The best of a lifetime of trade union activism is the best of the people we meet along the way. Hitesh Patel enriched my life and I am proud and grateful to have known him.
Leon Rosselson put it better than I can;
And our lives were made rich by the cause that we fought for
The friendship the fellowship, sharing one pain
To transform society, end exploitation
And that day will come yet, but not in my time