Obituaries

Socialist Affairs, Issue 1 / Volume 49, 2000

Roosevelt "Rosie" Douglas, 58, Leader of the Dominica Labour Party, and Prime Minister of the former British colony in the Eastern Caribbean died at his home near the Dominican capital Roseau on 1 October.

He had led the country since February when, in elections held on 31 January, the party won ten of the 21 seats in the island's parliament and ousted the former government of Edison James' United Workers' Party.

Douglas, the son of a wealthy Dominican family, entered politics in the 1960s on the right as he started his university education in Canada. He was leader of the Progressive Conservative student organisation at the Sir George Williams University in Toronto.

The life of underprivileged Canadians, particularly Blacks and Indians, and the life and death of Martin Luther King caused him to change his views and he became a leader of many demonstrations for reform. "I met a lot of ordinary Canadians and I set up a literacy class for prisoners who couldn't read or write", he commented earlier this year.

He took the reins of the Labour Party in 1992 after the death of his brother. On taking office he committed himself to fighting corruption and in particular the sale of Dominican passports.

The issue was a major feature of this year's elections where Labour Party members paraded with a banner reading "Dominica is not 4 sale. Save our passports from Mafia.Vote Labour."

Douglas favoured help for the banana industry and more affordable health services and had been seeking increased aid from Britain and Canada.


 

Pierre Guidoni, an active socialist, who held many responsibilities within the French Socialist Party, PS, and within the international socialist family, died in Paris, on 13 June, at the age of 58.

At the time of his death Guidoni held the post of Interdepartmental Director for Cooperative Development and International Migration, was First Vice-President of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and Vice-Chancellor of the University Office of Socialist Research in Paris.

Born on October 3, 1941, in Montpellier, Pierre Guidoni, a distinguished diplomat and political author, devoted his life to socialist politics. A graduate of the Paris Institute of Political Studies, he was one of the founding fathers of the new French Socialist Party in the early 1960s, together with François Mitterrand and Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

Guidoni became a member of the National Union of French Students in 1962, where, two years later, he became its Secretary General and subsequently its Vice-President. In 1965, he co-founded the Centre for Socialist Studies, Research and Education with Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

In 1971, Guidoni was elected to the executive board of the French Socialist Party. He was an elected Parisian councillor between 1971-1978 and represented Aude as its deputy in the National Assembly between 1978-1983.

A fluent Spanish speaker, Guidoni was chosen by François Mitterrand as ambassador to Spain (1983-1985). During this period, he helped to improve relations between France and Spain by initiating a joint campaign to combat terrorism by Basque separatists. On his return he was appointed as President of the Institute of the Arab World, but stayed in the post for less than a year.

Guidoni returned to the national secretariat of the French Socialist Party in 1987, as an expert in European Affairs. He later took charge of the international section, where his knowledge of Europe, the Arab world and Latin America came to the fore. He went on to serve as ambassador to Argentina from 1991 to 1993.

In October 1995, Guidoni returned to serve as PS International Secretary, and was actively involved in the work of the Socialist International, whose members remember him with appreciation. His deep knowledge of international affairs made an invaluable contribution to the International's Paris Congress, in November 1999.


Donald Dewar, leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and the First Minister in the restored Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, died on 11 October aged 63. He had undergone major heart surgery in May this year.

He was born in a middle-class household in Glasgow, the only son of elderly parents with an ailing father. In his young days he made few friends, a fact he blamed for his lifelong shyness. (He was always uncomfortable with the title 'father of the nation' that was sometimes bestowed on him after Scottish devolution last year.)

His life changed and he first became involved in politics at university in Glasgow where he was a contemporary of the future leader of the British Labour Party, John Smith. In 1964 he won the seat of Aberdeen South in the Westminster parliament. After losing the seat in 1970 he returned to national politics in 1978 representing Glasgow Garscadden, a part of the city full of municipal housing for poorer people that he continued to represent until his death.

In the 1980s he was shadow Scottish Secretary, a difficult job at a time when the Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party controlled the House of Commons in London though support for her and her party was minimal in Scotland.

He was always firmly opposed to independence for Scotland and strongly supported the union with England within the United Kingdom. He did, however, take a leading part in the negotiations within a Scottish national convention where all the main parties, the trade unions and the churches with other representative of Scottish society came together. The convention led to the establishment of parliament in the Scottish capital in July last year for the first time since the last one was dissolved three centuries ago when the two countries came together and power was centralised in London.

Sometimes seen as reclusive, he was passionate about football, often watching the performance of the Scottish team with his friend Gordon Brown, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, was among the mourners at his funeral in Glasgow on 18 October, as was Bertie Ahern, his Irish counterpart.

Speaking at the service, Brown said Dewar was, "endlessly charismatic but always modest - a constant friend. The first you would think to invite to a party".

 

 


© 2000 Socialist Affairs. All rights reserved.

Signed articles represent the views of the authors only, not necessarily those of Socialist Affairs or the Socialist International

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