Friday, July 6, 2018

Another Comrade


The Real Balfour Declaration

Earl Balfour, long-time May Day Books volunteer and militant class war activist, died on June 26th in the Our Lady of Peace hospice at the age of 82.  He will be missed by many for his acerbic wit, his signature hats and his commitment to the revolutionary labor movement.   Among others, he was close to his partner Lesa, his sons Jeff and Ken and his daughter Sharon.

He is the 3rd May Day Books volunteer to die in the last 3 years.  A leftist generation blooded in the 1950s and 1960s is passing away.
Earl restraining a cop at P-9 Strike - hat and mustache extra

Earl was a skilled machinist and tool & die maker who worked at Colt Manufacturing in Hartford, Connecticut and small machine shops around Minneapolis.  His fondness for metal machines was unmatched, as was his distaste for computers.  He loved and created small steam engines while at work, enjoying stealing time from the boss. Earl escaped Minnesota winters for many years by driving to the Yucatan area of Mexico, returning only when the snow retreated.

Earl spent time in the Socialist Workers Party in the 1960s and early 1970s, then left with many others due to political differences with the SWP leadership.  During the time he was in the SWP he was active in the anti-war movement against the Vietnam War. After leaving the SWP he joined several smaller left organizations, but decided to devote his time to strike and movement support and May Day Books.

Earl worked to support the P-9 Hormel strike back in the 1980s.  A picture of him in a fracas with police at the strike adorns May Day’s desk and is included here.  He was involved in the local Iowa Pork strike support committee (P-4) and support for UAW Local 869 at Ford, and also worked with Teamsters for a Democratic Union at Honeywell. Earl’s role in the AMFA strike in 2005, even as an older man, was stellar.  He drove the lead junker car as part of a mobile picket intending to shut down the Northwest scab gate near the airport.  He disabled the car in the road and was arrested by police, being later bailed out downtown by comrades.  Earl helped plan and participated in every anniversary celebration of the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike, beginning in 1984 with Harry DeBoer, Jake Cooper, and other local labor activists, then every 5 to 10 years thereafter.

Lenin Carried On
Earl played a role in the fight against fascist groups in the 1990s in Minneapolis.  At one point, he got some anti-racists in Anti-Racist Action out of a tight jam at the University of Minnesota by leading a garbage-can charge to break an encirclement by racist thugs.  He supported the American Indian Movement in spear-fishing struggles in the 1990s, homeless rights and every anti-US intervention struggle ever. He struggled alongside many groups, including communists, socialists, anarchists and DeLeonists. If there was a picket, a strike, an occupation or an anti-war demonstration, Earl would be there.

Earl started volunteering for May Day in the early 1980s.  Due to his mechanical intelligence, he planned and built some of the bookcases used to this day.  He contributed a potato clock to the May Day counter, to the delight of young and old.  He helped people move with his aging truck, razzed people with his exaggerations and stayed a proud Luddite to the end.

A memorial for Earl was held at May Day Books on June 30th which filled the store, standing room only.  According to his son Jeff, “he was a good comrade, father, grandfather, friend and mentor.  He was always there with good advice and leadership.  He inspired several generations of activists and always had a good story.”

Now his story is over.

Compiled by friends and family… July 6, 2018

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