Lorraine Dardis, a founding member of Socialist Alternative in the US and an active member of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, passed away in London on March 22. Despite struggling against an illness for the last four years, and recently entering hospice care, Lorraine’s passing was still a terrible shock to her loved ones, comrades, and friends.
Most of Lorraine’s adult life was dedicated to revolutionary socialism through helping to organize around the methods and ideas of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). In retrospect, it’s easy to see how Lorraine was particularly attracted to Marxism and ready for the sacrifice and hard work involved in helping to build international socialism.
Lorraine was always incredibly kind and empathetic, often helping out friends in need and at the same time, adept at connecting problems she saw or experienced with their root causes in capitalism. Lorraine’s upbringing in a close and loving family and the circumstances of her younger years prepared her well for later socialist activism.
Lorraine was born in 1965 on a US army base in Germany. Despite the hardship of moving a lot as a self-described “army brat” – Lorraine learned to enjoy travelling and meeting new friends. Her parents, Leon and Mimi, encouraged Lorraine to care deeply about others, to value learning, and they made the frequent changes and difficulties of army camp life into positive experiences in many ways.
Lorraine’s family settled in New Jersey in the US during her high school years and there she had some influential teachers in high school, including one teacher who actually had the courage to introduce his students to socialist ideas. Lorraine became active in environmental protests against a multinational corporation, Ciba-Geigy, whose dye plant was polluting the environment of Toms River where Lorraine’s family settled down.
Lorraine went to Boston to attend university but the pull of political activism and a growing political awareness caused Lorraine to leave school before graduation. She became involved in the international peace and anti-nuclear movements of the time, including visiting the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and the Faslane Peace Camp in Scotland.
After more travel in Europe and then back to Boston to begin working a range of difficult, low-paid jobs, Lorraine met a friend who had just joined a group of union and socialist activists in the process of trying to start a new socialist group in the US – a group that would be in political solidarity with the CWI. Lorraine joined this effort to and became a founding member, in 1985, of what is now called Socialist Alternative.
In her own words: “Having already come across a range of political groups with different approaches and principles, I was attracted to Socialist Alternative for two main reasons: its support for creating a genuine democratically- run and grassroots-controlled socialist society internationally and its member-based, democratic, and anti-bureaucratic structure and functioning.”
Lorraine then devoted herself to the hard slog of helping to organize a socialist organization in the wake of the collapse of Stalinism, in the most powerful capitalist country in the world, and starting from scratch, essentially.
Lorraine’s intelligence, enthusiasm, and energetic activism were quickly noticed in the newly forming US grouping and Lorraine was elected into leadership positions and asked to become a full-time organizer. Accepting this, she worked first in Chicago, and then back in Boston. She played a key role in organizing young workers and helping to educate a new generation of Marxists in Socialist Alternative.
The late 1980s and 1990s were a difficult time for socialist organizing but Lorraine joined comrades in toughing it out, being in it for the long haul, and even making some organizational gains against great odds – establishing a foundation for Socialist Alternative in the US. Some of Lorraine’s more public work as an organizer for Socialist Alternative included helping to lead a campaign against domestic violence, being involved in numerous union solidarity campaigns; from helping organize new unions to strengthening existing unions involved in strikes, contract campaigns, and making unions more democratic.
Near the end of the 1990s, Lorraine left her political post but remained a leading member of Socialist Alternative, in the Boston branch and nationally. While balancing a lot of branch work with going back to university, Lorraine managed to finish her undergraduate degree.
In 2000, Lorraine moved to London to be with her partner, Lynn, a leader of the Socialist Party in England and Wales. As an active member of the Socialist Party, Lorraine began working at University College of London and in her 15 years there, she went on to gain a Masters Degree in Public Policy and she began a PhD program in education.
In 2015, Lorraine retired due to ill-health. She maintained a keen interest in the Socialist Party and CWI work, even as she fought her illness. The “old-timers” in Socialist Alternative will never forget her dedication and hard work for our cause of human liberation from capitalism, and for international socialism. Those of us who were lucky enough to be personal friends with Lorraine will also never forget her amazing kindness, generosity, and love. Her life will continue to inspire us.