Obituary: Mike Kyriazopoulos
Obituary: Mike Kyriazopoulos
February 21, 2014
Last month Fightback lost one of its leading members, Michael Kyriazopoulos. In Aotearoa he was known in the workers movement as Mike Kay. Mike came to us from England but he had a strong Greek heritage, and had close family living in both Israel and South Africa. So he had a very broad culture. Tragically, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in January 2013.
He brought a lot to Fightback. His international knowledge, his knowledge of issues within Marxism, and his measured consistent approach to practice meant that he was a leading member of the organisation.
At Mike’s funeral a tribute by one of Mike’s Alliance for Workers Liberty comrades in the UK was read. It pointed out that Mike was ‘comfortable leading from the middle’. This was a great way to put it; In our view Mike led really well but he never sought to be out at the front and never got in the way of the political growth of others who he developed.
His industrial work in the UK was in the rank-and-file of the posties union. In Aotearoa he worked as an organiser for Northern AWUNZ. His finest moment was during the struggle of I-Kiribati workers against redundancies and to establish union rights with an agricultural employer. He turned this in to a political struggle by involving his local Mana Party branch and Mana leaders. In that struggle he also led a case for reinstatement and was successful. This had lasting importance in terms of case law, as the government had recently changed reinstatement laws, so they were up for interpretation. At a different workplace a discussion has just been started about a members’ education scholarship being made under his name. Of course he supported workers in many other struggles being waged by other unions.
Theoretically Mike’s main contributions were on the issue of the relationship between Maori liberation and socialism. He has asked us all, particularly in the Mana movement and in the socialist left, to keep pushing on this question. Fightback has endorsed the idea of compiling some of his work on these issues in to pamphlet form. Some people are surprised that this was an area where Mike focussed a lot of his theoretical work. But it makes sense. He was able to come at the question with less predetermination than others and with the sharp clarity for which he was known.
Mike and his wife Jo became citizens of Aotearoa in the first half of 2013 and Mike swore his citizenship oath in the presence of Hone Harawira. Mike rebelliously followed that with a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi. Hone threw one of his tongue-in-cheek jokes by noting “and he’ll be one of the first people we’ve welcomed in to the country!”
Amongst all his friends – activists and non-activists - Mike was also inspirational because of the way he was during his illness and because of his accomplishments when he was sick. This included continuing to pay socialist membership dues, writing and publishing his Grandmother’s memoirs of the Russian revolution, and of course publishing his fiction piece A Cloudy Sunday. We thank him for leaving us with A Cloudy Sunday which provides many insights into his views and thoughts on life.
We will miss him dearly as a comrade. For many of us we’ll also miss him as a friend. We’ll never forget him, his contribution, or the work he has asked us to continue.