Pearce Bert

Bert Pearce

Born Herbert Pearce on January 6th 1919, in Pem­broke Dock, his mother was an enthusiastic Co-operator from the valleys of South Wales and his father, originally from Swansea, was a county school teacher, a Christian socialist, pacifist and Baptist lay-preacher. They were both active Labour Party members.

Bert was educated at the Pembroke Dock County School and his politics were derived from the poverty he saw in his com­munity after the dockyard closed in 1926. Ten years later, he became a clerk at the local labour exchange. Soon afterwards, having been a Labour Party member, Bert joined the Communist Party. He moved to Handsworth, Birming­ham in 1938 and was the area secretary for Wolverhampton and the Black Country from 1938 to 1949, being employed by the Communist Party (according to various sources) either from 1938 or, more likely, formally from 1941 and informally from 1938. Either wat, he was to work for the Party for the rest of his working life. .
From 1938 to the end of the Second World War, he was also the Midlands District Education and Propaganda Organiser, a role that placed him on the Midlands District Secretariat. Over the same period and extended to 1949, Bert was also a member of the organisation department of the Midlands district.
In 1946, he married fellow Welsh Communist Margaret Forbister (1918-1996), whom he had met at a May Day rally the previous year. Margaret was a school teacher from Rhymney and the couple went on to have two children together, David and Marian. The Pearces lived in Sparkbrook from 1949-52.
Maintaining his full-time work for the Party, from 1949 until 1952, Bert worked as the Midlands Party’s Industrial Organiser until he assumed the role of Birmingham City Secretary from 1953 to 1960. He wrote and edited several pamphlets on industrial work in the Midlands, and was very interested in housing and education policy. He wrote a pamphlet, ‘Jobs for Midlands Workers’, editing and introducing the first Birmingham pamphlet on the colour bar question. In the 1955 and 1959 General Election Bert Pearce contested the Perry Barr Parliamentary Constituency in Birmingham, and stood four times for the municipal elections in Birmingham.
He returned to Cardiff to become the full time Welsh Secretary of the Communist Party from 1960 to 1984, and was the Communist candidate in the Swansea East constituency by-election in March 1963, the 1970 General Election in Neath, and Cardiff South ward, May 1968.
Throughout his later years, Pearce was at the centre of internal Communist Party conflict, certainly from the moment of the sharp criticism of the 1968 events in Czechoslovakia. He was strongly identified with nurturing support for the young revisionist vanguard in the Party. As District Secre­tary of the Party in Wales, this placed him on the EC at a time of growing division. He was a member of the editorial board of Marxism Today (and a Welsh version, Cyffro) at the most critical of junctures. With the demise of the CPGB, he was fully behind the creation of Democratic Left. For the last decade of her life, he was a fulltime carer to his sick wife. Pearce himself died aged 83 on August 21st 2002in Cardiff.

Main source: Guardian 16th September 2002 and other sources

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