Gaster, a lawyer, was the son of the Sephardic (Iberian Jewish) Chief Rabbi of England and a medical inspector and doctor from Poplar. In 1931, he founded and played a significant role within the Revolutionary Policy Committee (RPC) of the Independent Labour Party, which resulted in a mass resignation of enormous numbers of ILP members and their joining the Communist Party.
Disaffection, arising from unhappiness at the policies of the second Labour Government which had been elected in 1929, saw the RPC becoming particularly active in London and its initial focus was on advocating the disaffiliation of the ILP from the Labour Party. After the ILP had agreed to this in 1932, the RPC sought to bring closer cooperation between the ILP and the Communist Party.
In 1933, the RPC successfully persuaded the ILP to adopt the policy of merging with the Communist Party, although this was never followed through. In 1934, a split in the ILP occurred and some left to form the Independent Socialist Party. By 1935, the ILP, though isolated from the wider labour movement, did not look as if it was going to move across to the Communist Party en bloc. Leading members of the RPC decided to wind it, leave the ILP and join the Communist Party.
Gaster, from hereon, became a Party stalwart and was an elected Communist councillor in Stepney in the late 1940s. For many years, he was the Communist Party’s prime legal adviser. He opposed revisionism in the CPGB in the 1980s and was, for many years, one of the high-profile honorary Vice Presidents of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.
The obituary written by John Haylett in the Morning Star follows:
(Tuesday 20 March 2007)
JOHN HAYLETT pays tribute to Jack Gaster, a communist and tireless campaigner for justice:
"Stop the Korea war, before we are all dragged down to destruction by order of the American overlords," Communist lawyer Jack Gaster told a British Peace Committee rally in Birmingham. Change Korea to Iraq and amend the date from 1952 to the present day and his active opposition to imperialist war emphasised a sense of continuity in a long life that was dedicated to peace and socialism, from his initial involvement with the Independent Labour Party in 1926 until his final days.
Another uncanny parallel between Iraq and Korea is that the Daily Worker report on the Birmingham rally quotes physics professor Eric Burhop calling for the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction. But, unlike the non-existent Iraqi WMD that were fraudulently cited by Tony Blair to stampede British forces into backing the 2003 illegal invasion, there was substance to those instanced by Burhop.
And Gaster was at the heart of those pointing the finger at the US for its use of germ warfare in Korea.
He was part of an eight-member International Association of Democratic Lawyers delegation sent to Korea to investigate evidence of US war crimes. He returned with what he called "the preliminary material for another Nuremberg."
On the strength of his cross-examination of witnesses, he published a 38-page dossier – Korea … I Saw the Truth – indicting Washington for germ warfare, executions without trial, burning alive, torture and organised destruction.