Ludmer was born in Manchester in 1926 to a Jewish family, his father being a Salford hairdresser and his mother a teacher of Hebrew. The family moved to Balsall Heath, Birmingham in 1939, when his father gained a manager’s job at a gentlemen’s hairdressers. Maurice, who had a life-long passion for sport, obtained an apprenticeship at Austin, attended Handsworth Technical College and joined the Young Communist League.
He was later called up on National Service to the Army, visiting Belsen concentration camp at the age of 20, after being seconded to the War Graves Commission, an experience that influenced the future course of his life. After various jobs on being demobilised, he was able to become a sports journalist.
Active in the CP, the tenants’ association, and the peace movement, he married his wife, Liz, in 1956, becoming a caring father to several children. Maurice stood as a Communist Party council candidate in Balsall Heath, during which time he worked as a knitwear quality controller in a factory. The picture is from an election address (thanks to Martin Levy).
With others, Maurice set up the Co-ordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination in the very early 60s and became strongly associated with anti-racist activity thereafter, especially through his close personal relationship with Indian Workers’ Association leader, Jagmohan Joshi. Both sought to recruit south Asian migrants to the Party in the late 1950s.
In June 1965, when Rowley Regis Residents Association withdrew an invitation to join it routinely given to new householder after discovering they were black, Maurice led a deputation from CCARD to the leading official of the Association and the ban was lifted. In November of that year, he led a couple dozen Indians on a pub crawl in West Bromwich and Smethwick, designed to break the colour bar ban – 10 of the 11 pubs they visited served them.
As Joshi became increasingly critical of the politics of the Indian Communist Party, this also addressed the question of the British CP’s relationships with trades unions and how institutional racism was addressed and Ludmer was drawn to these ideas. Taking an increasingly leftist course, CCARD organised demonstrations over international issues such as the Vietnam war and against British colonial rule. Joshi began to vocalise ideas linked to ‘black power’, including advocacy of separate black unions.
A more broadly based national organisation Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) rather supplanted the local CCARD. In 1968, Maurice left the Communist Party over differences related to these questions but nonetheless maintained reasonably friendly relations.
Later, he became involved with Searchlight Associates, the anti-fascist resource body. From 1973 he worked full time as a freelance journalist, collaborating with Gerry Gable in 1974 to produce A Well Oiled Nazi Machine, a booklet exposing the nature of the National Front, the title taken from the words of one of the party’s leaders.
He played a leading role in launching Searchlight magazine in 1975, serving first as managing editor and then as full-time editor. Searchlight would go on to infiltrate right-wing groups, gathering secret information about illegal activities. The existence of Column 88, a hard-line British Nazi underground, was revealed by it. In the summer of 1976, Colin Jordan, former British Movement leader, and a prominent long term Nazi, fruitlessly brought a criminal libel suit against Maurice.
A member of the steering group of the first Anti-Nazi League in 1977, he was elected President of Birmingham Trades Council after significant pressure over a period from a very broad left alliance to depose a right winger saw Communist Jack Lynch, convenor at Rover, lose by 10 votes out of several hundred cast. Maurice’s candidature the following year united ultra lefts behind the broad left vote.
He suffered a stroke in February 1980 and returned to work after what was thought to be a full recovery, but had a heart attack and died at his home in Birmingham on 14 May 1981, suddenly in the middle of a phone call to a Special Branch Officer over fascist activities.
GS personal knowledge; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; 14 June 1965 – Birmingham Daily Post; 15 November 1965 – Daily Mirror; 12 August 1976 – Birmingham Daily Post; 31 December 1976 – Coventry Evening Telegraph.