A short biography of British anarchist seaman and occasional writer, George Foulser.
Born 1920 – UK, died March 1975 – London, UK
"I have never paid off a deep-sea ship without having converted at least one shipmate to a revolutionary working-class point of view."
George was born within sight of London docks at Rotherhithe in 1920. His father and five brothers were dockers. He wanted to go to sea from an early age. "I finally managed to get away, at the ripe old age of sixteen, as a mate in sailing-barges". This was in 1937. He was a deck delegate of a ships' committee on Empire Razorbill in 1944 and deck delegate during the strike on the Ivor Rita in 1945, a Canadian ship under British conditions, that is under conditions worse than those normally found on Canadian vessels. He joined the Communist Party in early '42, let this lapse and then joined again a few years later.
His growing awareness of the CP's sabotage of workers' struggles led to a growing estrangement. He was involved in the seamen's strikes of 1960 and was chairman of the London Seamen's Strike Committee during the July strike. Through this he knew Brian Behan and Bill Christopher of Workers' Voice.
Behan, the brother of Brendan and Dominic, had passed through the CP and Healy's Socialist Labour League and was now involved in a short-lived Workers Party. With their help he brought out Seaman's Voice in the fourth week of the strike, two copies of which were produced during the strike (John Prescott allegedly led the scabbing in Liverpool). During the strike George also met fellow seaman Brian Hart, who was in the process of joining the Syndicalist Workers Federation and who eventually brought George in.
He wrote the book Seaman's Voice for MacGibbon and Kee in 1961. "An epic of the class struggle at sea which the literary world shrugged aside." (Albert Meltzer in Wildcat 7 April 1975).
Because of a blacklist he was forced out of the Merchant Navy, and spent last years of his life on the squatting scene. He only worked 6 weeks of one year in 1965. He had worked stoking the boiler in Poplar Hospital in 1960, during one of his times ashore, and in later years he resorted to stoking boilers in schools to get by.
He was involved in editing the anarchist newspaper Freedom. He joined the Syndicalist Workers Federation in 1964 and wrote Unholy Alliance; the 1966 Seamen's strike - an analysis (Direct Action pamphlets no.10) for it. During the 1966 strike, he brought out further issues of Seaman's Voice, printed for him by Mark Hendy of the SWF.
He remained with the SWF until at least 1968.
The sea was in George's blood and he didn't take too well to being a landlubber. He picked up bad habits, namely a taste for amphetamines and it was their use which ultimately weakened his big heart. His taste for speed was reflected in the East London Speed-Freak which he brought out from 1968 onwards on an irregular basis. This was a few sheets of duplicated foolscap stapled together.
"The vitally important thing is the Speed-freak's policy of publishing nothing but revolutionary rubbish, alias high-quality shit, which has been rigidly adhered since the paper's inception in 1968, will be maintained as unswervingly as ever."
- December 1973 issue
The Speed-Freak was a highly individual and idiosyncratic publication. It was filled with George's musings and ramblings on whatever took his fancy, charged with class struggle and laced with Cockney humour. One piece I remember well was a description of a day in his life, where he wandered around the neighbourhood where he lived, engaging in conversation with local people and shopkeepers in their first languages. George had that down to earth internationalism that comes to the workers that Ernst Schneider calls the toilers of the sea. The term 'class warrior' is often used lightly. Applied to George, it was apt and exact.
I got to know him in the last two years of his life in North West London. By then he was living in a squat in Kingsgate road off of Kilburn High Road. He was as cheery and chipper as it appears he had always been. He used to brew a lethal cup of tea, poured out of a kettle where he had mixed tea, boiling water, sugar and milk altogether! He always bought a copy of Libertarian Struggle , the monthly of the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists, from me. A week or so before he died he told me that he wanted to join the ORA. This was not to be. He died on March 1975 of a heart attack in West Hampstead.