I was checking emails while on holidays in Bateau Bay on the NSW central coast. My brother and I had just come back from swimming at Shelley Beach with my niece and her friend. A message from Neville asking when I would be arriving in the Blue Mountains, then some sad news:
As you may have heard Peter McGregor has committed suicide. Don’t have details yet. Was very sudden because I had an email from him the day before about an anti-Guantanamo demonstration. There’s an excellent obit by Tony Stephens in yesterday’s SMH.
In a round-about way I’ve known Peter McGregor for some 20 years, perhaps a bit longer. I can’t remember the circumstances of our meeting; I have no doubt he would know. Most recently I’d worked alongside Peter in the School of Communications at the University of Western Sydney in the late 1990s.
We always managed to stay in touch, even though I had moved away from UWS and left Sydney, first to Brisbane and now Auckland.
I always admired Peter’s dedication and enthusiasm. He was an activist and a humanist. Perhaps more of an anarchist than me, but nevertheless I will always be proud to call him “comrade”.
I’m chuckling at that because it is a term of endearment among socialists of all stripes and at times can even transcend ideological and factional disputes. “Comrade” has a proud tradition and it rings with affection and strength when spoken out loud among good friends. It can be stirring in song, “Comrades come rally and the last fight let us face.”
I’m chuckling because for the hard right and even the Liberal right “comrade” is a term of derision and abuse. I’ve been lambasted on at least one blog for using the word in every day speech. It was incontrovertibe proof of my Stalinist and anti-democratic tendencies.
I’m smiling because for some anarchists it holds similar connotations. Peter never minded me regarding him as a comrade. He was principled and non-sectarian. Peter would work with anyone for a common cause and the public good.
I have been looking for other online tributes to Peter. The first one I found was Remote Control. This is from Lynda Hawryluk; writer, educator, artist, keen disco dance, who was also a colleague of Peter’s.
My last interaction with Peter was over his arrest, court case and subsequent total absolution in the whole Ruddock incident, which, in my view, brought shame on a whole bunch of individuals and instutions that I had previously thought better of. I documented his adventure here on Ethical Martini.
So long comrade, so long revolutionary friend, goodbye Pete.