ADMINISTRATIVE/BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: Jack Gaster was the twelfth of the thirteen children born to Moses Gaster, the
Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic Community of England, and his wife, Leah (daughter
of Michael Friedlander, Principal of Jews' College). Rumanian by birth, Moses
Gaster was a distinguished scholar, linguist and keenly active in early twentieth
century Zionist politics. (Jack Gaster was never attracted by Zionism and from
1946 became a strong advocate of a 'one state' solution to Israel/Palestine).
Jack Gaster’s awakening to politics in general took place twenty years earlier
during the General Strike in 1926. His favourite brother, Francis actually worked
as a blackleg bus driver but Jack sided with the strikers. It was at this time
that he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), headed by James Maxton. Although
a life-long admirer of Maxton’s, Jack Gaster became a leading member of the Revolutionary
Policy Committee (RPC) within the ILP and organised the 1935 'resignation en masse';
taking a substantial group within the ILP over into the Communist Party of Great
In the immediate post war period, Jack Gaster was elected (as one of just two
Communist councillors) to the London County Council (LCC). Representing the working
class area of Mile End, Stepney, he immersed himself in the bread and butter issues
of housing, employment and transport. In 1952, (along with seven other representatives
of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers) he made a dangerous and
illegal journey to North Korea at the height of the Korean War. The prime mission
was to discover if the United Nations was using biological weapons (germ warfare)
against North Korean civilians. On his return to Britain, Jack Gaster published
a 38- page dossier, Korea... I Saw the Truth, indicting Washington for their use of germ and other barbaric forms of warfare
in North Korea. Jack Gaster was denounced by the patriotic press and there were
serious calls for him to be indicted for treason, (a crime which then carried
the death penalty). He was later fully vindicated.
A solicitor by profession, Gaster was also deeply involved with the legal aspects
of political struggle, representing communists, trades union, civil rights and
peace activists, alongside individuals as different in temperament and ideology
as Joe Slovo and Tariq Ali. He was for many years the Communist Party's principle
legal adviser. A member of the CPGB until its dissolution, he had no sympathy
with those who left the party over Hungary or Czechoslovakia and viewed the Paris
events of 1968 and the New Left as 'subjectively progressive and objectively reactionary'.
Always firm in his commitment to Cuba, China and the Soviet Union, he was totally
opposed to Revisionism and the destruction of the CPGB seeing with absolute clarity
that the fall of the Soviet Union would result not in a 'Peace Dividend', but
in new and more brutal 'Imperialistic' wars.
In the 1990's Jack Gaster joined the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) headed by Arthur
Scargill; though in his very ultimate years he was in no political party. He remained
vice-President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and was committed to
the training and support of young socialist lawyers. Gaster also remained a lifelong
supporter of the British-Soviet Friendship Society (now the Society for Co-operation
in Russian and Soviet Studies) and he helped raise the new memorial at the Imperial
War Museum in honour of the massive contribution made by The Red Army to the defeat
SCOPE AND CONTENT:
- Quarter inch tape reels featuring music recordings by Rufus John and speeches
by George Lansbury, Ramsay MacDonald, Willie Gallacher, James Maxton, etc, n.d.
- Papers, press cuttings and notes relating to social issues in London and Gaster’s
service on the London County Council, 1946-1961.
- Press cuttings and miscellaneous notes regarding China, Poland, Guiana, communism
and international affairs, 1953-1982.
- Metal paper stamp of the British Soviet Friendly Houses Limited, n.d.
- Festschrift for Jack Gaster on his 95th Birthday and order for memorial service,
Quantity: 6 Boxes