January 14, 2004
John Percy & Graham Matthews
Green Left Weekly
Dot Tumney, a long-term member of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), passed away on December 25. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a few weeks earlier.
Dot was a committed activist and Marxist revolutionary for 32 years. She was born in March 1953 in Castlemaine, Victoria, and joined the socialist youth organisation Resistance in Melbourne in 1971. She was at the founding conference of the DSP in January 1972. Dot moved to Sydney in 1973, and in 1974 got a job as a psychiatric nurse.
In 1979 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and had to leave her job. She coped with all the problems that caused her, still retaining her socialist convictions and commitment, and her dry humour. She was on a disability pension, and helped out as much as she could. For many years, Dot was a mainstay of the DSP finance office, doing the essential but unglamorous work, and training many other comrades.
Dot was a modest, unassuming, no-nonsense, get-down-to-work sort of person. But she knew what she believed in and stuck firmly to that course for her whole adult life.
Not many comrades outside the DSP would have known Dot personally — her political contribution was behind the scenes. But for several decades in Green Left Weekly, and at Direct Action before that, many might have noted her name, reading that “Responsibility for electoral comment in this issue is taken by D. Tumney, 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale NSW”.
All who knew Dot would remember her dry wit — described as sharp, wry, sardonic, and biting — directed against the class enemy and any of their pompous lackeys, but not sparing any comrades who ventured into pompous territory themselves.
Dot had a keen interest in natural science, and wrote occasionally for GLW on scientific issues. Dot always regarded the knowledge she had accrued as communal property, not something to be jealously guarded.
In 1989 misfortune hit Dot again, this time it was cervical cancer, which she fought off. But this latest cancer that rapidly overcame her in recent months proved too much.
Three years ago, Dot wrote about her early years in the party and how she came into socialist politics (see <http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/566/566p10b.htm>. She concluded: “Having acquired the Marxist framework I have always used it on everything. Never having acquired wealth, power, offspring or mortgage I had no need to either outgrow or repudiate my youthful aspirations.”
Dot never did. Her life, both personal and political, was one of struggle and sacrifice. She stands as an inspiration to all those who knew her and valued her unwavering commitment to the cause of socialism in general and the building of the DSP in particular. She will be remembered fondly by her comrades and friends.
She was one of the “indispensable ones” that Bertolt Brecht wrote about
most eloquently: “There are those who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are others who struggle for a year and they are better. There are
those who struggle many years, and they are better still. But, there are
those who struggle all their lives: These are the indispensable ones.”
Copyright © 2004, Green Left Weekly