Its pioneering work led to the establishment of organisations such as Anti-Apartheid, War on Want, and the British Council for Peace in Vietnam, among others. Barbara Haq was its key organiser for most of this period, working for the movement from 1958 until she resigned in 1973, after more than a decade as General Secretary.
The daughter of Edward Lapwood Green, the Chief Examiner of Estate Duty, she might have chosen other paths, but her interest in music brought her into contact with left-wing musicians. As a result, she joined the Communist Party during the Second World War and worked for its London District Office with anti-colonial rebels and overseas students.
One of these, Islam al Haq, from an Indian Muslim family, she married. After the birth of two daughters and a son, they left for Pakistan in 1954. Barbara Haq, however, suffered from ulcerative colitis, which had led her to lose three years of schooling, and was forced to return to Britain with the children in 1956 for medical attention. Her husband remained in Pakistan.
When Pakistan fell under military rule in 1958, Barbara Haq mobilised opposition in Britain and was in due course asked by political exiles to represent the interests of the National Awami Party of Pakistan in Britain. Disillusioned with the Communist Party, she then joined the Labour Party and took a job in the Movement for Colonial Freedom's office.
Her knowledge, dedication and secretarial skills were soon recognised and, after being seconded for a period to act as Secretary to the newly formed British Council for Peace in Vietnam, she succeeded John Eber as Secretary of MCF in 1962. She became a confidant of Fenner Brockway, Bob Edwards and other parliamentarians and mobilised rank-and-file support for the causes they embraced. Opposing war in Vietnam and Nigeria, denouncing massacres in Indonesia, fighting apartheid in southern Africa, supporting the cause of freedom in colonial countries, rallying racism's opponents in Britain and action against world hunger were some of the issues on the agenda.
Haq's life was dominated by the work of convening conferences, organising demonstrations, producing the MCF journal Colonial Freedom News, providing briefings, typing stencils at an incredible speed, turning the duplicator handle, stuffing envelopes and raising funds. Occasionally she undertook overseas missions herself, like one around 1970 to Sudan to try to achieve understanding between north and south. Her pay was a pittance and she never sought personal publicity or self-advancement. The cause was all that mattered.
Barbara McKay Green, campaigner: born London 8 March 1918; Secretary, Movement for Colonial Freedom 1962-73; married 1942 Islam al Haq (died 1993; one son, one daughter, and one daughter deceased); died London 2 March 1998.Reuse content