Remembering Seymour Kramer (1946-2017)

by Patrick M. Quinn

February 20, 2017

Seymour Kramer, a founding member of Solidarity and longtime labor union activist in the San Francisco Bay area, died of complications of diabetes in Berkeley, California, on January 20, 2017 at the age of 70.

Seymour Kramer. Photo by Alex Chis.

I first got to know Seymour in the mid-1960s when we were both members of the Young Socialist Alliance (the youth organization of the Socialist Workers Party) in Madison, Wisconsin, and were actively involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam. Seymour, originally from New York, had come to Madison as a student at the University of Wisconsin. Seymour and I soon became friends. It was immediately evident to me that he was a bright, outgoing, friendly, independent-minded person, highly articulate and a very good public speaker.

One of the first memorable political activities that Seymour and I collaborated on was to call up Muhammad Ali, the World Champion heavyweight boxer who then lived in Atlanta, Georgia and had publicly expressed his opposition to the U.S. war against Vietnam. We asked him if he would be willing to come to Madison to speak against the war in Vietnam at a public forum that we would organize. Ali readily agreed to do so. He came to Madison and spoke to a capacity audience at the Stock Pavilion on the west side of the University of Wisconsin campus. With the proceeds of the small admission fee that the Madison Committee Against the War in Vietnam had charged for Ali’s speech (which we shared with the Black Students Union), the MCEWV purchased an electrically-powered mimeograph machine which churned out hundreds of thousands of anti-war and other political leaflets over the ensuing four years.

After Seymour graduated from the University of Wisconsin, he returned to New York for a short time before moving to San Francisco where he was active in the labor movement and became president of the School Bus Drivers Union. I would get together with him whenever I visited the San Francisco Bay area.

In 1986, Seymour and I both became founding members of Solidarity. But Seymour continued to support progressive members of the Democratic Party, including Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential primary campaign. He reluctantly concluded that such a political position was incompatible with Solidarity’s so he resigned his membership. But Seymour remained a committed revolutionary socialist, labor union activist, and an ardent champion of the working class. Seymour was one of the best socialist militants that I have ever had the good fortune to know. I will miss him and always treasure the political journey that we shared as young socialists.

Seymour is survived by his wife, Laura Goldsmith, daughters Hannah and Sasha Kramer, and his sister Karen Florman.

Pat Quinn is a member of Solidarity in southern Wisconsin.