In Memoriam

Daring to struggle: Remembering John Peter Daly 1965-2023

Beloved Party for Socialism and Liberation comrade John Peter Daly died June 28, 2023, age 58. A lifelong organizer, he dedicated himself to building the PSL in many parts of the United States. At the time of his death, he had been living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, since 2016 where he was a much-loved member of the Gulf Coast Branch. He is survived by his parents John and Valerie and his brother David. 

Born Jan. 26, 1965, and raised in a working-class family in New Jersey, he became interested in socialism through exposure to liberation theology in the Catholic church of his childhood and solidarity with the liberation movements of Central and Latin America. 

John Peter Daly as a young man. From Daly’s personal album.

Daly joined the socialist movement in New York City in 1986 during the height of the AIDS crisis. He was a young gay man at a time when it was still common for LGBTQ people to be unwelcome in parts of the socialist milieu. With his big personality and sense of humor, he navigated the movement and was very active in street outreach. Throughout his career as a cadre, he showed a great talent for connecting with all different kinds of people and drawing them into the orbit of the struggle. He was always unashamed to speak about what he believed in, no matter the time or place, no matter how much he himself was struggling.

John Daly was an early recruit to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, helping to build the Party all around the country — from Albuquerque to Asheville to Tallahassee and South Florida to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and everywhere in between. He never met a stranger. He would strike up a conversation anywhere with anyone, and work to build a relationship with them and understand their struggles. He always pushed everyone around him to work harder at organizing, at building relationships, at being organized and disciplined and creative and resourceful. He did not like to take ‘no’ for an answer. He was always dreaming about the next big project or campaign, while spearheading a hefty load of projects.

Daly made tremendous contributions to the movement for socialism, but in keeping with who he was as an individual, he lived an extremely full life and explored many interests. In his youth, he trained as a gymnast. His career as a public health/human services and social research professional took him to many places including NYC, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, as well as Geneva, Switzerland, when he worked for the World Health Organization. In that capacity, he traveled around the world including to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

As befits a true internationalist, he was multilingual, proficient in Spanish and Portuguese, with reading, speaking and listening skills in French and Haitian Creole as well. In addition to his work in health and human services, he earned a master’s degree in 2000 in sociolinguistics from California State University Northridge, and taught writing to college students for many years. He even had a side hustle for a while as a journalist writing about mixed martial arts, which he also engaged in. 

After Daly joined PSL, he threw himself into building the Party. As the Party grew and developed in its early years, he served as one of the first National Outreach Coordinators. At various times he was an active member of PSL branches in NYC, South Florida, Albuquerque, Houston, Los Angeles and the Gulf Coast. He wrote on many different topics for Liberation News, embracing the potential of militant journalism as a tool to reach working people. (NJ workers’ pensions are not candy! – Liberation News)

John Daly was the rare individual who struck the balance between mentor and friend, between caring for others and accepting care himself. He was overflowing with ideas and guidance, but he treated younger comrades as equals, and asked their opinions and advice just as much as he dispensed his to them. 

When he’d tell comrades about his experiences he never came off as self-important or condescending — every story served an instructive purpose, but was also filled with silly anecdotes. One comrade, Cecilia Paz, found out that he’d told an older comrade in another branch that she was “smart and a good writer.” She remarked, “Learning that made me feel warm for days on end. That was the effect that John had on people.”

Organizing for socialism in a reactionary and vehemently anti-worker country such as the United States sometimes feels like an uphill battle. Fred Hampton once said, “If you dare to struggle, you dare to win,” and this quote ignites our revolutionary optimism. In his later years, John Daly became disabled. His disability compromised his mobility, and he was a victim of the inhumane capitalist health care system, yet he dared to struggle daily. He always saw what others might deem to be his “personal” challenges as products of the capitalist system, and sought to use these challenges as an opportunity to connect with other workers and advance the struggle. (Reflections on fighting age-discrimination to build unity – Liberation News

John Daly: always doing outreach. Liberation photo

He taught his comrades what it means to ceaselessly believe in the people. He couldn’t always be in the streets with them, but he was an integral leader. He always helped comrades to execute their plans and debrief after. He had relationships with the immigrant communities and the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, and he reminded the comrades in the branch that maintaining strong relationships with grassroots organizations was a necessary task. When he did come out into the streets, his energy and leadership were infectious.

Over five years ago, Daly suffered from a traumatic brain injury and subsequent surgeries that left him an incomplete quadriplegic. This was devastating for him, not least because it posed such an interruption to the things he felt compelled to spend his time doing. He had to face so many new challenges in terms of his own mobility as well as navigating the broken system that the government has in place to provide so-called care for people with disabilities. Many others would have given up organizing under the circumstances.

Not John Daly. In 2020, a few years after his injury, living in Baton Rouge, he organized other disabled people, he tried to organize the low-wage workers who are employed as caregivers for the disabled, and he even organized on the app Next Door — creating a program called Neighbors Helping Neighbors. In 2021-22, Daly was part of a team of writers and editors who developed a pamphlet on the struggle for the liberation of disabled people. The pamphlet will be published by 1804 Books later this year. (See also Ms. Wheelchair: People listen ‘when you wear a crown and sash’ – Liberation News)

John Daly was well known for his sense of humor and his infectious laugh. Eugene Puryear of PSL, who also was a very early recruit to the Party, recalls this story: “After we attended the first ever PSL public meeting in New York City in the back of some BBQ place, we were moving chairs from Ramsey Clark’s office down to take to Washington, D.C., for our new office. It was a long rickety staircase so it was a touch taxing. And about halfway through, right before we headed back up to get what was left, John looks directly at me and deadpans: ‘Since you’re new I’ll tell you this now: 30% of being a communist is just moving s–t around,’ and then laughed in his distinctive way.”

John Peter Daly deeply understood that struggle changes consciousness, and that the people have the ability to unite and overcome any challenges if they are given the right knowledge and the right conditions. He fought every day of his life until his last one and we are honored to carry forth his legacy.  

John Daly (left) and Eugene Puryear (right) at national protest in Jena, Louisiana to free the Jena 6., Sept. 20, 2007. Liberation photo

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