Remembering Mike Warner, 1941–2023

Socialist feminist, anti-Nazi stalwart and architect

Mike (left) assisting with the HERE kitchen at an anti-Nazi demo on Whidbey Island, Washington, in 1989.
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The world lost a dedicated revolutionary when Mike Warner passed away in March. The third of eight children born to Radical Women co-founder Gloria Martin, he followed his mother’s lead and embraced left politics. Mike got his first lessons on organizing as a child in Saint Louis, Missouri. When the Black community demanded that the city integrate public pools, the administration shut them down instead. Martin took Mike and his siblings to walk the picket lines calling for the pools to be reopened and for an end to segregation.

Working class to the bone. Mike’s longtime partner Max Reigel says “Mike always knew what side of the class line he was on.” And well he might; as a teen he studied Capital and The Communist Manifesto. As an adult, he joined the Freedom Socialist Party and never looked back.

In 1997 Mike took part in the International Feminist Brigade to Cuba organized by Radical Women and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). Freedom Socialist Party founder Clara Fraser asked him to join the contingent because he was a straight, white man and a socialist feminist. She wanted to demonstrate to the FMC that socialist feminism had universal appeal and Mike was happy to oblige.

Guerry Hoddersen, a founder of the United Front Against Fascism (UFAF), remembers that whenever there was a call to counter the “Aryans” trying to take over the Northwest in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Mike answered with calm confidence that gave others the courage to stand up to some pretty unsavory characters. He was a key UFAF member, she says, manning the picket lines in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Mike knew that you couldn’t ignore fascists or the anti-abortion rights campaigners who targeted clinics. Whenever the call went out to defend rights of women and people who can get pregnant, Mike was there. He presented a tough exterior to class enemies, but was really a bit of a softy, with a wicked sense of humor. He was proud of his son and daughter-in-law, and particularly loved how his two granddaughters, despite their youth, were already standing up for their rights and beliefs.

Designing the future. Not many people know the unconventional way Mike acquired his architectural drafting skills. He tried getting a degree at the University of Washington, but at that time the school required young men to pass ROTC classes to graduate. Mike just couldn’t make himself go along with becoming cannon fodder in the service of capitalism. Knowing he would never graduate, he looked for another way. He asked Milton Stickler to take him on as an apprentice. Sticker, who had himself apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright, was impressed by Mike and agreed.

Throughout his life, Mike willingly gave his time and skills to help the movement. After inspecting the old factory/bingo hall that would become home to the Seattle/Puget Sound branch of the Freedom Socialist Party to make sure it was sound, he reconfigured the interior to make space for meetings, offices and a big community kitchen. He and Max oversaw the kitchen project; they designed and built it with input from users and an army of volunteers.

Unfortunately, the work Mike loved so much contributed to his declining health. Construction toxins from job sites effectively destroyed his lungs and kept him housebound for the last few years of his life. Despite this blow, he never got cynical. Max remembers that when he saw a story about people fighting for their rights he would pronounce, “Well, it’s like I always say — we’re all communists. Some of us just don’t know it yet.”

¡Mike Warner presente!

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