Marshall Mateer

Sam Lesser aka Sam Russell

Sam Lesser the IBMT days – a short film I made for the launch of Sam’s book ‘I Saw Democracy Murdered’ and shown at the book launch at Marx Memorial Library in 2022. I interviewed Sam in 2008 and was lucky enough to become a friend. Sam went to Spain early on and fought in the defence of Madrid. He was wounded at Lopera in January 1937. In the film he recounts his horrified response to reading the first casualty lists from Jarama and being given the job of taking them back to headquarters in London before going on to hospital for further treatment for his wounds.

Manassah (Manny) Lesser was born into a Jewish family in the East End of London 19 March 1915. He was a student of archaeology when in 1936 he decided to volunteer for the International Brigade and go to Spain. He was wounded at Lopera in January 1937. He became a journalist for ‘The Daily Worker/Morning Star’, first in Spain where he took the name Sam Russell. He travelled the world reporting on some of the most significant events in the 20th century reporting on: from Moscow on Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’; interviewing Che Guevara; the invasions of Budapest in 1956 and Prague 1968; the assault on President Allende’s palace in 1973. He died on 2 October 2010.

I took the portrait photograph of Sam (above) at an event in the Whitechapel Gallery (near where he was born in East London) where the tapestry version of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ was on display as part of the Goshka Macuga installation ‘The Nature of the Beast’ in 2009.

‘I Saw Democracy Murdered – the memoir of Sam Russell, Journalist’ by Colin Chambers and Sam Russell. Routledge, 2022