For Marxists, it's a matter of ordinary, everyday wisdom that individuals don't shape history - it's class forces and class struggle that are the determining factors.
So many might be wondering what the point is of a meeting commemorating the life and work of Bert Ramelson, erstwhile Communist Party industrial organiser between 1963 and 1977.
But that would be to seriously miss the point of the meeting organised by Labour Movement Publications and the Communist History Workshop-South Coast for Saturday May 5.
Because while individuals don't, on their own, shape working-class history, they are its product and its reflection as well as part of its motor force.
By their understanding, their commitment and their efforts, working-class leaders can come to represent much that is good and, indeed, great about our class and its efforts to fight for its liberty and self-determination.
Yet they are still human and their doubts as well as their certainties, shaped by the contradictions and conflicts of history, can illuminate our past and light the way for our future strategies.
Such a man was Bert Ramelson, born Baruch Rachmilevitch into a Bolshevik Jewish family in Ukraine.
In his life can be seen the whole kaleidoscope of forces which shaped the destiny and the future of the left in Britain for a couple of generations.
From early on, Ramelson proved that he was not scared to put his life on the line for his beliefs.
Joining the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion of the International Brigade, he fought and was wounded in Spain, following which he served as a tank driver in World War II in north Africa in the war against fascism.
Settling in Yorkshire following the war, he soon became district secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain from which he progressed in 1963 to become the party's industrial organiser.
And it was in this period that the Communist Party's industrial strategy, under Ramelson's leadership, was to show huge advances within the labour movement and move the trade unions' struggles into the forefront.
A strategy of fighting for election to leading positions within the trade unions' formal structures coupled with the construction of a virile and energetic rank-and-file movement to hold the unions' officers to account was to give life and strength in depth to the working-class movement.
This was tied with the party policies of building a united broad left to fight for advances for working people and to oppose the regulation of wages and conditions using wages policies and the Industrial Relations Act.
All this created a solid and militant trade union movement fit to stand firm against class collaboration by the Labour governments of the day and aggressive attacks from the Tories.
The seamens' strike, the miners' disputes of 1972 and 1974 and the enormous battles to free the imprisoned dockers' leaders in Pentonville jail were tributes to the leading efforts of activists at the time, marshalled and led by communists in nearly every case.
But it is also in the breadth of Ramelson's effort, in the efforts to change Labour Party policy by utilising the strength of the trade unions while at the same time working with comrades and other activists in the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions to spread the broad left net as wide as possible and include non-communists and the Labour Party left, that provides yet another lesson in building unity.
However, the forces of darkness were not easily stymied.
Concerted campaigns against left influence by right-wing Labour and trade union elements coupled with a torrent of abuse from the reactionary press and economic blackmail by the government had its effect in the later 1970s.
Non-communist trade union leaders caved in to pressure from the Labour government of the time to accede to the Social Contract in 1974, a piece of class-collaborationist nonsense that over the next few years destroyed unity around progressive demands and laid the foundations for the appearance of Margaret Thatcher.
The communists were powerless to halt this gross betrayal. Inside the party in this country, as in most of Europe, the poisonous influences of Eurocommunism were eating at individual members' belief in the structures of democratic centralism.
And that internal party debate distracted the party from focusing on industrial policy, toward a fatal fascination with new social forces and a diminution of the importance attached to the working class, in some cases even setting them against each other as rival priorities.
This was a distraction which ate into the very heart of the industrial framework that Ramelson and other industrial comrades had so painfully built.
It was a distraction that eventually even affected the man himself, already beset with doubts stemming from his perception of the Soviet Union's role in Czechoslovakia.
In his latter years, his personal analysis became increasingly negative about the structure of democratic centralism both inside and outside the Soviet Union.
But this should not allow us to become distracted from the essential nature of his work as industrial organiser in the '60s and '70s. Ramelson, by dint of discipline, organisation and sheer personal commitment, gave us a model which even today has relevance in the reconstruction of a communist and socialist movement to fight an enemy which has become even more cunning and more powerful with advancing age.
There are lessons we must learn and Bert Ramelson and his industrial contemporaries inside and outside the Communist Party had and still have much to teach us in their dedication to unity, a commitment they managed to maintain in the face of huge battles because it was a unity in struggle.
The conference will be held on May 5 at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH. Nearest Tube Liverpool Street. Speakers include Mary Davis, Ann Field, John Foster, Graham Stevenson, Tony Burke, Bill Greenshields, Richard Bagley, Roger Siefert and Keith Ewing. For further details email organiser Terry McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free.