Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, comments on the news of the sudden and premature death of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the RMT and one of the best and most well-known left trade union leaders. The militant stand of Crow and the RMT has won much for its members and has been looked up to by other unions.
We are saddened to hear the news of the sudden and premature death of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the RMT and one of the best and most well-known left trade union leaders.
Elected General Secretary in 2002, following the death of Jimmy Knapp, Crow was immediately labeled as one of the “awkward squad” as a result of his record as a union militant. His fighting stand in support of his members, from caterers to cleaners, and the regular declaration of strike ballots to back this support, earned him the rabid hostility of the capitalist press, as well as the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Under him, the RMT scored solid successes for workers in the union in terms of pay and conditions.
The militant stand of the RMT has won much for its members and has been looked up to by other unions. This approach resulted in the RMT recruiting new members at a time when other unions were experiencing a fall in numbers.
The latest dispute in which Bob Crow was involved was in response to attacks by London Underground management over ticket office closures. A series of two-day strikes, which gained public support, were called off in favour of negotiations. Given the momentum and support for the strike actions, this was a risky strategy.
Crow was originally a member of the Communist Party, but eventually broke with the party. However, he remained politically close to the Morning Star right up until his death.
He was General Secretary when the RMT was expelled from the Labour Party on a technicality as the Blairites saw an opportunity to get rid of a source of opposition inside the party. He backed the No2EU campaign on a reformist/nationalist basis and later supported the attempt to set up a new workers’ party – TUSC. We argued against Bob Crow and others that this strategy was a mistake, as TUSC’s electoral challenge against Labour repeatedly ended in failure, even trailing behind the Monster Raving Looney Party in one case.
Bob Crow was a powerful speaker who consistently argued the case against capitalism and for socialism, in marked contrast to most of the other current trade union leaders.
His passing will be deeply felt by members of the RMT and many others in the workers’ movement.
Tributes were made by Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, all of whom were politically detested by Bob. This in itself shows the impact that a fighting stand by just one trade union leader had on the public consciousness. No wonder that Bob Crow was one of the most recognised union leaders in Britain. We send condolences to his family, with a firm commitment that we will carry on the struggle for militant trade unionism and socialism.