Obituary: Bob Crow – an uncompromising fighter for the working class

The Socialist Party is shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT). The response to his death already once again confirms the major impact he had as a trade union leader – undoubtedly one of the best known, for his steadfast approach to standing up for his members.

Our thoughts are with his family. We also send solidarity to the RMT.

Bob Crow was a constant fighter for the working class and a champion of many important causes. The right-wing press tried to present him as a ‘dinosaur’ and a ‘union baron’ – but workers saw him as a hero because he frightened the bosses and under his leadership, as deputy general secretary and then general secretary, the RMT showed many times that the employers could be beaten.

The most recent example was the RMT’s February strike on London Underground. It was a beacon for workers suffering under Con-Dem austerity and fearing a precarious future. Every attempt was made to undermine the union and to ridicule Bob – but the public support proved that a determined approach to defending jobs and workers’ rights is hugely popular.

The RMT took the battle to London Tory mayor Boris Johnson. Even the capitalist press acknowledged that the union forced an utterly arrogant and intransigent Johnson to the negotiating table against his will. That battle must be continued to a victory for the RMT against ticket office closures and job losses.

Bob’s approach to building resistance was reflected in the RMT’s founding of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to give trade unionists a body to fight for action against all the attacks raining down from pro-capitalist governments. Under his leadership the RMT was a tireless and almost peerless defender of trade unions rights alongside unions such as the PCS and the POA prison officers’ union.

Political representation

As well as being a leader on the industrial plane, Bob Crow gave unremitting support to the battle for a political voice for the working class. The leading position the RMT plays in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and in ‘No2EU – Yes to workers’ rights’ is a very important step in that campaign.

Socialist Party England & Wales members have worked with Bob in the RMT, in TUSC, and in the NSSN, especially around the demand for the TUC to call a 24-hour general strike against austerity. For his role in all of this and more, his death represents a huge loss.

Bob Crow always defended socialism as the necessary alternative to the rotten capitalist system. We often shared a platform with him, and he spoke at our Socialist Party annual ‘Socialism’ events on a number of occasions – including last November – receiving many ovations for his tenacious stance.

Bob’s passing will be a major blow to RMT members, among whom he had enormous respect and support for his uncompromising position to fight in their interests. When they come to the democratic process of electing a new leader we hope they choose someone who will honour Bob’s memory by being a fighter for the working class, for socialism and for international solidarity, as Bob was.

Bob Crow’s death will be a shock also to the wider working class. It is fair to say that if the trade union leadership in Britain was made up of fighters like Bob, or like Mark Serwotka and the left socialist leadership in the PCS, the battle to stop the cuts and kick out the Con-Dems would be in a much advanced state. But in his passing, Bob Crow also reminds us of the strength of the British working class to produce such fighters. He will be greatly missed, but we will fight on.