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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tony Benn and Bob Crow

The following is a readers letter submitted to the News and Star:

Bob Crow and Tony Benn will be laid to rest this week, but their fight for workers' interests and for a better - a socialist - society is being taken up by a new generation.

Bob's determined, uncompromising leadership gave his union members confidence they could successfully defeat employers' attacks on their living standards and conditions of employment. The recent London Underground strike forced the arrogant Boris Johnstone to back down from sacking tube station staff and endangering passenger safety. Passengers also support his RMT's call for the nationalisation of the chaotic privatised railways.

Bob proved in the figures of jobs saved and £s gained (a 22% rise for poverty waged cleaners) that fighting trade unionism wins - hence the increase in membership from 50,000 to 80,000. No wonder members of some other unions whose living standards have slumped due to their officials' belief in 'social partnership' with public and private employers wish they had leaders like him.

Bob fought for all members of the working class, getting a vote carried by the TUC conference for a one day general strike against austerity and cuts (the TUC leaders are still sitting on it!) and setting up the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to fight for a new workers' party when New Labour expelled the RMT. At the coming council elections TUSC will field the largest list of candidates to the left of Labour for 70 years.

Tony Benn became a socialist after experiencing first hand the ability of working people to efficiently and democratically run their workplaces when the Glasgow shipyard workers occupied their yards, threatened with closure, and completed the production of ships under workers' control. He saw in practise that socialism could work, for the benefit of all. He subsequently supported the miners' fight for jobs and the socialists of Liverpool council who refused to carry out Tory cuts.

In his heart Tony had left Labour (or rather, Labour left him) and appeared in an election broadcast for Bob Crow's 'No2EU-yes to workers' rights' list, but didn't leave formally to avoid a family split in old age (his son is a Labour MP), but his belief was clear: "New Labour has come out more violently anti-union and anti-left than for many, many years. Constituency parties are no longer on the left because all the decent socialists have left, so its a Blairite rump."

Miliband even refused to attend the Durham Miners' Gala with Bob Crow or Tony Benn, but the Socialist Party was proud to fight alongside these two men of principle and will carry on their fight.

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