From the TUC

Bob Crow: A life of commitment

11 Mar 2014, By

The TUC and the British working class has lost one of our outstanding leaders, Bob Crow, the General Secretary of rail and maritime union RMT, who died this morning.

Bob was committed. Whether it was the internationalism he showed through the International Transport Workers’ Federation and his many links around the world with dockers, seafarers and railway workers; or the stalwart opponent of racism and fascism on his doorstep in East London or anywhere in the world, Bob was passionate and determined.

His arguments were forcefully and consistently made, but that didn’t mean they lacked sophistication. Because he opposed British membership of the European Union, people who didn’t listen thought he was anti-European, but nothing could have been further from the truth. On international solidarity, he argued particularly that workers in one country had more in common with the workers in the same job in another country than with employers in their own.

Bob Crow stood up for working people. He demanded that they be respected and valued, and the many tributes paid by employers in the transport industry are testimony to his genuine love for rail. He demonstrated day in, day out, that the work people do defines us and gives us honour and value.  He was unrepentant about wanting the best for workers, and he was unashamed, for example, about taking a holiday he was due. He had little time for circumlocution and was, partly as a result, one of the most recognised and recognisable trade unionists in Britain.

He was respected by those he faced over the negotiating table or the picket line, and admired by those he led and worked with. He knew what he was talking about, whether it was from personal experience and the experiences of his members, or from books and briefings. He was also genuinely and consistently funny, an ability he used to sometimes devastating effect in debate and on the TUC General Council. Despite being unshakeable in his arguments, he could disarm opponents as well as enrage them.

His commitment extended to every facet of his life. His family, whom he had to defend against a predatory media, and his beloved Millwall football club whom it would have been out of character and the spirit of the club to ‘defend’. (Their slogan “no one likes us, we don’t care” was often suggested as a personal credo for Bob.) And he was a demon bowler too, often the key player on the TUC cricket team.

Because as every trade unionist should be, Bob was a team player. No setback at the hands of a supposed colleague, no defeat in a vote at Congress or on the General Council ever shook his loyalty to trade union unity. Unequivocally on the left, totally on the side of workers not least because he was so viscerally one of them, and an unceasing advocate for the members who elected him time and time again.

Bob Crow was born in east London, moved to Essex as a toddler, left school at the age of 16 and worked on the railways for the rest of his life. His first job was on London Underground as an apprentice track worker, although he soon became involved in union activity, becoming a local representative for the then National Union of Railwaymen at the age of 20. Twenty years later, in 2002, he became General Secretary of RMT and he died today, aged just 52.

14 Responses to Bob Crow: A life of commitment

  1. Glynis Winestein
    Mar 11th 2014, 5:26 pm

    A truly inspirational manwho I met several times because of our interest in Cuba as well as us both being life long trade unionist. Working class people have lost another fighterfor our cause. A tragic loss of a great talent and a decent human being

  2. sue white
    Mar 11th 2014, 5:51 pm

    A decent man who battled for his members.

    as a retired unison rep myself i know of the work dedication and untiring work required to be able to do this job.
    I have the greatest respect for Mr Bob Crow RIP
    my Deepest condolences to Bobs family

  3. Simon Bullough
    Mar 11th 2014, 6:15 pm

    As an activist and representative of the Labour Party just up the road from Bob I have been on more than one occasion on the receiving end of Bob’s opinion of where the Party was going wrong. Always delivered without malice and from a position of genuinely caring about the solidarity of the workers, these conversations where always informative and energising. Among the many things that Bob will be remembered for in this area one that stands out is his contribution to the fight against the rise of the extreme right. Wherever we are in the world tonight we have lost one of our fiercest advocates, most valued comrades and truest friends. As Chair of Epping Forest Labour Party it is both my duty and my wish to offer condolences on behalf of our members to Bob’s family, both immediate and within the RMT and Trade Union movement. RIP Bob.

  4. Angela Smith
    Mar 11th 2014, 8:22 pm

    As a former elected union representative myself, I always admired Bob Crow immensely. He was a great trade unionist and General Secretary of the RMT. He fought tirelessly for his members to maintain and improve their working conditions exactly as a union leader should. On a wider scale he campaigned to halt the rise of right wing extremists. He will be sadly missed by everyone within the trade union movement.

  5. Toby Gerard
    Mar 11th 2014, 9:04 pm

    Sad at the passing of Bob Crow.
    I feel he was a warrior for the universal ancient rights of human dignity.
    An inspiration and beacon for those of us in the non-unionised temporary sector suffering in the post recession doldrums.
    Long live his memory.

  6. Graham Colk
    Mar 11th 2014, 9:07 pm

    A man of the people, fearless in defence of workers and his comrades. An internationalist and a genuine trade unionist. Met Bob in Cuba where he was just like Bob at home. We have lost a powerful opponent of the acceptance of inhumane free market capitalism.

  7. peter.smithj
    Mar 11th 2014, 9:21 pm

    A great trade unionist and fighter for all working class people.
    Greatly missed.

  8. Alex. De Souza
    Mar 11th 2014, 9:50 pm

    A tragic blow for the good guys, this man was truly amongst the best of british.

  9. Paul Bond
    Mar 11th 2014, 11:37 pm

    I knew Bob as my General sec. And as a fellow supporter or sufferer of Millwall FC.

    Bob was at once straightforward but complex, he was portrayed as some kind of pantomime villain by the right wing press, this only served to strengthen his resolve and engender loyalty from his comrades. Let his memory inspire us .

  10. MARTIN BURNS
    Mar 12th 2014, 12:24 am

    Every time I seen Bob on TV or heard him on radio I stopped and listened. I didn’t know him at all but always felt I did as he put into words what I thought and believed in and I feel so sad tonight that he has gone. He was the truthful face and voice of the Trade Union movement and spoke for many, many members beyond the RMT. I live in Northern Ireland light years away from London but Bob was always a hero of mine and I feel as if a member of the family is gone. To his family, friends, RMT and TUC colleagues I can only offer my deepest sympathies and sincere regret. RIP Bob.

  11. Liz Wood
    Mar 12th 2014, 12:48 pm

    I only met Bob a few times – at Tolpuddle; speaking eloquently and inspirationally on health and safety issues at a Trades Council conference and handing out leaflets at Covent Garden Underground station, but my admiration for him, though inspired by these few encounters, goes far beyond them. Perhaps my best memory, as well as carrying the RMT banner at Tolpuddle, was that of him joining us on the coach back to London, where everyone burst into a spontaneous cheer as he mounted the steps of the coach. Everything Owen and Frances have said is right – a charming man and a truly great union leader.

  12. Neeru Chaudhari
    Mar 13th 2014, 12:23 am

    I can’t believe it!! I’m so shocked–we have lost a true trade unionist. May God give courage to his family to deal with this loss.

    Peace and respect
    Neeru PCS

  13. Nancy Bonney
    Mar 13th 2014, 11:38 am

    Why do we seem to lose leaders who have something relevant to say and work for the people, often very effectively? The NUT lost Steve Sinnott far too young and and now we lose a man who understood the difficulties which workers face, but was a clever negotiator and a respected person.