Bob Crow: A Tribute
by Chris Smith
Bob Crow, who died on 11 March at the early age of 52, left school at 16 and started work on maintence at London Underground. He joined the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), which later became the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT). Following the death of Jimmy Knapp in 2001 , Crow became the RMT’s General Secretary. Bob Crow was unashamedly working class and was hated all the more for it. During his life he was viciously attacked by his opponents, particularly in the media. He was even blamed for strikes called by ASLEF! (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen). However, he proved himself more than capable of handling his critics, which only made them more irate of course.
He was largely responsible for a significant increase in membership of the union, something in the region of 20,000. This was quite a remarkable achievement given the political climate for trade unions over the years he was General Secretary. Under Crow’s leadership (and let’s not forget the activists within the RMT) many members had their standard of living improved. So it’s no surprise that RMT membership increased.
Politically, he was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) until 1995 when he left to join the Socialist Labour Party, (SLP), run by Arthur Scargill. I don’t know what Bob Crow thought about his time in the SLP, but I have heard other members say it is an experience they would not wish to repeat. After leaving the SLP he became involved in various movements, including No to EU, Yes to Democracy and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which contested local and Parliamentary elections. Whatever about his politics, as a trade union leader he will be very difficult to replace. R.I.P. Bob Crow.