The last week has seen the loss of two outstanding and inspirational socialists from two generations.Both Bob Crow and Tony Benn will be mourned by most folk in the socialist movement for the contributions that they made in reminding people that the ideals of socialism are far from dead.
What is shocking is the number who are jumping on the sadness of their deaths to proclaim how inspirational they both were in their lifetimes,when for most of the time they were vilified and traduced.
There have of course been the usual caveats-"I didn't agree with much of what they said but they were blah blah blah..."
Bob not unnaturally came in for more weasel words, the sycophantic bleatings of Boris Johnston were at considerable odds to what he had been saying about Bob only a few days ago.The silence from the leadership of the Labour Party said it all
Truth to tell Bob Crow was the most effective trade union leader of his generation, and his capacity to lead from the front produced the best conditions for his members despite the austerity.
Bob believed that nothing was too good for the workers and his philosophy echoed the words of Brecht in the 'song of the patch and the overcoat'- I don't want a new patch for my overcoat, I want the whole bloody overcoat!
Bob also led his union out of the unequal relationship with the Labour Party that unions have 'enjoyed' for decades.The railway workers have for generations been led by donkeys, from the corrupt anr treacherous JH Thomas in the 1920's to the slimy and pathetic Sid Weighell in the 70's.
Jimmy Knapp was a considerable improvement on all that had gone before but Bob was a real step change.
No surprise that in a period of rapid decline in trade union membership, only RMT put on over 20,000 new members.
The crocodile tears shed for Bob were perhaps best explained by the fact that there are some in the Labour party that hope by appearing 'sincere' and 'well disposed' to Bob and his union they can lure the union back into the straightjacket of Labour party affiliation.
I hope the members are as wise to the Labour Party's tricks as they are to the wiles of management.
The death of Tony Benn has also unleashed an outpouring of synthetic grief. The notion that he has somehow become an iconic figure for the Labour Party, and as Tam Dalyell described him as a 'prophet not a king' is more in the spirit of 'thank christ he too has gone'.
Everyone and their hampster is now an expert on Tony Benn,and how he brought the Labour Party to the brink of disaster and drove those nice SDP types out of the party.
Those of us who lived through the SDP episode know what was really happening.Those miserable opportunists and careerists were the ones who wrecked the party, they took delight in trampling on the socialist aspirations of many, and in fact the bastards won!
Blairism and Kinnockism were the real heirs to Jenkins,Owen and that clique.Truth to tell the vicious attacks on Tony and others on the left was what fatally damaged the Labour Party.They never wanted the Labour Party to win on a socialist programme.
Now is the time when that dreary Gerald Kaufman quote about the 1974 election manifesto being the 'longest suicide note in history'- no it was the last manifesto that put clause 4 of the Party at the centre of its political programme,and you all remember what happened to Clause 4 under New Labour.
many of us stayed in the Party because we hoped that things might get better and when people like Tony were still around it sometimes seemed that there was a small still radical heartbeat somewhere in the core of the party.
The price we paid was the total destruction of a party that had at its whole purpose the advancement of 'Labouring people'-after all that was why it was called the Labour Party in the first place.
It was created by the organisations of the labour movement to fight for and defend the interests of working people, and that was why it recieved the funds to do that from the trade unions.
But of course not any more, rather a handout from Lord Owen and Tony Blair instead of the pennies from the workers, and indeed as the Co-operative passes into the hands of the money men and the international speculators, where is the future?
If we are to undertand the legacy of both Bob Crow and Tony Benn we need to start again,we need to build a new movement once again from the bottom up.Bob had it right,and in his heart of hearts I suspect the 'icon' knew that too.