The Crow Road
There’s probably not a lot that can be said that hasn’t already been said on the subject of Bob Crow. That he (despite the caricatures) seemed a personable chap liked by his members and those who knew him (and given, on the night he was first elected, he turned down a TV appearance to go celebrate with his members down the pub, he passes muster in that regard in my eyes). That 52 is no age to die. That he fought, tooth and nail, for the members of his union. That he was a good general, a proper street-fighting union leader who knew when to pick a fight and wield a cudgel for the cause. That he was an articulate working class voice in an era when one of those getting on the airwaves becomes more and more distant.
I may have disagreed (sometimes violently) with some of his politics – particularly in the international side, where he seemed to be an examplar of the tradition firmly stuck in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign era – but I would have welcomed the chance to joust with him over it.
All the above stated, and a hearty, respectful RIP given to a fallen warrior of the cause, as an activist, Steward, H&S representative and active union member for pretty much all my working life, it is more than slightly disheartening to me that the most successful union leader of my era was, basically, a man who excelled in fighting a grinding rear-guard action against what would – in time – have been his union’s inevitable decline and defeat. There is no disrepect to him meant when I say that if the Trades Union movement in this country is to have any future over the next century or so, we’ll need more people who push things forward, and less Bob Crows manfully attempting to hold back the tide.
Looking around today’s landscape, which seems riven by job insecurity, and inhabited entirely by leaders who alternate their time between toothless bellicosity and acting as shills for the Labour Party, I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic in that regard. Which is a pity. I’m sure Bob would have vastly preferred to be part of a movement at its zenith, rather than one at its nadir.