Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 30 April 2014

May Day 2014: We fight on!

This year's May Day has been dedicated to the memories of Bob Crow and Tony Benn. Here the Socialist carries again its editorial from issue 803, 20-26 March.

A deluge of tributes followed the sad and shocking death of Bob Crow, elected leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union.

He was known and respected beyond the ranks of the RMT because the union is to the forefront of militant action.

As the Economist put it, "Under Mr Crow, the RMT stood out, forsaking protests for traditional industrial activism." In fact the RMT supported a range of action - demonstrations, occupations as in Vestas on the Isle of Wight, and strikes.

Members enjoy, as the BBC admitted, "pay rises every year even during austerity, good pensions and good holiday allowances", proof that combative working class action gets results.

What next?

The Economist asks: "What will happen to his union now?" The magazine's pro-capitalist target audience will hope for a 'moderate' successor.

Working class fighters will watch carefully, hoping for the election of someone who stands in Bob Crow's tradition.

Who the next general secretary will be is for RMT members to decide. In doing so they will be conscious that their union plays a wider and leading role - in Britain and internationally - in standing up for the working class as a whole.

The union stands for the working class using its power to defend and extend its rights and share of the world's wealth and for socialist change.

The messages of condolence and solidarity from the US, Cuba and elsewhere reflect this wider role. It is immortalised in the RMT banners that carry the words of the traditional socialist and workers' song, 'the Internationale'.

Bob Crow stood for the general resistance of the working class to all attacks. He was central to the RMT's role in establishing the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) in 2007.

This was a clear recognition of the inadequacy of many right-wing trade union leaders who rest on the 'official structures' and have tended to hold back the movement.

The NSSN was an attempt to give voice to the rank and file of the unions. This, of course, cannot be seen as a substitute for transforming those unions, but is a complementary aid to defending members.

Against austerity, the NSSN plays a vital role in putting forward a general programme for resisting the government's attacks.

Fighting strategy

Bob Crow seconded the motion calling for a 24-hour general strike at the 2012 TUC in Brighton. He also moved the motion at the 2013 TUC to keep the 24-hour general strike on the table.

The new leader must continue his proposals to build united effective action, including efforts to coordinate with other left unions and leaders.

Under Bob Crow's leadership the union also drew conclusions about the need to have a political strategy.

A decade ago the RMT was expelled from the Labour Party because it supported socialist candidates in Scotland.

Bob and others in the leadership recognised that, in order to defend RMT members and the wider working class, they had to take steps to build a political voice.

The union debated the issue at two national delegate conferences and on both occasions backed participation in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Bob was a co-founder and sat alongside Socialist Party members and others on the steering committee. He also led 'No2EU-Yes to workers' rights', a coalition set up to contest the European elections.

There have been innumerable expressions of solidarity with what Bob was trying to achieve, including a willingness to stand in May's elections.

The latest batch of local election candidates to be approved by the TUSC steering committee, for example, includes the Finsbury Park RMT branch secretary and an Arnos Grove rep who have come forward just this week as prospective candidates.

These London activists see standing as part of their battle to defend jobs and services on London Underground. Eight Portsmouth RMT members have also stepped forward as prospective candidates.

But now there could be a danger that the right wing in the generally left RMT may begin to try to undermine Bob's legacy both industrially and politically.

What alternative can they offer workers facing privatisation, job losses, and pay cuts? Asking workers to wait for a Labour government in 2015? That is no alternative whatsoever.

Labour has shown in words and deeds that it will continue with privatisation, job losses, and pay cuts.

Rachel Reeves has warned a Labour government "would be tougher" on benefits than one that has presided over a regime where every two minutes a young person has their paltry benefits stopped. Ed Balls' comment, "We've backed 1% pay restraint," says it all.

Labour-dominated councils are decimating services and jobs. They claim to 'feel bad' about it but only a tiny handful of councillors have actually voted against the cuts. And they have mainly been expelled from Labour.

The death of Tony Benn is another sad loss to the working class. He was a staunch defender of socialism. But on Labour he was mistaken. The time for equivocation is over - as Bob made clear.

Left journalist Owen Jones has commented on the situation after Bob Crow and Tony Benn but offers no way forward.

He writes of a "fragmented" left but the real left exists not in little groups or in celebrities like him.

The future of the left is in the unions and in the workplaces - organised and as yet unorganised. As wider sections of the working class determinedly take up the fight, as the care workers in Doncaster and the health workers in Ealing are currently doing, new trade union leaderships and the mass political party the working class needs will be forged.

Owen Jones says that "the left's real mission is surely hope". But, hope for what Owen? That Labour will be the vehicle to change society? This is not hope. This is utopia. The strategy of Owen and those who want to ensnare the workers and all suffering austerity in the Labour dead end basically amounts to 'a hope and a prayer'.

Meanwhile there are springs of real hope as workers draw left and socialist conclusions from their experience of capitalism in the 21st century.

In the US the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage involves young workers who want a share of the so-called economic recovery.


In South Africa the working class is taking vital steps to construct a new mass party to continue the legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle, particularly in the form of the Workers And Socialist Party.

This pioneering work, with socialists central, recalls Shelley's revolutionary credo: "To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; ... / to hope till Hope creates / From its own wreck the thing it contemplates."

RMT members, by electing a leader who will continue the RMT's role in building both TUSC and determined trade union action to defend the working class at every turn, will be standing in Bob Crow's powerful legacy. And the Socialist Party will back them every step in that direction.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 30 April 2014:

Socialist Party election campaigning

Vote for a working class voice

Getting under Labour's skin in Southwark

Your financial support is vital

Election Appeal: 2,148 raised so far

International socialist news and analysis

USA: reviving working class traditions

Ukraine: skirmishes threaten wider conflict

Socialist history

A South Wales miner remembers

International workers' day

May Day 2014 - Step up the fight for a socialist world!

May Day: Remembering Bob Crow and Tony Benn

May Day greetings in The Socialist 2014 - pdf

Socialist Party news and analysis

Cost of living crisis: Scrap zero-hour contracts!

UKIP - a pro-cuts party for the 1%

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

United against the far right in Brighton

Save Leicester Race Equality Centre

Fighting Library cuts in south Wales

Newsnight - socialist teacher demands right of reply

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Socialist Party workplace news

Defending pensions, jobs, pay, services... Back the strikes!

Workplace safety: It's big business as usual

Usdaw conference - fighting democratic union needed

Care UK strike: Miliband shows workers can't rely on Labour

Workplace news in brief


Home   |   The Socialist 30 April 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

May Day:

triangleA CWI May Day 2020 statement

triangle130 Years of May Day in Britain: Fight for workers' rights more relevant than ever

triangleWorkers fighting to defend safety and livelihoods - NSSN national meeting a huge success


triangleFight P&O's billionaire bosses' jobs cut plan

triangleTransport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price

triangleTransport union RMT tells members: refuse to work in unsafe conditions

triangleTories put profit before lives - unions must stand firm on workplace safety

Working class:

triangleLessons from the Corbyn experience

triangleLenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas for today

triangleLabour must resist 'Covid coalition'


triangleCovid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!

triangleEnergy firm plans to make 2,600 redundant


triangleHull Trades Council debates workers' political representation

Bob Crow:

triangleNSSN conference 2019: at the heart of trade union struggle


triangleOrganising to fight for workplace safety


triangleThe Socialist inbox

Tony Benn:

triangleMay 1649 - the Last Stand of the Levellers

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Lessons from the Corbyn experience



Covid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!



Reckless, lying cheats



Coronavirus pandemic news in brief



More blunders and profiteering in Tory track-and-trace scheme



United action can defeat Tories' dangerous school plan



Care home workers suffer PPE shortage and job loss fears



Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality



Johnson's reckless 'back to school' plans threaten everyone's safety



Confidence plummets in Tory strategy for Covid-19



Universal Basic Income: not a solution to insecurity and poverty under capitalism



Furlough cut-off could force millions back to unsafe workplaces



Crisis in council services: Labour must fight or stand aside



Rich get handouts - workers get pay cuts



Transport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020