Sunday, April 06, 2008

Greg Tucker RIP

I’m not good at obituaries, because I’m not really good with death. But I can’t let today end without marking the passing of Greg Tucker, who died this morning at the end of his battle with throat cancer. My union, and the lefty blogosphere, will be sad today, and some have already commented. Why? Because Greg was a lifelong socialist, one who realised that socialists have to be on the battlefield with workers, and because he was a nice bloke, very easy to get along with.

I can not try to present an overview of Greg’s life as a socialist, so I’ll just mention a few things that I will always remember Greg for:
  • His energetic and thoughtful contribution to solidarity with the national signallers’ strike in the 1990s.
  • The RMT General Secretary election in 1999, when Greg stepped into the frame when the rank-and-file needed him to champion our interests. Here’s how we described it in Workers’ Liberty’s pamphlet about Tube privatisation, Tunnel Vision:
    In Spring 1999, Jimmy Knapp was up for re-election. This was RMT members' chance to vote out the General Secretary who had led us to defeat over British Rail privatisation, and to elect one who would not allow slavish loyalty to the Labour Party leadership to hold back our fight against PPP.
    Cometh the hour, cometh Bob Crow? No. Although we needed a more militant, left-wing leadership there and then, Crow preferred to wait until Knapp's retirement, when he could be more confident of winning.
    Greg Tucker stepped in as the candidate for members who wanted a fighting, political union. The press campaigned fiercely for Knapp, largely on the basis of 'red-scare' articles about his opponent. Knapp himself joined in, stating in his election address that "My opponent is supported by extreme left-wing parties and splinter groups."
    Knapp was re-elected.

    But hey, Greg got about a third of the vote.
  • Greg was a train driver at South West Trains. In a grade dominated by the sectionalist, drivers-only union ASLEF, Greg stuck with the principle of all-grades industrial trade unionism and with the RMT. He was Secretary of RMT’s Train Crew Conference for several years, always championing rank-and-file drivers even when that rubbed him up against his own union’s bureaucracy. One example: Back in the days of Jimmy Knapp, Greg set up a website for RMT train crew - the union shut it down! (It doesn’t do that any more.)
  • South West Trains sacked Greg after catching him in a ‘nobody-believes-that-was-random’ speed trap on the day he returned to work after taking extended leave to stand in an election. When it comes to anti-victimisation campaigns, we win some and we lose some. There are several factors that decide, one of which is the respect which the workforce has for the workmate who has been sacked. Greg won.
  • He came to speak at my ward Labour Party once, in Dalston, when we were both in the Labour Party. And Greg and I stood as Socialist Alliance candidates together, after we’d both come to the conclusion that some struggles have to be pursued outside the Labour Party. I thought I’d mention those things, as they weren’t directly to do with the RMT. Being socialists and trade unionists are more fundamental things to have in common than working in the same industry or being in the same union.
What was that about how the good die young?

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