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Last updated: 05 March 2020. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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No Mean Fighters – Tributes to Bob Crow and Tony Benn by Tommy Sheridan


The week beginning 10th of March 2014 was a hard one to bear for socialists. Within days of each other we lost two giants of our movement the likes of which we may not see again for a long time.

Tony Benn lived a full and active life for 88 years and whilst he had been ill recently, and we had feared the worst only a few weeks ago, it still did not seem to soften the blow when we heard that he had passed away.

Bob Crow was a much younger man and still in the prime of his life. We have been abruptly and cruelly robbed of his vigour, tenacity and passion.

The socialist and trade union movements are undoubtedly the weaker for both of these great men’s passing.

Yet in this time of sorrow we can be consoled in the knowledge that their lives and actions have provided inspiration for thousands of working class people to pick up their cudgels and continue the fight for better, fairer society.

I penned the following tributes to both men who I knew well and considered friends and comrades.

Tommy Sheridan






No Mean Fighter - Tribute to Bob Crow by Tommy Sheridan

Like anyone else who knew Bob Crow I was stunned and deeply saddened to learn of his tragic and untimely death today. Gail broke the news to me with disbelief in her voice and a tear in her eye. We were both friends with and very fond of 'big Bob'.

He was a larger than life character with a sharp wit and even sharper intellect that wrong footed many of his opponents. His route to leadership of his beloved Rail Maritime and Transport union was via hard manual labour and track maintenance. I remember first meeting him in 1996 in the Barnsley HQ of the National Union of Mineworkers. I was there to meet with Arthur Scargill and others about the formation of the Socialist Labour Party which Bob had decided to leave the Communist Party of Britain to join.

We immediately struck up a friendship as we discovered politics was not our only shared passion. We also loved football. Bob confessed he was a Millwall fanatic. He often commented that helped develop his thick skin required in the trade union world as their regular terracing chant was 'No one likes us but we don't care'.

Well plenty of right wing Tories and New Labour Tories despised Bob's uncompromising belief in the working class and socialism. He rose through the ranks of the RMT to be elected Deputy General Secretary and then General Secretary. He was the type of leader workers could rely on and were willing to follow. The membership and activity of his union increased annually in line with his leadership skills. He fought the case for his members without fear. He was targeted by the gutter press on several occasions and had his character assassinated but it was water off his broad back. His popularity grew within the ranks of the trade union movement where it mattered to Bob.

Only two weeks ago we chatted about his appearance on The Andrew Neil show where he superbly held his own and made the presenter appear small in his infantile line of questions. We also discussed independence and football. He was a giant within the labour and trade union movement and will be sorely missed. He was also loved by his family and friends and our hearts go out to them at this time. I salute you Bob.

In the words used to pay tribute to socialist legends like John MacLean and Harry McShane you most certainly were No Mean Fighter. RIP Comrade




Tribute to Tony Benn by Tommy Sheridan

"Thinking of you and Gail. In Unity" The inscription on the book Tony Benn sent me while I was incarcerated in Barlinnie Prison. As always when I shared his company, spoke alongside him, marched beside him or spoke with him on the phone I was uplifted and inspired by this giant of socialism and humanity.

Tony once made me lunch in his home in Holland Park and pictured me sitting on a wooden seat which used to belong to Keir Hardie. This intellectual colossus asked me to read the minutes on the side of the micro wave pasta dish. Was it 6 or 9 minutes he asked. From discussing world affairs to the micro wave meal. He was a consummate gentleman, father, friend, socialist and husband.

He confessed to me that each day since the loss of Caroline was a struggle and it was one of the reasons why he participated in so many meetings and events. To keep his mind off his huge grief at the loss of his beloved wife, friend and soulmate. Tony was quite simply a magnificent man whose warmth for and empathy with others was peerless.

He once advised me not to be personal when criticising opponents. If you dance with the chimney sweeps you will only end up getting dirty he said. He was able to rise above personalities and tackle the real issues. Don't give her credit by suggesting we are fighting Thatcherism he once said. It is capitalism brutal and cold that we face.

Tony you were a friend and a real legend. You will be sorely missed by millions but hopefully you will be re-united with Caroline in one way or another.

Total Respect. Love and Solidarity Comrade. RIP Tony Benn


The Point: Tributes and Obituaries to Tony Benn and Bob Crow

Tony Benn: An Obituary by Graeme McIver here

A Tribute to Tony Benn by Jack Fraser here

Tony Benn 1925 – 2014 by Gary Fraser here


External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books