Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths delivered this eulogy at the funeral of Derek Robinson in Stourbridge, West Midlands, today (November 22):
“What drove workers in their hundreds and thousands – many with family and financial responsibilities – to down tools and leave their benches, desks and assembly lines? Not once, but reputedly 523 times.
Not the power of one man, not even if that man was Derek Robinson, labelled ‘Red Robbo’ by the hostile mass media – a badge, incidentally, that he wore with pride.
No, it was the deep human desire for dignity, respect, recognition and reward, in the face of what Karl Marx called the ‘alien and dominating force’ of the machine.
Derek Robinson led those workers because he had earned their loyalty. He had inspired them to fight for decent pay and working conditions.
And when he was sacked for putting forward an alternative to a misnamed ‘Rescue Plan’ that would sink 25,000 jobs at British Leyland, 30,000 car workers walked out or barricaded themselves inside the factories.
That’s not mentioned in Derek’s obituary on the BBC website.
But we know it happened. It was even reported in a secret telegram sent by the US embassy in London to the Department of State in Washington DC on November 23, 1979.
Of course, the Americans knew all about the collusion between BL management, right-wing trade union leaders, the Thatcher government and the Security Service, MI5, to sack Derek Robinson, to undermine the mass resistance and so send a message to shop stewards across Britain: ‘If we can get rid of “Red Robbo”, we can get rid of you’.
One US embassy telegram refers to Derek as a ‘shrewd, calculating, determined tactician’. Those were indeed some of the qualities with which he served the working class.
But we know that he was much more than that.
For thousands of his fellow workers, comrades, friends and family members, he was a warm, considerate, courageous and inspirational man. His was no vain or wasted life.
He went on to work for the Morning Star and played a leading role in the struggles to save the existence of our movement’s precious daily paper, and to re-establish the Communist Party in Britain, becoming the party’s Chair in 1988.
Derek Robinson was a giant of the labour movement. He was proud of his party – and his party will forever be proud of him”.