Obit: Jimmy Reid

Obit: Jimmy Reid

Joined: May 13th, 2005, 7:50 am

August 11th, 2010, 1:06 pm #1

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010 ... -shipyards


An impressive man. I'd be interested to read opinions of his post sit-in and TU politics. He did have the grace to fall out with Blairism it seems.
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

August 11th, 2010, 7:09 pm #2

The Guardian obit has sparked off an interesting debate on the Socialist Unity blog:

http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=6449

and there's a fine tribute to him in the Daily Record here:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/edito ... -22479995/

I only saw him from afar when I was in the old Party but I did meet members of his own branch at national schools who were surprisingly critical of his conduct (well that's how it seemed to me at the time anyway)on the local council, where he led the oppostion CP group (at its peak 12 strong) and in the handling of the UCS dispute. The criticism on the council was over the decision not to directly challenge Heath's Housing Finance Act which put council rents up though this was the general King Street line. In fact I think only the Labour-led Clay Cross council openly defied the Tory government at the time and that was in defiance of Transport House as well.

Whether he was an "opportunist" is now an academic debate. Undoubtedly he led a movement which forced the Heath government and the employers to back down over the closures.

I know some of the Straight Lefters' in London used to call him "Jimmy Weed" shortly after he joined the Labour Party but that was probably because he was identified by them with the Euro faction (though I guess he was always a supporter of the Gollan/McClennan axis when he was in the Party).

What he clearly lacked was judgement. He appears to have genuinely believed that he was going to take the Central Dumbartonship seat from Labour in the first and second general elections of 1974. He also thought he would get into Parliament on the Labour ticket when he stood in Dundee in 1979.

I never saw any of his broadcasts so I couldn't say whether he was "outstanding" or not but I certainly wouldn't say that of his journalism if his weekly column (in the Daily Record if I remember correctly) was anything to go by. I particularly recall some inane and supposedly humourous comment on the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol ( a subject apparently dear to Jimmy's heart) which enraged the Glasgow Muslim community!

pip,pip,

H A R Philby
(Col.ret'd)

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Joined: May 13th, 2005, 7:50 am

August 11th, 2010, 8:19 pm #3

Here's the Independent obit - rather fuller than the Guardian's I think.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituar ... -Reid.html
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

August 13th, 2010, 1:12 pm #4

Virtually every daily has published obits to Jimmy Reid this week including the Telegraph, which didn't have many kind words to say about him during the UCS occupation. All can be easily Googled but today's tribute in the Star by John Foster and David Torrance deserves to be highlighted here:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/inde ... full/93973

as it covers his YCL work and touches on his role on Clydebank council. The claim that Jimmy's role was "decisive" in winning the Labour leadership to oppose the Housing Finance Act ignores the criticism that it didn't go far enough that I heard at the time from those in the Party who wanted more decisive action and then argued that failure to argue for Clay Cross style action was one of the reasons that the communist vote and the number of councillors fell at the next local election.

Though I never actually met Jimmy, and only saw him when he was on the platform for rallies like the Star gala in London I did meet Airlie and some of his comrades at another Party event and seem to recall that they said that Jimmy had studied in Moscow for a year at an international cadre school when he was in the YCL.

I don't know whether anyone has written a history of the communist group on Clydebank council. Perhaps Francis King could advise on this?

Finally we should note the tribute on the Hayes Peoples History blog which has a good collection of pictures of the Scottish militant:

http://ourhistory-hayes.blogspot.com/20 ... trike.html

pip,pip,

H A R Philby
(Col.ret'd)




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Harsanyi_Janos
Harsanyi_Janos

August 15th, 2010, 4:37 am #5

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010 ... -shipyards


An impressive man. I'd be interested to read opinions of his post sit-in and TU politics. He did have the grace to fall out with Blairism it seems.
I believe that his criticism of Scargill was very accurate. It's my belief that Gormley -- in blocking Mick McGahey -- allowed the rise of the infant king Scargill and sealed the doom of the NUM and the UK deep mined coal industry. I do not believe that that industry would be a large one today (given the cheapness of Australian and American coal) but it would be vast compared to the handful of pits left today (perhaps similar to the German industry in size).
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Francis King
Francis King

August 15th, 2010, 9:46 am #6

Virtually every daily has published obits to Jimmy Reid this week including the Telegraph, which didn't have many kind words to say about him during the UCS occupation. All can be easily Googled but today's tribute in the Star by John Foster and David Torrance deserves to be highlighted here:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/inde ... full/93973

as it covers his YCL work and touches on his role on Clydebank council. The claim that Jimmy's role was "decisive" in winning the Labour leadership to oppose the Housing Finance Act ignores the criticism that it didn't go far enough that I heard at the time from those in the Party who wanted more decisive action and then argued that failure to argue for Clay Cross style action was one of the reasons that the communist vote and the number of councillors fell at the next local election.

Though I never actually met Jimmy, and only saw him when he was on the platform for rallies like the Star gala in London I did meet Airlie and some of his comrades at another Party event and seem to recall that they said that Jimmy had studied in Moscow for a year at an international cadre school when he was in the YCL.

I don't know whether anyone has written a history of the communist group on Clydebank council. Perhaps Francis King could advise on this?

Finally we should note the tribute on the Hayes Peoples History blog which has a good collection of pictures of the Scottish militant:

http://ourhistory-hayes.blogspot.com/20 ... trike.html

pip,pip,

H A R Philby
(Col.ret'd)



I'm not aware of any such thing, Kim, although there may be someone in Scotland working on it. I understand the Scottish Labour History Society has been going through lean times recently, and I've not seen any of their stuff for years. Anyone north of the border know what's going on there?
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Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

August 16th, 2010, 6:08 pm #7

I believe that his criticism of Scargill was very accurate. It's my belief that Gormley -- in blocking Mick McGahey -- allowed the rise of the infant king Scargill and sealed the doom of the NUM and the UK deep mined coal industry. I do not believe that that industry would be a large one today (given the cheapness of Australian and American coal) but it would be vast compared to the handful of pits left today (perhaps similar to the German industry in size).
Jimmy Reid's denounciation of Scargill during the miners' strike in Murdoch's Sun put him in the same camp as the Thatcher government, "Silver Birch", Hammond's ETU and most of the Labour leadership. It had no effect one way or the other on the dispute though it destroyed what standing Reid had left amongst progressive trade unionists.

That doesn't distract from the earlier role he played at UCS. Afterall Lenin said the same about Plekhanov and even Stalin conceded that Trotsky had done some good work when he was under the discipline of the Central Committee. But to blame Scargill for the demise of the coal industry is frankly nonsense, whatever you might think of Arthur's tactics during the protracted dispute.

The coal industry in Britain was destroyed by the Thatcher government largely, as I understand it, because of the deal Mrs Thatcher struck with the rest of the Common Market to preserve the British nuclear industry. As for Gormley, he certainly did stay on to block McGahey but whether McGahey would have been better than Scargill is debatable.

It's difficult to see what Scargill could have done other than gone for a strike without a national ballot given the pressure from the Yorkshire pits for action. Whether Scargill should have opted for a negotiated retreat rather than have prolonged the strike once the NUM failed to win any practical support from the TUC is another matter.Either way the coal industry was doomed.

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge
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Harsanyi_Janos
Harsanyi_Janos

August 16th, 2010, 6:31 pm #8

"The coal industry in Britain was destroyed by the Thatcher government largely, as I understand it, because of the deal Mrs Thatcher struck with the rest of the Common Market to preserve the British nuclear industry."

Can you explain this -- I have not heard this before.

Even under a wholly planned economic system, the future of the mining industry in the UK (on a large scale) was quite limited. The problem is largely one of geology; with the exception of seams in Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, the seams are thin and deep. It is not possible to compete with coal from the shallow and thick seams of the USA and Australia (tens of metres in the US state of Wyoming).

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Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

August 16th, 2010, 10:12 pm #9

While Thatcher had an ideological objection to the retention of the NCB and her aim was always to privatise the coal industry its destruction cannot simply be put down to Tory hatred of militant miners (though the eventual settlement was nowhere near as generous as that in France). Nor can it be simply be attributed to the need to purchase cheap coal from abroad because it was matched by a greater drive to develop the nuclear and oil & gas sectors.

I've had a glance over the 20 or so books I've got on the Miners Strike but I haven't been able to source the story about the EU deal. Nor have I been able to find anything on the Web about it.But it was certainly current during the Miners' Strike. Going from memory the argument was that the rationalisation in European Community (beginning with the European Coal and Steel Community) required France and Britain to drastically cut-back on coal production to off-set the role played by their substantial nuclear energy industries (which originally were established to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons). And that's certainly what has happened. The last French coal mine closed in 2004 and British mining is on its last legs.

On the broader issue Scargill and the NUM have repeated challenged the argument about "unproductive" British coal in a number of "case for coal" pamphlets and articles over the past 30 years. The first was the moral issue -- that cheap overseas coal is often produced by "cheap" unorganised or child labour and its import is "unethical" -- which is an argument that could be used about virtually anything imported into Britain these days. I accept that one could equally argue that deep mining is brutalising no matter where it takes place and that its end should equally be welcomed as an "ethical" advance.

But the more substantial points are:

1. Oil and gas are not "cheap" or environmentally friendly products (the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example) and global reserves are very limited. (a further argument which has only appeared in recent years is that EU dependence on Gazprom leaves member states open to economic blackmail in the future).

2. Nuclear energy only appears to be "cheap" if the costs of decommissioning and the long-term problem of nuclear waste reprocessing or dumping are not factored into the equation not to mention the potentially disastrous risks involved in production (cf: Chernobyl and Three Mile Island) which far exceed that of "acid rain" and other hazards produced by coal-fired power stations.

3. British coal, on the other hand, has reserves that could last a thousand years and therefore it provides a secure basis for an integrated energy programme.

I don't personally subscribe to the "peak oil" theory that argues that we have, or soon will be on the downward slide, and I think we will still be using oil a hundred years from now.But the case against nuclear energy and the need for alternatives is clearly growing. Wind and hydro power is one answer. Maybe solar energy as well. But economic nuclear fusion remains an elusive dream and the "green" answer of reduced consumption is no solution in a rapidly industrialising world, an increasing population and a global market.

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge










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Harsanyi_Janos
Harsanyi_Janos

August 16th, 2010, 10:47 pm #10

" Going from memory the argument was that the rationalisation in European Community (beginning with the European Coal and Steel Community) required France and Britain to drastically cut-back on coal production to off-set the role played by their substantial nuclear energy industries (which originally were established to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons). And that's certainly what has happened. The last French coal mine closed in 2004 and British mining is on its last legs."

Interesting -- I must look this up. Its certainly true that the French ran down their industry (and also provided a more generous treatment of its miners); but the same is true also of Holland, Belgium and Germany. While the Germany industry was long subsidised by the Kohlepfennig; its a shadow of its former self.

Of course, there's a moral case against coal that is won in Victorian-style conditions (such as Poland and Russia in many fields). But the largest coal miners that UK mine's would face competition from would be Australia and the USA. There the cost is an environmental one (it is open cast) not social.

One might argue that even if McGahey had been at the helm instead of Scargill the result would have been the same. That is possible, but I suspect not.
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