Comrade Derek Robinson
from Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths,
Derek was a 20th century giant of the labour movement. He led the car workers of Longbridge in hundreds of battles to win dignity and a share of the value they produced by what was often their arduous, intensive and soul-destroying work. But he also recognised that advances and reforms won under capitalism could be clawed back by greedy and ruthless employers. That’s why he joined the Communist Party and argued the necessity for revolutionary change and socialism.
Derek also played a central role in the struggle to safeguard the Morning Star and the existence of Britain’s Communist Party. He worked tirelessly to build the Communist Campaign Group of party members expelled or excluded by the CPGB’s revisionist leadership in the 1980s. His contribution made him the obvious choice to chair the re-established Communist Party of Britain in 1988.
I have many fond personal memories of Derek, who came to south Wales on numerous occasions to address CCG, CPB, Morning Star and Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trades Unions meeting. When I arranged for him to speak at a packed meeting of shop stewards in Bridgend, the right-wing district leadership of the engineering workers tried to ban union officials and stewards from attending. Some hope! The stewards loved his talk, in which he linked their industrial lives with the vision of socialism.
But my abiding memory of Derek was meeting him in the Social Club before we went together to march with the Party against the proposed closure of Longbridge. Everywhere we went, he was mobbed by workers who told him he had been proved right after all. Some were crying as they apologised for not having fought harder to save his job in 1979, when the Thatcher government, British Leyland bosses, MI5, Special Branch and the right-wing AEU leadership colluded in his sacking. He had put his name to an alternative plan to make new models, find new markets and save the thousands of jobs at Longbridge.
How the ruling class and its media hated “Red Robbo” – and how they feared him as well! He was always clear that it was the Communist Party that made him a working class fighter, a Marxist and a Communist. We are as proud of him as he was of his party..
31/10/2017 @ 13.00pm
“Communists active in Unite the Union today mourn their most distinguished veteran, a mentor and guide to us all,” declared Graham Stevenson, secretary of the Industry, Services, Transport advisory committee of the Communist Party , as the news of the death of Derek Robinson, former convenor of the Longbridge car factory in Birmingham.
Chair of the IST advisory committee, George Hickman, recalled: “Like Derek, and so many others, I was victimised as a convenor of a major workplace in the West Midlands, almost certainly as part of a concerted effort by right wing forces in the establishment, with support in the media and labour movement. His union, the AEU, let him down badly but, in the years after his own dismissal, he continued to be a tower of strength for shop stewards everywhere. He was a very, very dear personal friend of mine and will be greatly missed for, only in recent times, with a big broom sweeping the dross from the inner chambers of our union have we begun to recover our strength among the rank and file. Witness the Birmingham bin workers struggle.”
Graham Stevenson, who was Derek Robinson’s press aecretary when he stood as a Communist candidate in two General Elections in 1974 recalled, “Derek was very patient and supportive of me as a very young man, when I worked closely with him in his election campaign. After I became a T&G union official in 1980, he was always available for guidance and was absolutely delighted when his union and mine merged in recent years.”
Andy Chaffer, secretary of Birmingham’s Communist Party, noted Mr Robinson’s continuing support for his party: “As chair of the Communist Party, Derek was a stalwart leader of our party and, in his later years, despite ill-health, kept up a continuing interest in our activities.
Derek Robinson was:
- Amalgamated Engineering Union shop steward and convenor Longbridge car factory (1948-73)
- Communist Parliamentary candidate in four general elections (1966-74)
- Overall Longbridge Works Convenor – Joint Shop Stewards Committee (1973-79)
- Midlands Morning Star circulation rep and Trade union studies lecturer (1980-1992)
- National and West Midlands District Chair of the Communist Party of Britain
- A proud Retired Member of Unite the union
For more biographical details see: