web analytics

Death of a Working Class Hero

Written By: - Date published: 10:49 am, August 28th, 2010 - 14 comments
Categories: class war - Tags:

200 odd years of capitalism has thrown up countless working class heroes. Most got buried in obscurity in life and by a collective amnesia in death. The education system of ‘our betters’ is partly to blame. It taught and teaches us of the establishment heroes, of the generals and the explorers who furthered the glorious civilising project of colonisation. And our popular culture seems incapable of offering us anything beyond sports stars or imaginary comic book heroes with impossible powers.

But this month the life of a real hero was marked.

Jimmy Reid was a man who you’ve probably never heard of.

Jimmy Reid is an example of the type of person we need to remember. Not for their sake. But for ours.

Some hold that the actions he helped to instigate on the Clyde shipyards were a glorious failure. And perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps if the workers back then had taken the crucial final small step and assumed full and permanent self-management of the ship yards rather than merely working the yards to force the hand of the government to keep them open, we might be living in a very different world today.

There was a famous speech he gave back in 1972. The NY Times printed it in full on its front page and compared it to the Gettysburg Address. Think about that for a second. A mainstream US newspaper likening the speech of a foreign unionist to the Gettysburg Address. And yet I’ll wager you’ve never heard of it. Let alone read it. It reads as fresh today, half a century and half a world away, as it did back then.

You should read it. And when you have done wondering at the chasm between what msm carried back then as compared to now, you might want to remember or realise a little of that human reality which sits within us all and persists despite the swirling miasma of imposed mainstream cultures and media.


14 comments on “Death of a Working Class Hero ”

  1. r0b 1

    Thank you Bill.

  2. DeeDub 2

    Wow. Thanks for that.

  3. john 3

    Hi I have found this article saying Reid wasn’t quite the hero for the workers as this post says! In fact he was like many of our own Unionists won over by the boss class, but read for yourself!

    • IrishBill 3.1

      Ah yes the world socialists. A bigger bunch of “lefter than thou” types you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

      Here’s what they have to say (in the same article) about workers self-organising in cooperatives:

      “..workers seeking to continue, or even organise, their own exploitation.”

      Because according to the philosophy of the WS working to feed yourself in a capitalist society (even if you have taken control of the means of production) is an act of class treachery.

      Quoting them is like quoting the Libertarianz to prove ACT are traitors to the business class.

    • Bill 3.2

      There were sections of the authoritarian left that despised Jimmy Reid. You’ve provided a nice example of that.

      Fact is, if the authoritarian left vilify you, then you must be doing something right.

      Reid became disillusioned with ‘really existing cmmunism’ in the early 70s and left the Cmmunist Party when it was politically trendy to join…hardly a Stanilist then, eh?

      And then the authoritarian left got all upset all over again by his, as it turned out accurate assessment of Arthur Scargill and the NUM…who, incidentally has just been expelled from the NUM (link at bottom of comment beneath Reid quote.)

      “Arthur Scargill’s leadership of the miners’ strike has been a disgrace. The price to be paid for his folly will be immense. He will have destroyed the NUM as an effective fighting force within British trade unionism for the next 20 years. If kamikaze pilots were to form their own union, Arthur would be an ideal choice for leader.”


  4. prism 4

    Someone to remember. This morning on Kim Hill RadioNZ writer Val McDermid, whose father or grandfather used to be a miner, talked about how he wouldn’t let his sons go down the mine. He didn’t get the mine lung disease but many others did. He got tuberculosis in his bones. Probably the boys went into the dockyards. She said that Margaret Thatcher and her crowd were full of spite towards the unions because of their activism.

    Jimmy Reid’s obituary said that he became a journalist. Val also became a journalist but found it in the end soul destroying. And that was about the time that the rich guys got control of the papers. She had believed that the tabloids should give the public information and interesting news. She doesn’t think much of the msm now I don’t think.

    Jimmy Reid showed the breadth of intellect that can reach from physical work and trades to the scholar and said how important good education is. We should listen to this in NZ. These are people who have experience and understanding that make their thoughts and opinions ‘truly meaningful[‘.

  5. Bill 5

    As a wee addendum. I was trying to find audio/visual record of the speech and came across this press release from the Scottish Government, which I found heartening given our propensity to forget.

    First Minister Alex Salmond today pledged to make union leader Jimmy Reid’s famous 1972 Glasgow University Rectorial address available to every secondary pupil.

    “The Rectorial Address, along with biographical and other material, including video and audio clips, will be brought together over the next few weeks to form not just a comprehensive tribute but also a comprehensive learning resource.

    “I will also ensure it is promoted to teachers as very suitable for inclusion in cross curricular activity within the Curriculum for Excellence. In that way, it will match the many other new resources for Curriculum for Excellence already on line or being developed.”

  6. joe90 6

    Black lung Prism and when I worked for the old NZED in the early seventies more than a few of the tradesmen who were refugees from the miners strike of 1969 were to suffer from the disease later in life.

    I also worked along side a few old school tub thumping unionists who’d endured the Tyneside strikes of the sixties and those men with their sense of fairness and justice made a lasting impression, a bloke by the name of John Warner in particular, on a young fella.

    No coincidence that the union busting ambitions of the tories were realised in the early ninties with the retirements and passing of such men.
    RIP Tony Leary and the CEWU.

    • prism 6.1

      My general education as a child was to think of unionists like Tony Leary as dissidents that wished to cause chaos. When I gained maturity (at about 40 years) I realised that he had more than a few good points and that unionism while not always being right, was not always wrong. Knowing about the working conditions of people from mining jobs to those like the salary men of Japan, sleeping at their desks, alienated from their families by the business culture and long working hours with some dying from overwork shows unionism support essential.

  7. Lazy Susan 7

    Thanks for that Bill. What an amazing speech.

    When reading the part of Jimmy’s speech regarding the centralisation and bureacratic control of power I could not help but be reminded that in a couple of months time all Aucklanders will be living in the Super Shitty. That shameful front, developed by NAct, for the wholesale theft of assets that the hardworking people of Auckland have taken decades to develop.

    The double speak of NAct is sickening. On the one hand they talk of “opportunity” and “aspiration” while on the other they create complex structures that will enable the stripping of control and ownership of the assets of NZ’s largest city from it’s citizens.

    To NAct I pose the same question that Jimmy did – “Where and how in your calculations did you quantify the value of a community?”

  8. Jimmy Reid’s political trajectory was complex, in complex times. From the shop floor, he became a focal point in the UCS occupation and its exemplifying of opposition to the Heath Government, and the subsequent debate about workers’ control in a capitalist system. The context of, for example, alternative economic strategies, the impact of studies of Mondragon and the Emilia Romagna phenomenon, the “prefigurative forms” (of socialism) debate, mixed with strong worker mobilisation and strongish unions, added up to something very difficult to understand at this distance. The nonsense about ‘class betrayal’ comes from a mixture of the ultra-Left (who never had to take any responsibility for defending jobs on the Clyde) and a disgruntled CP (which Reid left), which still thought the sound of Russian tanks in Prague was music. He was flawed as we all are, but he was a worthy man, for a’that.

  9. Bunji 9

    Wow Bill, that’s an amazing speech.

    As you say, sadly as fresh today here in NZ. So much for progress.

  10. M 10

    Wow, it blew me away – I\’ll be forwarding this to family and friends.

    Capitalism must ultimately fail because of what it does to people and the environment.

    David Harvey, interviewed by BBC Hardtalk putsn it very well as to why capitalism must fail:


  11. There is an excellent obituary for Jimmy Reid in 12th August edition of the Independent UK. available on the net. Well worth the read,

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Clean energy upgrade for more public buildings
    More public buildings will be supported by the Government to upgrade to run on clean energy, the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw announced today. Minister Shaw announced that Lincoln and Auckland universities will receive support through the Clean-Powered Public Service Fund to replace fossil fuel boilers. Southern, Taranaki, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Schools back donations scheme for the second year
    More schools have opted in to the donations scheme for 2021, compared to 2020 when the scheme was introduced. “The families of more than 447,000 students will be better off next year, with 94% of eligible schools and kura opting into the scheme,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “This is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruapehu cycle trails gets PGF boost
    The spectacular Mountains to Sea cycle trail in Ruapehu District will receive $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for two additional trails, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today. “This is an exciting development for the local community, and one that will provide significant economic opportunities ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Update to air border order strengthens crew requirements
    Additional measures coming into effect on Monday will boost our defence against COVID-19 entering New Zealand through the air border, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “As part of our precautionary approach and strategy of constant review, we’re tightening the requirements around international aircrew,” Chris Hipkins said. The COVID-19 Public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • A true picture of Māori business activity
    A better picture of the contribution Māori businesses make to the economy will be possible with changes to the way information is collected about companies and trading enterprises. Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash have announced a new option for Māori enterprises who are part ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • PGF funding for Taranaki projects
    The South Taranaki museum, a New Plymouth distillery and a Pasifika building firm will benefit from a Government investment totalling more than $1 million, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says. The $1.05m in grants and loans from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will help the recipients expand and create ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Fijian Language Week 2020 inspires courage and strength during COVID-19 pandemic
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says the theme for the 2020 Fijian Language Week reflects the strong belief by Fijians that their language and culture inspires courage and strength that is strongly needed in times of emergencies, or through a significant challenge like the global COVID-19 pandemic ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Trades training builds on iwi aspirations
    An investment of $2.025 million from the Māori Trades and Training Fund will support Māori to learn new skills while making a positive difference for their communities, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “K3 Development Limited Partnership will receive $2,025,000 for its Takitimu Tuanui apprenticeship programme, which will support the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago