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Jimmy Reid 1932-2010

JIMMY REID, trade unionist, author and broadcaster, died on 10 August. He came to prominence as an inspiring force of the work-in at Upper Clyde Ship-builders in 1971.

Faced with closure as a "lame duck" enterprise by the Heath government, the workers voted not to strike but to occupy - not just as a "sit-in" but to build ships. After eighteen months the yards were saved. Two major yards are active four decades later, albeit in ownership of British Aerospace Systems. The shop stewards, in the face of goverment opposition, set up the purchase of the Clydebank yard by the Marathon Oil company; it closed in 2001 as North Sea oil exploration wound down.

Jimmy joined the NUJ as a freelance in 1980, and remained a member until his death. As well as broadcasting and writing for the capitalist media, he co-founded the Scottish Left Review.

Edinburgh freelance Joyce McMillan wrote in the Scotsman following Jimmy's humanist funeral on 19 August, referring to his address in 1972 accepting his election, during the work-in, as Rector of Glasgow University:

it is a joyful and uplifting experience to read Jimmy Reid's words... and to be in the presence, even retrospectively, of a big, articulate, generous-minded public figure who does not give in to the miserable mantras of the all-powerful market that now largely shape our society.

"From the depth of my being," said Reid, "I challenge the right of any man or group of men to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable;" and as we stand on the brink of an ill-advised orgy of deep cuts in our public services, and mass redundancies among the workers who deliver them, we will have many hundreds of thousands of occasions to remember those passionate words, over the coming years.

That address was reprinted in the New York Times. At the funeral Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, promised to make it available to every high school student in the country. In it Jimmy said:

To the students I address this appeal... Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.

Jimmy Reid

That would be addressed to his fellow-journalists too.

Last modified: 22 Aug 2010 - © 2010 contributors
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