The trade union and political activist Greg Tucker died yesterday from throat cancer. Here are some brief comments to mark his passing.
I did not know Greg very well on a personal level, although I worked with him on and off for 20 years, mostly in the RMT. Greg was a prominent activist within the RMT as a guard and then train driver. He was Secretary of the Train Grades conference of the RMT, and had been a member of the union’s lay Executive Committee. He stood as a candidate for General Secretary against Jimmy Knapp (for the absence of anybody else prepared to do so), receiving around a third of the votes. We were delegates together on a number of occasions to the RMT’s AGM and involved in the various left formations.
A similar age to him, we were part of a generation which suffered a long series of defeats. Many of the people we knew and worked with were personally defeated and demoralised, and dropped out of political and trade union activity. Some abandoned their earlier political convictions. But Greg’s commitment was life long, whatever the conditions of the moment.
Greg could have had a ‘career’ but chose instead to organise workers as a lay activist in the workplace, where anybody who held positions of leadership was a natural target for management. Like many left wing activists he suffered victimisation (at the hands of South West Trains), though he, his members and the union eventually won his his job back. He considered such attacks to be an inevitable overhead of the struggle.
Although his politics changed to some degree over the years, Greg remained true to his youthful convictions and carried on his trade union and political work despite the depressing conditions under which we had to work for so long.
The other thing that can be said about Greg was that he was someone who was widely liked and respected, despite operating in a movement in which sectarianism was exacerbated by defeats. In this environment some left activists lost a sense of proportion, treating people close to them on the political spectrum as if they were enemies. Greg in contrast was never personal or objectionable with people with whom he had disagreements, even sharp ones. He faced political abuse (directed at him) with a wry smile. The small-mindedness and narrow sectarianism of many on the left was alien to him.
His experience, good humour and gritty determination will be missed by RMT activists and members, and his political associates. His departure too early, in his 50’s, is a reminder to those of us of his generation to make the most of our time.