Monday, February 21, 2011

Bert Edwards - Fiery Fighter

Bert Edwards

Fiery Fighter

Daily Worker 11th March 1961

The other evening a vigorous little man walked out of a trade union office in London's Tottenham Court Road and made for the Tube.

Most nights for a number of years he had taken the same road with a jaunty air and lively step, but on this occasion he was sad and his movements were heavy. His services as fulltime officer of his union had just ended.

Any worker finishing over 40 years activity in the Labour movement could expect to look forward to a rest.

But not Bert Edwards, Though 65 and just retired from the position as London organiser of the National Union of Vehicle Builders, he says : " I am carrying on in the movement." Delegate to the union's area and national conferences, a member of its Parliamentary panel and of the London Labour Party's standing orders committee, are a few jobs he has on hand.

Bert'sadult life has been dedicated to his union and to Socialism, adversity strengthening his resolve and study of working-class literature increasing his capacity to spread understanding of the struggle necessary to change society.

Blessed with physical fitness, he can tackle the toughest jobs. In the Army he held Western Command's feather weight and lightweight boxing titles simultaneously.

Sporting prowess must be in the Edwards blood as two sons are now First Division Speed-way riders.

A proud boast of Bert is that, nearly half a century ago, he supported the activities of a great Englishman, Tom Mann, and an equally great Irishman, Jim Larkin, two prominent working - class leaders and Socialists of their day.

He is proud, too, of his father's influence on him. He was president of the Liverpool branch of the Boilermakers' Society way back in 1900. Over the stove in the Edwardses' kitchen was this motto:

" A union man you cannot be, no matter how you try.
Unless you think in terms of WE and not in terms of I"

Shop steward, union executive officer, branch president and secretary, Bert showed later that he had grasped the meaning of that simple slogan.

Always a keen politician, this fiery democrat was once a Harrow councillor and a Middlesex county councillor.

He left local politics when elected to the union's district committee.

Encouragement and assistance was never wanting from his wife, Fiona, youngest daughter of Jim Connolly, the great Irish Socialist fighter.

Possessing so handsome a background of honest struggle for the Labour movement, it is natural to find Bert Edwards, who seconded the resolution at last year's T.U.C. opposing nuclear rearmament of Western Germany, resisting Right Wing sabotage of the Scarborough Labour Party conference decisions on defence and nuclear weapons.

Two vital principles, he says, are involved: nuclear weapons can never make Britain safe, and decisions democratically reached at conference should be as binding on Gaitskell and his pals as on any member of the party.

From the day in 1911 when he was beaten up during a transport workers' demonstration in Liverpool (so vicious were the police that the day became known as Bloody Sunday), Bert has never been a palace politician or a drawing-room trade unionist.

He knows the road to Socialism lies not in pretty words and slick promises but in strength forged by the firmest unity of all sections of the working people.