Learning from Tony Reay

Before we published this, if you searched for the name of Tony Reay – the long-standing and respected socialist, Labour member and PCS union activist who died on 23 April – on the Clarion website, nothing came up. However, many Clarion writers and supporters worked closely with Tony so we wanted to carry a short appreciation.

Much of what we might say about Tony as a campaigner, along with some more general political and personal appreciation, has already been said here and here. Rather than repeat things, we’d like to tell a specific story.

Since 2017, The Clarion has promoted model motions for Labour Party conference. (See the 2017 motions here, the 2018 motions here and the 2019 motions here.) Issues have included: free movement and migrants’ rights; repealing the anti-union laws and the right to strike; public ownership of the banks; climate change and a Socialist Green New Deal; transforming the benefits system; reversing council cuts; abolishing academies; and fighting Brexit. Many of these motions have generated campaigning, most obviously the Free Our Unions campaign.

For the 2018 benefits motion, we asked for Tony’s help, as a (retired) worker and trade unionist in the benefits system and a veteran campaigner for claimants’ and disabled people’s rights.

The demands included in the resulting motion no doubt need further developing (partly because of a very tight word limit) but remain, in our view, the basis of a clear program for transforming the benefits system which goes way beyond the limited “Scrap Universal Credit” approach which for whatever reasons dominates campaigning in our movement. Today fighting for such a program is of course more important than ever.

The contents and strength of the motion were down to the Tony, who discussed the issues with us at some length, proposed the key demands and drafted the key wording, and redrafted the final motion. It’s worth saying he was extremely helpful, friendly and businesslike throughout.

All this tells you a lot about him: a committed, non-sectarian campaigner; a DWP worker devoted to the rights of claimants; a socialist with an expansive political viewpoint who nonetheless concerned himself with concreteness and detail; a militant fighter of and for the working class, not a passive supporter of the Labour Party and its leadership (or, for that matter, the PCS and its leadership).

Tony’s death is a real loss to our movement. We send best wishes and solidarity to his family, friends and comrades.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

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