Gerry Golden (1922 – 1995)
by Pat Murphy
Labour & Trade Union Review, No. 50, November – December 1995
I first met Gerry Golden in London in the early 1960s. He was a convenor for the Electrical Trade Union in Shepperton Film Studios. He was active in the trade union movement and had been a member of the British Communist Party. He had emigrated from Dublin to Britain via Canada in the early 1950s, having served ten years in the Irish army.
He, and some industrial members of the Party, had tried to put a stop to ballot rigging in the ETU before it was exposed and put a stop to in the High Court on the instigation of Frank Chapple and Les Cannon. The Party branches which were dominated by middle class elements were not interested in discussing the matter, never mind doing something about it. Gerry left the party but did not identify with the new leadership of the ETU, which he regarded as opportunist.
Gerry had an internationalist outlook on life and rejected narrow Catholic nationalism which dominated Irish society in the 1940s and 1950s. He was a founder member of the Irish Communist Organisation in 1964. He believed in history and the class struggle which propelled it forward. However, his views were philosophical and he disdained or rejected most, if not all, of the contemporary left wing radical organisations operating in Britain. In latter years he joined the British Labour Party.
He continued to express his strongly held political convictions which he circulated amongst friends or contributed articles to journals of organisations with which he disagreed. He was a regular speaker from the floor at meetings or conferences on contemporary politics.
From the late 1970s he was afflicted with arthritis which progressively robbed him of his military bearing and eventually severely restricted the use of his limbs. With his mobility limited he read a great deal and retained a lively interest in contemporary politics.
The collapse of socialism in the East and the decline of Social Democracy in the West probably disconcerted him, as it does many of us, but he still believed that the welfare of workers – employed and unemployed – still constituted the criterion for evaluating any society. In a situation where many institutions have crumbled or have been severely dented, he looked for signs of new emerging structures which could be of benefit to workers.
A few years ago he struggled up the steps of the Larkin Unemployed Centre – a trade union sponsored organisation on the North Strand in Dublin, to inspect the place. It provides welfare rights information, training and support for the self-employed, and co-operatives, job clubs and counselling.
It also campaigns to have a statutory right to work put on the political agenda. Gerry approved, and one of his last acts was to make an ethical investment in the Centre.
Given time, he would no doubt have identified other new emerging structures and developments which if taken together, would reflect the Labour interest in the modern political and social world.
Gerry was buried in the family plot in Shankill, Co. Dublin. He will be missed by his friends for his stimulating mind and good humour.
[Pat Murphy was for many years an Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union shop steward at the Unidare group of companies in Finglas, Dublin. He was, along with Gerry Golden and others, one of the founder members of the Irish Communist Organisation. He now works at the Larkin Unemployed Centre in Dublin.]