Regretfully Socialist Worker reports the death of Peter Bain, a lifelong socialist who made a big contribution to the International Socialists (forerunner of the SWP), the SWP, and the wider movement.
Peter died in a Glasgow hospital last weekend, having only recently retired from a lifetime of hard work. Sadly instead of enjoying a well deserved retirement, he spent the last few weeks battling a debilitating illness.
He was born in Clydebank during the Second World War, just after the Blitz had destroyed large parts of the shipyard town. Like many a young Clydeside apprentice in the early 1960s he got involved with the peace movement and demonstrated against the building of the Polaris nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch on the Clyde.
He never wavered in such views. The last time I spoke to Peter was on a demonstration in Glasgow against Tony Blair’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a youngster he gravitated to the flourishing Glasgow left and was drawn into the debates then raging among the young rebels in the Labour Party Young Socialists. There were arguments about the future of socialism, about the nature of Russia, about class – and above all about the nuclear bomb.
Peter joined Tony Cliff’s fledgling International Socialism group and became a local stalwart of the organisation.
Peter was a self-educated Marxist and a regular contributor to Socialist Worker. He was also a principled rank and file trade union militant. Victimised and blacklisted for trade union activities at Howden’s Engineering, he eventually got a job on the assembly line at the giant Linwood car plant.
There he became a leading T&G union shop steward and helped build a strong SWP factory branch that grew to over 20 members. They sold about 200 Socialist Workers in the factory every week.
Thanks to Peter’s commitment and influence the Linwood branch also produced a Socialist Worker factory bulletin that gained influence on the shopfloor.
Throughout the 1970s he was a leading member of the SWP and a prominent figure on the Glasgow trades council, a significant working class body, which although under the control of the Communist Party, was capable of initiating real struggle.
But, like many of us at the time, Peter had difficulty in adjusting to the defeats and the downturn in struggle that came at the fag end of the 1974-9 Labour government. When Linwood was closed without a fight in 1981, 8,000 workers were thrown on the dole and the local community was destroyed overnight.
At 40 plus Peter became a student, and helped establish a new SWP student group at Strathclyde university.
Although he had dropped out of SWP activities by the end of the 1980s and was no longer a member, Peter was friendly and remained committed to the tradition of socialism from below.
He also made the transition from student to researcher to university lecturer. He built a reputation by researching and investigating health and safety at work and the unionisation of call centres. He was a respected and popular teacher.
Peter Bain was a kind, principled individual. He loved music and was deeply cultured.
Those of us who knew and worked with him are the better for it. Socialist Worker sends condolences to Faith, Jacqueline and Nancy.