Socialist Worker and all its readers owe a tremendous debt to Ross Pritchard, who died of cancer last week at the age of 62. Ross joined the socialist movement in Glasgow at almost exactly the same time as I did. Ross had just come out of the armed forces (he was one of the last to be caught in the conscription net, as I was), and was trying to find a decent job in Glasgow. He came to the socialist movement as though he had been waiting for it all his life.
Ross and Anna, whom he married not much later and with whom he spent the rest of his life, were permanent fixtures at all the Young Socialists meetings, including the periodic excursions to CND demos and other protests. He rapidly became a part of the growing band of young worker-intellectuals who led the Young Socialists at that time. Like many others he was drawn to London by the prospect of decently paid employment.
He got a job in the print trade and, at a time when our organisation hardly existed, kept up his association with the International Socialists. In 1968 we yearned for a weekly paper, which was to become Socialist Worker. Roger Protz was to be the editor and Jim Nichol the business editor, but what we really needed was an expert in the print who would dedicate his life to the project.
Ross agreed to fill this post at once, though the move meant a huge increase in work and a drop in salary of at least 50 percent. Somehow this tiny crew managed to get the paper out. Ross was utterly irreplaceable.
He was the opposite of the token manual worker, and from the outset he was an essential part of the political process. He took a keen and critical interest in what the paper was saying, and how the organisation was growing. Ross became more and more central to the entire project, a learner turned teacher.
None of those who worked on the paper at that time will forget his dedication and encouragement. When Ross finally left the printshop in the mid-1970s, he became a militant in the merged NGA print union, and very soon was elected to the executive. He stayed a rank and file militant all the way through to the awful defeat of the print unions by Murdoch at Wapping.
Like many other militants after Wapping, he drifted away from active involvement in the socialist movement, but remained on the union executive. Without the sacrifice, determination and spirit of Ross Pritchard, the weekly Socialist Worker could not have come out when it did, and the enthusiasm around the paper could not have been sustained at such a high level. He has no finer epitaph.
The funeral will take place on Monday 22 January at 1pm at the City of London Cemetery, Aldersbrook Road, E12. Send messages of condolence to Anna Pritchard at 2 Listria Park, London N16.