TOM DURKIN-longtime chair of Brent Trades Council, notably at the time of the Grunwick's strike in the 1970s-died just before Christmas at the age of 87. Tom was in every sense a big man, with a booming voice sometimes augmented by his home-made sound systems.
Born in Ireland to a poor family, he came to England in the 1930s, tramped from Liverpool to London and eventually found work on various building sites. There he organised against dangerous working conditions and for union recognition. He was frequently victimised. Some of his experiences were recorded in Channel 4's Secret History series.
Tom was a loyal member of the Communist Party, and we in the Socialist Workers Party had some fierce arguments with him, but always recognised his energy and activism. After the collapse of Stalinism we achieved a mutual respect. He was a committed anti-racist.
At an Anti Nazi League protest at the desecration of a Jewish memorial, he spoke movingly of his experience of arriving as a soldier at Auschwitz at the end of the Second World War.
In 1976, when Right to Work marchers were arrested at Staples Corner, Tom was outside Hendon magistrates' court with the Brent Trades Council banner to show his solidarity. Tom was, by instinct and conviction, a fighter. We can all learn from the traditions of industrial militancy, anti-racism and support for the anti-war movement that characterised the tradition Tom belonged to.