Socialist Worker

Paul Acaster 1943-2016

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2510

Paul Acaster

Paul Acaster

Paul Acaster, an inspirational industrial militant and revolutionary socialist, has died aged 72.

His death has saddened comrades in Sheffield, York and beyond who remember Paul’s tremendous fighting spirit and enormous appetite for life.

Paul was always at the heart of the struggle and always led from the front. He retained his belief in revolutionary politics throughout his poor health, which included ME and COPD.

Only a few weeks ago he was railing against the EU.

Paul's early life was spent in Sheffield. His dad was a file forger and his mum worked in the cutlery trade.

At school he showed early signs of rebelliousness and was regularly caned by vindictive teachers. But he got his own back on one on his last days in school aged 14 by grabbing and breaking the cane over his knee.

A born workplace fighter, Paul had to change his surname to get round being blacklisted after he led union recognition disputes and was victimised.

He did all sorts of jobs, from woodsman to a chef on oil rigs in Scotland, in hotels from Pontins to Blackpool, to steelworker and railway guard. At Sheffield's famous Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts factory he and other comrades produced a wonderfully inventive workplace rank and file bulletin, aptly titled "Bitter Sweet".

Paul was one of a number of working class militants who came towards the International Socialists, forerunners of the SWP, in the 1970s. This was a decade which saw strikes and protests topple Ted Heath's Tory government.

The mood turned to bitterness as right wing Labour governments paved the way for Thatcher.


Being able to bluff his way into anything, Paul got a job in a steelworks—on the strength of a brief chat to another comrade. The gaffer soon sussed him out but it didn't matter, the 13-week steel strike of 1980 intervened and he never went back. Instead he spent the three months speaking and fundraising round Britain and Ireland in the first of the union battles with Thatcher.

After the strike ended Paul got a job as a railway guard and moved to York after meeting partner Eileen Burn—one of the few women branch secretaries of the then National Union of Railwaymen (NUR)—at an SWP meeting.

Paul was very active in the NUR, where he could be relied on to get guest speakers both nationally and locally such as seafarers from the P&O dispute, local ambulance workers, Royal Mail and of course the miners in 1984-5.

He would be first to move a payment from branch funds and also the first to put in the bucket—which was usually his flat cap—for the collection on the door.

Paul left the railways in 1989 and worked for the pioneering Sheffield Occupational Health Project, where he did tests for industrial deafness, for nine years.

Paul was a man with so many talents, a revolutionary fighter whose memory will live on in the class struggle.

He was a lovely man who you could count on for support and comradeship.

Sheffield comrades wish to offer their condolences to Eileen, Laura, and Paul's family.

Article information

Tue 28 Jun 2016, 16:29 BST
Issue No. 2510
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