Socialist Worker

Dave Gibson 1950 - 2017

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2564

Dave (with mop!) always led from the front to sweep out injustice

Dave (with mop!) always led from the front to sweep out injustice (Pic: George Arthur)

Tributes have been paid from across the trade union and labour movement to Dave Gibson, an inspiring revolutionary socialist for nearly half a century, who has died aged 67.

From school strikes in his teens to Freedom Riders in his 60s, Dave was a driving force who always led from the front.

Only a few comrades leave an indelible mark on the world—Dave was one of them. And he always had a twinkle in his eye, laughing at the absurdities of capitalism and those who run it.

A lifelong socialist, Dave was an exemplary trade unionist and anti-racist activist.

Dave was a leading figure in the school strikes movement as a sixth former in Leeds in the late 1960s.

He recalled “I remember the slogans ‘Head Autocracy Out’ and ‘Smash the Bourgeoisie’."

After joining the International Socialists, forerunner of the SWP, around 1968 he was sent to Barnsley in 1972 to build the organisation—and remained a guiding light there at the heart of the struggle for 40 years.

Dave was central to building solidarity for the miners' strikes of 1972, 1974 and 1984-5 and steelworkers in 1980. He was election agent for a Troops Out of Ireland candidate challenging Barnsley MP and Northern Ireland minister Roy Mason in the 1979 general election. More recently he stood as a TUSC candidate.

His record on fighting racism and fascism, from beating back the National Front in the 1970s and 1980s, the BNP in the 1990s or the EDL more recently, was second to none.

Dave, UCU branch secretary at Barnsley College for many years, fought off victimisation twice—the first over the price of a stamp! 

As Barnsley TUC secretary and a former UCU lecturers' union national executive member, Dave played a leading role in countless campaigns both international and local - including organising a film showing of Miners Shot Down about the massacred Marikana miners in South Africa and supporting the Kinsley 3 sacked cleaners.

And of course, he came up with the idea for the victorious Freedom Riders campaign against cuts in travel passes for pensioners and disabled people.

Dave's UCU comrade Sean Vernell said, "Leadership for Dave was about inspiring others to fight. At the core of his being lay the belief that only working people through their own struggles had the ability to rid society of all its injustices and found society anew based on equality for all."

Former UCU president Liz Lawrence said Dave "got closer than many of us" in meetingTrotsky's definition of the moral qualities of Bolshevism as “self-renunciation, audacity and contempt for every kind of tinsel and falsehood”.

Dave always gently and patiently explained the way forward with wit and wisdom. It's hard to believe we'll never hear again those lilting Edinburgh tones—mixed with a bit of Barnsley.

South Yorkshire SWP comrades send love and condolences to Dave's partner Kate and his stepdaughter Christie.

Dave's funeral will be on Thursday 3 August, 10.50am, Barnsley Crematorium, Doncaster Road, Barnsley S71 5EH, followed by a celebration of his life at Barnsley Civic Theatre. No flowers, donations to Stand Up to Racism online or via a collection box at the celebration of Dave's life and political activism at Barnsley Civic Theatre.


Article information

Tue 25 Jul 2017, 09:50 BST
Issue No. 2564
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