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Bernie Holland

Holland was a highly respected TGWU branch secretary for the Covent Garden branch. A porter there, he joined the Communist Party in the late 1950s, having been part of the Labour left in the Holborn and South St Pancras constituency.

He was suspended from Labour Party membership and asked to provide a defence against formal expulsion. His response to Labour national executive was: “I plead guilty to assisting in preventing evictions, in the formation of Tenants’ Associations and in defeating attempts to raise rents particularly through the introduction of means tests. I have fought against the deception of Civil Defence and its part in the government’s refusal to suspend nuclear tests. I helped to defend the Red Flag at St Pancras Town Hall, against the Tories and the Fascists, although we could have done with the assistance of those socialists who sing about it, once a year, at Annual Conference.

In brief, along with thousands of others, I believe that actions against the Tories speak louder than words. I am grateful for having been allowed to play a part in the fight against my class enemies and I know that this fight will go on, irrespective of the desires of Mr Gaitskell (Ed: the then right-wing leader of the Labour Party) and Co, until we have finally disposed of capitalism. These reasons, to Socialists, would dispel all thoughts of expulsion …”

This action was followed by his joining of the Communist Party, which also saw him immediately removed from office in the Transport & General Workers Union, under the infamous ban on Communists holding office in the union.  This was a highly unpopular act in the T&GWU, leading to a renewed campaign to lift the ban, which saw a big challenge to it at the union’s 1963 Rules Conference. Holland was heavily involved in the campaign, personally. To compound a general sense of unease, the branch secretary who replaced him at Covent Garden turned out to be a Liberal Party supporter!