J-L

Lyons Danny

Danny Lyons

 

The long-term London docker and Communist Party activist, was a member of the non-official Port London Dockworkers Liaison Committee. Writing in the Communist Party’s weekly journal, `Comment’, in 1966 on planned changes to the Dock Labour Scheme, he warned that: “The labour movement would do well to observe and draw the right lessons that will emerge from dockland in the coming months, for never before has it been so clearly illustrated that the dockers’ struggle is the workers struggle everywhere, for basically it is a Battle of those who believe in more public control of industries versus those who would chain the working class to the chariot of monopoly capitalism.” [MW]

Danny Lyons was prominent in the 1967 dock strike over decasualisation affected the Royal group, West India, and Millwall docks. The dispute was over implementation of certain clauses in the agreement to men temporarily transferred from their own employer to another. There was a traditional continuity rule by which men on certain types of work normally remain on a particular job until it is finished.

When London dockers assembled in January 1968 for mass meetings to elect a shop stewards committee for each firm, these were joint meetings of the National Amalgamated Stevedore’s and Dockers’ Union (the blue union) and the TGWU (the white union), which bizarrely still had political bans on Communist holding office. The men demanded that no political bars be adopted and representatives were elected with a number of members of the Communist Party being elected including Danny Lyons, who represented TGWU members in the Port of London Authority.

Danny Lyons was a member of the Communist Party’s Executive Committee from 1966-71 and sat on its youth affairs committee. In October 1966, he was part of an official delegation to the DDR. He was the EC representative on the Elections Preparations Committee for the 30th National Congress in 1967.

Notoriously, he presided over a mass meeting of London dockers in the summer of 1968 that saw heckling about the immigration issue, even though both a Roman Catholic and a Church of England priest flanked him. 

This came a few months after a group of dockers had infamously marched in support of Enoch Powell's anti-immigrant "rivers of blood" speech. Some footage of a few marchers to Parliament purports to show mass support but the truth was much less stark. Indeed, Lyons and his fellow Communists worked hard to ensure that racism did not get a hold in London’s ports. As the EC member, it fell to him to act as the spokesperson inside the Party on these developments and they were energetic to the extreme. This, despite the claim that “London dockers supported Enoch Powell being repeated ad nauseam ever since.

Danny and his fellow team knew all too well that the protests were in fact organised by extreme right-wing activists, mostly from outside the port. Indeed, it is now clear that secret intelligence briefings from MI5 went to the prime minister,Harold Wilson. It made clear that the supposedly spontaneous strike and demonstration by around five hundred workers from the East India dock was actually led by Harry Pearman, a supporter of the anti-communist religious fundamentalist group Moral Rearmament (MRA). Pearman had been "at some pains to conceal his identity", MI5 noted, while a separate demonstration by 300 porters from London's Smithfield meat market in support of Powell - and against the Race Relations Bill - had been got up by a fascist, Dennis Harmston, who stood for Oswald Mosley's party in the 1966 general election.

In contrast with the supposed reaction of dockers, Danny Lyons actually came within 72 votes of winning a council seat in a June 1969 Tower Hamlets by-election.