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G - I - G

George Guy

(Left: as affectionately rendered by Ken Gill during a meeting in 1982)

George Guy was born on 1st September 1918 and died on the 4th December 2005.

 

Guy was the final leader of the National Union of Sheet Metal, Copper, Heating and Domestic Engineers, one of the last craft unions formed in the early days of the industrial revolution. Under his leadership, that union merged with the technical union, TASS. It, in turn, merged with ASTMS to form MSF - now a major component of Amicus.
 
Like the union that he joined in 1934, he was friendly, independent, proud of his origins, confident in his skills, class-conscious, loyal and progressive in his views. He began work as an apprentice in a firm producing gas meters, quickly becoming an activist.
 
From there, he moved to wartime work in the aircraft industry. After the war, he became convener of shop stewards at Park Royal Vehicles and then moved to British Light Steel Pressings, which became a byword for trade union strength and militancy.
 
This was a defining period for George, when a long strike prevented the blacklisting of trade union activist Joe Parker, who remained his friend until Joe's death last year. It was Joe who recruited George to the Communist Party in the 1940s and George was a communist until the end, always concerned about unity of the left and its progress.
 
After election to district officer in 1959 and district secretary in 1963, he became general secretary in 1974 - and retired after the merger in the mid-1980s. He was elected to the general council of the TUC, where he played a strong role in the difficult days of Thatcherism and TUC timidity and retreat.
 
He was an anti-racist and anti-imperialist. His childhood in the East End meant that he had been surrounded by immigrants, mostly Jewish, who, he claimed, gave him his special north London accent as well as his cryptic, sardonic humour and guaranteed his instinctive internationalism.
 
George never forgot his origins. He had robust class instincts and loyalties which were reflected in his judgements and conduct throughout his long life in the labour movement. He was the first to offer solidarity and help to workers in struggle in Britain. Specifically, he was an uncompromising ally of the miners and the print workers in their fightback against the Thatcherite onslaught.
 
As a communist, he was naturally an internationalist. He was a supporter of the Soviet Union and was saddened deeply by its collapse. His union signed up to anti-apartheid and anti-colonialism from the outset, in contrast to the last-minute conversions of some in the labour movement.
 
George's life was enhanced by his family. Audrey, his wife of 67 years, supported him throughout, and his two daughters and his grandchildren were a source of pride to him.
 
Ken Gill
 
Morning Star Tuesday 13 December 2005