Loeber William C

William C Loeber

This is probably the William C Loeber, born in 1892, who was a private in the British army in the First World War. 

In peacetime, he Loeber an important leader of rank and file railway workers, and a member of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR). A carriage cleaner from Hornsey, he joined the NUR’s predecessor, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, in 1912 and by 1924 was Chairman of the important Wood Green & Hornsey branch of the NUR. He was a member of the London District Council (Carriage & Wagon Grades), a delegate to NUR Conference and an NUR delegate to the annual TUCs in 1926, 1927 and 1928. [Main source: Communism & British Trade unions 1924-1933 by Roderick Martin
From 1927-9, he was a member of the Communist Party’s central committee, for Loeber was heavily involved in a burgeoning rank-and-file movement amongst rail workers. In January 1929 a Rail Minority Movement (Communist Party) was established at a conference with branches from Perth, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Derby, Keighley, Birmingham, London and Exeter represented. Soon prominent members of the RMM were elected into senior branch roles in Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Leytonstone. The RMM also had an important group as Stratford, London's largest rail cleaning and repair depot. RMM produced newsletters included `The Signal’ (Manchester), `Hornsey Star’, `The LMS Rebel’ and `Kings Cross Star’.
Bill Loeber’s branch of the National Union of Railwaymen met at Stirling House, Wood Green (now Wood Green Social Club, 3 Stuart Crescent), which had begun life as a Labour Club. A report of his speech to one branch meeting of the NUR where he was Chair, had him – on the arrival of the Daily Worker in January 1930 – relating the “wonderful sacrifices made by the members of the Communist Party to assist in the Daily Worker of successful publication, how they had been levied one day’s pay, stood on street corners assisting in its sales and doing everything in their power to lay the foundations of the paper. Each member he said and did so with cheerful enthusiasm knowing this sacrifice would not be in vain." [Daily Worker 8th January 1930]
Loeber was a close friend of Harry Pollitt but he refused to be drawn into full time party work by him. Although sceptical of Class against Class" Loeber remained in the Party and threw himself even further into the Minority Movement, seeing it “as the only way to prevent a decline in working class conditions, and the Communist Party as the only way to bring Socialism nearer”.  [The Railway Vigilant September 1932]
The Rail Minority Movement merged with the Railway Vigilance Movement, named after the Vigilance Committees established during the First World WarWW1. At the first conference of the Railwaymen's Vigilance Committee held on 3rd December 1932 there were 35 NUR branches, 31 ASLEF and 18 Depot committees represented. The objective of the Vigilance movement was to be "organised in the local depots and branches and embracing all workers irrespective of grade or union division…..(which)….. can be a most powerful means of defeating the wage cuts demands of the companies

Its newspaper "The Railway Vigilant" appeared in November in November 1932 with a circulation of around 12,000 at its peak this was an important platform for Loeber. In 1933 he ran for General Secretary of the NUR against J Marchbanks, some of his defeat being attributed to his "low status"; for the employment grade of the candidate was then included on the ballot papers of the NUR. Even so, he was later elected to the NUR Executive 1938-1940.  It was at the end of this period, in 1940, that he finally left the Communist Party over a non-industrial issue.

W C Loeber retired from working on the railways in 1956 aged sixty-five and died in 1965.

Michael Walker


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