Richard Maybin, who died of pneumonia just short of his 70th birthday in 2010, played a crucial role at key times for his union, his party and his daily paper. He was an activist at all levels of his union Nalgo – now part of Unison – a Communist for half a century and, in his latter years, management committee secretary of the People's Printing Press Society (PPPS) co-operative that runs the Morning Star.
His parents were Kathleen Maybin, who was Communist Party theoretician Rajani Palme Dutt's secretary, and printworker Richard Briginshaw, who went on to lead the print union Natsopa – now part of Unite – for many years. However, with one family already and another on the horizon, Briginshaw played only a small part in Richard's upbringing.
After evacuation during the war to a farm near Cheltenham, Richard was reunited with his mother to live within a stone's throw of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. Kathleen's passion was education and she sent her son to the prestigious City of London School where he rubbed shoulders with the children of the well-heeled, such as England cricket captain-to-be Mike Brearley.
His beautiful singing voice, which he retained all of his life, won him a choral scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. He left without finishing his degree, taking a job with an asphalting company whose claim to fame was laying the first surface for the M1 (this would have been 1958).
He joined the Young Communist League and Communist Party early on. Indeed, in his youth, he led the Communist Government in the Bournemouth Model parliament! Richard stood for the party as a local council candidate in Poole, Dorset, in 1962 on the platform of:
- Scrapping PooleCouncil’s 1954 rent scheme
- 3,000 extra homes for Poole
- Abolition pf the 11 Plus
- Limiting School Classes to 20
- School Leaving at 16
- Increased day release
- More Nursery Places
- Direct Labour on all council contracts
- Extension of Bourenmouth municipal buses into Poole
- Introduction of a local income Tax
Whilst employed in a supervisory capacity in the civil engineering industry in the early to mid 1960s, Richard became a member of the Association of Supervisory Staff, Executives and Technicians or ASSET (which merged in 1969 into ASTMS, which later morphed into MSF and then Unite).
During the 1960s Richard worked for various London boroughs while studying to become a qualified civil engineer, after which he joined the London borough of Havering where he remained until he retired.
He met his first wife Penny at a Morning Star bazaar.
Richard took over the chair of his Nalgo branch in Havering in 1970 and was a fixture of the branch leadership throughout his working life.
He set about establishing an effective Communist Party organisation to give militant leadership to the tremendous influx of young political activists then coming into local government and the public services, playing a key role in the early establishment of the Nalgo Action Group as a broad left body to take the union forward.
When this disintegrated because of ultra-left adventurism, he ensured that the Communist Party continued to advance coherent progressive policies that helped to transform Nalgo by the mid-'80s into one of Britain's most progressive unions. Richard helped to ensure party and left support for many of the equal opportunity initiatives to advance the interests of women, gay people and lesbians and ethnic minorities that Nalgo pioneered within the trade union movement in the 1980s.
He realised that industrial militancy alone was insufficient and worked with far-sighted comrades from the party's industrial department, such as Bill Dunn and Mick Costello, to ensure that his experiences from the white-collar industrial sector could challenge empty posturing about new social forces and the alleged irrelevance of working-class militancy within the Communist Party.
"For old Euro-communism read new Labour," was one of his acute observations. When a self-styled Euro-communist faction inside the party led it towards liquidation in the late '80s, Richard Maybin was prominent in its re-establishment in 1988 as the Communist Party of Britain, succeeding Derek Robinson in the chair in 1989.
It was at this time when he met and fell in love with his second wife Alison, with whom he had the happiest of times until his death.
But having taken early retirement he was prevailed upon to take on a role in Morning Star management, first as business secretary and then PPPS company secretary.
Faced with a mountain of debt and no paperwork, Richard set out to reorder the paper's finances and to persuade creditors to be patient, while giving wholehearted support to editor John Haylett's strategy of engaging with the trade union movement to build a bigger, brighter paper with better-paid staff to appeal to the widest possible readership across all shades of the left.
Our paper's continued survival is testament to the success of this approach and Richard's persistence in seeing off those capable of harming the paper.
During his last long battle with semantic dementia he never once complained, remaining his usual serene self through it all.
For those of us guided by him for decades – in the union, the party and in support of our daily paper – the legacy of Richard Maybin's life shines out in the continued existence of organisations capable of helping to equip working people to resist and defeat the attacks by the ruling class.
Ivan Beavis obituary in the Morning Star – Tuesday 14 September 2010
– this version includes additional information from other sources added
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