Jayaben Desai: the hero of Grunwick

December 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm (Anti-Racism, good people, unions, women, workers)

RIP Mrs Desai, 02/04/33 – 23/12/10
“We have shown that workers like us, new to these shores, will never accept being treated without dignity and respect. We have shown that white workers will support us.”
A contemporary analysis of the Grunwick strike by A. Sivanadan, here.
Very sadly Jayaben Desai, who became the public face of the Grunwick strike of 1976/77, died on 23rd December. She had been ill for several months. The funeral will be on 31st December, 11.00 am at Golders Green crematorium.  Mr Desai is quite rightly very proud of his wife and would like people to come if they are able, so can you spread the word around?
 A sad loss for us all.

Pete Firmin

1 Comment

  1. Dr Paul said,

    The Grunwick strike was a major point in my political life. I was just getting involved in trade union activities and left-wing politics, and knew very little about class struggle and political realities. And then I had a clear-cut case of class politics right in front of me.

    I went to the picket, and saw how the police reacted violently to working-class activity, and how the Labour government ministers backed the coppers and not the strikers or their supporters. I saw the resilience of Mrs Desai and her colleagues, and how workers of all trades supported them. I saw how the postmen held a stranglehold on the firm — they would deliberately drive their vans down the side-street in order to pass by the picket — and how their union leadership sabotaged it.

    All this political education in such a short time.

    What is the real tragedy is that our side could have won. We were that close to breaking the firm owner’s will, forcing it into recognising the union. Had this been done, there would have been a succession of successful recognition disputes, and the sense of victory would have ensured that the unions were in a stronger position to beat the bosses across the board.

    I notice that Jack Dromey’s obituary of Mrs Desai here doesn’t mention the central role of certain union leaders in the defeat of this strike, or the dreadful role of the Labour government.

    Mrs Desai was a courageous woman, an wonderful example to us all.

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