by Chris McNulty, Julia Leonard, Keith Dickinson, West London Socialist Party
It is with great sadness we report the death of Brian Blake.
Brian joined the Militant in the early 1980s. As a young working-class shop steward he had worked in numerous jobs around West London, for a while as an engineer at Otis lifts, taking part in numerous local struggles in the spontaneous walk out in support of the Grunwick workers in 1976.
Brian joined Militant within days of joining the Labour Party and within months was a very active comrade going on to become a full-time organiser responsible for West London and later the national centre. He would oversee the rapid growth of the Militant in West London from a few branches to three districts by the end of the 1980s.
Brian worked tirelessly for the organisation, pulling together a team of full timers and encouraging especially young workers to be as fully active as possible. Brian drove recruitment but was always mindful that new comrades married activity with political education, developing many young workers who are still active within the Socialist Party 40 years later.
The 1980s saw a deepening of the class struggle and Brian oversaw the involvement of West London Militant in all sections of the labour movement. He drove youth work and activity within the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS), encouraging young comrades to become branch secretaries, and set up new branches of the LPYS.
He oversaw Labour Party work, raising resolutions and bringing political debate to local Labour Party meetings. The trade union work was integrated with this activity, but Brian also stood out in supporting local striking workers and in national disputes too: organising fund raising with delegates from other parts of Britain often sleeping on his couch. Brian created teams to oversee different areas of work among women and Black and Asian workers.
When it came to anti-fascist activity, he always insisted we use our network of trade union contacts to bring out local workplaces and local communities to oppose the fascists where they tried to carry out some kind of activity within the West London area.
We were involved in so much activity, supporting the Air India strikers at Heathrow and getting British Airways cargo workers to welcome the Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow
March in 2011, where Unite the Union provided food and financial support.
As the miners’ strike erupted in 1983, Brian played a key role as West London Militant threw its heart and soul into supporting the dispute, again putting up Kent miners and visiting delegations from Yorkshire in particular to raise food and money for the dispute.
Among numerous activities during the general election of 1983, where the first murmurings of the witch hunt against Militant were beginning, we provided coaches to go to support Militant member Rod Fitch’s Labour election campaign in Brighton. And of course numerous comrades travelled to the Liverpool to assist organising demonstrations in support of the socialist Liverpool council.
At the end of the 1980s the Poll Tax would loom ever larger with the creation of a myriad of anti-poll tax unions and organising mass non-payment at a local level.
Brian had to step back from full-time work for Militant in the 1990s. He passed seamlessly back into work at Ealing Council where he was quickly elected as a local Unison shop steward and quite rapidly becoming a senior shop steward on the council. He was then elected to the Regional Council. Brian threw himself into local work taking up numerous positions within his local Socialist Party branch.
Brian’s activism continued into the 2000s but failing health meant he retired from the council at the age of 58. In his final years, he moved to Leytonstone and always tried to do what he could, given his failing health.
Our friendship with Brian was forged in activity of the 1980s and has remained throughout the subsequent decades.
Brian’s levels of sacrifice were inspirational, never demanding of others what he was not prepared many times over to do himself.
Our thoughts are with the many comrades who knew Brian and his wider family and six children Nicholas, Samantha, Christopher, Alex, Elizabeth and Jackie.
Brian remained an indefatigable revolutionary socialist and stalwart of the Militant and Socialist Party to the very end.