Bob Crow: Socialist, leader, fighter

A political biography

By Gregor Gall

Bob Crow: Socialist, leader, fighter


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0029-0
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: February 2017
  • BIC Category: Trade unions, Political leaders & leadership, Biography: historical, political & military, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Labor & Industrial Relations, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Political, Biography & True Stories / Biography: historical, political & military, Economics, finance, business & management / Trade unions, Political Leaders & Leadership, British Politics


Bob Crow was the most high-profile and militant union leader of his generation. This biography focuses on his leadership of the RMT union, examining and exposing a number of popular myths created about him by political opponents. Using the schema of his personal characteristics (including his public persona), his politics and the power of his members, it explains how and why he was able to punch above his weight in industrial relations and on the political stage, helping the small RMT union become as influential as many of its much larger counterparts.

As RMT leader, Crow oversaw a rise in membership and promoted a more assertive and successful bargaining approach. While he failed to unite all socialists into one new party, he established himself as the leading popular critic of neo-liberalism, 'New' Labour and the age of austerity.


'In this well -written new biography Gregor Gall explains how and why Bob Crow achieved this fame. Central to Bob's rise to power was the position of the RMT workers on the London Underground.'
Bernadette Hyland, Lipstick socialist

'Gregor Gall's biography does justice to Crow - the socialist, leader and fighter. He was a complicated figure and some of that complexity comes over in the book.'
Paul Salveson, Tribune - April 2107

'There's a great exploration of the structures that Crow inherited, the limitations they placed on him and what he did to change the situation, thereby encouraging the development of the RMT on the trajectory that it became renowned for.'
Alan Crowe, Socialist Review May 2017

'The late leader of the small but politically important RMT union - a "Marxist Millwall supporter", as the papers had it, and he was both; "the most hated man in Britain", as some papers tried on, and he wasn't - is well served by an account of his career set against informed analysis of 21st-century UK trade unions' far-from-dinosaurish determination to grapple with changing workplaces, state rollback, electoral politics after Labour's Blairite takeover, gender equity and globalisation. Gall is wary of the "great man" approach, but wherever Crow's own words appear, the tale shifts from scholarly grey to vivid, quotable, charismatic and quip-filled Red Flag red - and the words "great man" look pretty spot on. '
THES 20/04/2017

'As the first book about Bob Crow published since his untimely death three years ago, Gregor Gall's political biography of Crow provides us with an opportunity to review his life and his time in the railworkers' union NUR and its successor RMT, to highlight the key reasons for his effectiveness and impact, and to examine the limits of those.'
Janine Booth, Solidarity Newspaper May 2017

'As a political analysis it is refreshing, nuanced and worthwhile.'
Conrad Landin, TLS, June 2017

'Gall neatly presents Crow's early life in poverty and the unshakeable class consciousness, learned from his Communist Party father, heretained all his life. He also describes Crow's rise to prominence in the union, the industrial struggles and the RMT break with the Labour Party in 2004.a well-researched book.'
Martin Pitt and Anne Kenefeck, International Socialism, A quarterly review of socialist theory, Issue 157

'The book is a fitting record of Bob's life which draws out lessons and inspirations for us as a movement and as a class going forward.'
Richard Whyte, Scottish Left Review, Issue 103

'this book should be placed high on the reading list of anyone interested in British industrial relations and the labour movement in general.'
David O'Connell, Global Labour Journal, 2018


1 Formative years
2 The 1990s
3 Becoming RMT general secretary
4 Second term as general secretary
5 Last term of office
6 Person and personal life
7 Politics and practice
8 Perception and practice
9 Legacy and legend
Appendix 1: Testimonies
Appendix 2: Tributes to Crow


Gregor Gall is Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bradford

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