TRADE union militant and former Communist Party general secretary Mike Hicks, who was famously jailed during the Wapping dispute, died on Thursday night at the age of 80.
He collapsed at a meeting of his local Labour Party in Bournemouth while accepting the honour of being named its honorary president for his “enormous contribution” to the party.
“He died doing what he loved,” Bournemouth Labour secretary Sharon Carr-Brown told the Morning Star — “giving a political speech.”
She praised Mr Hicks for working for the labour movement “his whole life” and said local members “benefited from his experience and his anecdotes, as well as his principled determination to fight for the things we all believe in — we really needed that in Bournemouth Labour at times!”
Mr Hicks was a leading member of the print workers’ union Sogat for many years and played an instrumental role in the foundation of the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU) which later merged with Amicus.
An opponent of the eurocommunist trend in the Communist Party of Great Britain, he joined the Communist Campaign Group in the 1980s and was a founding member of the Communist Party of Britain in 1988, subsequently leading the party for 10 years. He later joined Labour.
He was sentenced to 12 months in jail during the 1986 Wapping dispute against Murdoch’s plans to shift his papers to a new site, firing anyone who refused to work with computers.
Mr Hick was arrested on the picket line for supposedly pushing a megaphone into a police officer’s face.
Former GPMU deputy general secretary Tony Burke yesterday saluted a “very brave man” who was “imprisoned on behalf of working people in the battle against Rupert Murdoch at Wapping.”
Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths also paid tribute, saying: “Mike Hicks played a leading role in the fight to retain and secure the existence of a Communist Party in Britain, rooted in the working class and the labour movement.
“As the first general secretary of the re-established party from 1988, he led from the front with courage, enthusiasm and commitment. Nor should the differences of later years cloud fond memories of a trade unionist and communist who showed great wit and warmth in his dealings with many friends and comrades.”