By John Bloxam
On 18 July Mick Cashman died, aged just 48.
For over a decade until the early 1990s, he was a member of the AWL’s predecessor organisations and supporter of Workers’ Action and Socialist Organiser.
During the same period he was a prominent activist in the Wallasey Labour Party (both the Labour Party Young Socialists and the constituency party), and played a leading role in transforming the organisations into bodies fighting for working class socialism.
The high point of this struggle took place 20 years ago, when Wallasey CLP selected Lol Duffy as its candidate for the 1987 general election. Lol was Mick’s comrade and, with others, were open Marxists and supporters of Socialist Organiser. Mick was the CLP election agent.
It was a model socialist election campaign, bringing together the industrial and political struggle, rousing and involving working class and labour movement activists of all ages. It came within a wisker (279 votes) of kicking out the sitting Tory MP and government overseas development minister, Lynda Chalker, and achieved the biggest increase of any Labour vote in Britain (39%) during the general election.
Offering no support to the CLP in 1987, the Labour leadership moved against Wallasey before the 1992 general election, suspending Lol Duffy and other key activists and imposing a tame Labour candidate. Mick left the Labour Party during this period in disgust. He rejoined recently when he believed he saw the possibility of the trade unions asserting themselves within the New Labour structures.
Mick was also a trade union organiser. As a militant on the then Tory government’s cheap labour schemes, he played a prominent role in organising fellow young workers on the Wirral schemes in the 1980s, and subsequently continued this work as a lay organiser for the TGWU, including during the Wallasey election campaign. Drawing on this experience he worked in different roles for the TGWU, and remained committed to building an organising, fighting union.
At the time of his death, Mick was a full time TGWU (now Unite) official, in charge of the union’s organising campaign in the North-West. In that capacity, and as part of the organising team, he contributed to the recent victory of the Salford city council bin workers, in dispute over conditions and the employment of agency workers. Mick collapsed and died in negotiations with the employers during the strike.
Fittingly, a sizeable contingent of strikers travelled to Mick’s funeral on 27 July in Wallasey. And Mick’s family requested that no flowers be sent for the funeral, and that instead donations be made to the strike fund.
Peter Cashman spoke movingly at the funeral, describing his older brother as a lifelong international socialist, whose dedication to the struggle for workers’ liberty was an inspiration to everybody.
Mick’s death is a tragedy and serious loss to all those who knew and worked with him. To Mick’s wife and comrade, Janet, his children, and all his close family and comrades, we extend our condolences and solidarity.