Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 1


Bernard Dix (1925–1995)

IT WOULD be a great pity if the death of Bernard Dix at the age of 70 were to pass unnoticed in the columns of Revolutionary History. Both The Times and Tribune have referred to his key rôle in the development of the militant left in the National Union of Public Employees from the time he joined the union in 1963 as its Press and Public Relations Officer and later as Assistant General Secretary, and as a serious left wing candidate for the post of General Secretary. He played an important part in bringing NUPE from ‘the very margins to the very centre of trade union politics’ (Tribune, 5 May). He was one of the first union leaders to call for a statutory minimum wage, and was instrumental in catalysing NUPE’s system of union stewards against the background of a highly centralised union apparatus. Again, he both advocated and then implemented with Alan Fisher, the then General Secretary of the union, one of the first modern schemes for involving women in the decision making and the functioning of the trade union movement. He was unique in his intense interest in the political and theoretical ramifications of his left wing trade union stance.

Politically, Bernard Dix could be described loosely as a ‘British Shachtmanite’, and he corresponded with Labor Action. He was a leading figure in the Labour Party Marxist Group (essentially a left wing Trotskyist youth alliance in the Labour Party’s League of Youth), a group that eventually fused with Gerry Healy’s organisation in 1955. He opposed the orientation of the LPMG, choosing a more libertarian path which led him to the Bennite movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Disillusioned with the Bennite left and the left wing of his own union, following an unsuccessful bid for the General Secretaryship, he resigned from the Labour Party, and retired to Wales, where he became involved in left wing environmental causes, ending up as an influential figure in a libertarian Socialist group operating within Plaid Cymru. A comrade of total integrity, with an internationalist vision, his type of genuine rank and file trade unionism combined with his grasp of some of the essential principles of Marxism marks him out as one of the unique and creative figures of NUPE and the left of the Labour Party.

We salute him!

Ellis Hillman

Updated by ETOL: 28.9.2011