Mick Gosling – always a socialist

By Tash Shifrin | 15 April 2021

Mick Gosling (left, with raised fist) with Ford workers lobbying TGWU negotiators to keep them in line. Pic credit: Carlos Guarita / Socialist Outlook

Mick Gosling 1952 – 2021

It’s so hard to write about Mick Gosling, who died last week. That is partly because I feel so sad and partly that I can’t stop feeling he is just behind me looking over my shoulder as I type – as he did so many times, pointing at the screen, commenting, making adjustments, pulling faces, laughing.

Mick would have done this so much better himself. He wrote with such ease and fluency – not because he wrote without thinking, but because his thought was so quick. And he might have put more jokes in: cheeky asides, outrageous jokes, awful puns.

He had a dazzling, brilliant, beautiful mind – the first impression I had of him, the first time we met. Wonderful not just for writing, but for long conversations ranging over everything at once: history, politics, Shakespeare, Christy Moore, Che Guevara, the moon and stars…

Complex ideas, clever arguments – he was always one step ahead. I’ve never known anyone else with a quicksilver mind quite like that. All his moons and stars couldn’t mark the boundaries of it.

He had simpler pleasures too: endless discussions of favourite books, watching the football, enjoying a tasty bit of news…

Mick could be so much fun: witty, cheeky, exuberant, charming, enthusiastic, warm, kind, sweet and generous. I’ll always remember him “being a tree” to make me laugh.

And now I’m seeing all his funny faces – the cheeky look, the wicked look, mock-outrage, mock-innocence. Even people who didn’t like his politics couldn’t resist his charm.

And underneath all that, a sensitive man. You could talk about serious things with Mick too.

Socialist

Mick was a lifelong socialist – so easy to say, not always easy to be. In real life the class struggle is not straightforward and nor are people. Especially not you, Mick.

And people make history in circumstances not of their own making, as Mick, the very able Marxist, knew well.

He grew up as the international wave of uprisings and revolution broke out in 1968.

The working class was strong and the level of struggle high at the start of the 1970s when Mick was a young revolutionary at Kent University and an organiser for the International Marxist Group. It was a good time to be a socialist, and Mick was a socialist with a talent to match the times.

But then the tide turned. And the second half was not introduced with a cheery rendition of McNamara’s Band, as it is for Spurs at White Hart Lane. Instead, there were fascists on the streets, a huge bosses’ offensive and the Thatcher years as the 1970s ended and the 1980s came in.

Mick organised against the fascists at the Battle of Wood Green and elsewhere, and took on the bosses at the firm that for so long has been a byword for capitalism – on the assembly line at Ford’s Dagenham plant.

The bosses’ onslaught ripped through the lives of so many working class people. And as a socialist and an industrial militant Mick, chair of the TGWU 1/1107 branch, was in the firing line when the Ford bosses came to slash jobs, smash up working conditions.

He was victimised for his union activity, accused of inciting “unconstitutional stoppages”. Just imagine, a socialist organising strikes… surely not! But these were the years of defeats for our class and Mick was sacked. It hurt him.

And later, in a different way, amid the chaos of Hackney Council’s mid-1990s political implosion, he was victimised again. Because, with a rabid slash and burn chief executive running out of control as the politicians fell apart, they couldn’t have “lefties in the press office”. It wasn’t fair. And that hurt him too.

An aside: I wish I had a copy of the dossier Mick produced to expose the racist witchhunt of workers from West African backgrounds at Hackney Council and how hundreds were targeted by the Home Office immigration department. That would be handy in these times of the “hostile environment”.

And everyone who started work in that office found NUJ and Nalgo union forms on their desk on the first day.

It’s a lot easier being a socialist when the workers are on the rise. But when the ruling class drives everything back the other way, there’s a price to pay. And those times can be very hard on socialists – they were very hard on Mick.

But he never let go of his politics. That is what being a lifelong socialist means.

Heartfelt

Mick’s socialism was not just theory – although he could cite Marx with the best of them. His was a heartfelt socialism. He felt the pain of injustice, exploitation, poverty and oppression very deeply. He felt everything very deeply.

And he wanted a future that would be so much better for everyone. He loved Trotsky’s words about the green grass below the wall, the blue sky above the wall and sunlight everywhere.

Ahh Mick, now you have finally had a constitutional stoppage. I’m looking over my shoulder at you now, for your laugh and to hear you say, “Behave!” Yes, an outrageous joke for you – and a heartbreaking one.

This song is for you, Mick. You’re a special person and you’ll always have a place in my heart.

17 comments

  1. Elspeth Inglis said:

    Wonderful piece Tash. Rest in Power Mick. ✊✊🏽✊✊🏾

    15 April 2021 at 8:22pm
  2. tash said:

    Thanks Elspeth x

    15 April 2021 at 8:35pm
  3. Christine Mapus-Smith said:

    What a beautiful and comprehensive summary of my brother Mick Gosling’s life and commitment to International Socialism. I attended the same Uni as Mick some years after him and took a pre-lim in Philosophy. Tony Skillen taught the course. He noted my surname and asked if I was any relation to Mick. When I said Sister, he just said “what a dynamo”. He must have been very disappointed with my offerings!

    It was hard not to be in awe of Mick’s brain power and the use he put that to in fighting for so many people and causes. Humbling , in fact. Of course, he was so much more, as your piece highlights.

    Thank you. Christine

    16 April 2021 at 9:19am
  4. tash said:

    Hi Christine – I’m very sorry for your loss. Mick was an amazing man, very much a dynamo, and so hard to sum up in a few words – I’m so glad you liked this short piece. I have many more memories of Mick that I’ll always treasure. Sincere condolences and best wishes – tash

    16 April 2021 at 11:24am
  5. Jane Connor said:

    Many thanks for this Tash, so sad he has gone, after a lifetime of personal and political struggle. Come On You Spurs!

    16 April 2021 at 2:18pm
  6. tash said:

    Hi Jane – yes, terribly sad. He was one of a kind. I do blame Mick for the many years of Spurs-stress I’ve suffered, though! Hope you are well x

    16 April 2021 at 8:28pm
  7. Manuela Fernandes said:

    A lovely piece. Mick represented me as an NUJ member and helped me leverage an out-of-hours payment; he charmed our HR manager. Thanks for writing such a great piece.

    17 April 2021 at 9:03am
  8. Kathy Lowe said:

    Kathy Lowe said:
    Even for people who never had the good fortune to know Mick, you have painted a vivid and loving picture of him. Also, by putting his life in a changing political context, you have highlighted the pressures and hardships faced by so many militant socialists in the lean years. He packed a lot into his life, always seeming to bounce back from the setbacks – a quality that has spurred on many of us. Thank you Tash.

    17 April 2021 at 4:27pm
  9. tash said:

    Thanks Manuela – yes that sounds like him!

    17 April 2021 at 4:57pm
  10. tash said:

    Hi Kathy – thanks for that. Yes, Mick inspired and encouraged so many people who will remember him with real affection… Hope you’re keeping well x

    17 April 2021 at 5:01pm
  11. Ross said:

    Tash, thank you for writing this lovely portrait of Mick, feels like him to a T. I hadn’t seen him in years and so sad to now learn of his passing.

    19 April 2021 at 6:39am
  12. Mike Jempson said:

    Nice one, Tash. Mick’s ear must be burning!
    I got to know him through our common involvement wit the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom, and he supported the work of The MediaWise Trust. I last saw him at one of the last CPBF AGMs.
    Another good man gone, but the struggle continues.

    19 April 2021 at 11:03am
  13. Julia Armstrong said:

    A fabulous piece, Tash, and not less than he deserves. We’ll miss Mick a lot in the NUJ, it used to be great seeing him at the union conference. An inspiring comrade.

    20 April 2021 at 9:40pm
  14. tash said:

    Thanks Julia. Hope you’re keeping well x

    20 April 2021 at 11:59pm
  15. John ex-IS said:

    There are also tributes to Mick Gosling on the “Red Mole Rising” blog and Hackney TUC FB page.
    So far I’ve seen nothing from any “official” Fourth International sources, which may reflect his later political trajectory.

    Besides the campaigns already mentioned above, he also participated in a Campaign against Climate Change TU conference a few years ago.
    He reminded some members of the audience that the closure of the pits had nothing to do with preventing Climate Change.

    For those of us active in defending them in the 70’s and 80’s, the closure of the Kent pits was a particularly difficult experience, which involved personal tragedies, the destruction of a community and its network of solidarity. Its history needs to be preserved to inform future struggles.

    During the 1972 miners strike, Mick & the IMG branch made links between the student occupation at Kent and striking miners at Snowdown colliery, where Jack Collins was President. The I.S had a long term presence at Betteshanger and Tilmanstone Collieries.

    Mick was committed, bright and adverserial.

    He could also be “Jack the Lad” – a characteristic for which he got some grief from the Uni feminists.
    In response to criticism, he performed a striptease during the occupation one evening (although not all the way)
    During the showing of a Fellini film at the local flea pit – the “Decameron” (or was it”Canterbury Tales”? , which was made with local extras )- the unmistakeable sound Gosling guffawing loudly could be heard coming from the back of the cinema, during a particularly scatological scene.

    Another positive is that he was a Spurs fan….

    25 April 2021 at 1:53pm
  16. Penny said:

    An obituary for Mick will be published in the Fourth International online magazine International Viewpoint.

    29 April 2021 at 12:06pm
  17. John ex-IS said:

    A quick check shows that the film was the “Canterbury Tales”- , which was released by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1972, (not Fellini!) The Eighth Tale- (the Summoner’s Tale) has a scene involving Satan and corrupt friars , quite closely based on Chaucer’s version.

    30 April 2021 at 10:52am

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