I first met Robin in the early years of Stop the War Coalition. He was running Muswell Hill STW one of the largest groups with several hundred members and a mailing list of thousands. For many years his group ran a weekly stall on the Broadway. In 2005 STW put out a call for help with the International Peace Conference that we were organising in London. We had scores of international delegates that needed hosting. Robin immediately responded offering help from his group. The entire US delegation some thirty strong were looked after by Muswell Hill STW.
The following year he took over running the central STW office organising the massive demonstrations that took place in the wake of the war on Lebanon in 2006.
He was hugely talented and efficient and for many years ran the STW website almost single handedly. He admired good writing and sought it out promoting those those he considered the best writers. For STW and subsequently on his own Public Reading Rooms website these included STW Convenor Lindsey German and others such as Matt Carr, Jonathan Cook, Tansy Hoskins, John Wight, Caitlin Johnstone and the late great Heathcote Williams among many others.
It was his love of Heathcote both as a person and a writer that led to our closest work together. Heathcote had written a series of pieces on Boris Johnson whom Heathcote hated with a vengeance. Heathcote wanted the articles published as a book and as he said – a weapon. He approached Robin and myself with this as a plan. We agreed and set up a publishing house, the Public Reading Rooms, to launch the book. At the same time Robin set up a PRR website to promote the book and also to be a voice for a shared politics and future publishing.
The book was published as Brexit Boris from Mayor to Nightmare and was illustrated with cartoons featuring Boris Johnson from the leading cartoonists of the day. The two printings of the book have sold out.
Over the last 4 years Robin continued to develop the website and build the publishing continuing to promote the writers that he admired. He was an editorial board member of the radical left journal Transform and he was central to building the successful European ‘No Pasaran’ conference that the journal organised this March against the rise of the far right.
Robin never wavered in his support for the work of STW remaining a member of its steering committee until his death. Robin was a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle and he was on the National Demonstration for Palestine only a couple of weeks before he died.
He was also very concerned at the lack of support from the left, as he saw it, for the case of Julian Assange whom he felt had been abandoned by some. He would have been outraged at the decision of the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to agree to the US extradition request. Assange faces longterm imprisonment in the States.
Robin had been a long time member of the Socialist Workers Party in the 1970s and early eighties and he retained an affection for comrades from that period and for the work of the organisation particularly its anti-racist and anti-fascist organising. However like many who’d been involved with the far left, myself included, he was drawn back into political life through the anti-war movement.
When Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader Robin joined the Labour Party to support him. He saw Jeremy’s election as opening up a real possibility for social change. He and Manuela canvassed energetically for the Labour Party in the 2015 general election. In the great Brexit debate he plumped for Remain but he was opposed to the right wing in the Labour Party using the Brexit question to attack Jeremy’s leadership. He was also determined to defend Jeremy against false charges of anti Semitism writing to his MP Catherine West that ‘I am Jewish and abhor the way that the issue of anti Semitism has been weaponised to undermine the party and its leader.’
Robin would have been absolutely furious about his own death. He had so much still to do. He was extraordinarily careful in guarding against that great thief. He said he hadn’t had a drink in forty years and was very proud of his specialised juicer and swore by the medicinal properties of ginger and according to Manuela had recently discovered the benefits of magnesium. For those of his friends who like myself who were/are in relatively poor health he had lots of advice. During my chemotherapy treatments he provided an endless supply of films and books to help me pass the recovery time.
His great love of culture is reflected in the many posts he made on the Public Reading Rooms website. The breadth of his knowledge of plays, films and music was vast and his loves stretched from Doris Day to Frank Sinatra to Rai, Lowkey and the Young’uns and beyond. He loved his family above all else and he made the teasing of Manuela into an art form. He was immensely proud of all his children. The last song I heard Robin sing was ‘the wheels of the bus go round and round’ which he performed live with his 2 year old grandson in his sitting room. Great fun.
I shall miss Robin terribly and miss our long telephone conversations which we considered to be serious political analysis but were really time well spent endlessly gossiping about the left and its many contradictions.