LOS ANGELES — Bob Redrup, a seven-decade member of the Socialist Workers Party, died on Aug. 15 after a short illness. Redrup was 92.
Born in New Jersey in 1927 to a working-class family, Redrup joined the Merchant Marine in 1944 at the age of 16. He worked on the Liberty Ships until the end of World War II. Fatality rates on these ships were high. They not only came under attack by German submarines but also came apart and sank having been shoddily built during speedup imposed across industry as part of the rulers’ war efforts.
While working on freighters for United Fruit Company in 1950, Redrup met members of the SWP who were in the party’s trade union fraction in the National Maritime Union. They gave him the books In Defense of Marxism, The Revolution Betrayed and The Stalin School of Falsification. He eventually joined the party during the early 1950s.
Previously he worked on the ships with members of the Communist Party who tried to recruit him. But Redrup said the CP supported the “no-strike policy” the government imposed on the unions during the war and its members didn’t answer questions he had about the course of the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union in the postwar years.
During the witch hunt, which targeted communists and other working-class militants, his seaman’s papers were pulled and Redrup was informed he could no longer work as a Merchant Marine. At that time in 1953 he was recuperating from tuberculosis.
Redrup then went to work at the General Motors plant in Linden, New Jersey, and was an active member of the United Auto Workers union there. He was eventually fired by GM in 1960.
Redrup and his wife Ann, also a longtime party member, transferred from the New York to the Los Angeles branch in 1976. She returned to New York in the early 1980s. He moved to Washington state in the spring of this year due to failing health.
While in Los Angeles, Redrup, a factory electrician, worked many years at Continental Can, organized by the United Steelworkers, and at Entenmann’s bakery, organized by the International Association of Machinists.
Redrup regularly staffed the party bookstore here in the 1980s. Under the impact of the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution, where working people had established their own government, and of the war in El Salvador, the party branch headquarters near Pico Boulevard and Vermont Avenue was a center of activity and discussion for those looking for a working-class road forward. It was destroyed by fire in the riots in the aftermath of the 1992 verdict that acquitted Los Angeles cops for the beating administered to Rodney King. Redrup and many others responded rapidly, rebuilding the headquarters and book center.
Redrup volunteered to help maintain, build or improve party headquarters over the years, including national party offices in New York City and the party’s leadership school in upstate New York.
A meeting to celebrate Redrup’s political contributions to building the SWP will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 1, 1:30 p.m. at 5828 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd floor. Messages from those who knew and worked with Redrup can be sent to the SWP branch in Los Angeles, firstname.lastname@example.org.