Monday, 3 March 2014

30th Anniversary of the Miners Strike : Their brave struggle not forgotten.



30 years ago on March 1, 1984, the state owned National Coal Board under American Ian MacGregor aided and abetted, by the then Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher announced  that it planned to close 20 coal pits with the loss of over 20,000 jobs. This decision was to go and pit Mrs Thatchers government against the NUM and its then president, Arthur Scargill.
The year-long strike  that followed would change the political, economic and social history of Britain forever. The courage and determination of  the striking miners, their families and communities would charge and inspire the political consciousness of hundreds of thousands of people, as it did for me, aged 16 and a half at the start of the strike.
It would see the full force of  the state  out to try and break and tear apart  communities with  the use of road-blocks, beatings, snatch squads, phone taps and the erosion of civil liberties.


Miners on picket lines were brutalised and attacked by baton-wielding police in full riot gear. For me at the time this was to be a year of great awakenings, seeing their fight, I started to see connections with other peoples struggles. The plight of the poor and unemployed, Nicuaragua and Apartheid South Africa, people being daily attacked by Margaret Thatchers rabid Government. I decided  to take sides with with those who decided to take on the right wing policies of Thatchers government.
The rights and wrongs of whether the miners should have had a national ballot has been widely discussed, but like many others at the time I believed that once the miners were out, it was our duty to support and work for them. Within weeks of the strike starting 80%  of miners supported the strike, standing against what they saw as the unjustifiable attacks on their right to existance and resistance.


Later at Orgreave it became apparent, of the true intentions of Thatchers government, with the full collusion of the police ,it was noticed that they had no intention of finding reconciliation or settlement to this industrial dispute. The sole intention was an ideological one, to mortally wound the National Union of Mineworkers, to defeat it with military force and with naked violence ,by any means necessary.
Despite increasing hardships the miners fought on with determination and bravery. During the course of the strike over 6,000 were arrested, with over 20,000 miners being injured in acts of state violence.
Throughout the strike I would witness, how the right wing media tried to vilify and undermine. The media being used to lie, and used as a weapon to crush the miners resiliance, the media  also enabling to misrepresent, and divide the movement.The propoganda part of Thatchers assault, was being pushed out  everyday. At her so called enemy within.
Psychological  pressure was  also used, with the police encouraged to wave wads of cash at pickets, designed to undermine and demoralise, the use of scabs increased, bussing them through picket lines in a determined effort to break the will of the striking miners.


Throuhout the country, groups emerged, either as individuals or part of miners support groups, raising money and awareness, standing in solidarity. Disparate groups found common ground,  from the Unemployed, the Peace Movement, students, other Trade Unions, all standing firmly behind the miners in their great struggle. The women from the mining communities in particular acted as bulmarks of strength, organising welfare and support, collecting food and money and giving much needed moral energy. Lesbian and Gay support groupss also  played a vital role and consequently the NUM led the pride demonstration in London  in 1985. It was an energising time, new friends were made, the camerardie that emerged was simply amazing.
Sadly eventually some miners started drifting back there will broken,  but it should be noted  that 63% of the miners stayed out  to the bitter end, and finally they were defeated, there can be no denying this unfortunate fact.


Sadly they were also let down  by the Labour Party,  especially  their spineless leader Neil Kinnock, who refused to attend picket lines or events supporting the miners, in effect helping Thatchers dirty war of attrition. Other Trade Union leaders let them down to, unfortunately.
30 years later I remember the courage and sacrifice made during this bitter struggle and the spirit   of revolt they unleashed, and those who remained defiant to  the end, and acknowledge the miners who were arrested and locked up on trumped up charges.The communities that never fully recovered from the financial blow of the strike. Those  who fought for the survival of a humane society here in Wales and across Britain, and a vile government who used the state in almost all its entirety to defeat the miners and to teach the whole working class a lesson. Passions remain unwaned, and I feel the miners strike has left us with a legacy that we should be proud of, of a people and community standing together in solidarity in the face of adversity.
30 years on solidarity is needed  more than ever, as we remember the miners struggle, and continue our own for jobs, social justice and welfare. in our opposition to the current Con Dem coalition Government, who are carrying on where Thatcher left off.
The fight continues.


Test Department and the South Wales Striking Miners
- Comrades in Arms



4 comments:

  1. Not only let down by Labour cohorts and the TUC.. but also NACOD;s as well ... also the NUM had the strike settled on 4 occasions, only for a yank to leave the room and come back in 10 minutes later, "the deal's of"

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  2. I remember I was in Yorkshire on holiday sometimes around the 80's when the coal mines started to be closed and there were strikes. A lot of unemployed people around and families with little children with big economical problems. Really nasty situation! Good thing to remember those happenings after 30 years. Nowadays people in general are no more ready to struggle for anything! Cheers.
    Franca Panizza from Italy

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  3. Thanks for that..... Some of us do not forget, and the harsh realities for many ignored by mainstream media, a life of constant struggle.

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