The Miners’ Strike and the lies
The 25th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike (» The Miners’ Strike could have been won, 14 March) brought back many memories for me. Although the strike ended in defeat, it was inspiring for me as a young shop steward in the Nalgo union, now part of Unison.
The strike showed me the potential power of the working class to change society and made me the socialist activist that I remain to this day.
However, I have also been angered by much of the media coverage of the anniversary. The same lies that were repeated day after day in 1984-5 have been regurgitated once again.
These include the lie that the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) leadership started the strike, the lie that the strike was doomed to fail from the start, the lie that the NUM refused to negotiate – and many more.
As former NUM leader Arthur Scargill made clear in an excellent article in the Guardian newspaper, the strike was the culmination of a deliberate plan by Margaret Thatcher’s government to smash the key sections of the working class and drive down wages.
Thatcher admitted in her memoirs that on two occasions during the strike the Tories thought they had lost – when the dock workers came out in July 1984 and when the pit deputies voted to strike.
Scargill revealed that agreements to end the strike were reached on several occasions – but were scuppered each time by Thatcher.
The biggest lie of all is that the Miners’ Strike represented the last gasp of organised labour and that mass strikes are a thing of the past.
In fact, despite Thatcher’s victory, she failed to drive down wages across the board or to finish off the trade union movement.
With mass unemployment stalking the land again today, the militant, principled and heroic stand of the miners shows us how we can fight.
The Miners’ Strike failed because of betrayals by leaders of other trade unions and the weakness of rank and file organisation. That is what we have to urgently address if we are to stop our rulers making us pay yet again for the breakdown of their system.
Tony Phillips, East London
The ruling class and the media have dredged up all their vitriol of 25 years ago to throw it once again at Arthur Scargill, the former miners’ leader.
Why has Scargill been targeted? He and the miners are no longer an immediate threat to the aims of our rulers. But the memory of their fight against the full might of the state is.
Our rulers do not want people to know that the miners came within a whisker of beating Margaret Thatcher’s government.
If they had won, the neoliberal disaster that we live under now would only be discussed in the pages of dystopian fiction. We should see through the ruling class spin about the Miners’ Strike.
Peter David, Manchester
Canada’s Galloway ban bound to backfire
The disgraceful decision to ban George Galloway MP from Canada has only backfired on the ruling Tory government here.
It has given a huge boost to our anti-war movement, which is gearing up for protests on 4 April against Canada’s bloody role in Afghanistan.
And even if the ban remains, Galloway’s four-city speaking tour is likely go ahead anyway by video conference.
Jason Kenney, Canada’s immigration minister, imposed the ban on Galloway entering the country on Friday of last week. He declared Galloway “inadmissible on national security grounds” because of the MP’s trenchant opposition to the Nato occupation of Afghanistan.
Kenny has been carrying out many other dangerous activities that readers of Socialist Worker should also be aware of.
He has started deporting US military personnel who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and have sought refuge in Canada – despite a parliamentary majority voting to let them stay.
He regularly smears anyone who opposes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians as antisemitic.He has cut state funding to the Canadian Arab Federation because it has criticised the Canadian government for openly supporting Israel’s war on Gaza.
But the “anti-racism” peddled by Tories and the “humanitarianism” they deploy to justify the war in Afghanistan are complete nonsense.
The day after Galloway was banned, the Nazi Aryan Guard marched through the centre of the city of Calgary. The Tories didn’t lift a finger or say a word. Fortunately, several hundred Calgarians fought the Nazis and drove them out.
Banned or not, Galloway’s efforts to oppose the war have been a catalyst for mobilising Canada’s anti-war majority. And he just might play a role in helping us topple the Tories.
Doug Nesbitt, Ottawa, Canada
A political awakening for a new generation
I am, for most purposes, nothing more than an angsty teen – but I would also describe myself as someone who has undergone a recent political awakening.
Although I couldn’t tell you exactly when this happened, I shocked myself when I found myself up at 4am watching US president Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.
Although I am only 16 years old and admittedly have a very new interest in politics, I hope you take it as nothing but a compliment when I say that the Socialist Workers Party’s views are the ones that have spoken to me the most.
The main point of this letter is to bring attention to a matter that I feel symbolises the frightening advance of capitalism – the blatant exploitation by the powers-that-be of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005.
As the US state botched its attempts to rebuild the city, opportunists swept in to take over every aspect of society.
Possibly the most frightening aspect was what happened to the education system – state schools were replaced by corporate charter schools.
It’s true that these are events occurred thousands of miles away and it’s also true that George Bush is now gone from office. But New Labour remains and if its pro big business policies are anything to go by, how long can it be before our government does the same?
It’s time to look on lighter side of life
Why is Socialist Worker so bereft of any sense of humour or lightness?
There doesn’t seem to be any recognition that there is another side to life in addition to the sheer doom and gloom of relationships within the capitalist system.
Even when you do discuss the lighter side of life through reviews of books and films, it is only in the context of some sort of “social message”.
I am not suggesting that you start publishing columns on subjects such as make-up, home decoration or food – although Frederick Engels saw fit to record the fact that he was pleased to see the English taking on the French habit of using dressing on salads.
You should be trying to convert as well as preaching to the converted.
You should be thinking about ways of encouraging new readers to take the newspaper – and that requires a bit of levity occasionally
Sometimes art is for art’s sake – an end in itself, not just a means to an end.
Workers enjoy a good beer or wine, the aesthetics of our surroundings, or thinking of new ways to “decorate” ourselves. That doesn’t make us right wing, frivolous or shallow.
Mona Clark, Dundee
More tributes to Alan Walter
Lambeth tenants were shocked to hear the news about the sudden death of Alan Walter at his home in Camden.
Alan gave enormous support to us during our struggle against council housing stock transfer.
His knowledge, encouragement and humour were a source of strength to many tenants in Lambeth.
We send warmest condolences to his family. We are resolved to redouble our efforts to continue the very fine legacy Alan left behind him – he was a real champion of council housing.
Ros Munday and Graham Nicholls, Lambeth Tenants Council, South London
Alan’s family would like to thank the many Socialist Worker readers who have written in with their messages of support following his untimely death.
The best tribute is to continue the struggle for a better world. We will be marching with Alan in our hearts on the Put People First March in London this Saturday.
Anne Drinkell, North London
The need for a network
It was good to see the wide-ranging article by Simon Basketter on the role of the bureaucracy within the trade union movement (» Union bureaucrats and the rank & file , 7 March).
I thought the arguments were very well put, particularly on the dangers of getting too close to union leaders and on the need to organise independently in rank and file networks.
That’s why I was rather puzzled that he didn’t mention the National Shop Stewards’ Network (NSSN), which has been trying to do just that for about two and a half years now.
The NSSN has its problems, but they are best sorted out by maximum involvement of all those who think along the lines Simon is putting forward in his article.
For more information about the NSSN go to www.shopstewards.net
Sheila Cohen, North London
Time to fight on the buses
I could not agree more with Mike the bus driver who wrote to you about how a strike at East London buses was called off by his union (» Letters, 7 March).
Exactly the same thing happened at my bus company Metroline.
Bus workers need to organise independently of union bureaucrats if we are to achieve decent pay and conditions.
Meetings of union activists across London would be a first step towards change.
That will take time and effort, but I’m confident we have enough people willing to push for it on the buses and in the Unite union.
Amanda Logan, North West London
International fees burden
The fight for free education is important. Planned increases in tuition fees are worrying for students throughout Britain, who will be faced with enormous debts once they graduate.
But one issue that is often ignored is the additional burden imposed on international students such as myself.
We currently pay up to three times more in fees than home students. We are also denied the right to apply for a student loan.
Any progressive education campaign must also acknowledge the difficulties facing international students and fight for the end of all tuition fees.
Benjamin Kindler, Hong Kong
Watching the watchmen
I’m surprised that your article on the police spying on protesters (» Police spy on protesters, 14 March) didn’t mention the Fitwatch website.
Fitwatch revealed the existence of a police database of protesters more than a month ago.
This followed court testimony in which a police officer admitted entering information into a database holding thousands of names.
Go to » fitwatch.blogspot.com for more details on this case.
Leo Walcott, by email