Socialist Worker

A tradition of militancy remains

Issue No. 2191

A Superdrug picket line last year

A Superdrug picket line last year


The defeat of the miners’ Strike did not bring an end to class struggle.

In 1992, Tory prime minister John Major announced a swathe of pit closures. It was an attempt to kill off most of the remaining mining industry.

But the legacy of struggle and solidarity from the 1984-5 strike shaped the response to this fresh assault. Some 250,000 people demonstrated in support of the miners.

In Yorkshire mines many workers didn’t bring in their “snap” [lunch] following the announcement of closures because they expected to be called out on strike.

Arthur Scargill didn’t call them out – but the response of the workers shows that they were prepared to strike.

Recent struggles show the ability of workers to fight back.

Indefinite

Jon Moorcroft is a worker at the Superdrug distribution centre in South Elmsall, near Doncaster. He was part of an all-out, indefinite strike there last year to defend working conditions.

“The legacy of the Miners’ Strike lives on,” he said. “There are perhaps 30 to 50 ex-miners working at our warehouse. They have a tradition of fighting back.

“There are also quite a few Polish workers who were brilliant during the strike. They also have a strong tradition of struggle.

“Management are always trying to divide people. Before the strike, they tried to play the day shift off against the night shift. They expected the day shift to vote no to strikes. But they didn’t.

“We had up to 50 workers on the picket line every day during the strike. And a lot of unity came out of it, we look out for each other.

“We forced the company to retreat and people have seen that the union can deliver.”

Yet the defeat of the miners has had a lasting impact on Labour in former mining areas. Many were Labour strongholds – but after the strike, Labour’s roots shrivelled.

Labour has further haemorrhaged working class support as it abandoned any pretence of supporting ordinary people, it.

The memory of the miners’ strike means that many people would never dream of voting Tory. But in some former mining areas, the far right and the fascist British National Party have managed to get a foothold.

Peter Davies, a member of the hard right English Democrats, was elected mayor of Doncaster last year.

He says he wants to slash “politically correct” multicultural council programmes and increase privatisation.

John Westmoreland says, “There are two reasons for Peter Davies’ election. The Labour Party became arrogant and thought it would always win. But it turned its back on ordinary people.

“Labour focused on spending money on big capital projects like the Doncaster Rovers stadium. It closed the old college to build a new education ‘hub’ by the waterside. It spent millions doing up the racecourse and ‘gentrifying’ Doncaster.

“Doncaster shows Tony Blair’s vision for Labour.”

Joyce Sheppard adds, “Labour is so right wing that David Cameron, with his luxury lifestyle and Eton education, can claim that he stands for the working class.

“There’s no one to vote for.”

John describes the English Democrats as “ultra Tories”. Peter Davies was in the Tory Party during the miners’ strike. John says that people see Davies as someone who “says what the Tories won’t say” and that a lot of Tories are backing him.

The English Democrats have no councillors in Doncaster.

But they plan to stand a full slate of candidates in this year’s council elections in the town.

People in Doncaster are resisting Davies’ attacks. They set up the Defend Diversity campaign after Davies said he wanted to ban the word “diversity” from the council.

The fallout of the Miners’ Strike shows how defeat can lead people to despair.

But it also shows that the struggle left a rich legacy of resistance that workers are still drawing upon today.


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