Peter Heathfield – leader that Maggie and Mirror set out to destroy
The death of former miners’ leader Peter Heathfield recalled a vicious political witch-hunt on the leaders of the 1984-85 pit strike.
In 1990 the Daily Mirror ran a savage campaign against the NUM union’s left wing leaders Arthur Scargill and Heathfield, then president and general secretary respectively.
Heathfield, a miner for 18 years who had risen up the ranks of the Derbyshire miners’ union, and Scargill were both alleged to have taken cash from the strike fund.
In particular, Scargill was accused of taking money from Libya to pay off the mortgage on his house.
The smears were an attack on all those who took part in and supported the great strike.
The then owner of the Mirror – billionaire press baron, Labour Party member, and crook Robert Maxwell – orchestrated the witch-hunt.
The Tories and MI5 joined in. They wanted to take revenge on the leadership of the miners, who Margaret Thatcher had called “the enemy within”.
The accusations of dishonesty were ludicrous, yet they were taken up almost unquestioningly by wide sections of the media. Even some on the left were slow to defend Scargill and Heathfield.
Years later the editor of the Mirror at that time, Roy Greenslade, acknowledged they were a pack of lies and apologised.
Despite proving every one of those scurrilous allegations wrong it took a toll on both men’s health. Scargill said Heathfield “suffered greatly and never fully recovered”.
The grinding pressure of the repeated accusations, week after week, month after month, saw him age before his time.
Socialist Worker was almost alone when it immediately launched a strong defence of Scargill, Heathfield and the NUM.
It wasn’t easy, even in the strongholds of the strike, such as South Yorkshire.
A turning point came at a defence campaign meeting called at Sheffield’s Memorial Hall, with Scargill, Heathfield, left wing MP Dennis Skinner and Socialist Worker’s Paul Foot speaking.
No-one knew how many would turn out, but the doubters in the media were forced to eat their words as hundreds packed the hall.
It was a brilliant meeting. All the speakers ripped the allegations apart and Heathfield never spoke better than that night.
Witchhunts happen because the media and the bosses are terrified of workers fighting back. Socialists must always stand up for those, like Peter Heathfield, who stand up for the working class.
Phil Turner, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
‘Hung’ yet still united
As the electoral ash settled in the party engines, it became apparent that this is not so much a hung as a hanged parliament.
Split in a dozen directions in the face of the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s, they are united on only one thing – the need to save their system of business and bank domination.
Their united cry was the need to rally round on cutting the government deficit. The rhetoric was considerable.
Gordon Brown would “ensure strong, stable and principled government”.
David Cameron added “decisive and good government” – some difference.
The diminished Nick Clegg only wanted “good” government.
They really meant that they are jointly committed to policies that, if they can get away with it, will aim to solve the economic crisis using the Thatcher-type model currently being gambled on in Greece.
Party elders were dragged out to reinforce the message: “We need continuity and stability in government; the economy must not be subjected to market risks; we need to get a grip on the deficit to reassure markets.”
So cuts and job losses loom, while such narrow rhetoric is deployed to ensure a narrow debate.
They talk of an emergency budget – but none of the parties told the truth.
They each projected around £10 billion initial cuts, yet the financial press say they will need to make around £50 billion cuts per year – for the next five years.
There is no mandate to rescue their class at the expense of the vast majority.
The largest share of the vote, the Tories’ 36 percent, is only 23 percent of the total electorate.
All other parties each got less than 20 percent of the electorate.
There’s no debate on a major increase in tax for the super-rich, or ending the wars, or the billions to be spent on nuclear subs and aircraft carriers.
The ruling class want austerity for us, recovery for them. What they should get is solid resistance.
We can learn from the Greek working class.
John Clossick, South London
Good effort, but try harder at your science
Volcanic and social eruptions – what a great article! (» Volcanic and social eruptions, 1 May).
I am unusual in that I am both a geology teacher and a former airline worker.
I can assure you that the airline bosses don’t care about safety, except when it might affect insurance rates.
The ash clouds are made of tiny tufts of volcanic glass that melt in the intakes of jet engines and then cool on the way out, coating very delicate and vital equipment with glass.
It doesn’t take much of this to take a plane out of the sky.
One scientific quibble though.
Divergent plate boundaries (like the one under Iceland) are the pull-apart boundaries. Magma for them wells up from the upper mantle rather than being melted by pressure of plates.
Iceland, in particular, appears to be both at a divergent boundary along the sea-floor spreading and atop a hotspot.
The volcanoes in Iceland are actually quite peaceful as volcanoes go, though they do have a tendency to produce a lot of toxic fluorine gases and climate changing sulphur compounds.
Katla, the follow-up volcano to this one, probably played a role in the famine that was a trigger for the French Revolution. It also cooled the climate enough for the Mississippi River to freeze in New Orleans.
Rodney Ward, Massachusetts, United States
Postal workers junk Nazi mail
The campaign by our CWU union and Unite Against Fascism to inform postal workers of their right not to deliver British National Party (BNP) electoral material has been a great success.
I’m the union rep for a delivery office in south west London.
Almost every worker here has used the “conscious clause” agreed between the union and Royal Mail and refused to deliver such vile and offensive leaflets.
This is despite intense pressure from the company.
Even with the lure of lucrative payments, CWU members took a united stand against the fascists by not handling their material.
After demands from an infuriated BNP headquarters, the company was forced into recruiting managers from local offices to put the leaflets through doors.
Frustrated gaffers then tried to convince casual workers to post them instead – but even some of them refused.
Finally, in complete desperation, they had no alternative but to recruit even more mangers from other offices to post them in our area.
Steve Carpenter, Wimbledon, south London
Vote Labour? Not me, mate
In your article Vote left and prepare to fight after election (» Vote left and prepare to fight after election , 1 May) you write, “If Labour wins, the workers will feel more confident.”
At first glance this well-worn comment, a worthy one of course, seems adequate.
But that’s until one thinks of the workers who have been sold down the river by New Labour, who have been sent to war by New Labour. And the rest.
Emma Hall, London
Workers aren’t cute enough
The front page of the Independent newspaper last week printed a picture of a dead turtle under the headline “The first victims of the oil slick”.
Already, 11 people have lost their lives in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil industry is one of the most dangerous and destructive in the world, and every year hundreds of workers die in accidents.
I know that workers on oil rigs are not generally considered as cute and cuddly as turtles, but surely our lives ought to count for something – even to the British press.
Rig worker, Great Yarmouth
Big oil slick hits Obama
Perhaps the giant oil slick now threatening the coast line of the US will help focus some minds in Washington.
For years politicians from both Democrat and Republican parties have been in the pockets of big oil companies.
When those corporations demanded the right to drill ever deeper for their profits, our governments were only too pleased to grant their wishes.
Now, all of a sudden, President Obama wants us to believe he has his “boot on BP’s throat” and he will punish them.
What nonsense. Its BP’s boot, and it’s well and truly up our ass.
Sharon, by email
Fear of Tories and post vote
With regard to your article about postal workers accepting the deal to end the dispute with Royal Mail (» Poor deal accepted in the post, 8 May).
I believe that there was large yes vote because of the union leaders’ recommendation and because the demoralised workers wanted a settlement before the election.
Lots of us believe that an even worse situation could develop if the Tories form the next government.
G Robinson, Halifax, Yorkshire
Where do you stand on PR?
Where does Socialist Worker stand on the issue of electorial reform?
Small left wing parties would surely do better if Britain changed its voting system to proportional representation.
But I’ve heard some members of the Socialist Workers Party saying that any such change would allow the British National Party into parliament.
Does that threat mean that we should just stick with a system that enshrines a three‑party system?
Shahnaz Ahmad, Birmingham
Attack on Lib Dems made me sick
I’m no fan of the Liberal Democrats. In fact, I’m one of those who protested against their racism when they ran Tower Hamlets council.
But I was sickened when I heard former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson attacking them for wanting asylum seekers to have the right to work.
He pandered to racism by calling their policy “mad” and suggesting that this was good reason to reject the party.
What on earth could be wrong with allowing people to earn a living?
Johnson proved one thing though – there’s nothing too low for New Labour to stoop to in a bid to win votes.
Sheila Bailey, by email