The battle of Saltley Gate is one of the high points of working class struggle in Britain.
On 10 February 1972 some 30,000 engineers walked out of factories in Birmingham in solidarity with striking miners.
The action was unofficial and organised by rank and file workers.
Around 15,000 marched to join the miners’ picket at Saltley Gate coking station.
Police had fought viciously with pickets for days to keep the gate open and protect the supply of coal.
But now they were vastly outnumbered—and had no option but to close the gate.
Miners were striking over pay at a time when the Tory government, led by Edward Heath, wanted to impose pay restraint across the whole working class.
Saltley Gate was a turning point. Two weeks later miners voted overwhelmingly for a new deal.
They had forced the government to offer much more than they’d wanted to and given the Tories a bloody nose.
The victory gave confidence to other workers and led to an escalation of class struggle.
The government was broken. Two years later, the miners struck again. Heath called a general election under the slogan, “Who runs the country, the unions or the government?”
The government lost. Workers had forced out a hated government. We can do the same again today.
Close the gates! The 1972 Miners’ Strike, Saltley Gate and the Defeat of the Tories is a new pamphlet written by Pete Jackson. It is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop, for £2. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to www.bookmarksbookshop.co.uk