Veterans of Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) met last Friday in London to remember the epic struggles of 30 years ago.
In 1984-85, miners were on all-out national strike against pit closures ordered by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government. People all over Britain rallied to support the strikers and their families.
LGBT people got together to form LGSM and fundraise in gay pubs and clubs. They also visited a mining community in South Wales. Miners returned the solidarity by marching with their union banners on the 1985 Lesbian and Gay Pride demonstration in London.
Bruce Currie joined LGSM in 1984. He said, “Some gay people asked why we should support the miners, since they had never supported us.” Bruce remembered the words of Mark Ashton, the founder of LGSM who died of AIDS in 1987 aged 26.
“As Mark said, miners went underground to dig coal to make electricity. I grew up in rural Scotland and some of my family were miners. To me, there was no separation.”
The gay scene—as it was called then—was, as now, very commercialised. The miners’ strike meant that working class people on that scene suddenly had a voice, an importance.
As gay people we suffered the same police raids and criminalisation that the miners were now facing. This was before an equal age of consent, before gay marriage, before equal rights.
Those of us who were socialists recognised a common cause with the miners. We wanted to be visible as lesbians and gays in the struggle. But the miners were defeated, despite the staunch support they received.
“The tragic truth is that, with very few exceptions, trade union and Labour Party leaders uttered fine words of support but effectively left the miners to fight alone,” said LGSM member Mike Jackson.
The activists also discussed a coming film about the LGSM. It’s a comedy called Pride starring Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Dominic West and written by Stephen Beresford. “It’s a fictionalised account but faithful to the spirit of our group,” said Mike.
“We will spread its message because it’s tangible proof of the huge power that working class people have if they unite and fight together. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of that incredible strike. People will be reminded of the power of the working class when we find the confidence to fight.
“That message is even more relevant today because we have a government even more vicious than Thatcher’s.”
Still the Enemy Within
Socialist filmmakers are producing a documentary about the strike for its 30th anniversary. Get involved at the-enemy-within.org.uk