Bitterness and anger are raging through the pit villages of
The Tories have thrown everything they have got into an attempt to smash the National Union of Mineworkers. They have spent £26,000 per miner over the last year. The strike has cost them three billion pounds – more than the housing budget for the whole country. Just last week they spent 86 million pounds – more than it would cost to build seven hospitals.
They expected a short strike. They got the longest industrial battle in British history. They wanted to first beat the miners and then move like an advancing army onto other sections of the working class. For 12 months they have had to delay these plans.
The surprise is not that most miners have eventually gone back. But that the strike held solid for so long. For a year the miners have suffered the most incredible financial hardship. Ten thousand police have been permanently stationed in the coalfields throughout the strike. More than nine thousand miners have been arrested on trumped up charges, seven hundred have been victimised.
For a year the miners stopped Thatcher in her tracks. Today she may be celebrating. But tomorrow she must face up to the fact that her vicious obsession with beating the miners has meant that she has failed to deliver on every other promise she has made.
Yet the Tories could have been beaten. On several occasions they and their class were seriously worried. When the dockers came out on strike and the government had to take on two groups of powerful workers at once the stock exchange took a record drop.
No government could have survived the strength and the determination of the miners without help. And the Tories had plenty of help from those who are supposed to be on the miners’ side.
Men like Lord Murray, who as early as last May tried to sabotage the
Men like David Basnett and Gavin Laird, who made fine speeches at the TUC conference and then stood by and watched as the Tories launched an enormous scabbing operation to keep the power stations open.
But worst of all were Neil Kinnock and Norman Willis.
Kinnock sat on the fence throughout the whole dispute. Only coming off it to denounce the violence of miners whose only crime was to fight for their jobs.
Willis went even further. He was actually prepared to do the government’s dirty work for them. Just two weeks ago he tried to force the union into accepting a settlement which was so bad that even the hard right wingers on the NUM executive wouldn’t sign it.
Both were prepared to sell out the miners for their own selfish ends. Willis, in the hope that he will continue to be invited to Number 10 for cosy chats with Thatcher – no doubt the main topic of conversation will be how to sell out the next group of workers who stand up to the Tories. Kinnock cared about only one thing – being the next prime minister. He was prepared to see thousands of miners’ jobs lost to achieve this aim.
These men have been shamed by the struggle of the miners. While they sold out the miners fought on. Every one of the miners who stuck with the strike can today feel proud. For twelve months, in the face of police brutality, media harassment, travesties of justice from the courts and poverty and hunger they held firm.
Even now, although the national strike is at an end, defiance and determination still burn in the pit villages. On Tuesday, pits in
The miners have shown us all that we don’t need to just stand back while the government destroys our jobs. They have shown the whole of the working class how to fight. And for that every trade unionist in the country must thank them.
(9 March, 1985)
(9 March, 1985)