How ideas change…
In their letters to Socialist Worker (2 June) Melanie Wilson and Melanie Lessels both pointed out a problem that does exist in the miners’ attitudes toward women.
But neither showed how that problem can be overcome. Sexist attitudes can be changed, but not through moralistic calls for men to be more understanding.
The growth of wives’ support groups has been a tremendous step forward. It was obvious on the Barnsley demonstration of women against pit closures that miners saw the importance of women’s support.
But too often the groups are only collecting food and running soup kitchens. They also need to be involved in the strike itself.
Because, in general, women have not been picketing alongside the men Houghton Main colliery refused to allow women to travel on their buses to Mansfield because they might hear ‘bad language’.
As socialists we argue that ideas change in struggle. But this does not happen automatically. We need to be there on the picket lines arguing socialist politics. These arguments take place when there is active support for a dispute.
During the Dodworth dispute last year, for example, I found that the more frequently I visited the picket lines the more respect I gained for my ideas, and the less men were prepared to dismiss me because I am a woman.
The miners’ attitude towards women will only change when they find women joining them on the picket lines.
Fran Postlethwaite, Barnsley
Well I don’t really understand a lot about the strike but I do know that my Mum and Dad are standing for what they believe in. It is so me and my brother Peter can work when we leave school.
My Mum is in the action group. She goes out a lot to get money to feed the miners. My Mum goes on the picket line. One copper smacked her and she lost her tooth.
I sometimes hear my Mum crying at night because she can’t get us a lot for Christmas. My Dad says, ‘don’t worry love the kids will be alright’. She says that its bad without money because its the first Christmas without her Dad. He died on May 20th ‘84 and she misses him very much.
I am trying to be good and don’t ask for much money now. My Mum says if I had two bob she would have two bobbys from Donny guarding it. I know she’s only kidding as she doesn’t like the bobbys anymore. They beat up pickets and throw money at them, that’s what they do at our pit.
Vicky (aged 10), Armthorpe, Doncaster
We are finally convinced about who is responsible for violence on the picket lines.
After Sgt Janet Smith was ‘stoned and kicked by a howling mob’ we were appalled when we actually saw her injuries in the next day’s papers.
No doubt the doctor who treated her was so completely overwhelmed by the damage done to this creature that he didn’t quite know where to put the bandages...
Victory to the miners!
‘The Lads’, A Shift, Fords Halewood
Two Socialist Worker miners collection sheets arrived recently at this office.
The current level of support being demonstrated by fellow trade unionists is continuing to give encouragement to miners engaged in industrial action, not only to oppose pit closures, but against the anti-trade union laws.
Through you I would like to thank all comrades for their best wishes and financial support.
P E Heathfield, Secretary, National Union of Mineworkers, South Yorkshire
My husband Frank is a striking miner from Cotgrave. He has just been released after three days in prison. We were lucky to get him out.
He was sent to jail for 21 days for being four pounds behind on rates arrears payments of £1 a week to Nottingham Council. That pound represents a meal for my three children.
Frank was singled out on Cotgrave picket line as a militant and told to report to a police station on Tuesday morning. Within one hour of reporting there he had been sentenced by magistrates.
A friend offered in the court to pay off the arrears, and it was refused. The clerk of the court said, ‘It’s too late, they’ve taken their decision.’
During the hearing the prosecutor said, ‘Frank had been active in the dispute picketing and collecting money for miners. The clerk of the court said, ‘You realise you could go back to work’. Frank said, ‘I can’t.’
The clerk said, ‘Why not?’. Frank then said, ‘I’m striking for the right to work.’
Before the magistrates’ decision was announced two prison officers appeared ready to handcuff him.
Carol Hamilton Nottingham