THE 20th anniversary of the 1984-5 miners' strike has reunited the miners in the Nottinghamshire area who dared to support the NUM union throughout the bitter dispute. After all these years the focus by some of the media is on why the NUM would not hold a national ballot. Over 80 percent of miners were already out on strike. They had voted with their feet.
It would have been absolute nonsense for the union to have gone back to them with a ballot form to see if they would back strike action against a pit closure programme when they were already out.
It is therefore a pleasure to read the Socialist Worker special edition on the miners' strike that clearly identifies the issues of contention that still appear to be in existence after all these years. Page by page of the edition brings back memories and shows that the strike was absolutely necessary.
The 20th anniversary for the Notts NUM area is not just about what happened in 1984-5. The NUM in Notts has had to operate in a non-recognition capacity by the employers British Coal, RJB Mining and UK Coal right through the 20 years. The members are still being punished for supporting their union's stance. The branch secretaries at every Notts pit have never had access to branch offices, telephones or noticeboards.
The officials are threatened with disciplinary action if there is any NUM literature taken onto the pit premises, even though the union represents a good number of members at each of the Notts pits.
Yes, it's right that we remember 20 years ago and the tremendous challenge the union faced. It is also a blessing to me that the NUM Nottinghamshire area is still in existence and still fighting.
Keith Stanley, Notts NUM general secretary
FOR SOMEONE who wasn't born until the end of the miners' strike reading the special was inspiring. The fighting spirit of the miners was something I don't think was ever captured again until the recent anti-war movement. It wasn't so much a lesson about how far the state will go to protect itself, because that's always been self evident.
It makes me proud to read about the strength of the solidarity between the miners and the rest of the working class. We have a lot to learn from the miners. The miners' strike must have felt like when you are on a protest and feel you can take on the whole world. You can put yourself in their position and feel really close to all of them.
Sarah Jane Moriarty, Birmingham
To get copies of The Miners' Strike 1984-85 Socialist Worker special phone the Circulation Department on 020 7538 3305 or e-mail [email protected]
Blair has to resign
THIS IS a letter sent from a Labour Party member to Tony Blair. Dear prime minister, I am writing to inform you that I have cancelled my membership with the Labour Party and Fabian Society with immediate effect. I am disgusted with your recent behaviour regarding the Hutton inquiry, pointing the finger of blame at the BBC instead of laying it at your front door.
Never for one moment have I questioned my trust in the integrity and impartiality of the BBC, whereas I find myself questioning you daily. You seem to have completely abandoned any semblance of the socialist roots of the party and fully ingratiated yourself with the US's right wing unelected leader.
Please do not think for one second that I don't believe Saddam Hussein to be an appalling dictator who has committed unspeakable atrocities. But it is clear to all those watching that the last thing on your mind was to free Iraq. You were freeing oil and helping to shift the blame of 9/11 onto the people of Iraq.
If you believe in democracy for all you would attempt to free all countries that are living under dictators, instead of trading with them or ignoring the suffering of their people.
I now join the voices across the country calling for your resignation. You would do well to pass on your position to someone with more integrity who cares about people and who can turn away from the bullying might of the US.
I shall instead be using the money that would have been ploughed into your campaign to subscribe to Socialist Worker in the hope that I can find something nobler in their pages than I have ever done in your work.
Diana Hodgson, Northampton
Gun has torn apart the case for war
I WAS extremely glad to see one of the anti-war movement's unlikely allies come up trumps last week. Katharine Gun walked free from court after terrifying the wits out of B.liar's government. The government prosecuted the GCHQ spy centre worker for revealing that Britain and the US were spying on United Nations ambassadors in the run-up to the Iraq war.
After persecuting her for nine months the government has bottled out of a trial despite the fact that Katharine Gun admitted her 'guilt' and the evidence of her actions was clear.
What a trial would have revealed must have been about to once again shake B.liar's already crippled government to the core. Gun's defence was going to be a systematic tearing apart of B.liar's justification for taking the UK to war. Particular attention would have been paid to the attorney general Lord Goldsmith's claim that the war was legal. This is a claim that the government is now desperate not to have put under the spotlight.
Radicalised and inspired by marching alongside the anti-war movement Katharine Gun still believes that the war was wrong and insists that she has no regrets and would do it all again. I doubt B.liar says the same. Having made such a principled stand I wonder if Katharine Gun would consider being the Respect candidate for London mayor...
Tansy Hoskins, South East London
Socialist Worker is wrong about Nader
I'M AN American voter living in Britain and I have to disagree with Chris Harman (Socialist Worker, 28 February) over whether Ralph Nader should stand in the presidential elections. I believe every American who hates Bush should ensure he is defeated in November. That means voting Democrat, not because I have any illusions in the Democrats.
Bush is a dangerous fundamentalist Christian. His coterie were viewed as extremist crackpots until Bush became president and gave them respectability. The Democrats are only extreme conservatives. if Bush is defeated at the polls it will be seen as a victory not for the Democrats but for all those who hated Bush and his imperialism.
I don't want anything to endanger this sense of euphoria this will give to the worldwide anti-war movement and that is why I won't risk splitting the anti-Bush vote by voting Nader.
Rebecca Shtasel, Brighton
Big in Japan
I AM glad that I can report to you that a railway trade union in my country, Japan, has struck for two weeks and won! They fought against bosses' unlawful orders to their union members. But the union, Doro-Chiba, organised the fight. Strikes in Japan have been rare recently.
After Japan's railways were privatised in 1987, railway trade unions and workers have suffered a lot. We have all the problems you have in the UK. Now, Doro-Chiba has shown that they can win. The situation has definitely started to change, and international solidarity is one of the reasons that triggered this change.
If you are a trade union member, please send them a solidarity message to [email protected] Web: www.doro-chiba.org
Hiroshi Kanba, Japan
Educating a new generation
I GOT a copy of the miners' strike special at a Respect coalition meeting. I think you have all done a brilliant job. The combination of telling the story, dealing with the issues and interviews was spot on. The design is superb. It really will educate a new generation about what went on.
Mike Simons, Socialist Worker journalist who covered the strike, East London
More spies is not the answer
THE GOVERNMENT, in the wake of the Civil Contingencies Act, the attempt to abolish trial by jury and the Hutton whitewash, still continues to peddle its rubbish and fallacies. Now we are told we need 1,000 more spies, to reduce the burden of proof on suspected terrorists and secret trials against an enemy who we are led to believe is hiding and plotting within our shores.
Did we need all this during the 30 years the IRA were active? Why has this so called threat not materialised on our shores? Where is the justification for all these draconian measures? The best way to counter this so called threat is to pull out of Iraq, give them free elections and keep our nose out of other people's way of lives. We will be the losers at the end of the day.
Steve Prout, Milton Keynes
Will they change BBC's name too?
CONSIDERING THE new boss of the BBC will be a loyal Blairite, the governors all loyal to the ruling class and all news strictly censored by these people may I suggest renaming the BBC Blair's Brainwashing Corporation!
Peter Crawford, Dorset
China: jailed for backing workers
FORTY YEAR old labour activist Cai Guangye has been sentenced to three years re-education through labour in north east China. The authorities in his hometown of Jilin city deemed Cai in need of re-education in the light of his opposition to the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and his criticism of the consequent unemployment and poverty.
The sentence was passed in July 2003 after Cai spent more than a year in detention. Cai posted articles on the internet bringing attention to the neo-liberal inspired policies that have led to widespread attacks on workers who have lost jobs, housing, access to medical care and pension rights.
Globalization Monitor, an internet journal in Hong Kong, has launched a signature campaign calling for Cai's release. For more information please e-mail [email protected] or write to PO Box 72797, Kowloon General Post Office, Hong Kong.
Tim Pringle, Hong Kong
Our banners are still shining
A NEW website, Banners Still Bright, shows some of the vibrancy, breadth and excitement of the movement through photographs of banners on demonstrations. Remind yourself of the creativity shown on last year's anti-war demos. Visit the picture sections of banners on anti-capitalist and anti-racist protests, and look out for your union banner.
There has been a new generation of banner makers unfold since the Seattle protests. Draw inspiration from this collection and maybe make your own banner for the next protest! Go to www.bannersstillbright.co.uk
Mark Krantz and Penny Kay, Manchester
Leeds University greets Respect
LAST WEEK saw the launch of Respect: The Unity Coalition at Leeds University. Over 70 people attended, including representatives from trade unions, students and anti-war activists. The debate was varied. Most people expressed a wish to get involved in future Respect events. It was a successful prelude to the Yorkshire and Humberside Convention of the Left in Leeds on 13 March.
Louise Reynolds, Leeds