Working Class Solidarity, tested…

The miners had brought the British Government to its knees and secured victories in 1972 and 1974. Such was the power of the miners and the working class, they brought down a conservative government, something that a vengeful Thatcher would seek to avenge.

The Vengeful Thatcher Government. Government records show that upon taking office in 1979 ,Thatcher proclaimed “The last Conservative government was destroyed by the miners’ strike. We’ll have another and we’ll win.”

Thatcher sought not only to avenge the miners’ victories of 1972 and 1974, but also to erase the cohesion of the NUM, its solidarity reinforced by the small and cohesive communities in which miners lived, with widespread working class admiration and solidarity.

The Whitehall Civil Contingencies unit in 1979 thought that “if there was to be a strike, it should begin in the spring and . . . be over pit closures, which tended to divide the union, rather than over pay, which tended to unite them”.

Thatcher had set her terms of the next battle, ensnare the miners then to divide the workers.

Thatcher was also determined to break what she saw as the NUM’s relationship with the National Coal Board (NCB).Dating back to nationalisation in 1946, the relationship between the union and the NCB symbolised the Attlee postwar consensus the Labour Movement, that she despised and was intent on destroying.

Working Class Solidarity Movements. Women, not only formed a transformative and unpredicted network of support groups, raising funds to feed and sustain the most financially pressed in almost every mining village, but asserted themselves politically, travelling across the country and internationally to make the miners’ case, appeal for support and join the picket lines.

Elsewhere in the country, the prominence of the coalfield women in particular during the strike inspired much support from women’s organisations. Links were made with Greenham Common, women’s trade union organisations and a range of feminist groups.

Whilst the miners enjoyed support from across the Labour Movement of particular note is the community activist Mark Ashton.

He formed, with his friend Mike Jackson, the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group after the two men collected donations for the miners strike at the 1984 Pride in London. Mark played a key role in building support for Britain’s striking miners among the gay community during the 1984-5 dispute. His work was crucial for bringing the LGBT movement and the Labour movement together through class consciousness.

International Solidarity. International solidarity by the Labour Movement contributed to the solidarity to the resistance being organised by those women organising across working class communities to support the miners. Of particular note was the Ukrainian miners from the Donbass coalfield, who raised money and food to give direct support to miners families.

Money was raised throughout the world for the miners, often through trade union or socialist connections. An international march of people from various countries was held from London to Kent to show solidarity. Miners showed a sense of international solidarity when Kent NUM members dumped coal on the doorstep of South Africa house in protest at apartheid. International solidarity was strained by coal imports however, in particular those from Poland.

Trade Union and Trade Councils Solidarity. Trade unionists throughout the country raised food and money for striking miners and their families. Some went further – train drivers, seafarers and others attempted to block strike breaking coal, coke and other substitute fuels. Print workers took industrial action against the worst media coverage. (There was some trade unions who refused to adopt TUC guidelines to support the miners…that’s enough about them).

Trades councils were often at the heart of the miners support groups that were launched throughout the country. These groups expanded to include a much wider group of people. Their activities included street and door to door collections to raise food and money for the miners; hosting public meetings to allow miners and their families to put their case; joining picket lines and visiting mining areas (if they weren’t already based in one) to give support.

Legacy of the Strike. The defeat of the miners’ strike and the subsequent destruction of the deep coal mining industry in Britain played a significant role in weakening trade union power. The result was an increasingly unequal country. The proud memory of resisting this attack, however, is kept alive in the former coalfields and elsewhere, commemorating and celebrating the spirit of solidarity.

Socialism, and Labour Movement. The Trade Union movement has it roots within the Labour Movement. 0161 Festival continues to learn from the miners struggle. It seems to replicate the social cohesion and solidarity of the working class by building international links, empowering working class communities, facilitating educational exploration of issues relevant to community cohesion. The international links and solidarity is evident by the broad spectrum of attendees and bands that come to celebrate antifascism.

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