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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 February 2014

Who supported the 1984-85 miners' strike?

Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool 47 councillor 1983-87

Demanding a government apology for Thatcher's ruthless attack on the miners sounds hollow coming from Labour MPs.

Labour's leader then, Neil (now Lord) Kinnock, did absolutely nothing to assist the miners in their titanic 1984/85 struggle to defend their jobs and communities.

The state's role in deploying the forces of repression against Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the miners is well-documented.

New generations of working class activists need to recall the measures used by a hostile Thatcher government to crush the miners.

But the Labour leadership's baleful role, bending the knee to big capital, cannot be forgotten.

Infiltration

There was illegal deployment of a national police formation like an army of occupation in the mining communities.

There was the use of spies from different state agencies to infiltrate the NUM at the highest level; the planting of false evidence against Scargill, eg the phoney 'witnesses' describing how Scargill and others allegedly shared out money received for the miners.

There was police fabrication of false evidence and the forging of reports charging innocent miners with criminal intent.

This activity went to the very top of a rotten anti-working class state machine, directly controlled by Thatcher and her acolytes, one of whom, Lord Tebbit, still condemns the miners.

He uses the absence of a ballot to justify the most appalling brutality since the army shot down unarmed miners in Tonypandy in 1910.

Calling for an apology can be justified. But apologies should also be sought from Kinnock and his fellow right wingers.

They shared the approach of electricians' union general secretary Eric Hammond, who became the first trade union leader to serve with the inner councils of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Hammond also invited Tebbit, principal architect of Thatcher's anti-union legislation, to the union's training centre as a distinguished guest and organised scab labour to run Rupert Murdoch's presses at Wapping.

At the 1985 Labour Party conference Kinnock spoke in the debate on a resolution calling for amnesty for miners convicted during the strike.

He launched a vicious attack on the NUM leadership, supported by Hammond who described the NUM leadership as donkeys.

Tony Benn's diaries show that not one trade union leader who supported the miners was called into the debate.

Eventually under pressure the chair called in Ron Todd from TGWU (now Unite). His speech giving full support to the miners implied that Hammond was akin to a jackal. Miners and their families in the gallery were reportedly weeping.

Solidarity

At the same conference Kinnock launched his pernicious 'grotesque chaos' speech against the Liverpool 47.

However, unlike his Lordship, Liverpool city council had a proud record of supporting the miners. The 47 councillors went on miners' picket lines across the North West and set aside a portion of the rates to assist miners' families experiencing real hardship.

Miners' collecting facilities were made available throughout the city and several major fund-raising events were organised, raising tens of thousands of pounds.

Council leaders spoke at mass rallies with Arthur Scargill and other miners' leaders, pledging our full and unconditional support.

An estimated 1 million was raised in Liverpool for the miners. As a token of their appreciation Lancashire miners presented a specially created brass miner's lamp to the Liverpool 47.

Apologies will never rectify the damage perpetrated by a crazed prime minister and a thuggish union-buster called Ian McGregor, imported from the USA to break the car and steel unions, then the NUM.

But the lessons of both a treacherous Labour leadership, and of a Tory government prepared to use any methods to break the working class, should never be forgotten.

Out soon

A civil war without guns

by Ken Smith

The Socialist Party's history of the 1984-85 miners' strike, A Civil War Without Guns, by Ken Smith, is being reprinted with a new introduction in time for the 30th anniversary of this colossal struggle. Watch this space for more details.

Available from Socialist Books

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

www.socialistbooks.org.uk

bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk

Please make cheques payable to Socialist Books

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In The Socialist 5 February 2014:


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