Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 4 February 2015

1984-85 miners' strike

A vibrant array of support groups

Miners and their families, photo D Pearson

Miners and their families, photo D Pearson   (Click to enlarge)

The great 1984-85 miners' strike ended 30 years ago next month. Dave Beale, chair of Chorley and Coppull Miners' Support Committee in Lancashire during the strike, explains the vital role of support groups.

In 1984-85 members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) fought tooth and nail to stop Thatcher's plans for widespread pit closures and the decimation of mining communities.

Although the Thatcher government gained a major victory, the miners' defeat was not inevitable. Fatally, as Ken Smith shows in 'A Civil War Without Guns' both the Labour Party and TUC leaderships turned their backs on the miners.

But the enormous struggle that the strike unleashed against the Tory establishment clearly showed the potential for a united working class movement to transform society. Money and material donations for the NUM, the miners and their families came from many unions and sympathetic individuals. An important element in the strike was the vast network of local and community-based miners' support groups.

Reports published after the strike suggest that Britain had over 300 miners' strike support groups in 1984-5. North Yorkshire had 34 women's support groups. Liverpool had 14 support groups that raised 1 million for the strike, while Lancashire and Manchester had 19 support groups. This gave the lie to the right wing press' cynical claims that the miners would get no support.


The National Coal Board's head of pit closures Ian MacGregor said early in the strike that many miners' wives were not supporting their striking husbands. This provoked a furious reaction from strikers' wives and girlfriends. They organised enthusiastic support for the strike and widely publicised it. This triggered the growth of what were first called miners' wives groups and then became more broadly based women's support groups.

Most women's support groups were not prepared just to limit themselves to the 'domestic' tasks their men often expected of them. They were as good at picketing, and organising meetings and protests as the men! Many such groups made a political statement that women had an independent role to play in the strike. Women Against Pit Closures was established as an important national body that helped coordinate the women's groups.

A diverse pattern of miners' strike support groups soon emerged; some were women's groups, others more broadly-based. They provided food to miners and their families, raised money, housed and assisted striking miners away on picketing duties or touring the country to raise support and funds for the strike, visited picket lines and attended meetings, rallies and demonstrations, often with their own banners.

An NUM holiday camp in Blackpool for miners' children, photo John Smith

An NUM holiday camp in Blackpool for miners' children, photo John Smith   (Click to enlarge)

Activists in Hoyland in the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield were serving 1,600 meals in their village alone to strikers and their families, and joined miners on the picket lines when they could! Chorley and Coppull support group raised 26,000 in 12 months, spending most of it on providing weekly food parcels to about 80 striking miners who lived in its area but worked at Parkside Colliery.

It was set up jointly by the local Labour Party (supporters of Militant, forerunners of the Socialist Party, played a key role in the initiative) and the local Trades Council. Local striking miners and their families participated in the group, establishing Lancashire NUM recognition for it. Full support soon came from key shop stewards committees in local workplaces.

The support group's record book for 23 July 1984 records the following typical parcel details: "Contents: beans, soup small, soup large, peas, carrots, minced beef, hot dog sausage, pie, hamburgers, fruit, rice pudding, tea, margarine, biscuits and cornflakes, six egg, 4lb potatoes. Any miners who have children must fill in the tear-off slip from the news bulletin for record purposes before they claim the extra 1.50 worth of food per child."

Outside the coalfields, many support groups were set up and twinned with one particular colliery. Such support groups were not necessarily based on traditional trade union organisation. There were students' miner's support groups, those led by the unemployed, and many community-based support groups in other countries. The recent film 'Pride' highlighted the impressive support provided by gay and lesbian activists.


Despite the support groups' invaluable role, however, the power to win the strike rested with the unions, the TUC and the Labour Party. Nevertheless, the tremendous achievements of the support groups demonstrated the potential for the fullest forms of class solidarity and socialist consciousness built from the bottom.

The longer the strike went on, the more it drew towards it wide layers of people, those aggrieved at work, the poor and unemployed, students, women, black and Asian workers, and gay and lesbian activists were increasingly brought together through the miners' support group network.

A genuine broadly based movement was being built, aligned with the working class and the sections of it that wanted to sweep the Thatcher government from power, hoping to see the beginnings of the struggle for a much better world.

The achievements of the support groups demonstrated working class people's ability to run their own lives and the society they live in. The strike also showed the need for a democratic, militant and mobilised trade union movement, alongside a mass socialist political party that could sow the seeds of revolutionary change and a democratic, socialist society.

With Banners Held High

National Union of Mineworkers' event, marking the 30th anniversary of the 1984/85 strike.

Saturday 7 March 2015. Daytime and evening events 11am to 11pm. Unity Works Wakefield, (two minutes' walk from Wakefield's Westgate station)

Celebrate the courage, strength and spirit of the miners and their communities on the 30th anniversary of the return to work after the year-long strike.

Organised by supporters of Coal not dole, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Wakefield Trades Union Council

To book go to

Save our pits!

Over 500 miners, their families and supporters marched through Knottingley, West Yorkshire, to save England's last three deep coal mines. Many local trade unionists came to support the miners: Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network and Wakefield NUT being prominent. Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign brought their banner too. Leeds TUSC and Socialist party activist Iain Dalton was interviewed by BBC Look North news.

As the local Socialist Party placard said: "Why can't 300 million be found to save Kellingley, Thoresby and Hatfield pits while 66 billion could be found to rescue Lloyds Bank?"

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to click here to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

In The Socialist 4 February 2015:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Get organised and fight back

NHS crisis: Establishment parties can't be trusted

Fracking in trouble, from Lancashire to Lanarkshire!

Death, taxes and energy profits

Hands off our housing benefit!

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Cuba: Capitalist restoration threat accelerates

Greece: Syriza announces anti-austerity policies

Victory of the Marigold gloves

Socialist Party workplace news

Fighting for one London bus pay rate

Strike called off in face of inadequate pay offer

FBU recall conference: escalate pensions action!

Ferry workers win pay and conditions battle

National Gallery workers walk out against privatisation

Lambeth College strikers return to work

Ongoing battle to protect pay and conditions at college

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Londoners march for Homes

Academies victory: one down, four to go!

Rebuilding the student movement in Leicester

Gateshead fights for working class heritage

Election appeal 2015

Campaigns news in brief

Readers' comments

Why I joined the Socialist Party

At least we got Labour's fish and chips!

Disciplined for political comment

Socialist history

Miners' strike: vibrant array of support groups


Home   |   The Socialist 4 February 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleDurham Miners' Gala

triangle35th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave

triangleOrgreave injustice - 35th anniversary march and rally

triangleLessons of the heroic 1984-85 Miners' strike

triangleObituary Joan Beale - Labour women's activist and Militant supporter


triangleRefuse collection workers strike

triangleBexley binworkers' strike wins sick pay from day one

trianglePostal workers deliver massive strike vote

triangleTory student plot defeated at Cardiff uni


triangleCoronavirus and domestic violence: a double threat to women's lives

triangleChildcare - costly, inadequate and hard work

triangleDomestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services


triangleBradford Socialist Party: Trotskyism and the Second World War

triangleBradford Socialist Party: 'The State and Revolution'


triangleFight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants


triangleWakefield Socialist Party: NHS and the coronavirus crisis - a socialist way forward


triangleWestex workers win increased pay offer in 11th week of strike

Working class:

triangleLabour must resist 'Covid coalition'

Socialist Party:

triangleBradford Socialist Party: US, Trump and Coronavirus


triangleLancashire Socialist Party: Britain in 2020 - what lies ahead?


triangleCoronavirus and school closures: what needs to be done now

Shop Stewards:

triangleSupport Clive Walder


triangleStonewall riots' legacy shows need for socialist struggle to win LGBT+ liberation


triangleOrgreave - no justice, no peace


triangleUnion independence must be maintained - a reply to the TUC


triangleHelp us continue to fight for workers and socialism


triangleManchester & Salford Socialist Party: What does the general election result mean for 2020?

Historic events

Historic events



All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth


Poll tax

30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built



South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre


Berlin Wall

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: How a mass revolutionary movement for genuine socialism was diverted



Obituary - Bob Lee: 1954 - 2019



How working-class tenants beat Gentrification


Wall Street Crash

The 1929 Wall Street Crash: When the capitalist system was on its knees



China after the 1949 revolution: the benefits of the planned economy stifled by bureaucracy



40 years on: Mandatory reselection more vital for Labour than ever


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, August '69: 'Battle of the Bogside' and British troops on the streets



The Peterloo Massacre 1819: When a fearful ruling class tried to crush working-class political aspirations



The 45th anniversary of the strike



50 years since Apollo 11 - 'One giant leap': how political conflict launched the moon landing



Stonewall riots' legacy shows need for socialist struggle to win LGBT+ liberation



35th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave

triangleMore Historic events articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020