Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 23 January 2008

Tower Colliery closes: A brave attempt

Miners will march out of Tower Colliery for the last time on Friday 25 January. This will be an emotional end for the last deep coal mine in South Wales. 200 years of labour movement history, glorious and inspiring at times, will come to a close. Tower, having run into problems, is unable to continue to mine coal.

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

The closure will be especially poignant because Tower had defied all the odds by remaining open as a colliery owned by its workforce. In 1994 the Tower was the last pit in South Wales to succumb to the Tory government's politically motivated pit-closure programme and was forced to close despite an energetic campaign by the workforce and the local community.

Managers and private mining companies prepared to swoop to take over the colliery, but a remarkable effort by the National Union of Mineworkers' lodge succeeded in buying the pit for the workforce.

This was achieved by each mineworker investing 8,000 of their redundancy money and with bank loans, but above all by the huge campaign that Tower NUM had mounted including an occupation of the pit which forced the government to concede.

In January 1995 the miners marched back to work to take control of their own pit. Many on the left criticised Tower, but the forerunner of the Socialist Party, Militant Labour, marched back with Tower NUM understanding that in the circumstances the buyout was the least bad option after the privatisation of the industry.

The miners had saved hundreds of jobs in an area of mass unemployment. Most Tower miners had no illusion that this workers' co-operative was going to be an easy way out of the attacks on the industry and Tower NUM has always retained the demand for the pit to be renationalised.

The Socialist Party however also warned of the dangers in trying to create 'an island of socialism in a sea of capitalism' and we explained that due to the unique circumstances in which it was established, Tower's example could not be copied by other workers.

Tower was potentially a very profitable pit, but which other bosses would allow their workers to take over a profitable factory?

Dual power

In the early period there was a large measure of workers' control of production (miners had always run mining to a large extent under British Coal anyway). Pay rates were increased; a two-shift, four-day week was introduced; safety was improved; and a whole range of reforms benefited the workforce.

Releasing the initiative and invention of miners allowed the development of new mining techniques including the pioneering innovation of a safety area in the case of accidents.

But from the beginning, the energy market and the private coal industry exerted their pressures on Tower through the demands of banks, customers and suppliers, but especially through the influence of the mining managers and engineers who had been retained from British Coal.

These specialist skills were necessary to make the pit work, but the managers and engineers were opposed to the ideas of workers' control and renationalisation. There was a constant tension between the workforce and these pro-capitalist agents in their ranks who knew a good thing when they saw it.

The specific structure of the co-operative meant that the miners did not control the managers and engineers and the leadership of the NUM lodge was drawn out of the lodge into running the colliery with these managers.


But Tower miners can march out of the pit with their heads held high. They have held onto their pit for 13 years and been a valuable source of inspiration to workers in struggle around the world.

Whenever a workers' delegation visited South Wales they have made Tower Colliery their first stop. The Liverpool dockers, Timex workers, Tameside care workers and many more have received tens of thousands of pounds in solidarity donations from Tower miners.

And international workers' delegations, including from the international socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated, the Committee for a Workers' International, from Kazakhstan, Colombia, Russia and Turkish Kurdistan have been supported at the pit, often financially.

Socialist Party Wales has been proud to have been associated with Tower and to have learnt first hand the lessons of Tower's experience.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 23 January 2008:

Why should we pay for capitalist crisis?

Shock of recession draws near

Workplace news

Strike against poverty deals in PCS

Marching behind the Burslem 12

Socialist Party women

New threats to abortion rights


Defend Tommy Sheridan

SNP 'trusts' are PFI in disguise

Socialist Party campaign news

Tower Colliery closes: A brave attempt

Post office campaign: Changes in the law to break the poor

Keep Marksbury library open!

International socialist news and analysis

Bolivia at breaking point

Workplace analysis

NUT national executive: Left fighter stopped from standing

More work for less pay

Socialist Party workplace news

Shelter staff under attack from management

Cadburys close Keynsham factory

Council spends thousands fighting workers' pay claims

No more stooge union reps!


Home   |   The Socialist 23 January 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleWarts-and-all account of class war and the struggle for LGBT+ rights

triangleMutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

triangleCrunchy guitar and poignant dialogue in alt-rock homage to south Wales miners

triangleLots of discussions at the Miners Gala on the way forward


triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg

triangleFord workers vote for action

triangleRMT condemns Welsh government rail privatisation


triangleHurricane Harvey: A tragedy made far worse by capitalism

triangleCorbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Justice for Tube cleaners demo



Salford Unison condemns pay cuts


Royal Mail

CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike



Carlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP



Don't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish



No more fire deaths - ensure safety now!



Cardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg


John McDonnell

Manchester rally discussed unionisation and nationalisation



Join the Orgreave Halloween rally



Workplace news in brief


Democratic rights

Who's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights


Northern Ireland

Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs



Too much to cross the Mersey


Royal Mail

Set for national strike action



Supporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice