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20th anniversary of the miners' strike
Workers' Unity Can Win
Build genuinely democratic fighting trade unions.
For the unions to begin the process of building a new mass workers' party.
THE NATIONAL Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is organising marches and rallies all over the country this summer to mark the 20th anniversary of the miners' strike. One of these will be on 22 May in Pontypridd.
One of the organisers of the Pontypridd event, a Socialist Party member, told the socialist: "Miners and their families fought fearlessly. The sacrifices miners made, their socialism - and their unremitting confidence in the ability of working class people to fight and win - all those things made them working class heroes. The inspiration of their example means that the miners' strike will long be remembered."
The fight against pit closures in 1984-85 was a heroic attempt to use the organised power of workers to stop Thatcher's attempts to destroy manufacturing industry. Thatcher tried to break the unions because their defence of workers got in the way of profit.
The miners had huge support among working-class people in the coalfields, throughout Britain and across the globe. Despite attempts to starve and intimidate them back to work it was this working-class solidarity that allowed the miners to fight on for 356 days.
But the leadership of the Labour Party and the TUC - fearing the power of the organised working class almost as much as the Tories - refused to show such solidarity and abandoned and betrayed the miners. If the TUC had supported the miners with backing for strike action from other unions, and repaid the solidarity the miners had shown other workers, then the strike could have been won.
Yet, despite the TUC betrayal the strike came so close to defeating the Tories. It could have been won if workers had been organised from below to defy their right-wing leaderships and take action alongside the miners. A miners' victory would have given a huge boost in confidence to the trade union movement and all workers.
The main lessons of the miners' strike still remain: that, united in decisive action the working class can win, and that we need a genuine socialist leadership throughout the trade union movement prepared to see workers' struggles through to victory.
Today's tasks for the trade union movement are clear - to build genuinely democratic fighting trade unions and for the unions to begin the process of building a new mass workers' party.
In 1984-85, working-class people in this country saw a window onto the future, a future that lies in our own hands, not the bosses or the capitalist class. We must remember and learn from the miners' strike to ensure that future workers' struggles on the scale of the miners' strike achieve a victory that brings forward the establishment of a socialist society.
South Wales NUM march and rally. 22 May, assemble 10.30am, Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd
In The Socialist 22 May 2004:
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