Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/618/9095

From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2010

When We Were Miners

By Ian Isaac
Reviewed by Alec Thraves

When We Were Miners marks the 25th anniversary of the ending of the 1984/85 miners' strike, the greatest movement of workers in Britain since the 1926 general strike.

While primarily a personal account of his role in the South Wales coalfield and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1974 to 1991, Ian Isaac's book is written from the standpoint of a young 'Militant' miner and socialist activist.

The miners were the vanguard of the trade union movement, and in order for Thatcher and the Tory government to pursue their anti-working class agenda they consciously aimed to obliterate the NUM. Unfortunately the right-wing leaders of the NUM in the period up to 1982 allowed pit after pit to close without lifting a finger of opposition.

As a Militant supporter (the forerunner of the Socialist Party), Ian took a principled socialist stand on many political and tactical issues, especially when he was elected onto the South Wales NUM executive.

He led by example: "Although I was elected full-time lodge secretary for life in 1978, by 1980 I had given up my right of lifetime tenure of office in favour of a more democratic five-yearly election." When he moved the miners' Broad Left demand for the regular election of full-time officials at the NUM's South Wales conference, Emlyn Jenkin, a full-time official in the area, went to the rostrum and said: "Over my dead body will this be passed"!

Ian writes that for Jenkin and his like: "Their better conditions, their 'socialism', had already arrived from within the bosom of the NUM, with higher pay, assisted car purchase and conditions that ordinary members could only dream about". But growing militancy among miners saw it passed two years later at national conference.

The year-long miners' strike is analysed in detail from a Marxist standpoint in Ken Smith's excellent book A Civil War Without Guns, but Ian also gives a real feel of the sacrifices, the hard work and the comradeship of not only the miners but of the millions of working-class people who supported them.

A Miners' Support Group was established in the Llynfi and Afan valleys and was quickly replicated around the country. A million pounds a week was raised for the striking miners by trade unionists and the public. But the miners were betrayed by the now millionaire ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock and the right-wing trade union leaders. The defeat of the strike was a huge setback for the NUM and the trade union movement.

The following year, as pit closures proceeded at a rapid pace Ian stood as the rank-and-file candidate for president of the South Wales NUM under the slogan: 'A miners' president on a miner's wage'.

NUM officials vetoed his election address leaflet and removed that slogan but not before it had been delivered to a third of the coalfield. Up against two prominent officials Ian explained: "I had 26% of the first-preference votes cast, which I considered at the time to be a significant result and an affirmation of our ideas within the miners' Broad Left, which included active rank and file miners, Militant and the Labour Party Young Socialists in the coalfield."

Ian was later victimised and isolated in South Wales by the Coal Board and hostile NUM officials. But he played an outstanding role as a Militant miner over 15 years. However, like hundreds of miners who were involved with Militant in those tumultuous years, the defeat, the mass redundancies and the collapse of Stalinism in Russia and eastern Europe which followed had a disorientating political impact.

Ian points out that: "In October 1988 I was expelled from the Labour Party. This was a culmination of attacks upon me for the role I had played during the strike and afterwards and for my association with Militant before and during the strike".

Personal insight

However, many readers will be surprised and bemused when Ian explains that he actually rejoined the Labour Party in 1998 "without conceding any of my socialist principles". But he says "it has been saddening to see the drift to the right by Labour in recent decades", and may yet draw the conclusion of the need for a new workers' party.

When We Were Miners gives a valuable, personal insight of what it meant to be a militant miner at the height of Thatcherism and the importance of a clear Marxist programme and approach. Outlined in this book are lessons on preparing for battle, organising the workforce, mobilising public support and the willingness to struggle. For both the young and older generations of activists, alongside Ken Smith's book, it is well worth a read.


Miners' struggle anniversary offer

When We Were Miners By Ian Isaac

7.99

6.50 - special offer to readers of The Socialist, including postage.

A Civil War Without Guns By Ken Smith

5.00

Order both for 10.00 including postage.

Also see: The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners by Seumas Milne 12.99
The Dirty Thirty: Heroes of the Miners' Strike (Leicestershire Miners) by David Bell 7.99
Cheques and postal orders to Socialist Books, PO Box 24697 London E11 1YD

bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk or www.socialistbooks.org.uk

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


In The Socialist 31 March 2010:

We will not pay!

Help fund Socialist Party campaigns

Stop the cuts, build a socialist alternative


PCS strike action

PCS: Striking against government attacks

PCS budget day strike: Support grows across country


Transport strikes

BA cabin crew strike: 'We shall not be moved'

Fight the decimation of London tube jobs

Network Rail dispute: RMT signalworker speaks to The Socialist

Workplace news in brief


NUT conference

NUT conference: fight cuts and excessive workload

Socialist elected to NUT executive


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Standing against cuts and privatisation


Socialist Party news and analysis

Yorkshire on the campaign trail

Developing a strategy to defeat the far-right

Waltham Forest: on march against redundancies

Cameron shows Tories still anti-gay

Council cuts: Grim Reaper moving to Surrey

Lewisham councillors' record

News in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Terror returns to Moscow For workers' unity against terror, repression, racism and capitalism

Eurozone crisis: Hanging together or hanging separately


Youth

Future Jobs scam: attacks on young unemployed

Southampton University protest

May Day march in Hull: Rebuilding traditions of struggle


Socialist Party review

When We Were Miners


 

Home   |   The Socialist 31 March 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Miners:

triangleOrgreave campaigners' Halloween 'Death of Justice' march

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

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

Miners Strike 1984-85:

triangleThe Dirty Thirty - Heroes of the Miners' Strike

triangleBilly Bragg's Miners' Strike Tour

Socialist:

triangleTamil Solidarity AGM & public meeting

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangleSocialist Students national conference

Strike:

triangleDriving examiners walkout hits first day of new test

triangleSchool staff strike against privatisation

Militant:

triangleLabour council Blairites deselected

Historic events

Historic events

18/10/17

Russian revolution

Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

4/10/17

Che Guevara

Che Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

23/8/17

Review

Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

23/8/17

Anti-fascist

Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front

9/8/17

Marx

Marx's Capital at 150: an unequalled analysis and critique of capitalism

26/7/17

Russian revolution

Russia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

12/7/17

Russian revolution

July Days 1917: battles with counterrevolution

6/7/17

LGBT

Lessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

28/6/17

Liverpool

Liverpool's 1983-87 socialist council

21/6/17

Revolution

The Pentrich uprising: revolution and counter-revolution in 19th century Britain

31/5/17

Russian revolution

June 1917: when workers in Britain first tried to form soviets

26/4/17

May Day

The real origins of May Day

26/4/17

Labour Party

How Blairism sank its claws into the Labour Party

29/3/17

Russian revolution

April 1917: how the Bolsheviks reorientated

8/3/17

Ferries

1987 Zeebrugge disaster

triangleMore Historic events articles...


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

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle12 Dec Birmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangle12 Dec Liverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2