The Socialist 24 October 2012
Defend the NHS
Put police actions in the dock
Members and supporters of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have drawn encouragement from the recent findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
The detailed exposure in the media of the shocking truth about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster was based on the South Yorkshire Police's records of their own appalling conduct (see the Socialist 734).
The trade unionists are calling for a new investigation into South Yorkshire Police's conduct at one of the biggest class clashes of the NUM's year-long strike for jobs in 1984-85.
The battle of Orgreave on 18 June 1984 involved nearly 10,000 pickets and 4,000 police. Police attacked pickets with truncheons, made 93 arrests, and there were 59 injuries and the arrest of NUM president Arthur Scargill.
Taken to court in 1995, 15 mineworkers proved that the South Yorkshire cops had significant parts of their evidence dictated to them by another police officer and that an officer's signature on an evidence statement was not genuine.
As Chris Kitchen, who was present as a 17-year old striker at Orgreave and is now NUM general secretary, said, miners had always said they were victims of police malpractice.
He told the Guardian: "Most of the men were acquitted but those who accepted being bound over had a criminal record for the rest of their lives."
The NUM national executive will discuss whether to ask the police complaints 'watchdog' IPCC and the Director of Public Prosecutions to widen their Hillsborough investigations to include the same police force's behaviour and later cover-up in the miners' strike.
The miners' dispute was the major episode in the Thatcher government's planned and phased onslaught on the organised working class. As Ken Smith says in the Socialist Party publication 'A civil war without guns', the British capitalist state used all its resources to smash the powerful and militant NUM:
"It was not long after the unprecedented violence at Orgreave, provoked by the police, that Thatcher referred to the miners as the "Enemy Within"... Once started, Orgrave was a battle that neither side could afford to lose.
"Thatcher and the Tories threw everything at it: state forces; propaganda: political pressure on the Labour and trade union leaders and the full force of the legal system against arrested miners.
"Police 'gladiators' were instructed from early on by police officers with loudhailers to "take prisoners".
"In reply the miners mobilised the biggest, most determined, pickets this country has ever seen."
Trade unionists and socialists will wish the NUM well in any legal action and much can be learned from a deeper study of the 1984-85 miners' strike.
In this issue