Miners strike - Your Class Needs You - Alan Hardman cartoon
Miners strike - Your Class Needs You - Alan Hardman cartoon

Paul Tooley-Okonkwo, Mansfield Socialist Party

A full-to-capacity meeting room, with 50 people in attendance, a mix of ex-miners, trade unionists, long-standing Socialist Party members, new members and socialist students, remembered the history and the consequences of the miner’s strike of 1984-85. A cross-regional Socialist Party meeting on Saturday 16 March in Chesterfield, organised by Chesterfield and Mansfield members.

Dave Griffiths, Dave Gorton and Steve Score gave great accounts of the ‘offensive’ miners’ strikes in the 1970’s (wanting better wages) and, in 1980’s Thatcher’s Britain, the ‘defensive’ miners’ strike, not only to save jobs and pits but a whole industry and a way of life in coal-mining areas. An observation of post-strike colliery areas was as: “A nice place to walk your dog or cycle around, but it doesn’t feed your kids.”

The miners’ strike of 1984-85 posed a great threat to the Tory government at the time. Thatcher sold off the ‘family silver’ to cover the cost of unemployment and passed anti-union laws to try to break the unions. Even though the striking miners were defeated in 1985, Thatcher and her Tory government didn’t break trade unionism.

The dedicated role of women in the strike, who organised to feed, picket, raise money, and demonstrate for striking miners’ families was remembered. In the year-long strike, with nothing coming in, if it wasn’t for the women organising, the strike wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. One contributor on gender barriers said: “The miners’ strike shows when workers move into struggle, attitudes and consciousness can change very rapidly.”

Everyone in attendance benefited from the political analysis of the strike and its place in working-class history.

The strike wave in the last couple of years shows that it will take more than strong trade unions to fight for what we need. Class issues are political issues, that’s why we need to fight for a new mass workers’ party and socialist change.

A fantastic day school, I will be definitely attending the next one!