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:


triangleRed Mary - a Force of Nature

triangle110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

triangleTory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated

triangleOrgreave campaigners' Halloween 'Death of Justice' march


triangleSwansea Labour council votes for cuts

triangleThree major West Wales hospitals could close

triangleSuccessful Socialist Party Wales conference sets tone for the year ahead


triangleDerbyshire says: No fracking way!

triangleMovement growing against fracking giant Ineos

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


Socialist Party

Socialist Party congress 2018



Strike continues: set dates for next national action


Socialist Party

Members dig deep into their pockets to support the party


North West

Campaigners continue to demand Chorley A&E is fully reopened



Swansea Labour council votes for cuts



Derby public meeting: Women's Lives Matter



Seeing-off the bigoted, billionaire toff!



Continuing the fighting tradition of working class women



Workplace news in brief



Leicester: Blairites block Labour Party democracy



Leaked pay deal: fight for a genuine pay rise



We feel that we will win - a striker speaks



Woolwich ferry workers win automation campaign



UCU strike: bosses on the run



Salford nurseries consultation delayed

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018