A meeting took place on 12th March at Conway Hall addressed by veterans of the action led by Arthur Scargill, but with the notable omission of Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock. Kinnock had been involved in his own celebrations in order to mount a scathing attack on Scargill. Arthur took the opportunity to make a counterpoint branding Kinnock as treacherous by meeting with the Coal Board bosses in South Wales to ensure coal was delivered to the steel works. The following is a report from the SLP:
25th Anniversary of the Miners Strike
Report of meeting at Conway Hall 12th March 2009
By Philip Chambers
This meeting was convened jointly by Kent Area National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Socialist Labour Party (SLP).
On the platform was the Chair John Moyle of Kent NUM, John Breen National Graphical Association, Ricky Tomlinson SLP, John Hendy QC, Alan Simon of the French CGT and Arthur Scargill Leader of the SLP and Honorary President of the NUM.
Conway Hall was full with an overspill into the gallery, and was decorated with Trade Union and SLP banners with enlarged photographic mural scenes of the Miners struggle. There was a wonderful atmosphere of solidarity, enthusiastic support and no sectarianism.
John Moyle opened the meeting by remarking that our energy supply and their high costs were due to the outcome of this struggle as most of our energy supply now came from abroad. He said that the still productive Kent Pits were now abandoned, grassed over and one was now a cycle track. The landscaping had cost £20 million, enough to keep 1000 Miners in work. No Kent Miner could get a job on the Channel Tunnel as they were all blacklisted.
John Breen gave an account of the material assistance the Print Workers supplied to the Miners, the largest being £300,000, and of how they refused to print attacks and cartoons hostile to the Miners in the Fleet Street Newspapers. Print Workers visited pits and some were adopted by Print Chapels. They also produced an independent paper which had a circulation of 50,000 copies.
Alan Simon of the French CGT gave a moving account of how the French Workers had massively supported the strike with 40 juggernauts of food and gifts which were carried free on the French Ferries. He also spoke of how large sums of money had to be carried personally to the Miners to avoid the sequestrations. We were reminded that the same seam of coal stretched from Kent to the Pas de Calais and that Internationalism was alive and well.
Ricky Tomlinson gave an impassioned, moving and at times very funny speech. He strongly attacked ‘The Mail’ newspaper for its slights on Arthur and his family and went on to say he (Ricky) had successfully sued a newspaper who had stated that he had neglected his children. He produced a photograph of Arthur with his grandchildren taken recently to show the criticisms were baseless.
He went on to say that the Shrewsbury pickets had waited 37 years for justice and were still fighting for it. He said how sick Des Warren, one of the pickets, had been after his drug coshing (liquid cosh) in prison, and that unfortunately he had even been too ill to take up the offer made by the NUM to be flown to Cuba for special treatment. However this offer was an expression of true solidarity, he said.
Viewing his security file, Ricky said, was a waste of time because most paragraphs were blacked out as they contained information ‘that was a threat to the State’ – Bankers were a threat to the state!
Ricky said that the building trade union leaders had required court orders to attend his trial whilst, in total contrast, the Miners leaders had attended freely. He ended with an impassioned call for a fight back for Socialism and made clear that he was proud to be a member of the SLP.
John Hendy QC then explained how he and his team had fought the legal battles for the NUM during and after the strike. They had defended a deluge of injunctions and sequestrations. Along with Michael Mansfield QC they had recovered £50,000 in damages for Miners falsely accused of a riot. He said how the defeat of the strike had led to a diminished Trade Union movement, a European Union where business held authority, Neo Liberalism and New Labour.
Arthur Scargill said that 25 years ago class war was declared by Thatcher on the Miners, and therefore the whole working class, and this had to be opposed. Neil Kinnock the leader of Labour had betrayed the Labour movement and had arranged a secret deal in Wales to move coal to keep a steel works open during the strike. Arthur said that a general ballot was not required. Events overtook them; the strike broke out spontaneously when pits were threatened. We were not involved in a legal battle of the constitution but a class war. Either we had to fight or we lose our living and community. We did what the Chartist, Suffragettes and Tolpuddle Martyrs did. Those against us were looking for an excuse for their cowardly behaviour and used this spurious reason of the ballot.
Trade Union leaders like Hammond and Lyons openly encouraged strike breaking. 13000 Miners were arrested during the strike and 11 died. The police from all over the country used unprecedented violence. David Jones and Joe Green were killed on the picket line and no one arrested. At one stage there were 10,000 pickets battling with 8,500 police who were armed and with some on horseback.
The strike could have been won if the Pit Deputies had not reneged on their promise to come out on strike too and proper support had been forthcoming from backsliders of the trade union movement. If the Miners had won Arthur said we could have had a Labour government and there would have been no New Labour. Arthur then read out a statement of support from ‘The Women against Pit Closures’ whose representative was unable to attend.
He concluded by passionately calling for a fight for Socialism and Nationalisation of the economy He emphasised the correctness of the SLP and quoted James Connolly ” Our demands most moderate are, We only want the Earth”
(This is only my impression of the meeting and is not a verbatim account)