Women Chain makers of Cradley Heath. 2012 Festival

A lull in the weather, the train to Cradley Heath to join the throng around the covered up statue, a memorial to Mary MacArthur who had led the working women of Cradley to a famous victory in 1910. Last year the turn out was disappointing but two years after the Centenary banners were out in force for this year’s Festival.
I met up with comrades from the Socialist Labour Party ready to carry the banner through Cradley to the park where the celebrations continued into the afternoon. An actress spoke the stirring words of McArthur which reminded people that gains won following long struggles can just as easily be lost if that is allowed to happen. This in my mind links the struggle to the picketing miners at Saltley Gate in 1972 when joint action in support brought about a victory overshadowed a few years later with the revenge of the Thatcher government for the defeat of the earlier Tory administration under Heath. What followed was the dismantlement of manufacturing Britain, the source of prosperity for many, allowing jobs to go abroad and policies introduced to import expensive energy when Britain had huge reserves. Coal in particular, now regarded as unclean, was imported. That which continues to be used extensively dirtier in terms of carbon emissions than that produced in the UK. This is not to say that it is preferable to renewable forms of energy. Arthur Scargill continues to argue for a balance which includes coal combined with technologies for carbon capture. This is preferable to the prospect of a nuclear future where the dangers are increasingly evident following Chernobyl, Fukashima, and yes, let’s remember Windscale. Other nuclear “accidents” and incidents continue to be hushed up.

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