Arthur Scargill returns to Birmingham for 44th anniversary of Saltley Gate

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John Tyrrell, SLP President, introducing Party Leader, Arthur Scargill

On 6th February the Socialist Labour Party once again remembered the anniversary of Saltley Gate when 30,000 workers stopped work in support of the miners. This was on 10th February, 1972. 15,000 marched on Saltley Gate preventing deliveries of coke intended to break the strike. There were lines of workers marching east to west and west to east, the police intending them to pass each other. As they reached the gate Arthur Scargill gave the order over loud hailer to “Stop”. When this happened the order was given by the police “Close the Gate”. This victory shows how effective mass action is against unfair and anti-working governments, such as the one we have currently, are. It is necessary to remember and for the first time since the 40th anniversary held at Saltley Gate in 2012, Arthur Scargill returned to Birmingham to speak at the 44th anniversary, this time to a packed audience at the Priory Rooms in Bull Street, Birmingham.

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Arthur Scargill. Leader, Socialist Labour Party & Leader at Saltley Gate speaking on the need to exit the bureaucratic EU

As in 2012 Scargill’s speech focussed on current issues, notable the European Union and the crucial need to leave what he had predicted would become a bureaucratic organisation serving there freedom of movement of Capital and workers for the benefit of the large corporations. Their involvement in TTIP showed where their interest lay. He emphasised his disappointment with Labour failing to tackle these key issues, drawing back after Jeremy Corbyn’s massive majority to bring about significant change putting the need of people before corporate greed. The idea of sending submarines around the globe with unarmed Trident missiles was laughable. Corbyn had the chance at the Labour Annual Conference of insisting on stopping Trident and putting forward other changes he had articulated in his bid for leadership of the Labour Party.

As far as 1972 was concerned there was much to be learned about working people acting together in solidarity. It had proved that doing this brought about the changes they needed in the face of coercive and anti-union governments such as that in office now.

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New Style Radio presenter, George Gordon, speaks about Harold Crawford

George Gordon, a radio presenter at New Style Radio based at the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre in Winson Green, Birmingham, was in 1972 a shop steward. He brought his workers out then. Two years ago he mentioned the name of Harold Crawford, a Barbadian who had made a contribution to the support of the miners at that time. George pointed out that there was considerable apathy amongst African Caribbean workers and Harold Crawford galvanised them into action by convincing them of the need to give active support. Other sections of the community were brought together by organisations like the Indian Workers’ Association. We had come to realise that 1972 was supported across diversity and included women and men from various backgrounds. However it didn’t come about by chance, but through leadership from within sections of the community.

The meeting had started with a song from Banner Theatre’s 1972 production of Saltley Gate by Dave Rodgers. (I suggested this should be a candidate for an English National Anthem!).

Following George Gordon, Dr Kim Bryan, Secretary of the Socialist Labour Party spoke of other acts of solidarity in Britain at the time in the early 70’s, including rent strikes in Liverpool and beyond. There was no reason why such resistance should not come again. This was followed by an informative debate with those present.

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Guest speaker Jorge Luis Garcia Garcia from Cuba

Jorge Luis Garcia Garcia representing the Cuban Embassy spoke briefly on the situation since Cuba and the US had begun talks and exchanged visits late last year. Regrettably there was no time left for discussion on the important issues raised by the exceptional speakers.

An earlier meeting in London had discussed Cuban Futures at greater length and depth. A report can be seen here.

Photographs: Neil Barrington with thanks

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