From the archive

Archive article
Jan 1993
By Paul McGarr and John Rees

Hilary Mantel’s new novel is set at the time of the great French Revolution which began with the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. The novel centres on three of the revolution’s leading figures. She talked to Paul McGarr and John Rees about why she wrote the book and the revolution’s relevance today.

You’ve said that when you started thinking about the book 18 years ago you felt you couldn’t understand anything about society unless you understood revolutions. What gave you that feeling?

In my mid-teens I developed an obsessional interest in revolutions. I thought of this as a political stance, although when I look back on it now I realise that the idea of “the world turned upside down” was attractive to me because I was miserable and I wanted the world to be different and I...

Archive article
May 2002
By Chris Harman

As renewed political crisis sweeps Argentina, Chris Harman following a recent visit to the country argues there is a huge opening for the revolutionary left, provided it breaks from its sectarian past.

'It must have been fantastically exciting,' a lot of people said to me on my return from a visit to Argentina last month.

It was exciting. But not, as most people imagined, because of continual mass demonstrations, clashes with the police, the expropriation of banks, and so on. I did go on one 120,000-strong, very enthusiastic demonstration--but demonstrations like that across the world seem two a penny these days after Barcelona and Rome. In general, however, the tempo and size of...

Archive article
Jul 1984
Editorial

The miners' strike has developed into a war of attrition. Miners talk quite openly about lasting out to the winter or new year in order to have an impact, and government ministers put a brave face on things and claim that they will be able to survive even the winter. Hardly anyone still says that the battle will be won or lost in the next few days.

The long and bitter slog of the miners' strike is not natural or inevitable. Every week throws up chances of transforming the dispute from a long slog in which the determination of each side is tested to breaking point, into a battle that could be lost or won in one decisive morning of struggle.

The first week of the strike showed how things could be. The strength and initiative of the rank and file miners from a small number of Yorkshire pits surprised everybody by walking out, and...

Archive article
Jun 1984
Editorial

Four months of striking by the miners has had a substantial effect on the Labour movement. As the dispute develops into the most bitter and protracted struggle the NUM has fought since the General Strike, and into the hardest fought struggle against the Thatcher government ever to take place, a number of important lessons have become starkly clear.

Some of the lessons of the miners' strike are ones which will be familiar to regular readers of this magazine. For example, the famous and basic Marxist proposition that it is only in the course of struggle that workers become conscious of their own ability to change the world has been demonstrated in a thousand cases in this dispute.

The miners doing the picketing outside Orgreave and elsewhere are not, by and large, the veterans of 1972 and 1974. Certainly, there are some people who...

Archive article
Jun 1984
By Norah Carlin

The miners' strike has seen both very backward sexist attitudes from some miners and a wonderful mobilisation of miners' wives and girlfriends to help win the strike.

The best story of the last month was the one about the policeman who looked into a car carrying Yorkshire miners' wives to a picket in Nottinghamshire. "Right, ladies, on you go," he said. "We're looking for pickets, but we can see you're not pickets."

Miners' wives and girlfriends all over the country have been organising to support the strike. They have moved from setting up soup kitchens and collecting money to demonstrating and actual picketing. In all this, they have re-...

Archive article
Apr 1984
Editorial

At the time of writing it is impossible to predict with any certainty even the events of the next few weeks, let alone the overall outcome of the miners' struggle.

There is no doubt that picketing, particularly of rail workers, is starting to prove effective and might have some impact in the near future. On the other hand, a section of the NUM bureaucracy itself has come out openly in favour of miners crossing picket lines. The future of the dispute is obviously finely balanced.

...
Archive article
May 1984
By Editorial

The miners' strike has developed into the most serious class confrontation for ten years. Not since the last major national miners' strike, back in 1974, have the stakes been so high.

A victory for the miners in 1974 meant the fall of the Tory government. Now, of course, the result is unlikely to be that dramatic. It is most unlikely that Thatcher will fall, whatever the outcome.

Short of that, however, a lot can happen, not primarily to the government but to the terrain upon...

Archive article
May 1984
By Chris Harman

At the annual Easter rally of the Socialist Workers Party, Chris Harman, editor of Socialist Worker examined the state of class struggle in Britain today. We reprint his talk here

On the face of it, the situation in the class struggle has changed dramatically over the last four months or so. Last October we talked about the 'downturn'. We meant it was like being stuck in a calm of the class struggle, gradually drifting backwards.

It was miserable: no mass strikes, or pickets or demonstrations. Only when you talked about the general politics could you escape from the feeling of misery. If you looked at the struggle it was a story of defeats.

Then there...

Archive article
May 1984
By Gareth Jenkins, By Colin Sparks

The use of massive numbers of police to stop miners picketing has made the role of the state machine a live issue in the labour movement. Gareth Jenkins and Colin Sparks look at the arguments.

There is no doubt that the huge police operation against the NUM has been orchestrated by the government. It is clearly part of a strategy designed to smash the power of the NUM and weaken the working class overall.

Nor does it stand on its own as an example of increasingly authoritarian state powers. On the trade union question alone there have been more than 15 years of legal attacks which have attempted to make it more difficult for workers to win their demands. The most recent...

Archive article
May 1984
By Alex Callinicos

The class war makes strange bedfellows. Alex Callinicos looks at some of the people who have been caught out by the miners' strike.

A sharp rise in the level of class struggle puts socialist ideas to the test. The present miners' strike is a good example. Six months ago it was easy enough to waffle on about the evils of Thatcherism. It didn't mean anything in practice. But now every political current within the working class movement can be judged on the basis of what they are doing to help the miners win. Nothing has more effectively exposed Neil Kinnock than his public vacillations over the strike and private support...