Editorial

Miners' Strike: Politics the key

Archive article

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.

Crisis of leadership

Archive article

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.

Not digging for victory

Archive article

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.

The task ahead

Archive article

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.

We can, however, draw some overall lessons out of the events of the last few weeks.

Test of strength

Archive article

The miners' strike is an important test for the government, but it is also an important test for the working class movement. Victory for the miners could materially alter the balance of class forces in our favour. Defeat will undoubtedly make the fight for socialism that much harder.

Even before the miners' strike began, there were some signs of a slight shift in the mood of sections of the class. The size of the one-day strike in defence of trade union organisation at GCHQ was one indication.

2005: The Year The Tide Turned

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Given Tony Blair's loyal support for George Bush's demented political programme, it is fitting that the two men appear to be going down together. For 2005 will surely be remembered as the year things finally went belly up for Bush and Blair.

Their international standing has been battered by mass movements against the neo-liberal project they champion. In May the French people voted no to the EU constitution, the European bosses' pet project. The vote was a result of a mass popular campaign uniting the left, the unions and the global justice movement. It was soon followed by a similar result in the Netherlands.

Critical Levels

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Tony Blair's contempt for free speech and democracy has reached critical levels.

The defining image of this year's Labour Party conference was 72 year old Walter Wolfgang being manhandled out of the hall for heckling. That says a lot about both the conference and the popular perception of New Labour. The incident was shocking and demoralising for even the most hardened delegates. That Walter and 600 others in Brighton were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act has become another mini scandal among Labour members.

Going from Bad to Worse

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One of the great myths of the occupation of Iraq is that, despite the problems in the rest of the country, the situation in the south around Basra has been improving because it is under the so called 'softly-softly' approach of British forces.

This myth was blown apart recently when British troops launched an assault on a prison in Basra. The images in the press which saw British troops forced to flee burning tanks after they were set alight by protesters says much about the relationship between the British army and local Iraqis.

Forging a New Left

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Political paralysis, a big fall in the value of the euro and talk of a policy vacuum showed that Europe's bosses suffered a serious setback following the general election results in Germany.

Angela Merkel, the leader of the CDU and strongest advocate of neo-liberalism, was the biggest loser. Having led the polls for months and widely tipped to be the next chancellor, she was unable to secure an overall majority and is now desperately trying to cobble together some sort of workable coalition. Gerhard Schröder's SDP received its lowest vote for 15 years as people expressed their anger against high unemployment and economic stagnation. The political turmoil looks set to continue for months, leading to further instability in Europe's largest economy.

Nothing but Contempt

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As if the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian man shot at Stockwell tube on 22 July by the Metropolitan Police, was not shocking enough, the behaviour of the police since has been appalling.

Despite initial claims, Jean Charles was not wearing a padded jacket, he didn't run from the police, nor did he jump the tube ticket-barrier and there were no grounds for seeing him as an immediate threat.

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