The Great Miners' Strike

Putting solidarity back into Pride

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Nicola Field and Gethin Roberts of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners spoke to Socialist Review about politicising this year's Pride season.

We’ve just seen a majority Tory government elected. How will this shape the context of the Pride marches this year and the wider work you are doing through the re-launched Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM)?

Nicola: The Tories, who were seen before the election by the bourgeois gay movement as heroes because they brought in gay marriage, have now shown their true colours. The cabinet is full of homophobes, such as the new equalities minister, Caroline Dinenage, who voted against equal marriage.

Pride

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Pride

Directed by Matthew Warchus, released 12 September
Pride is an inspiring and joyful film set during the miners’ strike of 1984. It tells the story of the formation of the first Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group (LGSM), the relationship they develop with the striking mining community in Dulais, South Wales, and the national impact they have.

Documenting the struggle

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Still the Enemy Within, the passionate, crowd-funded film about the 1984-85 Great Miners’ Strike, won the Audience Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival where it was premiered last month.

The film combines a wonderful mix of elements to illuminate the strike. First hand testimony comes from ex-miners, campaigners from Women Against Pit Closures and members of black, student and gay and lesbian support groups.

I was there... The Battle of Orgreave

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On the afternoon of 18 June 1984 thousands of striking miners were fleeing from a politically orchestrated attack by baton-wielding riot police. This day is known as the Battle of Orgreave.

Between 23 May and 18 June there was an attempt by miners to shut the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, which was feeding the steel works in Scunthorpe.

The strike that could have beaten Thatcher

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Thirty years on from the 1984-85 miners' strike most commentators, including many on the left, claim the power of the state made defeat inevitable. But Sheila McGregor argues we could have won but for betrayal by trade union officials and Labour leaders.

They fought for a year as the police occupied their villages, blocked roads and tunnels to stop them picketing, and surrounded working pits to stop them approaching. Miners and their wives faced gratuitous violence ranging from pickets' cars being smashed up to attacks by police armed with drawn truncheons, horses and dogs. Miners faced individual arrests and mass arrests. The courts were used to give bail restrictions banning miners from going to picket pits and to sequester NUM funds so as to limit the ability of the union to function.

Spreading the pain

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Spreading the pain

The economic crisis is having a more pronounced and more protracted impact on living standards than either the recession of the early 1980s or that of early 1990s.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that average living standards have fallen by 13.2 percent since the start of 2008 as measured by net national income per head, widely seen as the best guide to actual living standards. This is nearly double the overall fall in national output over the same period, which was 7 percent.

Why Numbers Matter

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Secondary picketing could have won the 1984-85 miners' strike.

Most press coverage of the 20th anniversary of the miners' strike has been pretty crass, turning it into nothing much more than a glorified punch-up. There was plenty of violence, of course, mainly courtesy of Maggie Thatcher's boot boys - entire regiments of coppers shipped into mining villages with ruthless instructions to spare no quarter. But the main reason for the eventual defeat of the miners a year later was that the tactics adopted by the miners 12 years earlier - in the fantastic strike of 1972 - were not replicated.

Pick Your Site

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The 20th anniversary of the miners' strike offers an opportunity to examine how the internet has been used to archive and record British trade union history.

Unfortunately the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is one of the few British trade unions not to have a website, so material relating to the miners and their history is limited, or from a right wing point of view. The BBC has part of its site devoted to the anniversary, and while its archive of images, film and interviews is extensive, it can be unusual. It includes, for instance, an 'animated map' that allows you to watch the 'UK's coal mines disappear'.

Miners' Strike: Class of 1984

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The Great Miners‘ Strike mobilised whole communities and transformed lives. Sally Campbell speaks to some of the many fighters about what they did at the time.

Bridget Bell
North Staffordshire Miners‘ Wives Action Group

The strike was a year-long struggle in which a community was attacked on all fronts - not only in the way the state was acting at the picket line level. In Staffordshire women were on the picket line because the area was subject to a lot of scabs. So women were absolutely critical to the strike. We had to be on the picket line as well as building support at all the other levels. Throughout the whole of the strike women got involved with speaking tours, organising major events, collections and so on.

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