The Miners' Strike 1984/85

The miners' strike, 1984-5: 12 months that shook Britain (part one)

Author: 

Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas

In the small hours of Monday March 12 1984, hundreds of Yorkshire miners moved across the border from Yorkshire into Nottinghamshire. Their destination was Harworth pit, and by the evening shift they had picketed it out.

Over the next few days, hundreds of Yorkshire pickets came down over the border again and spread out across the Notts coalfield. Their mission was to persuade Nottinghamshire’s miners to join them in a strike to stop the pit closures announced by the National Coal Board chief, Ian MacGregor. Their tactic was to picket Notts to a standstill.

From the Socialist Organiser pamphlet ‘Magnificent Miners’, March 1985

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The miners' strike, 1984-5: 12 months that shook Britain (part two)

Author: 

Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas

The balance begins to shift

The lack of such a rank and file movement was the basic reason for the failure to stop steel. By late June all the major steelworks were fully supplied, and set to stay that way.

Part two.

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Workers unite, east and west!

Author: 

John O'Mahony

In mid-1984, during the year-long miners’ strike, the Sunday Mirror printed an account of an interview with Solidarnosc leader Lech Walesa in which Walesa appeared to side with Margaret Thatcher against the miners. Socialist Organiser (forerunner of Solidarity) commented. A translation of this article appeared in the underground Trotskyist press in Poland in 1984.

1984 'Socialist Organiser' article discussing Lech Walesa's alleged support for the Tories in their battle against the miners

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The fight against pit closures in 1992 and the argument about "General Strike Now!"

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Editorial

In October 1992, after seven years of trade-union setbacks following the miners' defeat of 1985, hundreds of thousands of workers crowded onto the streets of London. 100,000 demonstrated on Wednesday 21 October, and 200,000 on Sunday 25 October, against Tory Government plans for further pit closures. Socialist Organiser discussed the next steps, and disputed the SWP's u-turn from its "downturn" dogma (since 1979) to suddenly demanding that the TUC call a general strike "now".

In October 1992, after seven years of trade-union setbacks following the miners' defeat of 1985, hundreds of thousands of workers crowded onto the streets of London.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

The Miners' Defeat In the War We Could Have Won

Miners' strike

Author: 

Editorial, Socialist Organiser 1 March 1990

Early in 1985 the miners' strike ground to an exhausted end after twelve bitter and glorious months.

They were glorious months, because during them the miners and their families showed again the mind and spirit that first made the labour movement.

The year-long miners' strike of 1984-5 was like an encapsulated history of the labour movement of the previous 150 years...

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The 1984-5 Miners' Strike, the Miners Who Scabbed, and the Fate of the Pet Pig

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

In Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, there is a strange, affecting scene, in which the butchering of a hand-raised pig is described. It is told with great sympathy and empathy from the pig’s point of view.
(Parables for Socialists-5)

In Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, there is a strange, affecting scene, in which the butchering of a hand-raised pig is described.

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Trade Unions: 

An unswerving fighter

Throughout the strike, pit villages were twinned with the labour movements in towns and cities throughout the country, and there was a constant flow of activists between the two. One of the towns the North Notts strikers were twinned with was Basingstoke, and Paul and his comrades spent a lot of time with socialists and activists from there. Alan Fraser, who had himself been sacked for union activity in the local post office, was then chair of Basingstoke Labour Party and a supporter of Socialist Organiser.

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An open letter to Neil Kinnock

Paul Whetton wrote this as a delegate to Labour Party conference in September 1984

Mrs Thatcher is tough, nasty, brutal, spiteful, single-minded and very hostile to the labour movement — but a good, tough, committed fighter for her own cause and capable of being an inspiring leader for her own side. Mrs Thatcher knows how to lead.

There is no double-talk from Thatcher about the miners’ strike. She is out to beat us down and crush the NUM. She leaves her supporters in no doubt about that.

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Equality in the struggle

Jean Lane, a Women’s Fightback organiser during the miners’ strike, remembers how Paul Whetton responded to women organising.

The need for the organisation of working class women to change society, became common parlance for men and women throughout the strike, changing forever how many women saw themselves and how men viewed them. Wife into comrade, women changed their role from housekeeper to picket, speaker, traveller, poet.

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