The Scab as Hero: The Miners Strike, 1984-5

Submitted by dalcassian on 11 March, 2014 - 5:55

"BY THEIR heroes ye shall know them... for in the individuals whom they exalt and glorify and hold up to the youth as example every class and every movement unfailingly reveals its standards of worth, its morality, its very soul.

Thus, the communist workers of Germany glorified the name of the courageous and incorruptible Liebknecht who sacrificed his life in battle for a great cause. The degenerate Nazis countered with the dedication of their official hymn to Horst Wessel the pimp who was killed in a brawl...

"The Southern (USA) slaveholders hanged John Brown. But the feet of the slave-liberating soldiers of the Union were quickened on the march by the song about 'John Brown's Body', for his soul marched with them..." *

A great American socialist* wrote that back in 1952, during the
McCarthy witch-hunts in the USA.

The typical hero of Mrs Thatcher's brave new Britain is the scab. No-one in Britain today is more honourable or respect-worthy, the mass circulation newspapers tell us, than the "men who take their courage in their hands and, braving the violent savagery of crazy 1eft-wing-led pickets"... crawl on their bellies to lick their bosses' boots and help them defeat and beat down their fellow-workers.

No trade is more honoured than that of the scab-herder, no force more highly praised than the militarised ranks of police thugs who protect them.

'Scab' is an unlovely name for an ugly thing, and it fits the miserable creatures it describes. For what is a scab? A scab is a big-headed creep like 'Silver Birch' Chris Butcher, financed by the rich to undermine his fellow miners' fight for jobs.

A scab is a man who has allowed his spirit to be crushed and broken by the privations of the strike which all miners and their families have had to live with. A scab is the Notts miner who fondly believes that his future is secure, and therefore says to the rest: "F... you— I'm all right". A scab is the London docker who crosses a picket line because the Sun tells him that it is all a plot to help that vicious thug Arthur Scargill.

The popular press now devotes much of its space to incitement to scab. And it is becoming increasingly hysterical.

Today, the patriotic British worker is the one who will help Mrs Thatcher smash up the unions. The one who takes his cue from the baying gutter-press and sets hhnself up as a 'dockers' Silver Birch' to try to sabotage the official national docks strike.

Thus this Tuesday, 28th August, one Medlock Bibby became an instant scab superstar when he tried to keep Tilbury docks working.
Single scab

Who is Mr Bibby? Three weeks ago he was the single scab at Tilbury when 900 men came out on a local claim!

Listen to Mr John Black, chief executive of the Port of London Authority, praising him at a press conference they set up for him. He told the journalists:

"Be kind to him. Mr Bibby has done a magnificent job. His initiative is brave and courageous and to be congratulated".

What sort of language did George Orwell say we would be speaking in 1984? War is peace. Truth is lies. Love is hate. Day is night. The belly-crawling traitor, the scab is the new model working class hero.
No, the working dass heroes are still the men and women who dare to take on this vicious government despite the pressures of slump and mass unemployment. They are the dockers who fight for their own concerns, but also want to help the miners. They are the millions of loyal trade unionists who resist the pressure and the hysteria with the grim determination of people who know what the capitalists and their government are trying to do in Britain right now.

The scab-glorifying, scab-herding and witch-hunting of the Tory and Liberal/SDP politicians and the press, and the police-state conditions in the pit villages, these add up to a concerted, cold-blooded drive to carve up the trade union movement.

They want to change the balance in British industry decisively. That's why they provoked the miners' strike in the first place. The slump makes them feel strong. The state of the labour movement encourages them. And so, embittered by the accumulated grievances of the 20 and more years when they could not control the working class, they are out to batter the labour movement into submission.

There can be no compromise with the scab-herders, strike-breakers, and would-be union-busters.

And God help the working class if the miners are defeated. The labour movement still has the strength to stop them being defeated. We still have the strength to beat back the Tory offensive

We must use it, or 1984 will go down in official history as the Year of the Heroic Scab, and in ours as the Year of the Great Defeat.
It is still an avoidable defeat.

*James P. Cannon: 'The Informer as Hero' (Notebook of an Agitator)

THE SCAB AS HERO, EDITORIAL Socialist Organiser

30-8-1984