Recent media coverage of 1984 miners strike

Former Euro-communist Martin Jacques, with an article in The Guardian, , has joined a long line of media commentators who have used the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1984 miners strike to pour excreta over Arthur Scargill. With their demonization of Scargill it is difficult not to conclude the media’s main aim is to re-write the history of the strike. Reading these articles you will need to look hard to find a condemnation of Thatcher, or the then LP leader Neil Kinnock’s disgraceful betrayal of trade unionists in struggle.

Lesley Boulton at Orgreave © John Harris
Lesley Boulton at Orgreave © John Harris

In 1981, in a democratic ballot, the miners elected Scargill as NUM leader, and from that day Kinnock and other minnows in the LP leadership did all they could to undermine that trade union. They did not give a toss about the miners, they were playing political games so they could maintain their positions and change the LP constitution.

Kinnock’s behavior during the miners strike reminded me of a radio message Tito sent to Stalin during WW2, “If you cannot help us please do not hinder us.”

Little ‘Lord’ Kinnock who built his career on the backs of Welsh miners, in the latter part of the strike became what amounted to being Thatchers tormentor of the NUM. He toured the TV studios and editorial offices condemning Scargill for not calling a ballot, when in reality he was well aware it was far to late for that; and that his behavior could only undermine the strike.

Yes, Scargill and his fellow NUM leaders made mistakes, for christ sake who wouldn’t have, they were up against the massed ranks of the British State machine and all its agencies, including the police and security services. Even Arthur’s political assistant turned out to be an MI5 tout, who knows what poison he whispered into the NUM leaderships ears. That he was in place at the start of the strike shows how far in advance the bastards planned to destroy the NUM.

The behavior of the police during the miners strike was a national disgrace, they trampled over the democratic rights of the miners and their supporters; and drove a coach and horses through the rule of law. The behavior of Metropolitan police during the strike would have made the Stasi proud, as at times they behaved like a band of Nazi thugs. But hey our gallant 21st century commentators have little or nothing to say on this.

When armchair generals and back sliders like Martin Jacques speak out; their only avenue of attack is Arthur, What I find so dispiriting about this bash Arthur take is its total dishonesty. It portrays the striking miners as if they did not have minds of their own, that they would not have thought long and hard about the consequences of going out the gate. The majority of the striking miners had families to feed and for any journalist to suggest they stayed out on strike for 12 months to boost the ego of a trade union leader is insulting in the extreme.

If there had been a viable way to settle this dispute the NUM would have grabbed it with both hands, but whenever a settlement appeared on the horizon, Thatcher vetoed it. She and her City backers were determined to destroy the NUM and with it Britain’s coal mining industry and much of its industrial base. For between them, they were determined that Britain would become Liechtenstein on the Thames and zoot suited bankers and financiers were to rule the roost.

Big issues were involved here, and I find it very interesting that none of the critics of Scargill wish to engage in debate about what lay behind the strike and the consequences that came from Thatchers victory, for both the country and the mining communities.

At a time when the results of Thatcherism are becoming obvious to all, do these wretched scribes give a thought as to why big media is giving such coverage to the anniversary of the strike? No, they attack those workers who were amongst the first to resist Neo-liberal economics. and in the process they side with those who have created a massive underclass and brought the country close to bankruptcy.

Tens of thousands of miners fought tooth and nail in defense of their jobs and communities, do commentators like Mr Jacques show them some respect and take their hat off to them, no. They once again go poking around the underbelly of the NUM, but have not a word to say about the role of Thatcher, Kinnock, the City, the media and police, let alone the leeches who moved in on those mining communities after the strike was lost.

Shame on them, shame on them all.

Mick Hall

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