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Britain: 25 years since the year-long miners strike

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 06:46 AM
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Part two
By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland
7 March 2009

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the 1984-85 British miners' strike. Below we are republishing the conclusion of a two-part series that reviews its essential lessons. The series was first published in March 2004 to mark the 20th anniversary of the strike. Part one was published on March 6.

Thousands of miners march in Mansfield, May 1984The dominant sections of the Labour bureaucracy were utterly opposed to any mobilisation of the working class against the government. Yet the perspective of National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill, the Labour Party's left wing and Britain's various radical groups was limited to the encouragement of a militant movement within the trade unions to pressurise Labour and the TUC into taking such a stand. What they would not contemplate was the development of any movement that threatened a political break from the bureaucracy.

This was to prove decisive in the defeat of the miners' strike. As the TUC's own official history tellingly explains: "In the early 1980s, a policy of active opposition to the anti-union laws was one at the TUC, with activists hoping to repeat the successful (though often unofficial) movement against the industrial relations act of 1971.... t crucial moments some unions, in a weak position, looked to the TUC General Council to organise support action, but this was never going to happen. TUC General Secretaries (Len Murray, 1973-84 and Norman Willis, 1984-93) were not going to risk the TUC directly breaking the law (however distasteful that law was)."

The strike began on March 5, 1984, and was to end on that same day a year later, though Kent miners and some in Yorkshire stayed out for a few more days in protest. The immediate spark for the strike was the announced closure of Corton Wood Colliery, but this was only the initial target of a government intent on closing all unprofitable pits and privatising those that remained. In opposition, Scargill called for the closure of pits to take place only on the grounds of exhaustion and for the preservation of a nationalised and subsidised industry.

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