“Coal not dole” – 25 years on

Today is the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Britain’s last miners’ strike. This long and painful dispute ended with a vital industry being destroyed by the Wicked Witch of Grantham (aka prime minister Margaret Hilda Thatcher) on what was little more than ideological prejudice and a deep hatred of working class culture and community.

In 2009, with our greater understanding of climate and environmental pollution, coal is regarded as the most dirty of fossil fuels, and there is much campaigning against new coal-fired power stations. But the War on Organised Labour was no environmental crusade; the aim was to destroy the union movement, overturn the social democratic consensus, and transform Britain into a managerialist hell run by clueless yuppies.

The rest is history.

I was 20 years old in 1984, and at the time very active on the left and in my trade union. Throughout the strike I campaigned in support of Britain’s colliers, and within support groups raised money and collected food and other donations for the strikers. It was for me a time of political and community solidarity, new friendships, massed plastic buckets and “Coal not dole” stickers.

With a population then recovering from the 1970s, and sniffing the money to be made in Thatcher’s ‘enterprise culture’, the miners’ strike may have been doomed from the start. But this was a fight that had to be, and it will finally end with the death of the Grantham Witch.

This shouldn’t be long now. Give me a spade and I’ll happily help bury the bitch myself.