THE MINERS' strike of 1984-85 was the most honourable strike this century, for it was not about money but about people fighting for their jobs, communities and the future of their children. Although the establishment used every weapon at its disposal to crush them, the men, women and children of the mining communities carried on the struggle for a full year. The Labour Movement must never forget or diminish the historic battle waged by the miners. All of the in-depth academic analysis that has proliferated since the end of the strike has obscured one vital fact that the leadership of the Labour Movement and the TUC did not deliver the necessary industrial support needed to defeat the Tory Government and the National Coal Board.
There can be no doubt that one of Mrs. Thatcher's major aims from the moment she assumed office was to destroy the Trade Union Movement and above all one of the most powerful trade unions in Britain, the National Union of Mineworkers. She wanted revenge for the magnificent victories of 1972 and 1974 and was prepared to go to any lengths to provoke and break the 1984 strike. In addition to using the police as her private army, she used the courts as an arm of her political policy to sequestrate the NUM''s funds and bankrupt the Union at a stroke. The mobilisation of financial support for the NUM from all sectors of the Labour movement enabled the miners to conduct their strike and to feed themselves and their families but the union was not able to pay its bills, affiliation fees or staff for over a year because of the sequestration of its funds. Socialists should learn the lesson of the sequestration to turn the tables on the establishment in the future. Why doesn't a Labour government have an official sequestrator to bring back all the tax-avoiding investment which has gone abroad since the Tories took office? All this money should be taxed properly in order to pay for the National Health Service and pensions. If the political will is there this idea can be implemented.
Even after the strike the Tories continued to talk about the violence on the picket lines believing that with the acquiescence of their servile media, the public would continue to swallow the propaganda churned out against the NUM leadership and its members. What about the violence of this Tory government? The real violence in this society should be exposed. It was not being perpetrated by people on picket lines fighting to save their jobs but by heartless governments which allow thousands of people to die every year because of the lack of NHS funds. Patients on waiting lists are dying of heart disease, babies are dying of bone marrow disease, women are dying of cervical cancer and research is being criminally curtailed because no money is made available.
Margaret Thatcher's appointment of Ian MacGregor signalled that she was determined to decimate the mining industry. The closure of pits predicted prior to and during the course of the strike is now a reality and the term uneconomic' was one that was used to shut down still viable collieries throughout the British coalfields. Nowhere was the government's hypocrisy more obvious than in its use of this bogus term 'uneconomic'. We saw when the Export Credit Guarantee Department, the government's insurance company which insures British exporters against non-payment by foreign buyers, went bankrupt during the strike and again Mrs. Thatcher dipped into the taxpayers' pockets to the tune of £350m to save this uneconomic unit of production.
The Justice for Mineworkers Campaign was organised to ensure that our own will not be forgotten. There is a great necessity to keep the resolutions adopted by the TUC and Labour Party Conferences in 1986 in the forefront of the Labour and Trade Union Movement whilst even one worker remains sacked as a result of victimisation for participating in the strike. We ask for the dedicated support of all socialists to make certain that the sacrifices made by working people and in particular the miners and their families are repaid in full.
THE ADOPTION of the resolutions moved by the National Union of Mineworkers at the 1985 TUC Congress and Labour Party Conference, despite opposition from unsympathetic forces within both of these organisations, had been a massive boost in the campaign to bring to the attention of the public the gross injustice suffered by members of the NUM and their union throughout the fifty-one weeks of the dispute which ended in March 1985.
Such were the feelings within the mining communities against police oppression and the diabolical unfairness of treatment by the courts, that a campaign, consisting of Labour MP's and Labour Party and trade union activists was set up to bring to the attention of the public, instances of illegal police practice, injustices in the courts, infringements of civil liberties, together with the intimidatory attitude of the National Coal Board towards miners whom they sacked for either trivial, alleged and in some cases, non-existent offences. This web site is, therefore, an attempt to pursue a campaign to press for the alleviation of all victimised miners.
The need for such a campaign in 1986 was clear, especially in respect of reinstatement. It could be seen that despite the fact that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment endorsed the case of the NUM against the Coal Board and proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that various NCB areas were acting differently, it was obvious from statistical information and reports from the various areas that Scotland, Kent and the North East were facing the most difficulty in getting the NCB to even review cases. Further, the need for our campaign was conclusively expressed by the fact that the Coal Board moved only marginally following the report's publication, and made it obvious that they were only paying lip service to the so-called reviews they promised to carry out in all areas, into all cases.
The mounting of a national campaign therefore helped back in 1986 to fulfill the promise to miners made by the National Union of Mineworkers and others in the Trade Union and Labour movement during the course of the dispute, that if they fell foul of either the law or their employer, the NCB, then everything would be done to try and ensure that they did not suffer any hardship.
To this end the Miners Solidarity Fund was a tremendous assistance to those worst affected, inasmuch as it helped the sacked men and indeed the families of those incarcerated in jail to live at a reasonable standard. However, in view of the fact that the Government and the NCB made little effort to reinstate miners and continued to victimise them this made the continuing provision of finance of paramount importance, together with other activities which highlighted their plight and the injustices to them and their families.
There may be those in the movement who saw the continued provision of finance as perhaps being a panacea aimed at sweeping the problem to one side, but of course it was nothing of the sort. It has been and still is a genuine attempt by responsible people to try and ease hardship and this, coupled with the fact that despite the strenuous efforts of the NUM some striking miners remain victimised even to this day, the movement must accept an obligation to look after the welfare of victimised miners and their families.
It is therefore commonly accepted that NUM members were deliberately victimised in order to try and weaken the union during and since the strike. The collapse of the riot trials at Orgreave and Mansfield made it increasingly obvious that many decisions to prosecute and even jail men were based more on politics than on any search for justice.
The Justice for Mineworkers Campaign was thus an attempt to ensure that these and other related matters were constantly brought before the public eye, in an attempt to try and obtain further assistance politically from those within the Trade Union and Labour movement who were sympathetic to the NUM and its members, to try and transform the TUC and Labour Party decisions into positive plans of action leading up to a demand for a full amnesty for all those involved. 37 men are still being supported by the NUM and Justice Campaign through the Miners' Solidarity Fund, a registered charity.
It is therefore essential that the information contained within this web site is circulated within the Trade Union and Labour movement and to the general public at large, pointing out the disparities of treatment to sacked miners in different areas of the National Coal Board; pointing out the unjust ways the courts interpreted the law when dealing with strikers, and seeking at all times to ensure that enough money can be collected to prevent these victimised miners from becoming destitute as well as being martyrs.
It was clear as far back as 1986 that the Justice for Mineworkers Campaign could only succeed with a broad range of support, it therefore sought out the assistance of more Labour MPs, more people within the Trade Union movement, the various Women's Support Groups who continued to do such a splendid job well after the end of the dispute in campaigning against pit closures, and campaigning for the reinstatement of sacked miners. It also organised meetings where victimised miners could explain their personal circumstances to the public in some detail to engender further support. This web site is therefore designed to aid their actions.
Only by continuing to highlight the injustices which took place during and since the strike, can the arguments be put for the men, women and families affected to be treated fairly, as their only crime, if indeed it was such, was to fight for their jobs, industry and communities.
Date this page updated: September 29, 2006