The Miners' Strike 1984/85

Save BBC from the Tories? But what BBC?

The recent resignation of BBC director Tony Hall has once again thrust the question of the role and the future of the BBC into the spotlight. Hall’s resignation comes at a time when redundancies, cuts and reorganisations are being announced, along with calls for a rethinking about what the BBC does and how it does it. On 29 January it was announced that 250 jobs were to go among journalists and production staff. The scrapping of the popular Victoria Derbyshire Show, announced a few days previous, is indicative of what this will mean for the programme schedule. Although the reasoning behind...

The tragedy of Arthur Scargill

Arthur Scargill emerged from semi-retirement from politics to speak at a meeting of the Communist Party of Britain’s wretched little pro-Brexit front organisation Leave Fight Transform (LeFT) in Brighton on 11 September, alongside Eddie Dempsey (the man who said Tommy Robinson supporters were right to hate the “liberal left”) and other assorted xenophobes, nationalists and social conservatives. According to the Morning Star Scargill said that “every single MP who wants us to go back into Europe should be opposed.” That would be the majority of Labour MPs, then, Arthur? It’s easy to mock Arthur...

Corbyn in the 1980s

The Times of 6 July 2019 ran an article by Dominic Kennedy, "Corbyn's hard-left blueprint revealed", attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his links in the 1980s with Socialist Organiser , a forerunner of Solidarity . Sean Matgamna, editor of Socialist Organiser in the period described, talked to Solidarity . We have serious political differences with Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. But Corbyn has the record of an honorable, serious left-winger, who - unlike many others who had some association with Socialist Organiser in the 1980s - did not change his coat in the years of Blair's New...

A British counter-revolution

The current BBC2 documentary series Thatcher: A Very British Revolution is worth watching for the film footage — interviews with Thatcher, old news reports of events, and other rarer clips. Beyond that, it won’t tell you much more than Wikipedia does. Most of the talking heads are Tory ex-MPs and civil servants who served under Thatcher. Also Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary, who proves that reactionary pomposity does not fade with age. After three instalments, I can say the first episode was the most interesting. It explained how Thatcher came to be leader of the Tory Party in 1975...

How Marx transcended "the rule of law"

With the passing of Robert Fine on 9 June 2018, the British left lost a truly exceptional figure. A respected sociologist at the University of Warwick, Fine was a long-time sympathiser of Workers’ Liberty. Though he was less involved in frontline activism towards the end of his life, he never lost his commitment to working-class struggle. In short, Fine never became a stereotypical “Marxist academic”. To highlight his impressive body of literature I am going to review five of his major books, starting with Democracy and the Rule of Law: Marx’s Critique of the Legal Form (Blackburn Press 2002;...

Letters

Colin Waugh’s review of The Russian Revolution: When Workers Took Power is right that Marxists must learn from the experience of workers’ struggles: revolutionary socialism certainly is dialogic. The Bolsheviks followed those principles and this helps explain their success in 1917. However I disagree with Colin’s critique of Kautsky and Lenin about the relationship between socialism and the working class. Colin claims Kautsky asserted that “Marx and Engels created their conception of socialism in isolation from workers” and that Kautsky assumed “the essentials of modern socialism were defined...

Orgreave: cops still getting away with it, 32 years on

Worried that it could return an indictment of the police as over the Hillsborough disaster, the Tory government has refused an inquiry into the “Battle of Orgreave”, when cops attacked striking miners outside a coking plant near Sheffield. Bernard Jackson was one of the miners arrested on 18 June 1984, charged with riot and put on trial. He described the day: Around 8 a.m.... out rode fourteen mounted police straight into the pickets. As they did, police in the line beat on their riot shields with truncheons, creating a wall of noise which was meant to intimidate and frighten. Within minutes...

The Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the British labour movement

Most of the Trotskyist organisations backed the Russians. Socialist Organiser was the only organisation in the entire “orthodox Trotskyist” political spectrum that condemned the Russian invasion and called for the troops to be withdrawn. The confusion on the left about Stalinism created great difficulties for Socialist Organiser in the 1984-5 miner’s strike. For us the first principle was the liberty and political independence of the working class everywhere. We had to combine necessary criticism of Scargill and his friends in their capacity of Stalinists with whole-hearted support for them in...

Davey Hopper, 1943-2016

Davey Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, died suddenly on 16 July. The defeat of the 1984-1985 miners’ strike destroyed communities, lives and set back the cause of working class struggle for a generation. No one knew that better then Hopper, and he with others devoted the next 30 years of his life to turning the Durham Miners’ Association into a force which fought back for the community and the wider movement. Hopper was a working miner and shop steward in the Durham coalfield at the start of the Miners strike. He rose to prominence as an advocate of militant...

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