"Thus were the working-men forced once more, in spite of their unexampled endurance, to succumb to the might of capital. But the fight had not been in vain"
- Frederick Engels, 'The Mining Proletariat', The Condition of the Working Class in England
Compared with Channel 4's programme, reviewed here, the BBC 2 account attempted more worthily to measure up to the historical and personal importance of the strike. It followed a similar set of stepping-stones across the turbulent months as had the C4 version: the call to strike, the buzz, high spirits and sense of license of the flying pickets, the involvement of women in the strike and the life-altering effect it had on their consciousnesses. Orgreave, the miner returning to work, a day at Hatfield Main, the starvation winter and the death of a taxi-driver ferrying a strike-breaker in Wales, the organised return-to-work as the strike was broken. But it did so from the perspective of five miners at Hatfield.
This meant that the actions of the police were firmly focused on from the start. It was made clear that the police were an occupying force in the pit-villages. Their violence, and the freedom they had to frame arrested pickets, were underscored by "reconstructions", actual footage and by juxtaposing the words of a savagely-assaulted picket at Hatfield with the innocuous version of events given by the police officer who perpetrated the assault. The programme interviewed working miners too, and illuminated reasons for the inextinguishable bitterness felt by striker for scab.
I've never been down a mine. I've never been to a pit village. I've never tried to feed myself and my family on £11 a week strike-pay and the solidarity of others. Those who have and did, like the five miners whose stories formed the core of this documentary, spoke out of clear political understanding with dignity, humour and resolve about the struggle to save their jobs and their communities and to fight for their class against the depredations and destruction capitalism, Thatcher-style, deliberately visited upon them twenty years ago.
Reviewer: Patrick Yarker