The miners' strike 1984-5

Submitted by Anon on 6 March, 2004 - 8:46

We continue our look at the miners' strike with a look at the events of 11-20 April 1984.

The events

11 April 1984: Pit Deputies vote to join the strike

12 April NUM Executive faces down right-wing calls for a national ballot and right wing Notts area president Ray Chadburn emerges from the meeting to tell his members: "get off your knees and support the strike."

14 April: 7,000 miners and their supporters marched in Nottingham to demand "Police out of the coalfields".

16 April: Notts rank and file strike committee formed.

16 April: Notts railworkers begin to stop coal trains.

19 April: NUM Special Conference ratifies strike action in the areas and calls on all miners to rally to the defence of their industry.

20 April: Notts and Midlands NUM decide to join strike. However a majority of Notts miners continue to scab.

Organising inside Nottinghamshire

Report of "Police out of the coalfields" demonstration, Socialist Organiser 19 April 1984

"Siege town" was how the local paper described it, and such language accurately described the city of Nottingham last Saturday.

The invaders from Yorkshire and Kent were welcomed by a significant number of Notts miners, carrying dozens of "Notts Miners Support the Strike" placards.

It was the first time many of the miners had been with their friends without being encircled by police and few were prepared to let such an opportunity pass by. Some of the loudest chants were reserved for the police.

Without the security of huge numerical superiority, or snatch squads, many of the police could only smile nervously at chants of "Maggie Thatcher's boot boys".

At the rally the atmosphere was quite electric, and everyone wanted to join in from the floor. It was difficult to say if anyone was in control, but the collective will expressed itself loudly to remove the press.

Arthur Scargill called for discipline, and suddenly discipline was the order of the day. He had a message for the trade union movement:

"Stop merely saying you support us. Come out and join us. We are facing a fundamental challenge to the whole working class, not merely miners. We are facing the organised might of the state machine. There is a police state in Nottinghamshire."

Paul Whetton secretary of the Notts Miners Rank and File Strike Committee in Socialist Organiser, 19 April 1984

There are many thousands of miners out on strike in the Notts coalfield - somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000. They are the younger element on the whole.

There's certainly coal being produced in Nottingham. Because the pits are highly mechanised, it isn't difficult for them to produce coal even with a number of miners on strike.

When the pickets first came into Nottinghamshire there was an immediate response from some men. Those men went on picket lines, and attracted a few more. But they hadn't been able to get together. So that's why we've organised the rank and file strike committee. At the second meeting we had between 400 and 500 men, representing 17 branches.

The prime objective of the committee is to organise the picketing in Notts - to get the Notts coalfield to identify itself with the National Union of Mineworkers and to bring this coalfield to a standstill.

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