Thursday, 26 November 2009

Meeting to commemorate 25 years since the start of the Miner's Strike

The metaphor that comes to my mind is that Arthur Scargill and the British miners in their strike of 1984-85, have come to increasingly resemble Napoleon and the French at the Battle of Borodino, just before entering Moscow and their historic retreat.  The historic fact is that Arthur Scargill, the brilliant tactician and skilled orator with an overwhelming media presence, made possible one of the greatest retreats the British labour movement has ever experienced. A retreat that, in its length, now rivals that of the one that followed the General Strike. One would have thought such a debacle, such a disaster, in its magnitude would render itself as valuable lesson from which to draw conclusions on how to proceed in future, but the emotions surrounding this dispute are still raw and make this, even now, a difficult endeavour.

A meeting to launch a book edited by the journalist Granville Williams about this miners' strike given at the Working Class Movement Library on the 21st November, demonstrated this dilemma.  It was well attended but full to bursting point with nostalgia, sentimentality and self-righteousness about how the police are brutal, the judiciary unjust and the Tory politicians deceitful.  It was as if Boxer, the cart-horse in Orwell's Animal Farm, had been reincarnated to shout:  'We must work harder Comrades!'  Nobody seemed willing to ask themselves if there was something systematically wrong in the British trade unions and on the Left that led to our failure beyond implying that we were cheated and swindled by the boss-class.

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