Wednesday, 14 May 2014

'The Last Strike' at Working Class Library

DAVID Douglass is now one of the veterans of the Miner's Strike of 1984-5, and last night he gave a workman-like introduction and summation to a film of that watershed dispute at the Salford Working-Class Movement Library.  David has written extensively on that conflict not least in his 3-volume autobiography.   Last night's film 'The Last Strike' was a French production based on events and personalities at Bold Colliery in Lancashire during the strike.   

The participants and some of their wives were interviewed in their homes, at the pit and at the social club; Denis Pennington one of the leaders in Lancashire was sent to prison for 3 months during the dispute and lost his job with the Coal Board.  The film's narrative followed the events of the dispute from the Ridley Report, that some think formed the Thatcher government's plan to provoke the conflict, to the unconditional return to the work by the miners in 1985.  A total defeat that had lasting consequences for the British labour movement.  After six months 75% of the British miners were out on strike.  Yet in the end in 1985, one of the wives in the social club was joking that:  'America has Regan, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Stevie Wonder, but here we've got Thatcher, No Hope, No Cash and no bloody Wonder!'   And all the Lancashire lassies cracked-off laughing with that dark self-depreciating humour people in Lancashire have.

The questions came:  ought there to have been a national strike ballot?  Why did the Ridley Report identify the miners as one of the best targets to provoke to go on strike?  Did the TUC and the rest of the trade union movement let the miners down by failing to support them with solidarity action?   

David Douglass said that the National Union of Miners (NUM) is not a national union; it's a confederation and the regions have more power than in other unions.  The strike itself began as a rolling strike in certain areas, and the National Executive never called the miners out, and couldn't instruct a return to work.  In the end it was a de-facto national strike with the decision coming from the areas.   

The event was well attended, well received and is part one a bigger ongoing event at the Working-Class Movement Library over the next couple of days. 

No comments: