An Epic Struggle
Twenty years ago this month the great miners’ strike began. For a year 140,000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) were engaged in a titanic battle with Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government and the full force of the state.
Ultimately, they went down to defeat but it was an honourable defeat. It was a dispute that would have been won were it not for the betrayal of the right wing trade union and labour leadership.
The miners’ strike was deliberately engineered by the Tory government. They saw the NUM as the backbone of the labour movement, and rightly so. The NUM had inflicted defeats on Tory governments in 1972 and 1974, effectively bringing down Edward Heath in the latter case. For a decade, the ruling class made their plans, determined that they would not be defeated for a third time. Indeed in 1981 they backed away from a possible confrontation, judging that the time was not yet right.
In 1979, the Thatcher government began to plan for the ultimate privatisation of the coal industry. The Coal Industry Act (1980) replaced production targets with financial targets. The financial targets were set so high that they could only be met by closing ’uneconomic’ collieries. The Act was intended to make the industry more attractive to private investors. [more]