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Terry Fields MP

Labour – back the miners

(28 September 1984)

From Militant, No. 718, 28 September 1984, p. 1 & 16.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE ANNUAL Conference of the Labour Party opens as the miners begin the 30th week of their strike.

The strike will cast a long shadow over the proceedings. The fight of the miners and their communities raises the whole question of the direction in which society is moving and the role and purpose of the Labour Party itself.


Labour’s right wing always bleat about strikes being “electorally unpopular”, so they have kept their distance from the miners in the last six months. But precisely in this period, because a significant section of workers have taken on Thatcher, the Labour Party has overhauled the Tories, even by the rigged opinion polls of Fleet Street.

More importantly, the miners have clearly had the backing of the great majority of organised workers. Including official loans and donations given by union leaders to the NUM, there must be approaching a million pounds a week going to help the miners, mostly from the pockets of ordinary working people.

Tory splits

This rank and file support especially of transport workers and dockers, and probably soon power workers, will deny the Tories the triumph they so arrogantly expected over the miners.

The high-handed attitude of MacGregor and Thatcher has so enraged even the union of pit deputies, NACODS, that some of its branches in Nottinghamshire voted by as much as 90 per cent for strike action over pay and closures.

Growing misgivings within the Tory Cabinet and support given to the miners by the likes of the Bishop of Durham are also reflections of the visible social discontent with the policies of Thatcher and her hangers-on.

Although the Labour Party leadership have been equivocal, the rank and file have backed the miners all along.

One of the prime aims at Blackpool must be for delegates to put overwhelming pressure on the Party leadership to back the miners with the same enthusiasm.

But the issues go wider than the strike. Thousands of miners are drawing direct political conclusions from the struggle into which they have been catapulted. Many are joining the Labour Party. They understand that if there are no fundamental social changes, then they, like other workers, will have to go through the same fight all over again, at some later stage, to safeguard their jobs.

Capitalism in crisis

The system that the Tories represent cannot sustain the living standards painstakingly built up by workers over the years. The miners’ strike is a stark indication of the movement of society towards greater instability and upheaval as workers have no choice but to fight.

What future does capitalist Britain offer, especially to youth? Only greater unemployment, dead-end jobs, homelessness, despair, and the only alternative being heroin, glue or worse. The Tories have brought a living nightmare to workers’ families in the last five years, but that nightmare only reflects the collapse and decay of the system itself.

The Labour Party conference will have the attention of all the most active workers in this coming week. A way must be shown out of the impasse of Toryism.

The conference above all must raise the banner of change. Workers must be shown that there is a sane and rational way to run society.

Socialist policies must be brought forward involving the democratic planning and use of all society’s resources, manpower and wealth for the benefit of all. Clause IV, part 4 of Labour’s constitution, the fundamental socialist aim written on every Party membership card must become the cornerstone of the programme and policy of the Labour Party.

Socialist policies

The miners’ strike is a milestone in the development of social relations in Britain. The priority of the conference must be to build a Labour Party worth of the aspirations or the working class, a socialist party.

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Last updated: 20 May 2020