Today we attended a march and rally in Newcastle but it was very disappointing because Paul Foot missed a golden oppertunity to support us.
We left the Armstrong Hall in two double decker buses provided by the TGWU and they were both full, not only with pickets but also the Womens Support Group and children. We assembled at Newcastle Civic Centre and the weather was gorgeous, hot and sunny, and a large crowd was expected. There were Lodge banners from every pit in the North East plus lots of other banners from unions and political organisations. There were also hundreds of new SWP placards with the slogan,’Turn Orgreave into Saltley’ on one side, and ‘Victory to the Miners’ on the other. I was angry to see people ripping off the ‘Socialist Worker’ bit off the top of the placards. Why do these people have to be so childish?
The march was headed by the usual bunch of union bureaucrats and Labour MP’s, followed by the Lodges then the rest behind us. The march was important because it showed the strength of our support to the ordinary people of Newcastle but I was disappointed that at least a one day strike in support hadn’t been called. As we waited for the march to set off I talked to a Northumberland miner about the need to picket Orgreave and steelworks. He surprised me by saying that we shouldn’t picket steelworks because we have no right to put the steelworkers jobs at risk. I explained that the steelworkers had more chance of saving their jobs by supporting us because if we lost it is more than likely that the Tories will close at least one of the steelworks. I also pointed out that we should picket Orgreave because British Steel had reneged on a deal to support the NUM, and if we allowed them to get away with it the Tories would start to move coal stocks from pit yards because they’d be confident. The lad seemed to agree with me and bought a copy of Socialist Worker and promised to argue the same with his mates on the picket line on Monday. This proves that arguments can be won if we take the trouble to have them.
The march set off and we got a great reception from the crowds as the lasses from the Womens Support Group collected with buckets. I was a bit disappointed with the turn out, which was about 10 – 15,000, because we should have attracted at least double that. Gary suggested we should help out with the collecting because the lasses were struggling in the heat.
We entered Leazes Park on the Town Moor and looked for a place to sit. We were knackered and sat down gratefully. One of the pickets came over and told us he’d heard Tommy Wilson and his group were going to beat up anyone selling Socialist Worker. Just then Tommy turned up with one of his lads and asked to have a word with Gary. Gary stood up warily and they moved away a few feet. I heard Wilson threaten to break Gary’s legs for,’Getting that commie bastard gonk Strike off the hook’. Wilson stormed off and Gary returned looking shaken, and who could blame him because Tommy is a real hardcase.We immediately gathered some pickets together and told them what had happened, prepared for a fight if we had to but dreading the prospect. Fortunately nothing happened and we were very relieved when Paul Foot was announced from the stage.
He received a fantastic reception from the crowd, especially the miners because of his revelations about Thatcher and the railworkers. He spoke very well, calling for mass picketing at Orgreave and steelworks. He attacked Kinnock for sitting on the fence and the NUM for having no centralised organisation of picketing. The only thing he didn’t say was that he himself was a member of the SWP and that would have helped pickets like Gary and myself from being abused for selling the paper and being in the party. Like I said, he let us down but he still got a deserved tremendous ovation for his speech.
Mick McGahey followed but was piss poor in comparison and seemed content to mouth slogans like,’No surrender’. Is that why he did a deal with Ravenscraig? he’s living on his past record as a militant but he’s now about as militant as Len Murray!
I did have the opportunity to voice my criticism to Paul Foot himself in the pub afterwards but I didn’t. I wish I had!
Tragically another picket was killed outside Ferrybridge power station and that puts all the other events of today firmly into second place. We can’t give in now because two lads have lost their lives. Nothing is more important in comparison to a life lost.