I am absolutely shattered, depressed and disillusioned, though not as much as I was after this morning’s union meeting, thanks to comrades rallying around me at our SWP branch meeting this evening.
I had arrived at the Armstrong Hall full of confidence after doing the early morning picket at Woodside Drift Mine. I was determined that the men were going to show their disgust at the way our officials are running the strike. The hall was full and I sat in the middle with Gary and Keith, preparing myself for a blistering attack against the platform.
The minutes of the previous meeting were read out and passed then Walter Slater, the Lodge Secretary, stood up to read the correspondence. The first thing he said was how disgusted he was about a letter he’d received from Parsons which revealed they’d had a letter from him appealing for funds. He said he’d never written a letter to Parsons yet this letter was written by him so it was obviously a forgery! The letter went on to complain about the behaviour of Norman Strike who had insulted the union Secretary at Parsons and taken an unofficial collection. Slater said he had always trusted me and asked if I was in the meeting. The bastard knew I was because he was looking right at me. I stood up and my legs were shaking and everyone turned to stare at me. He stuck the knife firmly in by saying that in all his years of union activity he had never been so shocked and disgusted by one of his members doing such a wicked thing! He asked me if I had committed the forgery or was it someone else?
I tried to defend myself against the implication that I had tried to get money for myself but I wasn’t allowed to say anything other than admit I had written his name on the letter. Tommy Wilson then stood up and launched a personal attack against my character, calling the SWP a bunch of ‘tin pot communists’ and openly accused me of forging the letter to raise funds for them. I was shocked and stunned as more people stood up to join in the attack, calling for me to be punished harshly to deter anyone else who might ‘wish to profit from the strike’. I was given the chance to defend myself but I was so upset and shocked I couldn’t express myself clearly, and even my mates didn’t look convinced. John Chapman, the Chairman, then asked that the Lodge committee be allowed to deal with me as they saw fit and this was agreed by a unanimous show of hands.
I felt awful and just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me as men looked at me with utter contempt! Gary and Keith tried to console me but even they didn’t sound convinced so I left the hall to hisses and went home on my own, thoroughly depressed.
At home my shame turned to anger and I vowed to pack it all in and just stay at home. Ungrateful bastards! Every penny I’ve collected has always been witnessed and accounted for, and the supposed ‘forgery’ wasn’t even an attempt at forgery because it bore no resemblance to Slater’s real signature, and the letter itself was the one I had gotten from Wearmouth which I’d photocopied with our Lodge heading instead of Wearmouth’s, and I’d put Slater’s name at the bottom instead of Dave Hopper’s. The only address was the Lodge’s, not mine, so how could I possibly profit from it? I have other questions now. Why has it taken over 5 weeks for the ‘forgery’ to come to light? How long has Slater had the letter from Parsons? Why wait until now if what I’m alleged to have done is so serious? I will have to ask these questions when I appear in front of the committee, whenever that is. My only crime has been stupidity, nothing else.
I had a lot of phonecalls from comrades urging me to attend tonights meeting so I went. I’m pleased I did because it put everything into perspective. Comrades convinced me that staying at home would be a bad idea because it would only serve to prove my ‘guilt’ in the eyes of the pickets. They’re right. They also think this was a deliberate ploy by the officials because I am a thorn in their sides and they want to get rid of me. It makes sense to me so I’ve decided to continue, albeit with a very bitter taste in my mouth.
Kath has been excellent and is also very angry at what’s been done to me. She has also urged me to continue, which is brilliant!
The NUM met McGregor today but talks broke down after just an hour. What a surprise!