Keith Smoult, Gary Marshall and myself travelled down to London to attend ‘Marxism 84’ at the University of London.
Keith and myself, along with Yunus Bakhsh were allocated lodgings with a lovely Irish woman called Anne in Holloway (not the prison!) She made us feel very welcome and didn’t complain if we came back late, which we mostly did. Also, we were usually pissed because comrades kept buying us beer. It was a really welcome break from the boredom of Woodside, and I for one learnt a lot.
We attended as many meetings as we could, eager to meet new people and learn loads of things we knew nothing about. The highlights for me were Paul Foot on, ‘From Wilson to Kinnock, The Tragedy and the Farce’, Chris Bambery on ‘Ireland’, Duncan Hallas on ‘The French Revolution’, Ian Birchall on ‘Emile Zola’ (brilliant!), and Tony Cliff on everything!!
Socially it was excellent and it was great to meet up with Ian Mitchell and Steve Hammill again. We had a miner’s fringe meeting where we discussed our fears of a sell out of the strike because of the ‘constructive talks’ taking place between MacGregor and the NUM, and he vapid outpourings of Heathfield, Taylor, McGahey and co. Steve Hammill has drawn up a leaflet that outlines what constitutes a sell out, and what a victory should be, including the divisive Incentive Scheme being scrapped and the average integrated into our basic rate of pay, a minimum 15% pay rise, reinstatement of all sacked miners, retirement at 55, a 4 day week, and no pit closures without consultation. It was just heartening to talk with lads in the same situation as ourselves about positive things instead of the apathy we have to face on a daily basis. We should get together more often!
Keith and me were so broke over the weekend that we had to walk back to Holloway after meetings, and on Sunday had to share a plate of chips between us for dinner. Sheila McGregor noticed, bless her, and gave us £5 each. We celebrated with a takeaway meal and caught the tube back to Holloway instead of walking.
We had to come back on Monday, partly because I am up in court on Wednesda, but also to appease our wives. That’s one thing the three of us do share in common, and iy isn’t getting any better as the strike drags on!