As today is the first of a New Year, 1985, and we are still on strike, it seems a good time to try and look back at 1984. It has been the most exciting, frightening and educational year of my life so far, and also one of the saddest. I never imagined it would last this long and still be going strong.
!984 began with a foretaste of what was to come when two hundred of us were sent home by management on January 3rd at 3.30am! This was because of the national overtime ban and the way the colliery winder men, six of them, chose to operate it. They refused to start work until 7am, and because they are the men responsible for getting men down the pit in the cage, we were sent home and lost a days pay into the bargain. The winder men are an elite and on excellent money because of the overtime they get.They were against the overtime ban and showed their disatisfaction with it by costing us a day’s pay as revenge. Stupid bastards couldn’t see any further than pay day. Naturally this caused a lot of anger and resentment, and the militancy of the strike we had towards the end of 1983 began to grow again. Our incentive payments were no incentive at all, a pittance, and always had been since the scheme had begun. Not for us the new cars and holidays and bloody caravans of the men who worked the easy seams in the Midlands. Ours are hard to get at, and very wet due to us working under the North Sea. The harder you work the less you get. We are miles behind the ‘two hundred quid a week miners’ the media always bleat on about if we dare to ask for a pay rise. This dispute was soon resolved but really wound up the lads, especially the younger lads who were beginning to listen to what Scargill was telling them. They know Westoe loses money because of lack of proper investment, and if the grounds for closing a pit is to be ‘uneconomic’, then we are in the front rank. That’s why the strike vote was so emphatic, and here I am, here we are, here we go!
There have been lots of positives from this stuggle, most notably the women, who have been the backbone of the strike, not only working in the soup kitchens but also going out and speaking at conferences and meetings, and speaking out in the media. They’ve been on picket lines and suffered police violence in their own communities, eyes opened never to close again. Most of the women say things will never go back to the way they were and they are determined to stick together to help others once the strike is eventually won. Good on them.
Another thing is the way thousands of striking miners and their families have no illusions about the police and where their loyalties really lie, for the bosses and against the workers. Before the strike I would say the majority of miners believed what they read in the papers or saw on the telly, but now, through personal experience, they have learnt to question and be critical. They used to respect the police and now they despise them. We’ve seen them at their work, really enjoying it as they beat the shit out of men, women and kids, no mercy. The Special Patrol Group, Direct Response Unit, are forces everyone should be concerned about. It’s us today but who will it be tomorrow? They are highly trained thugs that even the ‘ordinary’ police hold in fear. I’ve heard the ‘ordinary’ police call them animals and psychopaths. The relationship between the police and the mining communities has been irreparably damaged and can never return to what it once was.
Of course the key factor in this strike has been the mass scabbing of men in Notts and the Midlands, and when I hear the bastards say shit like they would have been with us on the lines if they’d been allowed a national ballot I get really angry. And how can they bear to be praised by Thatcher?!! She’ll stab them in the back one day and close their pits. I hope the fuckin’ ‘Silver Birch’ gets terminal cancer and dies a painful death, traitorous scum! He’s the real ‘enemy within’.
I hate the scabs who’ve gone back in the past few months because they’ve really sold us out after being on our side, taking their poxy Judas silver! They give pathetic excuses about poverty and debt but don’t realise they’ll be in worse poverty and debt once the pit closes. We won’t always be on strike but they’ll always be scabs!
From a personal point of view 1984 has changed my life completely, from being a mostly unambitious, stuck in the mud miner, to a confident, want something better from life revolutionary socialist. I must also be slightly mad because I’m fighting for a job I don’t even want. I’m not sure what I do want but am certain it includes daylight and fresh clean air. I would wish Kath and me stick with each other but it isn’t looking good. Let’s win the strike first!!