The Miners' Strike
Also clear is the level of solidarity and community that was present in the pit villages before the strike, and which also strengthened by the strike. As two of the men suggest, Thatcher’s victory over the miners was partly a victory for individualism over community. Thatcher’s successors like to point to our working class communities and the social fragmentation there – “Broken Britain”; but what broke these places? Thatcher’s war on the unions, with the confrontation with the miners as the central theatre of battle, broke the institutions of self-help and mutual aid, destroyed the culture of solidarity that bound such villages, devastated a working class moral economy which sustained these communities.
And this violence was linked to the way the police protected the fascist National Front in confrontations like Lewisham ’77; it was connected to the troubles in Northern Ireland, to the uprisings in many of Britain’s inner cities, to the violence on other picketlines (most notably at Wapping), to the clampdown of the travelling and festival cultures (most importantly at the Battle of the Beanfield).
Although I am at the younger end of the Miners’ Strike generation, it was that moment which shaped me politically, which therefore made me who I am today. This is brought home to me by the visceral way, a quarter century on, that I find myself responding to this documentary. It strikes me now that – with the signal exception of the part we played in defeating the poll tax and getting Thatcher deposed at the end of the decade – all of the battles I’ve been heavily involved in have been defeated: the campaigns against the next round of pit closures in 1992, against student loans, against successive immigration and asylum bills, against the Criminal Justice Act, and so on. About five years ago, before I started blogging, I was a fan of the now defunct blog Socialism in an Age of Waiting. The title - I'm not sure if they took the phrase from someone else or coined it themselves - captured my imagination. Thatcher's revolution was almost total. The working class movement that fought so hard in 1984 barely staggers on. What does radical politics mean in such a time?