Barry Biddulph reflects on two recent speeches by Owen Jones.
Speaking at the Firebox Cafe ( March 7th) Owen Jones started on a positive note: ‘It was the kind of place you could plan a revolution’. Then Owen quickly adopted a pessimistic tone. As usual his focus or fetish was on the defeats of the Thatcher years. He presented the bald facts of defeat. The miners were defeated, then everyone said: if they can be defeated no one can win. His family was typical, experiencing decades of defeat going back to the General Strike. They were fed up. Yet despite this, he was prepared to give the Labour Party and trade union left yet another go.
The Great Miners Strike, in 1984, was one of the longest, and most determined, trade union struggles in British history. It left a fighting tradition. History could have taken another course; it was a close run thing. In July 1984, there was nearly a national dock strike to coincide with the miners strike, which could have prevented coal imports, as well as opening up another front against Thatcher. There was also the pit managers union dispute in October 1984. The presence of their members was a legal requirement for a pit to open, but the union leaders sold out for a toothless review of the closure programme. The effective solidarity action of rank and file power and railway workers to handle and remove the coal, could have been decisive if generalised, but it was undermined by trade union officialdom.