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Coal Not Dole

September 17, 2011

The tragic death of four Welsh miners in a flooded pit has reminded many of us of just how dangerous the mining industry is and how the media portray such terrible events. Miners, especially South Welsh miners (after the death of the scab carrying taxi driver) were the Tory’s and therefore the media’s public enemy number one back in the great strike of 84/85. Never has such vicious propaganda been directed at one of the state’s perceived ‘enemies within’ and those of us who remember that bitter dispute have never trusted or believed in the supposed ‘impartiality’ and ‘balance’ of the BBC ever since.

The defeat of the miners caused devastation in the old pit regions and the few miners left today are competing against cheap imports excavated by third world slave labour. That’s capitalism! The photographs of the pit that the four Welsh miners were working in were almost neolithic and it appears that old shafts left from the 80s have been left to flood, causing added danger to those still desperate enough to mine whatever seams are left.

The BBC and other broadcasters, smelling a Chilean Miners rescue rolling news extravaganza, sent out their reporters to the Swansea valley but this time there was no happy ever after tale of courage and determination, just four corpses and ‘a community united in grief’. No 24 hour global ‘human interest’ audience and handshakes from PMs and presidents, no VIP visits to Old Trafford and Hollywood film deals, just four coffins and the sad realisation that mining was always a terrible way to make ends meet.

Miners have always been some of the most militant trade unionists because they know only too well how little reward they receive from the sum of their labours. Unlike most unions, the NUM were never satisfied with a few bob more for a few hours less, they demanded real change, SOCIALIST change that would bring a proportionate share of national assets to those who risked their lives day in, day out for ‘productivity’ quotas and GDP. Ofcourse they were betrayed not only by the greed and brutality of the vested interests of the Tory/state elite but by the cowardice and petty jealousy of their union ‘comrades’ and Labour Party leaders.

During the strike I’d take a collecting bucket round my workplace and receive nothing but abuse. So much for working class ‘solidarity’ and after the defeat of the miners and then the dockers, the move to the ‘centreground’ of Labour resulted in power but at the cost of any chance of structural change. The half-arsed ‘devolution’ afforded to the Welsh and the introduction of a pitifully low ‘minimum wage’ is the best New Labour can claim for their 13 wasted years.

The other day I got off the train just behind Unite’s joint president, Tony Woodley just as his union and the other big hitters of the TUC were deciding to ballot for a national day of action on 30th November to protest about changes to pensions and the Tory cuts. I felt like tapping him on the shoulder and reminding him that his organisation had supported Blair’s digusting regime and were still where they’d always been, scraping around asking poorly paid members to sacrifice more unpaid strike days whilst continuing to bankroll a political party that actually works against the interests of its primary funders.

If, as the media constantly reminds us, unions have lost their political influence since the days of ‘beer and sandwiches at No 10’ during the Wilson era, then atleast they still have millions of members and even more millions in financial resources that the politicians are desperate to get their filthy hands on. It’s a miracle British trade unions are still around and still have the capacity to take industrial action at all with all the Draconian restrictions placed upon them.

There should be no false sentimentality for Labour because they refused to repeal Tory anti-union laws and whored themselves for corproate dough and lucrative backhanders when in power. They are now almost wholly dependent upon union finances yet still run scared of the Tory media, including the BBC, briefing against them. Hence Millibean’s rebuke to the TUC for having the temerity to take strike action. He’s still playing to the Daily Mail/News at 10 headline writers and can’t be seen to be too close to the ‘union barons’ who fund his party.

If this sounds like using a tragedy to score cheap political points then so be it. Those four men may have been involved in the 84/85 strike, they may have been NUM diehards but even if they weren’t, they died in terrible conditions doing a terrible job for pitiful pay. Decent wages, Health & Safety conditions and pensions are things the country can’t afford these days, not after all those trillions have been thrown at the banks, and it’s this ‘red tape’ that the Torys want to destroy in order to encourage ‘wealth creators’ to invest in places like South Wales where there is a large and eager workforce desperate for employment, any employment. De-unionised work no doubt, low skilled work undoubtedly, minimum wage work almost certainly.

For all the negative media propaganda thrown at unions and traditonal working class communities, the state still has to give the appearance of concern and so it will cry crocodile tears for the dead miners and send its representatives in the shape of politicians and royals to ‘comfort’ the families and then life will go on and the BBC will go back to their role as state propagandist ignoring the ‘real’ news to present what their political masters want us to see and hear.

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2 Comments
  1. John permalink

    “During the strike I’d take a collecting bucket round my workplace and receive nothing but abuse. So much for working class ‘solidarity’” That might have been your experience but that wasn’t the whole story. There was massive solidarity shown by the working class during the strike despite the sabotage of the union leaders.

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