From Pilgrim Tucker at Unite Community, London & Eastern Region
Please come along to a lunchtime demo to support the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
IPCC Offices, 90 High Holborn, WC1V from 12-2 on Friday 14th November.
Statistics on the miners' strike 1984/5165,000 miners went on strike for 1 year, from March 84 to march 85, fighting for jobs, the coal industry, their communities and a future for their families. This was in response to the threat of 20 pit closures and the loss of 20,000 jobs. The subsequent release of the Cabinet papers earlier this year revealed what the miners at the time has always suspected that the pit closures program and job losses were to be 70 pits and 70,000 job losses.
During the year long strike11,313 miners were arrested7,000 injured5,653 put on trial960 sacked200 imprisoned11 dead ( 2 on picket lines, manslaughter in South Wales, rest coal picking)The Thatcher government responded to the strike with unprecedented state suppression in its determination to beat the miners including:
Introducing new anti-trade union laws
No benefits for strikers or their families
Mobile police squads
Coal stocks built up prior
Oil fired power stations taken out of mothballing
Duel fuel Power stations switching between oil and gas
Nuclear power cranked up
Switch coal from rail to road
Recruitment of non trade union lorry drivers
Thatcher's framing of striking miners as 'the enemy within'Dude Swheatie of the KUWG adds: Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine is highly incisive regarding how Margaret Thatcher campaigned against the striking miners as 'the enemy within'. Thatcher manipulated the disaster of an Argentinian invasion/reclaiming attempt regarding the Falklands/Malvinas and the subsequent military victory against a military junta that her Government had gladly armed to commit human rights abuses up until the Falklands/Malvinas War, into the prelude to a war against the miners as 'the enemy within'. You can read some key excerpts online at Third World Traveller's Surviving Democracy, excerpted from The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.
On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a relic of British colonial rule. The Falklands War, or the Malvinas War if you are Argentine, went down in history as a vicious but fairly minor battle. At the time, the Falklands appeared to have no strategic importance. The cluster of islands off the Argentine coast was thousands of miles from Britain and costly to guard and maintain. Argentina, too, had little use for them, though having a British outpost in its waters was regarded as an affront to national pride. The legendary Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges scathingly described the land dispute as "a fight between two bald men over a comb."
From a military standpoint, the eleven-week battle appears to have almost no historic significance. Overlooked, however, was the war's impact on the free-market project, which was enormous: it was the Falklands War that gave Thatcher the political cover she needed to bring a program of radical capitalist transformation to a Western liberal democracy for the first time.
Both sides in the conflict had good reasons to want a war. In 1982, Argentina's economy was collapsing under the weight of its debt and corruption, and human rights campaigns were gaining momentum. A new junta government, led by General Leopoldo Galtieri, calculated that the only thing more powerful than the anger at its continued suppression of democracy was anti-imperialist sentiment, which Galtieri expertly unleashed on the British for their refusal to give up the islands. Soon enough, the junta had Argentina's blue-and-white flag planted on that rocky outpost, and the country cheered on cue.
'When news arrived that Argentina had laid claim to the Falklands, Thatcher recognized it as a last-ditch hope to turn around her political fortunes and immediately went into Churchillian battle mode. Until this point, she had shown only disdain for the financial burden that the Falklands placed on government coffers. She had cut grants to the islands and announced major cutbacks to the navy, including the armed ships that guarded the Falklands - moves read by the Argentine generals as clear indications that Britain was ready to cede the territory. (One of Thatcher's biographers characterized her Falklands policy as "practically an invitation to Argentina to invade.") In the lead-up to the war, critics across the political spectrum accused Thatcher of using the military for her own political goals. The Labour MP Tony Benn said, "It looks more and more as if what is at stake is Mrs. Thatcher's reputation, not the Falkland Islands at all," while the conservative Financial Times noted, "What is deplorable is that the issue is rapidly becoming mixed up with political differences within Britain itself which have nothing to do with the matter in hand. Not only the pride of the Argentine Government is involved. So is the standing, perhaps even the survival, of the Tory Government in Britain."
Yet even with all of this healthy cynicism in the run-up, as soon as troops were deployed, the country was swept up in what a draft Labour Party resolution described as a "jingoistic, militaristic frame of mind," embracing the Falkland Islands as a last blast of glory for Britain's faded empire.
Thatcher was fighting for her political future-and she succeeded spectacularly. After the Falklands victory, which took the lives of 255 British soldiers and 655 Argentines, the prime minister was heralded as a war hero, her moniker "Iron Lady" transformed from insult to high praise. 25 Her poll numbers were similarly transformed. Thatcher's personal approval rating more than doubled over the course of the battle, from 25 percent at the start to 59 percent at the end, paving the way for La decisive victory in the following year's election.
The British military's counter-invasion of the Falklands was codenamed Operation Corporate, and though it was an odd name for a military campaign, it proved prescient. Thatcher used the enormous popularity afforded her by the victory to launch the very corporatist revolution she had told Hayek was impossible before the war. When the coal miners went on strike in 1984, Thatcher cast the standoff as a continuation of the war with Argentina, calling for similarly brutal resolve. She famously declared, "We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands and now we have to fight the enemy within, which is much more difficult but just as dangerous to liberty. With British workers now categorized as "the enemy within," Thatcher unleashed the full force of the state on the strikers...
By 1985, Thatcher had won this war too: workers were going hungry and couldn't hold out; in the end 966 people were fired." It was a devastating setback for Britain's most powerful union, and it sent a clear message to the others: if Thatcher was willing to go to the wall to break the coal miners, on whom the country depended for its lights and warmth, it would be suicide for weaker unions producing less crucial products and services to take on her new economic order. Better just to accept whatever was on offer. It was a message very similar to the one Ronald Reagan had sent a few months after he took office with his response to a strike by the air-traffic controllers. By not showing up to work, they had "forfeited their jobs and will be terminated," Reagan said. Then he fired 11,400 of the country's most essential workers in a single blow-a shock from which the U.S. labor movement has yet to fully recover.
In Britain, Thatcher parlayed her victory in the Falklands and over the miners into a major leap forward for her radical economic agenda. Between 1984 and 1988, the government privatized, among others, British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, British Airport Authority and British Steel, while it sold its shares in British Petroleum.
Much as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, would take an unpopular president and hand him an opportunity to launch a massive privatization initiative (in Bush's case, the privatization of security, warfare and reconstruction), Thatcher used her war to launch the mass privatization auction in a Western democracy.