The activities of certain of the groups of the ‘revolutionary left’ during the present miners strike raise whole questions about what is and what is not solidarity?
The Miners and the Left
This was reprinted (with four other articles and letters on the 1984-85 Miners' strike from Black Flag) in KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 91-92, October 2017 https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/vq8510
The major activity of most ‘revolutionaries’ on the left has of course been selling ‘THE PAPER’, but it is not the selling of the paper that is so bad as what is actually written in them. Many of the ‘revolutionary’ parties have used their papers to attack the strategy of the strike, personal union officials and in some cases the whole principles of the strike.
The principle that no person has the right to sell another person’s livelihood has been attacked by the Revolutionary Communist Party who want a national ballot and Workers Power who want a branch ‘show of hands’. It may not have occurred to these vanguards of the working class but people are voting everyday with their feet.
The overall strategy of the strike has been attacked by all and sundry but the main aggressor has been the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP has made personal assaults on people such as Jack Taylor, Yorkshire Area President, over the handling of the Orgreave situation, although the directing of pickets is neither controlled by Taylor or Scargill but by the Yorkshire region co-ordinating committee. They believe that Taylor has deliberately held back on the picketing of Orgreave and restricted the movement of pickets.
The overall strategy of the strike has been good, considering the lack of pickets, the wide number of targets and the determination of the police to stop them, the only tactics available to the miners has been the hit and run tactics of guerrilla warfare. Orgreave was of course a diversion from this strategy and the end result was hundreds of arrests and injuries for very little other than an education in the true nature of the police.
Although we as anarchists have different ideas about organisation than the hierarchical structures of the NUM and different political principles to people like Scargill and Taylor, this is not the fight that we are engaged in. There is little that we can criticise these two on during this strike. Both of them have thrown themselves into the frontline, both have been assaulted by police, they like all other paid NUM officials have given up their wages and during this strike have been nothing more than propaganda and symbolic figure heads.
Getting back to the SWP’s assault on the miners. They have argued for Orgreave to be turned into a mass symbolic battle, day in day out (perhaps they want a permanent pitch to sell their paper), being totally unaware of the limitations of such an action and ignorant of the forces that the state has, to fight such a pitched battle.
But it is not just the words in the papers of the left that are dubious, but all their other forms of ‘solidarity’. Fund raising ‘for the miners’ is a great thing to latch on to. The SWP started off its miners fund, which has not [now?] reached £14,000, the purpose of this fund ‘to put the miners case over to other workers’, i.e. fund the paper, and other SWP propaganda. Money is also raised by many groups to send miners to their conferences and meetings. But more often than not it is used by the party to control situations, pay for busses etc, and build up their prestige. Of course not all of the ‘left’ groups are as bad as each other and some have given useful solidarity work to the miners and their families.
This brings us onto the question, what is solidarity? Solidarity comes in various forms, first is propaganda and education in support of people involved in struggle. In most cases strikes and other struggles go hardly noticed and any form of propaganda is useful. But there is propaganda in support of the strike and propaganda for your own cause, the best example is the Support the Miners Posters by the Revolutionary Communist Party, which has RCP taking up a third of the poster, a true poster of solidarity should have the name of the group showing solidarity in print, that has to be looked for.
Likewise the written word, either in papers or leaflets, should be used to inform people of the struggle and the events going on, and not as a means to criticise the people involved, point out the ideological differences, but the aim of solidarity is to educate and propagate not to take over.
On the question of fundraising, it is very simple if all funds are handed over to those who are going to use them, now we think it would be better if we did this with the money people have entrusted to us, if people gave money for a specific purpose such as buying food, then to buy food direct.
There is also more direct support like attending picket lines and demonstrations in solidarity. On both these events we are there to add our weight, either to show our banners and flags in support or to add bodies to the push, blockade or in a symbolic manner depending on the nature of the event.
Returning to the miners strike our job as anarchists is to give solidarity. Although this fight affects all of us, it is primarily the fight of the miners and their families. We may not like the the structures they choose to work within, we may not like their individual politics or religion, but these things are irrelevant, just as irrelevant as if a policeman is an atheist or in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. There will be plenty of time after the strike to put our political theories over, but during this dispute there is only one form of propaganda, and that is propaganda by deed, through no strings, non dogmatic, consistent and practical solidarity.