Chapter 11: March – April 1984 - ..the 'inevitable' strike...from wildcat strike to official strike...

Submitted by Red Marriott on July 4, 2009

Chapter 11:
March – April 1984

...the 'inevitable' strike...from wildcat strike to official strike...
...ballots and bourgeois democracy...cop repression...
...killing of David Jones...imaginative actions...Ravenscraig...
...Edlington schoolkids...'Misery of Unions' leaflet &
the Barcelona dockers...

"Suddenly, there it was on the pages of the daily Sheffield Star and local TV and radio: the 20th anniversary of the miners’ strike. The memories: 5th of March 1984 Cortonwood near Barnsley to close - what immediately became known as “The Alamo” - the point where the miners said enough is enough followed by an immediate wildcat strike throughout Yorkshire and beyond. I just burst into uncontrollable floods of tears. It seemed like yesterday but recollections crashed and collided within me as instant pains in my heart and head became excruciating. The emotion was almost too much to bear...everyone involved in the strike was about to be thrown into a maelstrom they’ve never really gotten out of all these years later."
Jenny's Tale

On March 4th the NCB under McGregor, a finance capitalist with a record for running down industrial capital, threw down the gauntlet to the miners: the NCB announced the closure of Cortonwood pit, South Yorkshire – a closure which was to take place on 6th April. The miners “inevitably” took up the challenge. Sure, nothing is “inevitable” – they could, of course, have rolled over and died, as some oh so clued-in middle class people later, retrospectively, suggested they really should have done, as it was the only 'sensible' thing to do: given the circumstances of the government deciding the battlefield it was, apparently, "inevitable" that the miners would lose. But you can't choose the terrain on which to fight, since the enemy occupies it totally, everywhere. And against such smug determinism, the complacent dismissal of those who are petrified about doing anything against this miserable world [10] - often because they have lucrative niches within it, the miners were determined to determine their own destinies knowing full well that to let the State win an easy victory would invariably accelerate the rate of humiliation. The path of least resistance is the quickest descent into hell. They chose, in a "now or never" situation, the only dignified path to follow, the most basically, minimally , sensible thing to do – they chose to fight.

And everyone who supported them knew that this was it. All the struggles of the post world war world were at stake (few realised how the struggles of the previous 200 years were also at stake). A sizeable minority of the population clearly realised that if the miners went down so would they.

Next day there were spontaneous walk-outs across Yorkshire and Scotland. Yorkshire NUM later called a strike, though Scargill was initially opposed to a strike because coalstocks were too high, but because of its momentum, reluctantly supported it (making it official a week later, on March 12th). The media throughout the strike ignored his initial attitude and the fact that it had been a wildcat by persistently calling it “Scargill's strike”. 6th March, the NCB announced that it aimed to close 20 pits and lose 20,000 jobs within a year. These jobs were to be lost by means of voluntary redundancy – miners from any pit to be closed who didn't want redundancy would be offered “relocation money” to work at a pit elsewhere. The Scottish NUM made the wildcat strike official. 7th March – the government announced a new scale of redundancy payments, now available to miners as young as 21, and roughly equivalent to £1000 per year worked down the pit. 8th March – NUM national executive backed the area executives of Scotland and Yorkshire and announced it would back any other area which officially called a strike. 10th March - faced with thousands of flying pickets, the NCB decided not to take legal action against the NUM under the laws making secondary picketting illegal, for fear of escalation. 11th March – NUM executives in Lancashire and Nottinghamshire announced that they were to hold ballots. They warned pickets from other areas to keep away, on bourgeois democratic grounds – i.e. to try to prevent any offensive solidarity (initially Welsh miners had been against going on strike because they weren't directly effected by the closure plan, but Yorkshire pickets had persuaded them to come out; this was not the kind of thing Lancashire and Notts wanted). 2 days later the NUM presidents of these areas condemned the behaviour of Yorkshire pickets.

In the following few weeks of the strike one of the most widely publicised issues was the attempt by the union to have an official national strike by means of a series of decisions by area NUM executives, with the blessing of the National Executive. This, according to the union rule book, would have allowed an official national strike without a national ballot. The Left of the Union opposed a national ballot because they didn't want to split the union, like in 1926. Militant miners, rightly, opposed a ballot because they did not see why scabs should have the right to vote them out of a job. Indicative of this difference is that there are some militant Leftist ex-union officials who nowadays have their doubts about the refusal of a ballot during the strike – questioning it in terms of tactics.. For them, though they were never entirely open about it, the question was always just one of maintaining the unity of the union, i.e. a tactical question – not a question of the principle of not voting someone out of a job, let alone one developing from a critique of the contradictions of bourgeois democracy.

If the bourgeoisie are always so keen on democracy when it's convenient for them – whether in Iraq, Iran or South Africa, or during an independent struggle - it's because when everyone is isolated as constituents alone in a polling booth they are passive before the endless manipulative monologues of the false hierarchical choices competing for their vote like competing used-car salesmen trying to get you to part with your cash. Democracy is like commodity consumption: your desires and needs only count insofar as they can be reduced to something that can be counted, something measurable, like a sack of potatoes. When people determine their own existence, a vote is usually a distraction from the central questions: what do we want, what do we need, what can we do together to achieve this? As a Fitzwilliam miner said, towards the end of the strike, "Who wants democracy when you can have a gun?". The ideology of first getting a majority ignores the fact that it is always the aggressive initiatives of a minority which develops something significant: the majority only know what they are told, not what they can discover for themselves.

However, those who called for a ballot or for no ballot were united on one thing: workers' activity over the general conditions of their strike should be mediated through the union. This was one of the essential mystifications, which we'll look at later.

March saw the massive use of flying pickets from Yorkshire, Kent and the North-East in Lancashire and Notts. These pickets succeeded in closing down 14 out of the 25 Notts pits, all of the 5 Lancashire pits and 8 out of 9 in Derbyshire. On the enemy's side, there was the first use of the "National Reporting Centre" in the strike. This was supposed to be an information H.Q. of the police, without having anything to do with a national police force (in Britain at this time there was the absurd lie that the area police forces are relatively autnomous without any permanent structures for central co-ordination). 2000 cops were drafted into Notts to stay in army bases. The police started a big operation on several cross-country motorways in order to stop the movement of flying pickets. Every capitalist political fraction from the SDP (a 'centre' break-away party from the Labour Party that found Labour too left-wing, now merged with the Liberals) leftwards had something to say about the police's "infringement of civil liberties". The slimy David Owen, then leader of the SDP, an ultra-slime who even made slime look tasty, who supported the closure of pits on economic grounds, complained about the cops' stopping Kent miners at the Dartford Tunnel and about their questioning miners on their political beliefs. Well everyone had to jump on that obviously crude dropping away the mask of the State, just to show that there were some right-wing politicians who weren't totally against the miners, because, after all, they might win. No-one dared say the truth. In 1975, the National Security Plan involved a nationwide operation by the military carried out in secrecy. "Every motorway intersection, strategic railway stations, ports, fuel depots and warehouses were surveyed by army officers with a view to defence, or demolition, in the event of an invasion or civil war. The intelligence gathered in this operation was used to draw up contingency plans for all eventualities, from limited strikes that effected essential services to a major civil disturbance country-wide."

There were also riots in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, where thousands of Yorkshire miners were picketting. In view of the likelihood of trouble, even some of the Left of the Union tried to stop pickets going. The CP fellow traveller Jack Taylor (Yorkshire Area NUM President) told his opposite number in Nottinghamshire, "There may be a few renegades going, and there's not much I can do about them." Some of these "renegades" were wearing "Official Picket" when they turned up. The riot not only involved fighting between pickets and the cops but also between local anti-strike proletarian scabs and pickets. Spencerism (see chapter 1), helped by Tony Benn's divisive ballots of 1978, had returned to Nottinghamshire. When 24 year-old David Jones was killed by a scab's brick on the night of March 14th - 15th, a Union bureaucrat from Notts phoned Scargill and Taylor to ask them to calm the situation in the belief that they would be more likely to be obeyed than right-wing bureaucrats. Scargill stood on top of a car and, in order to "take the heat out of the situation" , as Scargill himself put it, called for 2 minutes silence. This helped to channel the energy of the rioters not into escalating the riot, but into pressurising the cops into taking off their helmets in sympathy with the dead picket. How English! Meanwhile the media portrayed the strikers as semi-terrorists terrifying scabs and their families – and the death of David Jones was the fault of "Scargill's strike". Scabs were portrayed as "rebels" who were simply demanding the "right to work". Rebellion was seen as accepting the State, courage was seen as walking to work guarded by hundreds of cops, the right to work was seen as supporting the States brutal weapon of unemployment. The media's inversion of reality knew, and still knows, no bounds. The difference then is that these brutal and insane lies were being contested – in the streets.

March 16th, the day after David Jones death hit the headlines, miners from Bold colliery in Lancashire spontaneously decided to go on strike, independently of the Union and despite the Lancashire ballot going slightly against a strike. Undoubtedly David Jones' death had hardened the resolve of miners with some integrity. However, elsewhere in Lancashire, Frank King, branch secretary at Parkside pit said, with incredible insight, that pickets calling out 'scab' and 'blackleg' "make it hard to cross the picket line" . It's the way he tells it. This comic routine was followed up with Gaskell, branch secretary at Goldorne pit, complaining that the "pickets... jeering and shouting... had a bad effect on the afternoon shift". Could Oscar Wilde have put it better?

A Doncaster area NUM official came to the picket line at Harworth colliery, and asked the Yorkshire pickets "to withdraw back to Doncaster because a deal had been struck with Chadburn relating to the ballot." and that they should only send a token lobby of 4 men to every branch. In Lancashire, an NUM official declared, "Things were getting too hot with the picket...we decided to quieten the situation" and called a one-week official strike for March 26th – 30th. A picket from Castlehill, Scotland, reported: "At pithead meetings the Friday before the strike started, we were told the best thing for us to do was to enjoy a long lie-in on the Monday, leaving it to the branch committtees to make sure all pits were out in Scotland. Fortunately we ignored that..." . In the first few weeks picketting was organised at local level. By the end of March picketting was organised from Barnsely (NUM HQ), though there was room for local autonomy. But the cops had tapped the NUM headquarters, and also many of the phones of the local branch secretaries. If only at a tactical level, centralisation was a disaster.

Fortunately, alongside the attempts of the competing left and right NUM hierarchy to control the strike, and to be seen to control the strike, imaginative actions were beginning to become widespread:

miners blocked motorways by driving their cars in convoys going at 5 m.p.h.

- isolated NCB offices were attacked with petrol bombs

- "Hit squads" began to be organised, consisting of strikers mounting night-time raids on NCB property

- miners' wives were beginning to organise food and collective kitchens, picketting, collections of money, etc., although this was usually done on the basis of a sexual division of labour (e.g. men on the picket line, women organising food).

Much of this was done with the support and sometimes involvement of local NUM officials, but they no more played a part in determining the course of these actions than did any other, non-role-bound striker. Undoubtedly if asked, most of those involved in the action would have said [/i] "We're the NUM" , but then often that was just short for saying they were striking miners. It was a weakness not to have found the language of 'autonomy' – of recognising that you were organising things yourself, but then that's part of the struggle, though one can over-emphasise it just as much as one can ignore it.

March 28th, sailors from Liverpool decided to black all eventual delivery of foreign coal.

April 6th, pickets trying to prevent the arrival of 50,00 tons of Australian coal at Port Talbot, South Wales, fought a battle with the cops. Also in April: at Creswell, steel bars were thrown over some rails to provoke short-circuiting; at Cawock, some NCB vehicles were damaged; at Stoke-on-Trent, the weighing machines of the pit were sabotaged and cables were destroyed; at Trenham, pickets armed with iron bars wrecked the cars parked inside the colliery.

As suggested in the Tory Party's pre-'79 plan, access to social security benefit on the part of striking miners' families was vastly reduced: women with 2 kids were only entitled to £12 per week social security.

The main event in April, though, was the situation at Ravenscraig Steelworks in Scotland, which became the scene of some of the most violent picketting and the most arrests: the steel union, under the tutelage of Thatcher's darling – Bill Sirs, managed to prevent any strike of the steelworkers, but there were arguments between the steel union's bureaucracy and the NUM over precisely how much scab-produced coal to allow into the plant. Sirs made his famous remark about not wanting to see "his" workers "crucificed on someone else's altar" , preferring to prepare their crucifixion on his own altar. Eventually, and surprisingly considering the NUM wanted to win this strike even if their hierarchical mode of controlling it undermined such a victory, the NUM conceded to the steel union's demands over the amount of coal to enter Ravenscraig, and the mass pickets were called off without further trouble. Why did the miners accept this? It was pretty demoralising - and showed the extent to which traditional Trade Unionism weighed like a nightmare on the minds of the living. The Ravenscraig workers had themselves been threatened with redundancies during the previous years, and indeed were still under threat at this time – and Ravenscraig was closed down a few years later. The son of a Sheffield steelworker recently told me that in 1980 the steelworkers were disappointed with the fact that miners solidarity had gone little beyond words and token 1-day strikes, that they'd felt let down and isolated. Undoubtedly this played a part in the lack of solidarity during the miners strike, but it was a stupid pretext - cutting off their nose to spite their face. Miners had been disappointed by the very sparse solidarity of the printworkers during the miners strike, but that didn't prevent them from going down to the printers' picket lines in Wapping in 1986 to join in the fight against the cops. It's what people do in the present to overcome their past failures that counts.

In Edlington, Yorkshire, in April schoolkids came out on strike in support of the miners. Teachers called the cops to push them back into school.

"I went to Edlington after hearing about the kids' solidarity action at a meeting in the Doncaster area. At night I spray-painted graffiti on the walls of the school there – slogans like "No classes today – No class society tomorrow!" and "Teachers are cops!". The next day I went to the small picket line huddled round a brazier not far from the school during the evening. I felt awkward at first, being an outsider, armed with some leaflets entitled "The Misery Of Unions", feeling a little embarassed like I was some militant 'intervening'. I didn't immediately give out the leaflets because it really would have been too much a politico role, but instead asked the pickets if they wanted something to drink – from being a little morose, and wary, in the very cold night air, they chirped up, saying "Oh yes please!" - so I went off to the nearest off-licence and got them a couple of cans of beer each.

I got talking a bit and one guy, a single miner, complained about the Union – how they'd evicted him from his NUM subsidised property because he hadn't paid the rent (this, after receiving very little strike pay, was hardly surprising). He said he'd always had rucks with the Union bureaucrats. I got the impression they had picked on him because he was a single miner – they wouldn't have been so brutal with a family. I asked about the schoolkids and the pickets told me that during that day the kids had come out on strike again and had "played hide and seek with the cops as they chased them up and down the High Street". I gave out the 'Misery of Unions' leaflet that follows this brief account, but didn't discuss it. They were very friendly and invited me into the social club where we chatted about this and that, though I still felt a bit awkward. Just before I left, I handed the guy who'd been evicted a text on the riots of less than 3 years previously -"Like A Summer With A Thousand Julys", very briefly explaining its contents. He gave me a suspicious look as if he thought of me as some member of a political group. Nevertheless, this friendliness was a nice contrast to the mentality of the 70s, when often a narrow corporatist mentality prevailed – often if you approached a picket line, you'd be ignored or referred to the shop steward. Here, the miners, despite an understandanble wariness of what they saw as politically-motivated outsiders, were pretty open to strangers. And this, despite the title of my text.

A few radicals assumed that the miners would be similar to their experience of other strikers in the 70s – keeping their distance, stand-offish, corporatist. And they used this experience, along with not wanting to be considered Leftists, or as 'interventionists', as a pretext for not really gettting involved, a pretext for them keeping their distance, as a pretext for not testing themselves and their ideas in a more concrete social movement - not testing them in a situation where their ideas and desires could begin to be recognised according to their historical effect. Reality is something that has to be constantly tested – one can never assume that past experience will be repeated. Sure, going along to a situation as an 'outsider' is a minefield of presumptions, expectations and pretensions, but what the hell! - a guy's gottta do what a guy's gotta do. Undoubtedly it's a bit awkward, particularly at first – but then so is talking to someone you fancy. And when people are starting to move – that's the best time you want your hate for this society to connect to what's going on"

The following is the leaflet minus a few 'ads' for other texts and the mention of a future publication which never materialised. There were also bits which appeared later in – which we've cut out here:


A Recent Example Of Class Consciousness In Struggle: Barcelona 1979.

The class struggle in Britain, despite its’ ferocity - particularly up until 1981, has so far not produced any theoretical clarity from the insurgents which could help to extend and communicate the critique the masses of individuals have often so well expressed in acts (particularly in the riots and, to a lesser extent, the Winter Of Discontent). So far there have been no instances of a genuinely collective theoretical creation that can stand comparison with the assembly statutes of the Barcelona dockers in strikes from ‘79 on. Being a popular assembly, people from outside, including foreigners, were given the right to speak and enter (more recently in Spain, there have been joint assemblies of employed and unemployed). What finally emerged was a revolutionary tract going beyond trade unionism and dealing with the wider realities of class. The only comparable instances here, at least on the level of practice , though not on the level of explicit consciousness , have been the occupations of Plesseys’ in South West Scotland and the Fisher Bendix factory in Liverpool in ‘72. Following the example of Plesseys’, the workers of Fisher Bendix created an open assembly (“our struggle is your struggle”) where wives, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cats, dogs, and lovers could come along and have their say. But it also remained a Liverpool family affair, and it’s hard to know whether foreign revolutionaries distributing anti-capitalist ideas would have been welcome or not. Certainly none of them produced any of their own theoretical perspectives, unlike in Barcelona. Since lack of clarity could mean the destruction of the planet, and certainly means the living death of all of us, it feels like a minimum contribution to produce the following extracts from a tract produced collectively in the docks of Barcelona in 1979. The strike from which it emerged came after several years of wildcat strikes, riots, occupations and mass assemblies in various parts of Spain in the period after Francos’ death. It was written by revocable delegates, elected by the mass assembly of the docks, and presented for debate at a congress of assemblies and their delegates. Copies of it were also sent to dockers in Rotterdam and Liverpool, though in Spanish, not in Dutch or English. More recently, Barcelona dockers have been in contact with wildcat dockworkers on strike in Denmark, as well as, it seems, the dockworkers here, though the precise details of this struggle I have no information on. Nevertheless, it seems that - even if the marginals are largely isolated, the workers, at least, are starting to confront the power of the international commodity economy internationally .

Translating these extracts does not imply total agreement with every aspect of its’ positions, many of which have been superceded by events anyway (e.g. limiting the membership to wage-earners; the tendency towards an assemblyist ideology which fetishises democratic form the more the class struggle retreats, where form substitutes for developing individual and class initiative).

The following is an extract from the first english translation of the text, the whole of which is available from: B.M.Combustion, London WC1N 3XX (full address). Send S.A.E. and ask for the text “Our Organisation”.

“....The decision of the Assembly of the dockers of Barcelona was to create an organisation where all the power of decision remained always in the hands of the Assembly: Unitary, of the Class, Autonomous, Independent, Democratic and Self-Organised.
Unitary: because it tends to unite all of the dockers of the port of Barcelona, independent from their political, religious, cultural, etc. opinions.
Of the Class: because all its’ members have to be wage-earners, and for this reason belong to the working class, and consequently antagonistic to capital. Their demands won’t remain reduced to the economic level, without also being social in the widest sense, up to the elimination of exploitation of man by man, and the alienation of work for capital.
Autonomous: because it will be the workers themselves who will decide the aims to pursue, which means to consider and employ the methods needed to regain possession of their lives.
Independent: because it is not, nor will not be, subordinated to any political party, nor to any union or ecclesiastic organisation, nor to any other kind - neither to the Public Administration, nor to the State. It will be allowed to contact union groups that are representative of the working class, always given that they show mutual respect for the principles of Liberty, Autonomy, internal Democracy and Independence.
Democratically Self-Organised:
because it will be the workers themselves who determine the organisation and organs it has to have. In the same way, their representatives will be elected amongst and by its members, necessarily dockers, who will also be freely revoked whenever the majority of those they represent consider it necessary. In accordance with the forementioned, we will take care to avoid all bureaucracy, not being able to allow those who occupy bureaucratic positions without being a docker, to vote on any question, decision or problem. Our way of functioning during these three years has been a struggle for loyalty to these principles. As an organic form of functioning we have maintained: a General Assembly every two months; an assembly of the 24 delegates at least every week; two elections to the committee of delegates; absolute lack of bureaucracy between the delegates and distribution of the function: necessary to accomplish the administering of tasks; continual information to the Assembly of the measures taken; a bulletin of information for the free expression of all the dockers.

We were confronted with serious problems in our practice:
(a) The lack of class consciousness. The degree of integration into the present-day society of consumption that had been reached. The ideological vacuum which we suffered from and the internalisation of bourgeois legality.
(b) The problem of facing a difficult epoch of crisis and political change where all the forces of the Left showed themselves interested in helping Capital overcome its’ difficult situation.
(c) Constant attacks by the bosses of the docks in order to obtain a change in our organisation of work such as to permit: a superior level of manipulation which would realise their profits; a greater authority over manual workers; an extension of privatisation, favouring the installations and trade of the docks.
(d) There were hardly any organisations like ours which would give us better support and mutual encouragement. By means of the democratic illusion we have in some ways suffered the surrender and desire for pacification which developed the large unions and has put the workers struggle into retreat. This reduces the possibilities of co-ordination and the inter-change and solidarity of the struggle. (e) The continual attack on the part of the State and the bosses towards all the minority, assemblyist, autonomous organisations. This attack we have also shared with the CNT (the anarchist union), which, nevertheless, did not stop them from being seduced by the siren songs of the Grand Negotiations, the offers of participation, the promises which come from on high.
(f) And that which has been the gravest of all - the continuous attack launched principally by the central unions - the CC.OO (communists) and the UGT (socialists). They have not grasped the decomposition suffered by such an important sector as are the ports for the economy of the country. Let’s not forget that the ports could play an important function of pressure within the political-economic framework of the country in relation to the internal repercussions and the international response that the actions within them could have. It is for this reason that the political realists understand that it’s a sector which should not be left in the hands of anybody and which they are interested in dominating to support their politics.

Their efforts have been continually directed at hindering all success in the struggle and all collective negotiation in the ports. Questioning the validity of representation directed from the base by committees of delegates, they proposed themselves as the sole valid expression and representation of the whole of the working class of the country by the fact of being majority central unions, even though the extent of their presence in the docks is minimal, a fact that has led them to be constantly defeated in their intentions. The systematic use of the means of publicity, which in this epoch, that calls itself democratic, already dominates to a vast extent, boycotted all our information and attacked us mercilessly as if we were to be treated as enemies of the class.

Without doubt, the principal theme of their attack has been to define us as cowards and craftsmen. Without wanting here to enter into our defence, it is worth us simply stating that it is in our constant struggles, in the radicality of our methods, of our achievements in struggle and difficulties we’ve met against the pacts and surrenders to the bosses, in the supportive solidarity of other comrades and sectors of the class to the extent that that was possible for us in each situation, in the critical capacity of our analysis of the capitalist organisation of society, etc. - it is in these which, in truth, we are: our definition and defence is in our movement, in our actions, in our daily practice. And this is public and daily and in the service of the whole of the working class - and it is from them that we await the verdict, and not from the politicos with opinions and ideological systems mediated by external interests.’

* * *
Inscription at the gate of Auschwitz: “Work Makes You Free”
(a photo of the entrance to Auschwitz was inserted here)

“We haven’t had fascism in this country because...the trade union movement has done what in Italy & Germany had to be done by the police force.” - Peregrine Worsthorne, Tory assistant editor of The Sunday Telegraph, in a TV interview on 11th May 1980.

Trade Unionism is a deadweight habit from the past whose only aim is to maintain an image of opposition in order to prevent real opposition. At ‘best’ the Union defends (more often merely pretends to defend) the interests of the wage slaves as wage slaves. Thus even the most ‘extreme’ unionists function as cops: e.g. Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson complained after he had been sacked by British Leylands’ boss, “I have solved more strikes in BL than Sir Michael Edwardes has provoked and that’s saying something”. In the 60s over 90% of strikes were wildcat, outside of the Unions’ initiative. But in failing to develop openly the critique of commodity production inherent in their practice by the 70s the vast majority of strikes, being official strikes, became associated with Trade Unions, who took on the image of protecting workers’ interests. Even in the Winter Of Discontent, when strikers had become “free collective vandals” (Callaghan) and the bourgeoisie complained of the truckdrivers “taking managerial decisions” (Sunday Telegraph), these striking workers pretended they could merely ‘use’ the unions, and go beyond them when they wished, which they sometimes did. The workers’ initiatives against the circulation of commodities were represented as “the fault of the unions”, who were blamed for not being efficient cops. The defeat of capitalisms’ Social Contract reinforced Trade Unionism as the apparent enemy of the dominant class, and thus became ideal as Thatchers’ bogey. And if proletarians seem to be on the retreat, it’s in part because most of them have rarely seen the Unions for what they are: pimps negotiating the rate at which you get screwed.

There followed a paragraph on 1926 and the difference between then and what was at stake in this strike, which was used later on in .

Part of this text, part of the bit of the Bacelona dockers statute, was reproduced, under pressure from independent French comrades, after the strike in the paper of the miners' national Rank and File organisation, but it was in a censored form.

It should be pointed out that assemblies by no means automatically imply that people determine their own struggle. The dockers assembly ended up eventually – in the late 80s or early 90s - as a kind of base union, negotiating redundancies, but even before that it had become too much a reference point – a friend of mine went to the assembly in the mid-80s and asked a woman there some questions about the struggle, what was going on – and she had nothing to say but, “go to the assembly – ask them”, rather like some people on strike will refer you to the the local shop steward because they don't have an opinion or because they're suspicious of outsiders. Nevertheless, towards the end of the miners strike, the dockers assembly in Barcelona put out a call to all dockers throughout the world to refuse to handle any coal for Britain. If the strike had continued beyond a year, this international support might very well have been significant. But unfortunately it came too late in the strike. Should some situation reminiscent of the miners strike ever arise again in this world, people internationally are going to have to move quicker, recognise what they can do and spread the struggle to their own terrain, but quickly. Though the internet provides a technological base for such a project, the internet is a double-edged sword, and States throughout the world are watching how it could be used against them and planning counter-attacks (particularly in the form of simple shutdowns of particular sites – which they tried to do with a section of the Indymedia - but also viruses etc.). Plus at the same time, people have so got used to isolation and sitting in front of a computer that merely informing people of what is happening in XYZ country on the internet doesn't mean people will recognise what they have in common with such people and what they could do to struggle with them outside of just putting something else on the internet.

For some analysis of the assembly form, see the section on the Zapatistas in “You Make Plans – We Make History”;