A further exhange in Black Flag on the "The Miners and The Left" article in Black Flag no. 114. (vol. 7, no.6C) 1984.
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
Dear Black Flag,
I was pleased to see the letter from RG (Exeter) in the Flag No. 116. I had been furious about the article “The Miners and the Left” and had intended to write to you myself.
I am stunned that any Anarchist can write that the structures that the miners, or any other strikers, work within are “irrelevant”. When I read the article a picture immediately entered my head of a hypothetical union run on fascist lines and headed by a dictator. One sunny day the dictator called a strike and threatened to expel/beat up/ murder every worker who did not support it. As it happened a group of Anarchists supported the premises of the strike and joined the dictator and a small band of others in their actions. A few of the @s had some qualms about it and asked: “Is it really libertarian to work with a dictator?” But their newspaper hastily reassured them that the structure of the union was irrelevant.
You can’t be serious.
I thought M (Doncaster)’s reply was useful. It clarified a lot of points which should have been said more clearly in the original article. There’s a lot of difference between “running in during disputes, attacking the structures and generally being negative” – which I am sure no @ would advocate – and seeing the structures as “irrelevant”.
I was amazed to learn that the article was written to stimulate debate about the nature of solidarity. You could have fooled me!
I thought it was a thinly disguised attack on the SWP. Next time could you make it a bit clearer. An interview with the miners as to their idea of useful forms of solidarity would have been far more interesting.
Another point about Ms reply to RG. It was couched in terms of disagreement yet to me M seemed to be making very similar points to RG. eg. I was glad to hear that M does recognise as does RG, that criticism if it comes from people clearly giving solidarity can be constructive.
Last point – above all “The miners and the Left” was a waste of valuable space which could have been filled with info about workers’ struggles – in particular about the miners strike, which to me, is the most important industrial action for years and deserves all of our informed support.
Fighting with the miners,
C.G. Hackney/ London E8
To CG, Hackney,
For your information, the article “The Miners and the Left” was written from a report ‘Bores Under the Floor’, which happened to be written by a miner for miners; also from conversations with miners on picket lines; as our neighbours; as our friends; and as our comrades. Of course it was about the nature of solidarity. As for the attack on the SWP, that comes directly from the miners.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but your hypothetical case seems to be a thinly disguised, cheap and safe attack on A. Scargill! He did not call the strike – this happened as a direct result of miners coming out in support of the Cortonwood men whose pit was threatened with imminent closure. Scargill & Taylor had nothing to do with it – see previous issues of Black Flag which spells this out quite clearly. Expulsion of scabs is a call from the rank & file. Of course there are doubts about this, but it is up to the rank & file miners to decide. Plus, the deaths in this strike have been the deaths of pickets; people are lying in intensive care with broken skulls & suspected brain damage – they are pickets injured by thug pigs. Old women have had their homes broken into by pigs wielding truncheons. Children have had limbs broken by these same pigs.
Having been involved with this strike from day one, not only on picket lines daily but also giving economic support, moral support, our time and energy to the communities involved in this dispute – including our own – I find your cheap jibes insulting. If you believe that debating about the nature of solidarity is a waste of space then there’s something wrong – because the nature of solidarity is about workers struggle and vice versa. Our reporting of the strike in this area for Black Flag has been informed – if you want interviews with miners go on the picket lines – you’re not too far from Kent, & talk with the people involved there.
There seems to me to be too much attacking of the NUM in this strike* and not enough attacking the NCB, the government, or the pigs. The structure of the NUM may not be perfect, but attacking that during the middle of the most important workers struggle in the country for years, is counter-productive. Miners themselves have started to question the structures but want unity now & we should respect this. This is not defending the bureaucrats, only the rank & file. Talk with members of the mining communities, don’t patronizingly spout purist platitudes from the safe confines of Hackney. And if you want articles on workers’ struggles, and can’t get to Kent, why not try writing about those struggles in your area – or aren’t there any?!
At the moment we in mining areas feel that we are in a country that is occupied by an enemy force – which we are. Pigs from London, Manchester, in fact from all over the country, are occupying our streets and attacking us. Living here doesn’t allow itself to us wasting time on cheap jibes about a union. Our solidarity is with the men, women and children who make up the pit communities, & we shall continue to fight with them, and report about that fight.
Fighting with the miners (literally)
J & M (Doncaster)
* by people who know nothing of its history, structure and nature.