Late Late review
Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography
Well you can tell me Ive been asleep for the last seven years but this isnt a book Ive ever come across before, until browsing round a second hand book stall in Sheffield, I notice on the front of a book Arthurs face, displaying the countenance he usually reserves for his impersonation of a High Court judge. Despite the wealth of literary praises heaped upon its back cover by everyone from our ex- Research Officer Dave Feickert, to Norman Mad Monk Tebbit himself, the Times the Observer and professional snake Kim Howells et al, I don't remember this book producing a damp squid let alone a whirlwind. Since it was only now £2 I bought it.
The author begins by trying to convince us he is a comrade and friend, indeed the book disarmingly is dedicated to veteran Frickley Colliery militant and ex-lay NEC member John Stones. He tells us both he (Routledge) and his wife "Were both involved in (quite separate) support groups during the great strike of 1984-5". After reading the book with avid interest (after all it is about big chunks of my own and my comrades and families lives) I conclude that he is the sort of comrade one should never turn ones back on , never knowing what side he was really on. What was this "support" he offered us ? After all we were fighting to stop pit closures (except where there was exhaustion or unsafe or impractical conditions of course) but the main criticism Routledge has for Scargill is that he stuck to that demand. What a responsible person would have done, was to sign a deal knowing the closures would still go ahead, but which could be made to look like it was a victory and the miners would be fooled into thinking theyd won and go back to work with an apparent great victory under their belts, Scargill would be hailed as a great statesmanlike leader and the government / Coal board could carry on closing pits. Routledge calls this "Leadership" . " (In 1982) Norman Schofield president of the British Association of Colliery Management, for saw a free market in energy supply, with indigenous coal output falling from 120 million tonnes a year to only 50 million tonnes - a prediction already surpassed by events. Successive chairmen of the NCB and later British Coal, have consistently foreseen a smaller, more efficient industry. Leadership surely lay in coming to terms with that contraction, as Gormley had argued rather than standing like a latter day King Canute in the pit yard demanding that technological, economic and political change comes to a halt at the gate." So the leader of the miners Trade Union ought sensibly to accept a two third reduction in mining capacity, despite the technological and economic arguments against that, by "coming to terms with it" and not standing at the head of outraged opposition from his members. He ignores the evidence of his words that even in June 84 "A package of incentives was hastily put together to speed up the return to work- which had got men back at pits in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Staffordshire in addition to virtually normal working in Nottinghamshire...About a thousand men went back to work while 180,000 stayed out" (My emphasis) By the way we only had a total of about 190,000 people in the industry at the start of the strike so we can seriously question any suggestions of "normal working".
At the back end of July 84 Routlege tells us Scargill went to the TUC "with the most amazing shopping list of demands" .
The Amazing list
1) No Trade Unionist should cross picket lines.
2) No industry should accept supplies of iron or coal or anything else delivered by scabs.
3) Assistance with food and money.
Routledge comments "He must have known that Congress could never even contemplate such a revolutionary programme. (My emphasis) Now thats odd, because earlier he had treated us to the accounts of the 72 and 74 strikes, led by nice sensible leaders like Gormley, when we succeeded for the sole reason that we got just that level of solidarity. Seems it Ann's so much the demands, as the person whose doing the asking that makes them "revolutionary" and therefore impractical of course.
In concluding Scargills crime for not accepting a sell out he tells us quite unequivocally "Most if not all other union leaders would have seized on the draft settlement available in July or the NACODS formula on the table in late October, and presented it to the members as famous victory- even if it was not and could not have been" (My emphasis) We should remember and Routlege knows the NACODS formula hasnt prevented a single pit closing and as he says wasnt designed to do so. What is amazing is that someone should bare faced write into a nation wide publication that Union leaders ought to deliberately stab their members in the back while telling them theyve won a great victory, and hold this up as a model of principle against Scargills persistence to continue with the original demand of the membership to stop unnecessary pit closures. I think it goes to illustrate the slimy convenience which many journalists view the quality of principle, and how confused and angry they get when people such as miners persist in trying to live to a qualitatively higher standard. Scargill we are told "prolonged" the strike, because he didnt call it off. This is the other side of the coin that says he called it in the first place which of course he did not. Routledge can never accept that we the rank and file imposed the strike upon the Union, he likewise could not simply call it off because he said so. Routledge actually does believe 180,000 of us on strike were dancing to the jig played by one fiddler, he starts the book by telling us that he had told the queen no less, she was wrong when said the strike was about one man, he then goes on to apologies to HRH and agree that she had been right all along. Whatever he thinks of Scargill and he clearly doesnt like him, such opinions are gross slights on the intelligence and wit of the mining communities who stuck the very worse of industrial battles out for 12 months and more in some cases. This aspect of "Scargill says" which Routledge thinks is an alternative to Simon Says played by tens of thousands of us dupes is carried in his vision of the past too. Talking of 1974 "This executive decision led to the rejection of Scargills plans for a massive wage claim at the annual conference in Llandudno a month later. Scargill retaliated by boycotting talks with the NCB on a pit productivity scheme". Nothing here of the thousands of branch votes taken at a dozen different Area Councils, or the argument and voting at national conferences which dictated policy and direction throughout. "Local productivity incentive schemes were introduced in 1977 against strong opposition from Scargill" not to mention four National Conferences, Three NECs and Two nation-wide ballots ! So about 200,000 of us really didnt count in the Incentive issue, it was just the right wing outmaneuvering Scargill. The fact that they rode rough shod over ballots and majority decisions on this issue is OK by Routledge it seems, he misses the point entirely as to why we were so skeptical about the sanctity of any nation-wide ballot result in 1984. (Incidentally he is miles out of line with every other pundit in saying the strike decision didnt get put to the vote because we knew we would have lost it, all the straw polls taken by newspapers around June predicted we would have won a two to one victory had the question been put to a nation-wide ballot at that time, we are similarly certain the scabs would have remained scabs regardless of any ballot result). Likewise the strong suggestion is we didnt go to fight literally side by side by fellow trade unionists at Grunwick but because Scargill had got each man "almost a weeks net pay.." For going , that was in fact one Union day wage (same as the daily underground rate) and £8 expenses for meals. I would like to bet Mr Routledge and his colleagues received considerably more than that for standing in the shadows covering the story. He cannot bring himself to just tell the whole truth, especially when it comes to attacking his gutter press colleagues. "Photographs of him (Arthur) at the (14 May Mansfield ) Rally with his right arm raised in salute to the 20,000 strikers were given wide publicity. Of course he wasnt giving a Hitlerite salute, but it looked uncommonly like that." Not really Paul, he raised both arms to quiet the chanting crowd lest they miss a word of his wisdom, the Sun et al edited out his left arm to create the impression they were looking for. Most of us have seen the unedited photos and Im sure you have too.
Later he tells us the decision not to sit down with the strike breaking UDM that "he chose splendid isolation.." (My emphasis) Despite the fact that this strategy and principle has been debated and voted upon at every national conference since the end of the strike, and has been endorsed as the policy and principle of the union as a whole from which he takes his direction. It is not and cannot be the other way round.
Of course this book isnt just about the 84 / 85 miners strike, it aspires to being a biography. True the book reveals some interesting stories and anecdotes of Arthurs trajectory, together with the famous and important things he has done or says he has done, like being offered the Chairmanship of the N C B! What underlines and slants these tales is the authors total dislike of his subject. Doesnt like the way he talks, the things he says, the clothes he wears, the things he does, his mannerisms etc. Finding irritating things about Arthurs personality shouldnt be difficult, but Routledge is driven to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Like saying Arthur actually gets nervous before a TV interview ! There now !
Another Scargill untruth " that he was actually tempted in my younger days when I was fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, to try for a full blooded career which would involve standing for the local council, which I did. And eventually standing for Parliament In fact he was twenty two-when he stood unsuccessfully as Communist Party candidate for Worsbrough Urban District Council." Wow, four years out ! some untruth.
He goes on to throw scorn on the idea that Scargill could ever have run for Parliament in 86, or that there was any evidence of it. Those of us involved with the Union know that it was a high topic of conversation during the period, and that Arthur choose what he says now seriously did consider standing becoming the Barnsley Central MP and the NUM President at the same time. Whether the NUM would have allowed him to do it or not is another matter, and a hostile press campaign coupled with right wing maneuverings in the Labour Party probably killed the babe off before birth, but Routledge ought to have asked around (something he did very little of obviously) it was far from myth and whoever told him "Arthur was not keen" doesnt know Arthur.
Then the time the guy attacks him in a telephone kiosk with a pool cue , when I asked Jim Parker (Arthurs driver) at the time if Arthur had used his alleged judo skills, he said "na , he just decked him !" Routledge tells a new story, "Scargill cowered in the phone box when Hill (the attacker) first opened the door." It was he Jim Parker , who put his arms around his neck and pulled him back, Scargill failing to punch him but hurting his own eye in the endeavor. We on the other hand had heard that after flattening the guy in a rage, Arthur was heard to say " touch my hair again and Ill kill you" which is far more plausible.
Factual inaccuracies there are a few, like he believes an NUM Branch delegate, goes to Council meetings and presumably Conference and votes and speaks any which way he chooses :- "Freed from the constraints of Communist Party direction and responsibility, Scargill wisely reached an accommodation with his right wing branch committee on his conduct in the council chamber in Barnsley, where he was to claim Woolleys seat on the front row, I went along with the majority decisions at the pit, and they were content to let me speak for them on the area Council. This arrangement appears to err on the side of generosity. He accepts that he is outvoted by the moderate majority at the pit, but says what he likes at the area council, where he is their sole representative." A delegate is just that, he takes from his branch the views and direction of votes from the Branch to the Council, and then the views of the overall Council back to the branch. He speaks on mandate, and votes under direction of the members he represents. At national level the delegate votes in accordance with his Area majority vote after having argued the branch corner for direction of the Area policy.
He tells us at least twice that the NUM affiliates to the TUC and the Labour Party more members than we have working in the industry, clearly he thinks this is a fraud, he doesnt seem to know that when we leave the pit we don't all die the next day, some of us survive quite a few years as retired members, still as branch activists, often as Labour movement conference delegates and sometimes as members or supporters of the Labour Party . We had and have every right to affiliate their views and votes in the direction of the TUC and or Labour Party. Likewise he tries to throw the "non attendance at Union meetings" shit at us, but this one will not stick. NUM Branch meetings have always been the most actively attended , one only needs to look at strike statistics in the industry to know men whove ragged the pit up are hardly not going to attend the meetings to discuss the outcome, the other men not on strike would certainly turn up to see if they would be. During the advent of the Incentive Scheme prices and payments were a constant cause of dispute and argument and real earnings differences depended on many branch decisions, for this reason NUM Branch meetings over the last 25 years have been more of a mass character, than the small room full of pit conspirators suggested by Routledge. Of the assertion "he (Gormley )saw a danger in poor attendance at Branch meetings of the NUM which was allowing the ultra-left to make inroads." The reverse is true, if theres a mass at the meeting, theres a dispute or a discontentment, the mass meeting is the forte of the communist and militant, it is the quiet uneventful apathetic old pals club of a meeting which is the forte of the moderate and right winger.
Talking of the Orgreave struggle he tells us the oft repeated story that "The coking plant owned and operated by British Steel was supplying badly needed coke to the Anchor steel complex at Scunthorpe" my emphasis, in fact we now know it wasnt badly needed at all they had been landing all they wanted by ship at their private wharf and running it on their own trains on their own private line. It was set up to get us out of the Nottingham and Staffordshire coalfields, and into a solid mass of flesh that could be set up for a blood bath every day. Mind I don't think Arthur accepts this as the truth yet either, but a truly "investigative" journalist could easily have proved it, but that would mean it wasnt Arthur who set Orgreave up for his own glory, rather Orgreave set him up for a tactical defeat. Many militants warned of this at the time but we all know Arthurs myopic inability to see things any other way than his, it wasnt helped by troops of noncombatant SWP /WP / et all paper sellers who thought Orgreave was a sort of Lourdes which would deliver up a victory in a miracle.
He forgets to mention the two Yorkshire miners "Emboldened" to take the NUM to court for not having a ballot Ken Foulstone and Robert Taylor were soon after jailed for being emboldened to break into big houses and injunction other peoples stuff. "They (the thieves and scabs) voiced their deep dislike of Scargill, Foulstone telling reporters; The only person thats given anything is the NCB and the only person who hasnt given anything is the leader of the NUM. You would think an investigative journalist would have discovered this little chink in his story, and given that the book was published in 93 he must have known about it, it demonstrates again how the whole truth need not be presented if it spoils the direction of the story, two horny handed sons of toil taking on a Union baron, not indeed the blank cheques given by right wing solicitors Hodgkinson Tallent acting for the government and the right wing nutter David Hart (whom Routledge describes as "the libertarian adviser to MacGregor".)
According to the author, Scargill in Oct. at meetings in London "were the last gasp of a faint -hearted move by the pit deputies union NACODS to come to the aid of the miners" ( my emphasis ) .It misses Pauls attention that the deputies work in the pits which means if they close the deputies loose their jobs. Their own jobs ! The members of NACODS wanted to get into the strike, and twice voted by over 80% to take strike action along side us not for us, for their own jobs. That the ballots so loudly shouted for were instruments of sovereign democracy Routledge was no doubt in the case of the NUM, ballots on behalf of NACODS however don't mean a damn thing and if your a NACODS national leader you can ignore them, without a comment.
Talking of the anguished National Conference to authorise a return to work, he tells us of "The Yorkshire motion not to go back without an amnesty for hundreds of men sacked during the strike. Since the Board had no intention of ever signing such an amnesty this was effectively a move to keep the strike going indefinitely". It wasnt, the Yorkshire Area had a rip roaring, soul searching ,tub thumping battle or whether to go back to work or not, the motion to stop out and continue the fight was defeated. Routledge thinks the supporters of the return were fools who couldnt see that a vote for a return if we could get an amnesty was the same as voting to stop out. This isnt true, the supporters of that motion wanted to return with an amnesty, its opponents such as myself and most of South Yorkshire and Doncaster wanted to continue the struggle. An amnesty was a possibility if that had been a condition for a return nation-wide, as it was the haste to end the strike before it ended some of the areas was indecent, and left our dead on the field so to speak.
The 77.5 % national strike ballot result in July 87 and the serious issues behind it, to say nothing of the truly scandalous sell out of the result by moderate NEC members pissing our strength against the wall, all escape Routledge, he cant seem to get an edge on Scargill with this event so it gets eight and one half lines of nonsense. The squandering of that result however was to have serious implications five years later, when the Union would once again seek authority to take industrial action, but by then with a work force totally cynical of the NECs ability to stick to its guns, had a gross reluctance to fight alone again, and a majority who were none to keen to stay in an industry where much of the dignity and meaning of being a miner had gone. We will find nothing of this in the book however.
Speaking of the National leadership election in November of that year he again gets it wrong, John Walsh who ran against Arthur would first have to resign his full-time position as North Yorkshire Area Agent. "But John Walsh..had no qualms about putting his job on the line. A large number of members are disillusioned with the leadership he argued." Well he may have, but as a full time official he certainly didnt resign, or loose his position because of the election, which he lost.
He tells us that the 1988 NUM Conference was "stunned to silence" by Arthurs support for our two Welsh comrades given a life sentence for the death of the Scab taxi driver during the strike, while many felt it was the scab himself who should have died rather than the Taxi driver who was driving him, few among the strikers and fewer among the pickets condemned them , most of thought "there but for the grace of God go I" and many more scabs and scab herders could have been killed in the same way as many more pickets could have been. Arthur stunned nobody but Routledge who completely misjudges the mettle of the miners throughout his review of this period.
Scandal As we always say if you fling enough shit, some of it sticks. The veritable sewage pit thrown at Arthur and Peter Heathfield during the Libya, Gaddafi, Russian miners gold and sticky fingers in the till allegations has ensured that whatever the subsequent busting of the story the accusation would live on. Regrettably your average punter in the bar will still say with authority that Arthur Scargill stole the miners money to buy a big house with. The story itself is a can of worms, incredibly difficult to separate fact from myth and hear say, from motives aimed at just bringing down Scargill and in the process international solidarity and covert moves to counter state action aimed at bankrupting the NUM and smashing the Union. The story the way Routledge tells it, is just a rerun of the Mirror / Cook libel. (Routledge calls Roger Cook, without any cynicism or tongue in cheek "The fearless investigator" doubtless he would have called Maxwell something similar had he not been totally exposed as an out an out crook. He of course reluctantly relays to us the trail of failed allegations, the dropped charges, the enquiries that turn up not guilty and not proven verdicts, but these are grudging hints that he got away with it, rather than the central charges were false. However it cant be left just like that, because the revelations did open up wide differences in approach between the bulk of the NUM and Arthur. He has never accepted that the money sent from the Russian miners was for the striking British miners, he has always asserted it was sent for International Purposes, one of which just happened to be the NUM strike in Britain, but it was always to be at the discretion of the IMO. Its a hard square to circle clearly the money was raised by Soviet miners for striking British miners, true the Soviet leadership had promised Thatcher they would not send money to the British miners, true you cant trade roubles and they have to be exchanged for more acceptable western currencies, true you couldnt send the money straight here in any form because the state through the sequestrator would just take it, or it would be tied up with injunctions etc. All of this demanded subterfuge, false bank accounts, international connections etc. Nothing wrong with any of that, it was necessary to sustain the strike and the miners families. But at the end of that period, at the end of the sequestration June 86 the Union should have been informed and the NUM deposited the money which had been raised for it, or rather the miners and their families. Arthur has candidly said were it not for the revelations he would never have told the NEC or the Conference of the funds, because they were not ours ! It is something we shall perhaps never agree about, although certainly he had no say whatever in where the money was sent to, or in what form, or for what purpose, that was entirely at the discretion of Mikhail Srebny the Soviet miners leaders in charge of raising the money and dispatching it. It was never ever sent to the NUM as such. Outwith this process, Heathfield and Scargill lived in houses owned by the NUM or about to be owned by the NUM, as did all former national officials of the NUM. In Scargills case he paid off his own mortgage before it was bought by the Union, Peter Heathfield lived in a house which was the property of the Derbyshire Area of the NUM ,the National union would purchase it from that body. In neither case did the national officials have mortgages during the strike, the houses were being bought for the NUM albeit for the National Officials to live in per age long practice, but the houses were not Their Property. This of course knocks out the middle stump of the allegation, but Arthur inadvertently handed over another bucket of mud with which to further cloud the waters. For some obscure reason I have never fathomed out he has a panache for big cars and wanted to likewise buy a big house. Jack Common the revolutionary Geordie writer wrote in 1935 "Communism is not merely a social remedy; it is a question troubling our conduct. We must have done with leaders who understand the historic necessity of Communism but who never let it be a personal question: of those whose fantastic preaching of class warfare is only silenced by a villa in Twickenham and a smart car." Arthurs "villa" was a £100,000 plus mini-mansion in Barnsley called Treelands. Now , its been said of me that I should be quite happy living in a wigwam, and thats probably true, its also true that for a national Trade Union leader, on a top notch salary (which conference determines through the rules and is currently more than £64,000 pa ) who has worked without a break from being a teenager whose wife has likewise worked most of her life and who now find the kids have grown up and left , £100,000 is not a fantastically high mortgage. Doubtless also true had it been any other trade union leader in Britain nobody would have said a word. The problem was two fold Arthur hadnt been paid at the time when he wanted to buy the house, indeed because of sequestration wasnt paid until November 1986, but this was only five months following the end of the strike, with hundreds sacked, widespread desperate debts, people being evicted and mortgages being surrendered for want of money. To go forward and purchase such a visible display of affluence was the in my mind the a major lack of tact to say the least. What was worse was that Arthur borrowed £91,000 from the Miners International Research Education and Support Fund , which HAD been raised by Eastern block miners ,either (according to your point of view) for International Purposes or for striking British miners and others. The fact that 50% of this was repaid with interest within 5 months, and the rest with interest by Jan 89. ( Lightman QC investigating , agreed that all the debts (which had then been transferred to the International Miners Organisation)had been repaid.) Almost doesnt matter, as a lack of judgment and leaving he and the Union open to attack it was monumental. In straight cash terms, the fund did well from the deal, but that was never the issue to the membership. Most Union officials have perks and can borrow from their Unions, but this money, non of the members or executive knew about, and given the way it was raised, from impoverished East European and Russian miners, to assist their fellow miners in struggle, the lack of discretion was breathtaking and leaves us all , not least Arthur open to constant abuse and attack. The facts of the case have never bothered the British media or Routledge, finding dirt to sling at Scargill and means to rubbish selfless international solidarity was always their aim, to this extent they succeeded.
Moving on to the Lightman enquiry itself, Routledge alleges that most miners never got near the facts of the case, he has to be joking, with massive media attention, the Daily Mirror, & ITV pumping out the scandal, TV cameras permanently camped in the pit yards, it was a constant source of argument underground and in branch rooms. Mass meetings were called all over the country in pit communities and at which Arthur spoke personally, special conference demanded, access to all the findings facts and figures. Special give away documents were produced for anyone who wanted them, most branches did potted versions of their own as did the SWP, the place was awash with reports and papers. Miners contrary to Routledges opinion do not take things laying down, and chronicled their questions, highlighted the passages, loudly raised the questions and confronted Arthur and Heathfield face to face. Live phone in radio programmes filled the airwaves, everyone was talking about it, everyone had a view if not always an informed one. The verdict of the miners was it was very tacky, very dodgy, but Arthur and Peter had NOT betrayed the trust of the miners, had not used strike funds for their own gain and had acted to protect the Union and membership throughout. That was the verdict they passed at the special delegate conference. Routledge concludes "Most miners either believed the press and television were lying, or were apathetic." Miners, apathetic about their own money ? Another joke one presumes. Talking of the conference "But the votes were stacked up against the dissidents. Yorkshire, the Midlands, Durham and Nottingham were all decided in favour of Scargill before the proceedings began." This is symptomatic of whole way Routledge conducts his analysis, it suggests its all slight of hand, rigged. Actually each of the areas mentioned already had exhaustive individual branch meetings to determine their positions on the whole issues before them. These were brought together at Area Council meetings at which all the issues were again thrashed out and a policy decision made, these areas then come together for the national conference, of course they know which they stand on the issue, those in opposition likewise had decided where they stood before the proceedings began. He fails persistently to recognise that the delegates are not free agents there to make their own minds up as the mood takes them, but to reflect the views of the constituencies who elected them, and sent them there on their behalf.
On the question of money from Libya, the rank and file would have taken assistance from anywhere, the other side was fighting all out war to starve the families back to work, and beat the men off the streets. If Gadaffi wanted to give us funds we had every right to accept them anyway. As it was it was never finally established we had, but in our mind, so what ?
By way of nice footnote, Routledge concludes at the end of this section "Windsor (the ex-NUM Chief Exec who helped set the whole attack up) broods in his Gonderville manor, awaiting the opportunity to get into the witness box, while Scargill rests his case." In 1998 Windsor got into his witness box, after being found guilty of fraud, embezzlement and forgery in connection with the scandal and with stealing documents and forging others, he was ordered to repay all the of the funds he misappropriated .
Politics , Arthurs politics are a mystery to Routledge, for a start he clearly thinks the admission that Arthur regards himself as a communist to be some sort of discovery or journalistic coup :- " There was one embarrassing interlude....In the interview, he once again appeared to embrace Communism, recalling that he had learned his socialism from his father Harold, who was, and is, a Communist. Not the Eurocommunist variety, not the New Realist variety, but a real Communist who wants to see capitalism torn down and replaced by a system where people own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange. Its called, quite simply, Socialism. He convinced me at the time it was right. Im more passionately in support of that view now than I was then."
He paraphrases Arthur saying "we will win parliamentary power, we will win real political power, we will win working class power to the extent that we organise people in this country to fight for, and sustain, the alternative socialist system that we want to see. Parliaments do not necessarily reflect the views of ordinary people, and if you have a Parliament that is not being pushed by a working class movement demanding change, expecting and requiring change, then you will not get that change." Routledge quotes some Dave Priscott, a Secretary of Leeds Communist Party as describing the above as "crude Marxism rather than creative Marxism" well actually its not necessarily Marxist at all, but it sounds like a common sense appraisal of reality rather than being crude.
Routledge is obviously judge- par excellence as to qualities of socialist thought : Arthur on Socialism :-
" The one thing I would never do is to commit myself to say it will occur on such and such a day or at such and such a time. I know from experience not only here but in many parts of the world, that circumstances can alter quite dramatically and change things literally overnight. So all I would say is that the inevitability of socialism is there for all to see, because we cant carry on with a system where we do produce too much food and we put it into great big warehouses to rot at the same time as we see people die of starvation in the Third World. And if no other reason than that and for wanting to bring about a world without nuclear weapons, a world of peace, I think that Britain and its people will eventually turn toward a socialist alternative." Routledge comments "Such sentiments would not be out of place on the letters page of a childrens newspaper, and could not seriously be described as a political philosophy." Routledge exposes as he goes along just what he thinks a political philosophy is and it doesnt include loyalty, standing for a principle or telling the truth to the men who have elected you, obviously, he is the last person to be able to judge Socialism, socialists or militant class struggle tactics.
Coming to the last great public campaign in 92 against what was in essence the final fateful blow against the coal industry as an industry Routledge again willfully misunderstands the whole process, he knows nothing of the deep and wretched hatred evident in many if not most of out members, of what the coal industry had become. The NUMs first campaign and in retrospect the one we were least successful with, was to win our own members to the idea that we could actually win this time. Many just wanted out while others were determined that they would never again fight alone. There was no reason why they should, 35,000 power workers were to go with the pit closure plan, the vast bulk of rail freight was coal, many thousands of rail jobs were also due to go with coal. Our common sense strategy was to win joint industrial action across the three industries, after all a simple power workers overtime ban would have been enough on its own to shut down the country, with a joint rail strike thrown in for good measure and tens of thousands of miners and an equal number of supporters on the streets in militant protest, strategically given the right will, we could win, perhaps even easily. We needed a little time to build the will to win, to convince the other Union leaderships in our immediate alliance, we needed to turn the attention of the country at large as to what was going on. Our mass public campaigns, with the upper middle classes rattling their jewelry in support and posh London suburbia hanging out a heroes welcome for maybe a million people on two separate days was brilliant, but it was never meant to be of an for itself, it would never work on its own. Routledge seems to think we promised we wouldnt use industrial action, utter crap of course, we didnt use industrial action in the first instance, because we were loaded with blanks, the pooder was wet and the troops wouldnt fight. What could we make of the following:- "What he really wanted- all he seems to have ever wanted since becoming president - was to have a successful strike over jobs and pits. ..On Dec. 17 he hijacked a press conference called by the Coalfields Community Campaign at Westminster to announce his latest wheeze: a South African -style -stay-away day day. The NUM would announce a set day when miners and their supporters would not go to work. This novel idea took the Unions executive by surprise and went through virtually on the nod. Only George Bolton, by now Scargills fiercest critic within the leadership opposed it." Now then all Scargill really wanted was for them to stop shutting pits, as Leader of the miners Union why does Routledge find this such an amazing revelation, he stands the world on its head by saying what we wanted was strikes against closures, no Paul we wanted no closures ! Secondly at the expanded National Conference called to consider forms of action against the new and terminal closure round, we unanimously gave the NEC the power to call whatever forms of industrial action they thought the time and temperament of the movement would stand. Challenging the anti union laws, which our NUM comrades in South Africa had done by sickies as the Australians call them, stay away days or having one off for the queen as workers across the length and breadth of Britain had called them for half a century, was entirely in line, with thinking in the areas and the vast majority of the NEC who be honest didnt know what we were going to do next or how on earth, wretched and exhausted, we could take this on. As it turned out the power workers couldnt be persuaded to do the least thing in their own defence, while two days of action produced 12 million lost work days from Rail, Mining and sympathetic action across Britain. The railworkers true to 1921 withdrawal, true to their leaders (Thomas) form, in 1926 pulled out once again in 92 and made their own settlement. Paddy 'Back down' and his Liberals voted with the Tories and the Ulster Orangemen , and the rebel Tories by en large shit a brick and crawled back under them, and the closures steamed on through despite the most massive public opposition ever seen over any issue, but the miners were abandoned, and had not the will to fight on anymore. Somehow, Routledge lays this as Arthurs door as a final crowning glory to his defeats. Mind Arthurs continued cry of traitor against our men who battered to a standstill gave up the fight and took the enhanced redundancy terms allowing the pits to close without further obstruction also shows incredible lack of empathy and sensitivity as to the enormously of what they and their families had been through in the nine or ten years between 83 and 92 / 93.
One couldnt say the book is seriously flawed, there is no yawning gulf between reality and the presentation, what there is is serious bias, a reconstruction of events to suite a particular purpose. Yes read the book, there are undoubtedly clear portraits of Arthurs character and his formative years in there, but hopelessly spoiled by petit-bourgeois confusion and distortion. What will be revealing will be the autobiography don't imagine for one minute its not coming, my guess is its in its 10th volume already , few will escape mention, with Arthur muttering nightly on the word processor into the wee small hours "Revenge, Revenge !!" Watch this space.
The Unauthorised Biography
Pub Harper Collins. London 1994 Available all good 2nd hand bookstalls and car boot sales nationwide.