Looking back in anger – The Miners’ Strike 30 years on
With new papers released by the National Archives about the Miners’ Strike the Anticapitalist Initiative’s Chris Strafford caught up with Harry Paterson, author of the upcoming book Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 years on, to discuss what we have learnt.
CS: With the release of documents from the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office from 1984 detailing discussions and actions of the Thatcher government in the Miners’ Strike we have got some insight into how the attack on the miners was carried out. What were your initial thoughts once you had finished reading the documents?
HP: To be honest, my surprise was due to being somewhat unsurprised, really. I was frantically sifting through the material as I’d just had the suggested first-draft edits of my book back from my publisher and I was keen to include anything that would add extra punch to the narrative. Really, all that the documents revealed was that much, if not all, of what the miners, their leaders and those of us involved in the various support organisations knew and/or suspected at the time, was absolutely correct.
Having said that, that was a jaded view and not one that fully appreciated the significance of Thatcher’s actions and the relevance they have for today’s generation of activists. Mike Simons said it best, I think; here’s a quote from my book which best sums things up:
“Mike Simons, photographer and contributor to one of the most hard-hitting photographic accounts of the strike, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and an independent film-maker involved in the 2014 documentary about the strike, Still The Enemy Within, says, “For me the important thing is the Cabinet papers show the Tories were fighting a class war as a civil war. There are too many who claim to be on the left telling us today that class politics are old fashioned. They are not. The rich fight the class war every day and they are very conscious of what they are doing.
The other important thing is to be proved right. Nothing I’ve read yet in the cabinet papers is a surprise, but we were called fantasists and propagandists at the time. Now there is no argument that the Tories were cynical liars thirty years ago. That makes it easier to say don’t trust anything they say today – about strikers, about immigration, about schools or the NHS.
People don’t trust the Tories about generalities. The stuff out today helps us say don’t trust them about specifics either and that is useful when our side has its back against the wall in a particular struggle.
One thing I’ve learned doing the film [Still The Enemy within] with young people is that they haven’t learned what we learned and they can’t conceive of such things until they hear a set of people involved or see long-lost archived accounts or see stuff like these cabinet minutes. It is very important to see things with the eyes of someone making a discovery for the first time. Old hat to us – although nice to be proved right – devastating to someone who had a few illusions or hasn’t experienced what we experienced.”
CS: A lot of the media has concentrated on the planned use of soldiers to move essential goods, essentially break the strike, if action taken by the dockers in 1984 was sustained. But that doesn’t seem to me that surprising, considering it was only ten years ago that Tony Blair’s government used soldiers to undermine action by firefighters. What, if anything, has been surprising for you in these documents and does it confirm, as Paul Mason suggested, the worse fears of the miners?
HP: Again, it wasn’t that surprising to me. At the time, those rumours were rife and such a course of action was widely anticipated by a section of the NUM leadership and the more politically-aware elements of the NUM membership. In fact, Dave Douglass, at the time the Delegate for Hatfield Branch and a key organiser of Doncaster pickets and all sorts of other actions, had prepared for just such an event with a leaflet and other propaganda aimed at the troops. He and his comrades were organising a mass propaganda campaign aimed at convincing troops to defy their orders, refuse to move scab coal and to support the miners. I’ve seen the material, which Dave still has, and it’s very serious stuff indeed. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that if the troops had been used, it could well have moved things on from an industrial dispute, albeit a highly politicised one, on both sides, to the point of actual insurrection. Certainly Dave and other miners involved would have been guilty of sedition and undoubtedly would have faced lengthy jail sentences. While that might not be surprising to you or to those of us involved at the time, such discoveries, and the resulting implications, were and are dynamite. At the very least, it’s likely that involving troops might finally have pushed the TUC General Council from their position at the time – one of abject apathy, inertia and cowardice – into coming down fully on the side of the miners and triggering all sorts of secondary and supporting strikes. Something which the documents show was fully appreciated by Thatcher’s advisors, hence the decision to pull back from such a course of action.
CS: Having seen in black and white that the government feared a miners victory in July 1984 and that they micromanaged the strike in league with the National Coal Board seems to be a bitter sweet vindication of the NUM and their supporters. Your upcoming book on the Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire is called Look Back in Anger, surely these documents can only increase the anger about what happened, could you explain how the strike was undermined from within the NUM and why?
HP: Yes, it does indeed. Absolutely. Our side was absolutely correct and we have been proved to be so. Again, though, not something at all that was any surprise to us at the time. In fact, this is best illustrated by another excerpt from my book, the piece in question written nearly a year ago; well before the release of the Cabinet papers:-
“In the same month, talks between the NUM and the NCB were dashed upon the rock of just one word; ‘beneficial.’ The NUM argued that a precise definition of ‘beneficial’ must be settled before agreement could be reached. If pits were to close because they couldn’t be ‘beneficially’ developed, did that mean because they had exhausted their reserves or were unsafe? Or did it mean that the Board couldn’t ‘beneficially’ i.e. economically, develop pits according to the rigged strictures of profit and loss as determined by them and the Government? The NCB refused to be pinned down and the latest round of negotiations fell apart.
Dave Douglass makes some interesting observations regarding the July talks. “This was probably the closest we came to a virtual victory; the agreement would have withdrawn all pit closures and redundancies. It would have granted amnesty to all sacked or arrested miners. It would have put in place a joint conciliation board to review closure plans and no pit would be closed in which the coal could be beneficially developed.
Had we agreed to this, it would have been a tremendous victory, the other side would certainly have been given a God Almighty bloody nose. Time could be bought to build on the position, especially in Nottingham, were we could demonstrate that action and solidarity gained results. We could have started to sort out the infrastructure and do a campaign of education and co-coordinated propaganda at pits.
Would the other side come back with closures? Its hard to see how they could come back and argue that twenty-five or thirty pits couldn’t be ‘beneficially developed’ though they might have tried a more gradual approach, pit-by-pit. If we had nailed to the floor that there would be no loss of wages during the period of review and nobody lost anything by going to the wire with every pit threatened with review, they could never expect to close more than one a year, even less maybe. Meantime remember what the strike was about. From Thatcher’s point of view she would have lost, the NUM would not have been destroyed. In fact it would be immensely strengthened. The wind would have been in our hair.
That’s certainly one way of looking at it. Arthur, though, was fearful of the body-swerve which they gave us in 1981 when they backed off from the closure plan in response to mass strike wave then. He wanted a copper bottomed agreement. But did we actually need one at the risk losing all the concessions gained? Would they really have come back a third time, and would it really have been so impossible to mobilize everyone again having demonstrated twice in three years we could force them to back down? How close we came at that time, cannot be underestimated.”
So that’s July, then, and how achingly close we came to victory, which the cabinet papers have confirmed.
In terms of being undermined from within, well, Nottinghamshire bears most of the blame for that, of course. It was a very complex situation which we’d struggle to cover here, although it is dealt with fully in my book. I suppose the easiest way of explaining things, for the sake of brevity, albeit somewhat crudely, is that the NUM’s internal structure was a major factor, coupled with the class-consciousness – or lack of! – of the majority of Nottinghamshire miners.
Basically, despite the appellation of ‘National,’ the NUM was no such thing. It was a highly-federated body which comprised, immediately prior to the strike, twenty-one ‘Areas.’ Most of them also independent trade unions in their own right and legally constituted, registered and certified as such. There were thirteen geographically-based Areas and seven trades-based Areas.
The degree of autonomy each Area enjoyed was enormous and there were all sorts of rivalries and suspicions between Areas, and between various Areas and ‘National,’ each with their own very distinct local customs and traditions.
In Nottinghamshire that was particularly so. Also, Nottinghamshire was arguably the most productive and profitable coalfield which, with the damaging and divisive introduction of Area incentive schemes at the end of the 70s, saw Nottinghamshire miners earning, on average, a great deal more than their counterparts in other coalfields. So that was the objective situation. Subjectively, of course was politics and consciousness, all of which greatly aided the coopting of Nottinghamshire miners by the security services and the Government in breaking the strike in the key strategic coalfield. The depth of collusion between many leading Nottinghamshire miners and the state is fully covered in my book and I think there will be many shocks for people when they discover the extent of Nottinghamshire’s treachery.
CS: The government made much of the violence on picket lines and the papers, briefings and discussions consistently point to this as a chance to attack the strike and Arthur Scargill. There are a lot of rule of the law versus the rule of the mob myths about the strike, who was really responsible for the violence and how did the miners and their families defend their communities in the face of unprecedented police mobilisations?
HP: To deny violence on the miners’ side is to deny reality BUT there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that most of that was defensive and/or a reaction to outright police brutality. We can now see from the Cabinet papers that Thatcher informally instructed the various constabularies to police the miners in a “robust” manner. There can be no doubt what she meant by that; break heads and break the strike!
The police were not concerned with upholding the law but with upholding the Government. Again, from my book:- “… It wasn’t always fun, though. Like thousands of miners and their families, particularly in Nottinghamshire, Iris and Mog saw a very different side to the Police. The comforting Dixon-of-Dock-Green image, with which both had grown up, was shattered by the reality of the picket line. On one occasion, joining Mog on a local picket, Iris was “disgusted” by the behaviour of the ‘Met.’
“I was just standing there when this Policeman came right up behind me and started kicking my ankles” explained Iris. “When I refused to react, he put his head on my shoulder and starting whispering in my ear. I couldn’t believe what he was saying! ‘Miner’s whore, effing slag, scum’ and things like that. Then he said, ‘I hope your effing kids die of cancer.’ I never would have believed it if I hadn’t heard it myself.”
The Metropolitan Police Force was hated with a passion throughout the County, earning a reputation for thuggery and violence that outstripped that of any other Force, against frequently stiff competition. Often behaving more like ‘Casuals’ football hooligans than upholders of the law, the Met regularly issued beatings to Nottinghamshire miners and would then affix little stickers to their victims bodies, which read, ‘I’ve met The Met.’ A quaint custom not reserved for just Nottinghamshire miners. Dave Douglass says, “We used to park our cars outside the villages we were picketing so as not to have them attacked by scabs. More than once we returned to wrecked cars and the stickers ‘I’ve met the Met’ stuck on them.”
Why the Metropolitan Police were even in Nottinghamshire, in the first place, over a hundred miles from London, was one of the most contentious aspects of the dispute. The origins of their deployment in other Forces’ jurisdiction, like so much else in the Government’s handling of the dispute, lay in the Ridley Plan.
The creation of the National Reporting Centre (NRC) was central to dealing with policing in the coalfields. Operating from a room on the thirteenth-floor of Scotland Yard, its purpose was revealed, by Conservative minister Douglas Hurd, to Parliament on 5th April 1984. “Arrangements for a national reporting centre were first made in 1972. Its main purposes were and are to help in the national co-ordination of aid between chief officers of police in England and Wales, under section 14 of the Police Act 1964, so that the best use is made of manpower and to provide the Home Secretary with information, in the same way as he receives reports from individual chief officers, to help him discharge his responsibilities for law and order.”
This bland description, while accurate, was hardly the full story. In reality, the NRC became the management body of an effectively national police force; the paramilitary wing of the Conservative Party. In seeking to combat picketing and deal with an industrial dispute in this way, rather than by simply applying civil law, the Police UK-wide, enthusiastically spearheaded by the Met, became a partisan body, forcibly imposing acts of political policy rather than simply upholding the law. Hurd continued, “Since 14 March this year, the centre has co-ordinated the responses to requests from chief officers for assistance from their colleagues in policing related to the miners’ dispute.”
There’s much more to say about this and, again, it’s all in the book, but the miners were subjected to absolute thuggery and violence as a deliberate act of political policy; that can’t be emphasised enough. The lies, fit-ups and sheer corruption deployed by the police to break the strike were informally sanctioned at the highest levels of Government.
In terms of defence and response to that, it took many forms. The more solid Areas, Yorkshire, South Wales, Scotland and Kent, would deploy their own patrols and ‘spotters’ in and around the villages and pits, women involved in early warning systems, banging dustbin lids to sound alarms and so on, were common. Here, in Nottinghamshire, we had miners’ ‘Hit Squads’ who dealt out acts of sabotage and took on retaliatory operations and so forth. These weren’t confined to Nottinghamshire, of course, but all over the coalfields.
Ironically, as we all know, the point of the strike in the first place, from Thatcher’s point of view, was to crush the working class and its biggest, most militant industrial expression; the NUM, in order to eliminate any vestige of socialism or working class resistance from the British social landscape. The strike actually created an explosion of those values and concepts as the very real day-to-day experiences of mining communities saw self-organisation in every way imaginable. From organising food, trips out for kids, communal crèches, self-defence, legal advice, help with benefits, fund-raising and much, much more, the strike politicised an entire generation and bred in people, many of whom were previously politically disinterested, a very real understanding of what socialism, trade unionism, the role of the state and working-class solidarity really meant. Thatcher actually created a revival of that which she sought to crush.
CS: For my generation of activists who became involved in the left through the anticapitalist, anti-war and student movements the strength of the trade unions when Thatcher took power seems a world apart from our experiences. Throughout the documents the government’s keenness to maintain and increase the isolation of the miners comes out. What does this say about the role of the TUC leadership at the time and if the miners were going to win who stood in the way to united action and why?
HP: Now then, great question! Forgive me from quoting from book, yet again, but it answers your question perfectly:-
“… TUC President, the ultra-right-wing Frank Chapple of the EETPU, opining, “Those who advocate that bad laws should not be obeyed—in circumstances where such “bad” laws are enacted by a democratically elected government—are putting at risk the entire conception of civilised society. That directly challenges democracy… the way to change bad laws is to change the government that has made them.”
The irony of a trade union leader adopting such a stance clearly escaped Chapple. Had the Tollpuddle Martyrs taken such a position in 1834, he wouldn’t have had a trade union to lead. Or indeed a TUC of which he could be President. It was a dominant view in Labour and trade union circles, though. The demonstrable truth of social history in Britain, and internationally, that only rebellion drove progress, was not something the average trade union leader was happy to acknowledge. From women winning the vote, the right to free speech and the right even to be paid for work, the reality is that not one single meaningful gain had ever been graciously bestowed by a benevolent ruling class or won by an adherence to the law.
While all the TUC leaders were happy, at anniversary galas and memorial dinners, to pay homage to their heroic forbears, the very people to whom they owed their privileged positions, the idea of emulating their methods was anathema.”
And from a little later on, from the same chapter…“…Scargill, despite criticism from the hard left, some of it justified, saw his role as a trade union leader as much more than just that of fighting for the best deals for his members. Only the socialist transformation of society could guarantee complete security for miners and the working-class. In his world-view, the trade unions were the vanguard of a movement that would oversee the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a fully planned economy.
The TUC, on the other hand, was an integral part of that system. Its role was to secure small improvements for its members but strictly within the parameters of the market and what it could ‘afford’ to concede at any particular time. When push came to shove, the TUC was simply not prepared to risk the loss of its assets, perks and privileges in the crusade the NUM was waging on behalf of the working-class as a whole. Indeed, sections of the TUC bureaucracy were only too happy to see the miners scuppered and by the time January arrived, the strikers had long-since passed hoping for anything of note to emerge from the TUC.”
Added to that was Kinnock and the Labour leadership whose role can only be described as scabbing and rank treachery of the most contemptible kind.
CS: On Labour it is interesting because in one of the documents Thatcher underlines “enjoy taunting” in a note from her private secretary about Labour MP Dave Nellist. It seems that they paid attention to the other pole within the Labour Party that supported the miners. What were the battles like within Labour over the strike and what would have changed if Labour had backed the miners?
HP: The battles were bloody, protracted and far-reaching. Labour then was a very different organisation to the one we know and loathe today.
Neil, or ‘Kneel’, Kinnock, as he was known to many miners, led a very different Labour Party to that which had existed in 1974, at the time of the previous miners’ strike toppling a Tory government. Following its electoral hammering in 1983, he was determined to rid the Party of all that he felt rendered it unelectable. To thousands of constituency activists and the Campaign Group of MPs, this meant jettisoning the socialist principles upon which they believed constituted the Party’s core base. In reality, Labour had always been ‘capitalism’s second XI.’ Its 1945 Government was the closest the Party had ever come to anything even remotely socialist. The fabled ‘broad church’, Labour had always been a battleground between left and right and, in Kinnock, Party ‘moderates’ felt they’d finally found the man to see off the Bennites and the hard-left; those it held responsible for the disaster of the 1983 election; its manifesto caustically described by Gerald Kaufman as, “The longest suicide note in history.”
Nominally of the soft-left, those clustered around Tribune, the speed at which Kinnock hurtled to the right induced travel-sickness even among his most fervent supporters. The ferocity with which he tore into the Left, too, made many gasp.
The previous year, 1983, had seen the editorial board of the Trotskyist weekly, Militant, expelled from the Labour Party. Militant, as represented by the editorial quintet, headed-up by Peter Taaffe, was deemed to be in breach of Clause II, Section 3 of the party’s constitution; it was found to be a ‘party-within-a-party’ and as such was unconstitutional and ineligible for membership. The defence of Taaffe and his comrades was that Militant was only a newspaper and that he and the several thousand Militant ‘supporters’ inside the Labour Party, were merely that; supporters of a journal which reflected views perfectly compatible with Labour Party values.
Of course, on one level, this was nonsense, in fact outright lies. Militant was a great deal more than simply a weekly Trotskyist newspaper; by the time of the miners’ strike its members, not ‘supporters’, not only controlled many District and Constituency Labour Parties, throughout the UK, it had also seen, as you know, two of its cadre, Terry Fields and Dave Nellist, elected to Parliament as Labour MPs.
However, there was a huge degree of hypocrisy where the expulsion of Militant’s editorial board and the subsequent Kinnock-led purge of its members was concerned; the Labour Party had many organisations, any of which could equally have been described as a ‘party-within-a-party.’ Right-wing groupings, though, were perfectly acceptable, it seemed. Militant’s real crime was to be unashamedly socialist and, worse, to wield an impressive degree of influence among the Party’s hard-left, particularly where its Young Socialist section was concerned.
From then until 1987, Taaffe’s Trotskyists led a high-profile campaign against the Government’s rate-capping policy and with Liverpool City Council firmly under its control and, supported by tens of thousands of the City’s trade unionists and Labour Party members, presented an implacable opposition not just to Thatcher but to Kinnock and his attempts to ‘modernise’ the Party.
In a display of tactical ineptitude, eclipsing any of those of which he frequently accused Scargill, Kinnock chose not to place himself and the Labour Party at the head of the Liverpool Councillors’ fight; or to link it to the miners’ strike and forge a powerful working-class opposition to Thatcher’s attempts to both destroy the NUM and neuter left-wing Local Authorities. Instead, he preferred to split the Party and, egged on enthusiastically by the Government and the Conservative-supporting press, embarked on a highly damaging witch-hunt of the Left. As Militant predicted, such a campaign would not be confined to just its members but would be extended to take in other socialists deemed to be a threat. So it proved and supporters of Socialist Organiser and others were also hounded from the Party.
Against such a backdrop, it was inconceivable that the miners would receive anything more than barely lukewarm support from the Labour leadership and Kinnock’s feeble attempts to draw a distinction between the hated Arthur Scargill and the miners themselves was doomed to failure.
On a personal level, he absolutely detested Scargill and all he represented. Kinnock believed that Scargill, like Militant, was wrecking the Party’s recovery and terrifying the voters. In reality, the miners, along with the Liverpool City Councillors, enjoyed huge public support and had Kinnock thrown the Party’s full weight behind their respective struggles, there was every reason to believe a different outcome might have occurred in both cases.
There is little doubt that Kinnock’s undermining of Scargill, his continual agreement with Thatcher in condemning picket-line violence, while saying little or nothing about the ferocious police brutality meted out to pickets, was a significant factor in the miners’ defeat. It also gave the green-light to right-wing union leaders like Hammond, Lyons and Sirs to instruct their members to cross NUM picket-lines.
In Nottinghamshire, the scabs were championed by Don Concannon, MP for Mansfield. At the Conference, that year, 1984, things kicked-off on 1st October with the strike dominating proceedings. Left and Right faced off against each other and, in the pre-Blair era, it was one of those typically emotive Labour Conferences; full of drama, passion and blood on the Conference floor.
Don Concannon caused a near-riot with a speech berating Scargill, striking-miners and the “violence of the mob” while extolling the virtues and democratic credentials of the Nottinghamshire strike-breakers.
Concannon had been a miner himself and quickly assumed pariah status among the NUM majority and their supporters for his treachery and his support of Roy Lynk, David Prendergast and the Nottinghamshires Working Miners’ Committee. A hard-line right-winger, as Defence Spokesman he had been booed off the Conference platform in 1982 for defending the use of plastic bullets in Northern Ireland and equating the election of IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands as Sinn Féin MP with “approval for the perpetrators of the Mountbatten and Warrenpoint murders.”
His 1984 speech was even more incendiary. So much so that the Conference Chair was forced to cut him off lest fighting break out among the Delegates.
Kinnock tried to block resolutions condemning police violence and was soundly cuffed as the Delegates confirmed their support for the NUM and the various resolutions sailed through with pulverising majorities. Scargill was in his natural element and wowed the delegates with a typically rabble-rousing call to arms while Kinnock and the Party’s high-command looked glumly on.
At the grassroots, though, things were very different and local Labour Parties, and individual Party members, played a significant supporting role. Even in Nottinghamshire, where the dispute threw up startling contrasts and saw councillors who were also striking-miners, like Gordon Skinner, brother of Dennis, pitted against fellow Party members and councillors, like Denis Beeston, who crossed picket-lines, the degree of support was impressive.
Nottinghamshire County Council was led by Dennis Pettitt; a shrewd and canny political animal. While no socialist, he was an extremely astute tactician and during his stewardship the strikers saw him leading his ruling Labour group in skilfully steering through policies which were very much to their material benefit. For example, free school meals for strikers’ children, even during the school holidays, which aroused fierce opposition from the Conservatives.
Pettit went on to explain, “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the strike and the way it is being operated, it is of paramount importance that we consider the welfare of the children. The majority of people in the County would not want the children to suffer.” This was vintage Pettitt. The implied criticism of the strikers, a sop to the Group’s right-wing, was balanced with an appeal on behalf of the miners’ suffering children. Thus both Left and Right were placated and the ‘non-political’ language, which disguised an initiative favourable to the County’s striking-miners, was eased through.
So you see even the right-wing spanned active supporters to those who at least didn’t actively oppose the strike. And hard-line right-wingers like Concannon were very much a minority. Today, of course, he’d be entirely unremarkable. He’d sit in the moderate centre of the Labour Party!
CS: There are quite a few documents that deal with advice and lines for miners’ seeking help through social security for their families and the Thatcher government’s insistence to limit these as far as possible to use miners’ families’ hardships against the strikers. What was it like for families facing such hardship and how did the broader movement step up to offer support?
HP: The hardship was inconceivable to many today. But the response to it was probably also inconceivable to today’s activists. After thirty years of untrammelled neoliberal triumphalism and the rolling back of the working class’s post-war gains, it must be mind-boggling to compare the solidarity, comradeship, loyalty and sheer bloody-minded resistance of mining communities and their supporters to the alienation, isolation and generally backward reactionary consciousness that pervades much of today’s society.
The miners and their families were incredibly pro-active. They took their fight to ever corner where it might receive a sympathetic hearing, both here and internationally. I think the role of women can’t be emphasised too highly. My own mother-in-law embraced the cause with, possibly, an even greater passion than my striking father-in-law and she was very typical of hundreds of thousands of working class women from within and without the coalfield communities. They were absolutely magnificent; ingenuous, creative, stubborn and they utterly refused to lay down and surrender. I really don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that they were the backbone of the strike and many of my friends say they’d never have stuck it out as long as they did without the support and activity of the women involved.
Fund-raising, organising community kitchens and, possibly even more importantly, shaking off the chains with which patriarchal society had shackled them, and stepping far outside the role society allotted them, was absolutely key.
They forged great links of comradeship with the Greenham Common women, the gay, bi and lesbian activist groups. Ditto black and Asian organisations and so much more. While the NUM membership were militant, courageous and in a very real sense, our movement’s shock troops, many of them were steeped in traditional sexism and what they perceived the role of women to be. It created strains, certainly, and many marriages broke up as a result but, equally, many were lifted to new heights of mutual respect, love and appreciation as women stepped up and assumed a front-line role and brought an entirely different, but much needed aspect to the fight.
Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire – 30 Years On
Publication: 1 March 2014
The scars left by the 1984/85 “Great Strike for Jobs” are still raw in Nottinghamshire, thirty years later. There, the majority of the National Union of Miners did not support their union, working throughout the strike, later forming the breakaway Union of Democratic Miners. Look Back in Anger puts these events into context, giving a history of the coalfields through the twentieth century and the first comprehensive overview of the strike year in Nottinghamshire.
Harry Paterson has interviewed striking and working miners, Coal Board officials, women active in opposing the pit closures, Council officials and others. The book includes information that has never before appeared in print, alongside memorabilia and personal letters from the period.
About the author
Harry Paterson was seventeen when the strike began. Members of his family stayed on strike the whole year while others worked during the strike. He has been active in the trade union movement and is a former Labour Councillor – and is proud of his expulsion from the Labour Party. He is a freelance writer and rock music journalist, living in Nottinghamshire.