Sunday, 11 July 2010
Of course the miners' strike was financially supported by communists!
On July 9th an article, written by Dr Norman Laporte, was published on the University of Glamorgan website. This article was, strangely and grammatically incorrectly, entitled “Was the Miners’ Strike was "secretly financed by Communists"?”. The first response that came to mind as soon as I had read the article was simply ‘I am so glad he doesn’t lecture me’. Now that is not because I disagree with him, as any of my lecturers or peers can testify as I am quite happy to debate out any and every issue with any lecturer or fellow student and do so on a regular basis. My simple reasoning behind it is that Laporte just seems to be so bad at what he does!
Firstly he starts the article with the massive assumption that this revelation comes as some surprise as if no-one expected it, hence the title. In fact there was no secret at all! Communists openly supported the miners’ strike, yet Laporte in a very tunnelled-vision manner seems to ignore all the open evidence; that communists in Britain and internationally for that matter openly supported the miners’, raising funds to support them amongst many other things. The cheek of the man to call himself a historian whilst omitting such obvious facts!
The article is based around a book he has written in order to publicise it ahead of its impending release later this month. The thrust of the argument appears to be documents from the East German Communist trade union federation which suggest they gave considerable financial support to the National Union of Mineworkers’. I don’t dispute this in anyway whatsoever, in fact I would be more shocked if it was revealed that they didn’t add any financial support. Laporte unfortunately doesn’t display the capacity to understand this.
The miners’ strike lasted from 1984-85 and was a heroic stand of the working class. On strike for a year the miners and there families made huge personal sacrifices in the face of an onslaught from the Thatcher government. With no income for the duration of the strike, the miners were forced to live of the unions strike fund. However it was impossible to maintain this over the course of the strike, the strike fund of the NUM was simply not equipped for this task. Organised workers in trade unions and socialist or communist organisations in Britain and internationally rightly saw this as a class war and rushed to the aid of the miners, spawning miners’ support groups throughout the country. Money was raised throughout the world to offer financial support ,in order to help the miners maintain their stand. So of course finance was raised in a basic act of class solidarity, something of which Laporte once again fails to understand.
Laporte claims in the book that “the Communists perceived the NUM as an ally in the international class struggle against capitalism – hence the close interest in the strike” and in this he was absolutely right. It seems to suddenly dawn on him, as if for the first time he decided to open his eyes and take a peek over the blankets.
But this is where Laporte goes in for the ‘kill’: he adds ““It was, above all, the anti-capitalism of left-of-centre British trade unionists which made them believe that East European Communism was on the right path.... But the British Left ignored massive human rights abuses and the lack of basic freedoms behind the Iron Curtain because they believed that the basic development in the direction of Socialism was right.” As if he thinks that once and for all he has stumped all advocates of communism and won the argument! How wrong can one man be? Well, apparently quite a lot. He is quite right in his assertion that anti-capitalists in Britain saw those who had over-thrown capitalism as ‘along the right track’. Yet he returns to his anti-historical perspective almost immediately when he adds that the British Left ignored massive human rights abuses – a statement which flies in the face of reality.
The British left is, of course, not a homogenous unit in any way shape or form, and much of the British left were and still are very critical of the undemocratic and totalitarian nature of the Stalinist regimes. Whilst at the same time explaining that the economic system, the planned economy, was something worth defending. In such an anti-historical move Laporte chooses to omit this, as well as omitting the human rights abuses of capitalist states, including those of the British government at the time and the violence dished out to the miners.
It is clear that Laporte is trying to present a false image on the past and could teach McCarthy a thing or two. I hope his students are aware of how much is academic work is void of legitimacy!