Miners and mining communtities remembered, not Thatcher

Two Welsh accounts of the day of Thatcher's funeral

Ron Stoat

Thatcher funeral day event in Newbridge, Gwent

The 17th of April was not a day to remember Margaret Thatcher. It was a day to reflect with pride on the working class heroes who fought her.

That was the verdict of the crowd in the Newbridge hotel, in South Wales. At the front of the club was the South Wales NUM banner with the slogan "The past we inherit, the future we build through socialism".

The mood in the Newbridge Hotel was buoyant. People wanted to remember how the miners' strike had brought everyone together to fight, but also they wanted the young people in the crowd to know just what forces the state had been prepared to use to try to crush us.

Ron Stoat, Penallta Colliery NUM lodge secretary, spoke about how you had to drive over the mountain just to get to Celynen South to picket, because the police were sending back all the cars on the main road that had more than one man in them, even if they were going in to work at the local Girlings plant.

He told about reporting to sign in twice a day at the police station when they were bound over to 'keep the peace' and identifying themselves as 'the enemy within' just to wind up the officer on duty.

Ron told how the police - supposedly impartial - went around trying to get people to go back to work. How when they went to Orgreave, for once there were no road blocks, because the police were luring them in - how men were driven over a 20 foot drop at a culvert and how the police wrecked the town when men fled there.

Ron talked about how deeply everyone felt the solidarity from near and far; how solid the organisation was - scabs were as rare as Tories in South Wales, after all - and how women who had never been involved in anything before had risen to the challenge, starting out organising food, moving quickly onto the picket lines and then on to speak at meetings of hundreds of people.

All through the 25 minute speech young people at the front sat rapt, drinking in every word. When Ron had finished, the applause roared through the room.

People gathered round to shake Ron's hand and then they spent the rest of the night glad to be all together, proud to be South Wales miners and their families.

Welsh Labour: less class-consciousness than a 9-year old?

On the day of Thatcher's funeral, my 9-year old son, Harry, came home from school to say that they'd been made to watch part of the ceremony. I was just reaching for a pen to compose an angry letter to the school when Harry told me he had already complained himself.

Ronnie Job, Swansea

When his teacher asked why he objected, he said that it was "...because of what she had done to the miners and because she lied all the time." It made me a proud dad.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of the leaders of Welsh Labour haven't got an equal class understanding. Welsh Government First Minister, Carwyn Jones was among the great and good of Labour, who went to the funeral to pay their respects.

When Neil Kinnock said she had been "...fortunate in her enemies", I thought he'd come to a belated understanding of the role he'd played in extending her premiership, by attacking socialists rather than the Tories. Unfortunately not; he wasn't referring to himself but to Arthur Scargill. If Kinnock had shown the same understanding of who the class enemy was as Scargill, or even my son Harry, then we wouldn't have had to wait until the poll tax to turn the iron lady into scrap.

Welsh Labour's honouring of Thatcher is one more indication that we need to build a genuine, fighting, alternative to bury everything she stood for. The TUSC Wales organising meeting (Saturday 27 April) is hopefully a step in that direction.

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