Posted on Thu 18th April 2013 by admin2

“The best memorial would be to rebuild a strong union movement from the bottom up,” writes the secretary of the Durham Trades Council. “She would hate that.” – Ben Sellers


The death of Margaret Hilda Thatcher leaves me cold, to be honest.

Not that there isn’t a deep burning hatred of  everything that she stood for, but in the  sense that, deep down, she was merely the talking head of a much deeper evil, cooked up by the likes of Keith Joseph in the 1970s.

It has infected every part of our society and virtually destroyed our communities in the North East.

I can understand – and would never condemn – people for celebrating her end, but while we live with that legacy I see no particular reason to celebrate. There is too much Thatcherite ideology ingrained in our political culture.

It’s not even, in my view, about Thatcher herself.

It is about the legacy of Thatcherism, the foundation for which was laid in the development of what Stuart Hall called “authoritarian populism” in the shadowy think-tanks like the Centre for Policy Studies during the 1970s and in reaction to [previous Conservative Prime Minister] Edward Heath’s defeat by the Miners.

This is what we still live with, especially so in County Durham and the North East: de-industrialisation, the erosion of the manufacturing base, the attack on workers’ rights and the casualisation of employment.

Let’s not let Maggie off the hook, though. She may not have been the only architect of this ideology, but she was certainly its willing figurehead in the UK. Thatcher brought a personal vindictiveness to a much broader movement for neo-liberal, laissez-faire economics.

Tony Benn, of course, has put it as well as anyone: “Her whole philosophy was that you measured the price of everything and the value of nothing – and we have to replace that… there is good and bad in everyone and for 10 years it is the bad that has been  promoted and the good that has been denounced as lunatic, out-of-touch, cloud cuckoo land and extremist.”

Thatcher, of course, had a particular hatred for union militancy and came to power with the aim to ‘smash’ the trade unions. She made it a personal mission to destroy the NUM.

To me, this hits at the heart of why she is so hated in the North East.

I was recently reading Peter Crookston’s “The Pitmen’s Requiem” – a book about Gresford (the miners’ hymn, which commemorates the 265 miners killed in an explosion there in 1934) which beautifully explains the sense of solidarity which developed between miners who literally depended on each other for their lives in incredibly dangerous conditions.

This sense of solidarity extended to the pit villages themselves and when people say “everything revolved around the pit” they really did mean it.

What Thatcher and her hard-right ideologues and spooks set out to do was to smash that solidarity and to do that they also had to destroy those communities. Not only did people lose their jobs and futures, many of them lost their friends, their marriages and some their lives (suicides in pit villages during and in the aftermath of the strike were far too commonplace).

So, the heart of these Durham communities has been ripped out.

Nobody connected with mining will ever forgive Maggie for branding the miners “The Enemy Within”.

Of course, Margaret Thatcher was also the political leader who supported Apartheid South Africa while describing Nelson Mandela as a terrorist; who was a close ally of General Pinochet and invited him to Downing Street; who privatised our national assets; who introduced the Poll Tax; who led us into the Falklands War principally for electoral gain and who said there is no such thing as society and meant it.

However, here it is for her destruction of the coal industry that she will be remembered – and hated.

As her lavish and publicly-funded funeral cortege winds its way up to St Paul’s Cathedral, no doubt some will protest, some will turn their back, but I think the best memorial for Thatcher would be to rebuild a strong and vibrant trade union movement from the bottom up – both in the former Durham coalfield and beyond.

She would hate that.

Ben Sellers is Secretary of the Durham Trades Union Council.

Originally posted on the UnionNews website

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Posted on Thu 18th April 2013 by admin2

Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 and the vast majority of ordinary people greeted her passing with undisguised joy.

The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.

During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.

And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.

Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.

In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.

Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.

After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.

Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim – to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.

And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.

During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality. She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes, she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.

She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.

There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.

Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world.

Don’t mourn Thatcher, organise against Thatcher’s heirs

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Posted on Mon 15th April 2013 by admin2

For several years trade unions around the world have designated April 28th as Workers Memorial Day. On that day, unions have held events to remember those workers who have lost their lives at work through accidents or disease. Each year over 250 workers in the UK lose their lives at work and tens of thousands die because of medical conditions caused by the work they did. Workers Memorial Day is also used to highlight the cuts to staffing of the Health & Safety Executive and the watering down of health & safety regulations. The slogan for the day is Remember the Dead – Fight for the Living!

Details:

County Durham Workers Memorial Day 2013

Sunday 28th April, Stanley Crook Village

Parade of Banners led by Stanhope Silver Band; Service of Remembrance; Balloon Release

Assemble Main Street, Stanley Crook DL15 9RU at 1.30pm

Speakers at St Thomas’ Church 2.00pm:

Linda Whelan (F.A.C.K) Dennis Doody (UCATT) Kenneth Harris (Industrial Chaplain, Guisborough) David Robinson (Thompsons Solicitors)

It promises to be a colourful and moving event.  Last year’s event was a great success. Please make every attempt to support Workers Memorial Day in Durham.

Sponsored by GMB Durham Branch and County Durham Trades Union Council

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Posted on Fri 12th April 2013 by admin2

Thatcher’s dead!!

Keith Pattinson - No Redemption - 1984

Join the miners and their union at Easington Club on Wednesday 17th April from 11.30am.

There will be entertainment and refreshments and of course a bar.

The Sunderland Against the Cuts minibus picks up at Park Lane Interchange at 11am.

If you’d like to book a seat please email:

sunderlandleftunity@gmail.com

or ring 07881656064.

Bus is £5, entry to the club is free.

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Posted on Fri 12th April 2013 by admin2

Transport union RMT announced today that it is backing a “Bury Thatcherism – Join a Union” initiative which will officially launch next Wednesday, the day of the former Prime Ministers funeral.

The initiative is designed to use the frenzy and polarisation that has developed since Margaret Thatcher’s death to encourage the angry and disaffected to do something positive on Wednesday, that is join a trade union and if you are already a union member encourage others to join and get involved.


RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:


“Since Margaret Thatcher died there has been an endless parade of Tory MP’s and right-wing commentators across our TV screens mouthing off about how, with the support of the full apparatus of the state, her Government set out to destroy the trade union movement with the intention of weakening working class strength and giving the boss class a clear run.


“Successive waves of anti-union laws were bulldozed through aimed at shackling the union’s and turning working people into serfs while business and the bankers were de-regulated and given the green light to destroy the British economy culminating in the collapse of the banks in 2008. Those responsible for driving the economy over the cliff are still soaking up double-digit pay and bonus increases while working people, boxed in with Thatcher’s anti-union laws, are left struggling to survive in a climate of attacks on public services, jobs, the welfare state and pay and working conditions. That is Margaret Thatcher’s legacy today.


“So on Wednesday, while millions of pounds of public money that could go on schools on hospitals is blown on a nationalised, state funeral for Mrs Thatcher, those feeling angry and ignored can do something positive – join a union and encourage those around you to join to.


“Margaret Thatcher, and the class interests she represented, hated trade unions for one very good reason – the organised working class, against a backdrop of a Labour Party bought and sold by Thatcherism, is the only effective point of resistance to greed, exploitation and corruption. That’s why she sought to destroy us and that’s why her legacy has to be a resurgent trade union movement prepared to pick up the cudgels and turn back the tide.”

Join the facebook event here

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