THE RESULT of the pithead ballot last month was a defeat for the miners, a defeat for the coal industry, and a defeat for British national sovereignty.
It was a defeat for the miners because their failure to strike over the pit closure will only encourage the Tory Government to close even more productive pits in the future. If the miners had stood firm the Tories would have thought twice before they announced the closure of any other pits. And the miners are only burying their heads in the sand if they believe that further extensive pit closures are not planned by the Government. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher's intentions were made very clear when she announced that she wanted to make BSC chairman Ian MacGregor the next chairman of the National Coal Board.
The American import MacGregor has already been largely responsible for the near-destruction of the steel industry, closing down steelworks and throwing thousands of workers onto the dole queues. In fact, he became so notorious for his leading role in the destruction of the steel industry that he became known as the 'butcher'. Yet he showed no remorse for all the redundancies he caused among steelworkers and he has already stated that he wants to carry out a similar sort of hatchet job on the coal-industry.
So why didn't the miners put up a more spirited resistance to the closures and to the appointment of MacGregor the Butcher in last month's ballot? The answer lies in the fact that many miners are now in debt to the system in the form of mortgages and hire purchase commitments and, as such, they simply can't afford to go on strike. One miner summed up the importance of this indebtedness to the way in which the miners voted in last month's ballot when he said: “It was a question of mortgage or MacGregor. The mortgage won.”
Another factor which caused the miners to vote against strike action was the influence of many of their wives. One miner's wife epitomised the attitude of many others when she told the Daily Telegraph “I told my husband to vote against the strike. We can't live without the money and in any case we are planning a holiday abroad.” This 'Sod you Jack, I'm alright' attitude shows no regard for the less fortunate miners in Wales who face being made redundant by pit closures. And in any case it is a very short-sighted outlook to have because one can't help wondering how this miner's wife will be able to “live without the money” when her husband's pit falls under MacGregor's hatchet and is closed. After all, it is not easy to “plan holidays abroad” from the pittance paid out in dole money to an unemployed miner. As well as being a defeat for the miners themselves, their failure to take militant action could also prove disastrous to the coal industry as a whole.
EGOMANIAC! Arthus Scargill practices his 'Fuhrer' look.
The egomaniac Arthur Scargill elevated last month's ballot into what he called a “last ditch” battle. As a result, the outcome may well mean that the union is less likely to threaten strike action over any further cuts in the industry.
Margaret Thatcher can now go ahead with the appointment of MacGregor who will be given a mandate to concentrate all future coal production in fewer, so-called 'super-pits' and to close down many mines and even whole coalfields.
However, there is one other consequence of last month's pithead ballot which could have a profound effect on the future of the whole country. In short, if the miners fail to take militant action and if the coal industry is allowed to be run down in the same way as the steel industry has been allowed to, then a further erosion of national sovereignty is bound to follow. If the mines are closed down in any numbers we will begin to become dependant upon foreign coal; we will have to import more coal instead of mining it ourselves. Britain will become dependant upon foreigners for our energy supply.
And this is not alarmist speculation or scaremongering but cold hard fact. The steel industry was run down and now we are becoming increasingly dependant upon foreign steel; the fishing industry has now been almost totally destroyed and now Britain, a country surrounded by thousands of miles of sea, has to import fish. Now, thanks to the failure of the miners to act, the coal industry is all set to go the same way.
It is not too late. The miners have the industrial muscle which will be necessary to stop the destruction of their industry but they must act soon. If they don't, they will lose their mortgages, their holidays abroad and their jobs. But, most important of all, they will lose their national freedom by leaving Britain at the mercy of foreign powers for her supplies of coal.