What Syndicalists Think: Anarcho-Syndicalists and the Miners Strike

As Anarcho-syndicalists we are against the political preaching of various parties telling the miners what to think and what to do. We believe the direct experience of life and the power of people to think out their own ideas and actions is more valuable than blindly following some correct line or other. But because we refuse to shove our ideas down peoples throats or resort to useless criticism this doesn’t mean that we have no convictions. Syndicalists (that is, those who think that the workers organisations must not only safeguard jobs and wages but also prepare for the take over and running of industry by the workers themselves) see class struggle, not compromise, as the basis for the labour movement which should be committed to the idea of workers self-management; ie socialism. This is something that can never be gained through political parties; in times of revolution they act as dustbins for the frightened middle class, seeking only to maintain their own privilege. Examples of this are the Bolshevik counter-revolutionaries who smashed the Russian working-class movement in 1917-21, when faced with the takeover of industry by syndicalist factory committees; or the Communist Party in Spain in 1937 when faced with the anarcho-syndicalist CNT’s collectivisation of industry.

As Syndicalists, we see creative work as one of the main facts of life. It is by work (preferably organised as if play) that a man or woman can impress themselves on reality and change the world. There is nothing shameful in human labour, it’s those who exploit that labour (the Capitalist class) who should be ashamed.

The whole of the British Industrial Revolution was based on coal owned by the bosses mined by the workers. Britain has been described as a “Carboniferous Civilization”. The work of millions of coal miners has helped to build the rest of industry, not just men but also women and children in the early days. 

class struggle

The struggles of the miners have therefore been central to the fight of the whole class war. Throughout the whole of this century the fight for a decent wage, against the dole, against the economic exploitation by the mine owners has been kept up. As well as this there was the fight for dignity, to be treated as a human being and not like an animal. In demanding workers’ self-management of industry we see oppression not just in economic terms but also in the fact that there are order givers and order takers. We keep on hearing from radio and television that we live in a democracy but what mine, factory or office is run on a democratic basis in Britain today? Nationalisation means control by a private capitalist is replaced by state control. Who elected Ian McGregor? 

The basis of the present strike is that the plan for coal gave some degree of control in the industry to the Union; this the bosses now feel strong enough to challenge. As Syndicalists, we believe that the
attacks of the bosses can be defeated in the long run only by the total control of the mines and the rest of the economy by the workers themselves.

The miners, their families and supporters have everything against them. The Police, the army, the law, the courts and judges, Big Business and the capitalist controlled newspapers TV and radio. All this whilst those who should be defending them, Labour and other Union leaders look on.

ORGANIZE

Anarcho-Syndicalists are for workers solidarity and mutual aid. A shining example of this is the Womens support groups and local food collections. All this is not done out of guilt or pity but out of basic human feeling that when someone’s face is being smashed, then you step in and help. The role of many of these structures should be continued after the strike to act as permanent centres of workers resistance. Anarcho-Syndicalists support the concept of Direct Action. In the Miners Strike this has involved sabotage, hitting the bosses where it hurts, in the pocket. Other Direct Actions have included sit-ins, blockades and self-defence against police state violence. Above all, more Solidarity is needed from a grass roots level by other workers, such as the print workers’ efforts to counter the lies of the capitalist press, and the help given by workers abroad.

Anarcho-syndicalists are 100% with the Miners in their fight against the dictatorship of the bosses and the police state.

SUPPORT THE MINERS

SWITCH ON AT 6p.m.

From Direct Action no.18 (September 1984)

[‘Switch on at 6p.m.’ refers to attempts to increase peak electricity demand and cause power cuts]