Congress Plans Solidarity Action [Direct Action report on Burnley Congress for Industrial Action]

On January 18th [19th] 120 trade union delegates, mainly from the NE Lancs area met for a congress to plan industrial action in support of the miners. Speaking were NUM President Peter Heathfield, Dave Douglas from Hatfield Main NUM and Tony Crowther from Manchester NUR

It was interesting to hear the differences in opinion between Heathfield, the high-ranking official and Communist, and Douglass whose experience of the strike is that of the picket lines. 

Talks about talks’ basically summarises Heathfield’s approach. His speech was smoothing the way for a compromise with the NCB – that is to say, a defeat. 

In contrast, Douglass threatened, ‘We’ll screw Scargill’s and Heathfield’s heads off if they sell us out’. He also stressed that workers do not need invitations to join miners’ picket lines. He also criticised the role of the Left: their calls for TUC leadership in the strike and the fact that their solidarity only manifests itself in the pages of their papers. He said this compared unfavourably with the actions of syndicalists such as DAM (who were instrumental in calling the congress) and claimed that the strike could still be won through direct action, given the solidarity of other workers. 

The speech from Tony Crowther (NUR) dealt with betrayals: the behaviour of Kinnock and the Labour Party, and the part played by the NUR leadership in limiting support for the victimised railwaymen of Coalville. After the speeches the congress split into workshops to discuss organising support groups in the community and industry, and of course the need to build industrial solidarity in support of the NUM

On the latter point the congress urged support for the February 11th Day of Action called by the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional TUC

A motion was carried that March 6th, the anniversary of the beginning of the coal strike, would be a good date for a general strike, and it was urged that this call be taken up at the Sheffield Miners’ Support Group Conference on February 9th. 

Direct Action No.22 February 1985

Correction’ in DA23 (March 1985) : ‘In our previous issue we stated that Mr Peter Heathfield was a member of the Communist Party. We have since been informed that he is not and never has been, so we would like to apologise for the no doubt extreme embarrassment this mistake might have caused him.’

[Black Flag No.124 (14/1/1985) carried an advert for the ‘Congress for Industrial Action to be held at Burnley Labour Club on Sat. Jan. 19th at 10am. Speakers:  Peter Heathfield, General Sec. Of NUM, Tony Crowther, Nat. Sec. Of DAM (NUR), A speaker from Yorkshire NUM. The above Congress for Industrial Action has been initiated by the Burnley Miners Support Group. Invitations have been sent out to all miners support groups and trade union branches to send delegates.’]