The miners strikes of 1984 through to 1985 were an ideological war waged by two opposing factors. Those twins again of whom I have previously spoken, Capitalism and Communism. On the one side was Margaret Thatcher who, with little vision for the future or recognising the need for coal for many years to come, took the advice of Ian McGregor, a man she had appointed as Head of the National Coal Board, to start the process of pit closures. A single act, if not for its lack of vision but for its wilful destruction of wholesale communities, that beggars belief. The move was classic Conservative policy in that it encouraged fiscal concerns over human jobs when both could have been saved.
On the other side was Arthur Scargill who, in my opinion, cared less about democracy having taken his co-workers on strike without a ballot, than he did the need to defeat the British Prime Minister at all costs no matter what those costs might be. So determined was he to put paid to what he saw as a fascist demagogue that he, rather than wait until winter, took the miners union, The National Union of Miners, out on strike during the summer months. He was the co-opposite of Thatcher but equally as unpleasant seeing only his ideals as being of vital importance rather than that of his brother and sister miners. However, he did get one thing right - he claimed that the government had a long-term strategy to destroy the industry by closing unprofitable pits, and that it listed pits it wanted to close each year and in this he was right.
I supported the miners strike more for a sense of moral outrage than I did its union leaders strident, equally dictatorial despotic views. It was a tragedy and remains one to this day, a dreadful defeat of working class values over the corporate bank balance sheet. It was made all the more a massive blunder when Tony Blair came to power some twelve years later to find the UK in desperate need of coal.
The strike that followed this, one of the most powerful of British unions defeats, was the print unions walk out now known as the Wapping Dispute.
Each and every year the son of the Imperial Father of the Chapel received for Christmas and on his birthday, a full West Ham football kit or a cricket bat or some other token of esteem from Australian born Rupert Murdoch. It was a way to oil the cogs or, if you will, grease the palm of the most powerful man in Fleet Street - the head of the SOGAT chapel of News of the World.
A short time before the 1986 Wapping strikes, overtime at News of the Wold (News International) was required to fulfil a shortfall of news print following an edition amend. In those days a mans take home was around £150 per week. The Imperial Father of the Chapel demanded his 700 men be paid £50 per hour to achieve what was needed. It was without any shadow of a doubt an extortionate amount. The money was duly paid. The money earned by printers was far greater than that of other working class people. Printers were then, dating back to the sixties, the second highest paid workers after the air industry.
To suggest that the tragic circumstances that overtook the miners was anything like that of the printers, or, worse, that somehow those working class men and women on the coal face were in anyway anything like their Fleet Street counterparts is nothing short of deception. Fleet Street workers earned salaries many today, some thirty years later, would welcome.
To work in the Publishing Department one was given eight weeks holiday a year and was expected to work two days a week plus one half day and a weekend half night. Effectively this meant the working week was three days. The Warehouse and Publishing Manager, an odd title by anyone's standard earned thirty thousand pounds per annum. Bear in mind that in 1984 a four bedroom house cost fifty thousand (now £450,000) and you begin to see just how well paid printers were. Nothing wrong with that you might say apart from the fact that other printers, less well off and far more skilled, were paid far, far less. So much for brotherhood.
The obvious difference between miners in Yorkshire and printers in Fleet Street, apart from the salaries, was that one group were traditional working class and the others, a great many at least, were neo-middle class. There were men working at News International who owned farms or other businesses and who, the farm owners at least, would take three weeks of during sheep shearing season. There were men who, when casuals were needed, signed in as Ronald Reagan or, on one occasion, Donald Duck. The work was relatively easy especially when compared to that being done by coal face workers, the rewards staggering. A great many printers had second homes.
Contrary to popular opinion Murdoch did not negotiate with the unions as long as he suggested nor did he bring new technology to his Wapping plant. It wasn't as old as that used in Fleet Street but still was second hand. It has been suggested negotiations took seven years. In fact it was four. Far too long maybe but nothing like claimed.
When the demonstrations occurred, often with violent exchanges between police and strikers, it was seldom due to the pickets or those protesting. Each week, for at least the first five, members of the National Front, neo-Nazi agitators, would turn up armed with bricks, marbles (throw marbles under horses hooves and the poor beasts fall over often breaking their legs) and other weapons whereupon they would throw them before disappearing leaving police to batter genuine, and peaceful, protesters.
Since then Rupert Murdoch's empire, grown on the back of BSkyB, has blossomed to unbelievable size. It is now the second biggest media empire in the world reminiscent of Bond villain Carver's global toad that controlled national thinking in whatever country viewed or read his broadcasts, his jaundiced opinions.
When the man I mentioned above, the unlikely named Warehouse and Publishing Manager retired, and he was not alone in this pay out as many other printers received the same, he was given sufficient monies as a one off payment (yearly pension also) to purchase if not one, then two houses. When said gent died his widow got the same again.
Many of the men of the NGA, of NATSOPA and of SOGAT, were good, genuine people who, and I cannot blame them, gratefully took all the wages that the union negotiated on their behalf. A great many others, suggesting they were socialists is a spurious claim to make, had but one concern - earning as much as they could for as little effort as possible.
Now we see Mister Murdoch, a self proclaimed Right Wing Libertarian, waxing on the rights and wrongs of Islam. Confusing modern Muslims with those of a similar right wing persuasion. Those two seemingly disparate bodies, Murdoch and Fundamental Muslim's are not so very different. Neither like freedom of speech, with it's outpourings of opinions, unless it is their opinions being expressed.
This from ABC Australia....Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful people in the English-speaking democracies. His genius has been to combine his two passions: a desire for money and a thirst for power.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.