A Miners’ Strike rally in 1984. Photo: Wikipedia
The death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher last week has prompted a predictable stream of condemnation from her opponents and praise from her political allies. In order to ensure people don’t get the wrong idea about the former PM, the British public have been subjected to a turbo charged and rampant propaganda offensive which is all designed to do one thing: produce conformity.
There have been gushing tributes from the world of big business and the prime minister, ‘sincere condolences’ from the opposition Labour leadership and glowing personal tributes from sycophantic liberals who will caution that she was a ‘divisive character’ but someone who nonetheless should command respect.
In order to achieve this middle of the road consensus, the most extreme ‘Thatcher Haters’ are quoted, their ‘celebrations’ of her death taken out of context and genuine debate over her lasting legacy reduced to one liners, mudslinging and arguments over whether a certain song from the Wizard of Oz should be aired.
So what is the Thatcher legacy? Destruction, death and fascist appeasement. She supported fascist dictator Pinochet. She labelled ANC leader Nelson Mandela a terrorist whilst refusing to put sanctions on the South African apartheid regime.
However she will be most remembered for her famous battle with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). It was a purely ideological struggle which even in capitalist terms made no economic sense, destroying Britain’s industrial base forever and laying waste to communities up and down the country.
The announcement of 20 pit closures in March 1984 was a deliberate provocation of Britain’s most militant and well organised trade union. Billions of pounds of taxpayers money and the proceeds from North Sea oil were squandered to beef up state and security forces to crush the miners strike and achieve the pit closures. Striking miners Davey Jones and Joe Green both paid for the strike with their lives with questions remaining unanswered over their tragic deaths during the dispute.
While striking miners showed courage to defend British industry, community spirit was showcased by their wives who set up support groups providing food and support for the strike which lasted a year.
Thatcher on the other hand introduced anti-trade union laws around secret ballots which have been built upon. Today they are used to shackle workers from taking effective strike action making it very difficult to ensure employers properly negotiate during trade disputes.
Veterans of the miners’ strike who I have interviewed over the years regularly point out that Britain is 25 years behind the rest of the Europe in terms of clean coal technology. Domestic coal reserves could power Britain for 100 years. Instead we have been left with an energy crisis while continuing to import over 40 million tonnes worth of coal annually today.
But away from statistics and big politics, there is a deep social destruction that engulfs the country, in the industrial ghost towns and hollowed out factories, particularly in my home town of Wolverhampton. Anyone who has taken a train into Wolverhampton from the North can have a front row seat on the ‘tour of destruction’ that is a direct result of Thatcher’s neoliberal economic policies.
Once a productive centre of industrial strength, well paid and highly skilled employment, the area is now a wasteland of storage depots and decaying former factories. The local 79 bus route which runs for a good few miles was once famous for employing 250,000 workers. Not any more.
Thatcher’s brand of ‘Laissez Faire’ economics where market forces are allowed to run riot, puts the state as a willing partner in crushing anyone who stands in the way of private profit. There is no thought to long term investment or the social cost, all of which lives on in Britain today.
Personally I am not a fan of celebrating anyone’s death. But to ask people to show respect to someone whose whole world view caused their relatives to lose jobs, to suffer mental health issues as a result of long term unemployment or drug addiction due to increased poverty in the former mining heartlands of North Wales and South Yorkshire, is asking the impossible.
Thatcher’s funeral is an opportunity to tell the victims’ story; the story of Davey and Joe, the miners’ wives and ultimately the story of the modern day working class in Britain. They have all been burnt but they are not broken.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill