MARCHING TO THE FAULT LINE - THE 1984 MINERS' STRIKE AND THE DEATH OF INDUSTRIAL BRITAIN
BY FRANCES BECKETT AND DAVID HENCKE
As a child of 1984 I cannot remember anything of the 1984 Miner's Strike but its legacy is something I have grown up with. The homeland I have lived my 25 years in has been largely bereft of the huge industries that dominated 20th century Britain. It is undeniable that the face of British industry has changed dramatically since the 1970/80's and now we are a country where services industries reign. The catalyst for this change appears to have been the Miner's Strike, a blow from which the trade union movement would never recover.
It's seems correct therefore, for Beckett and Hencke to approach their history of the 1984 strike with a nod to it's impact. Quite rightly though, they save this for the conclusion (bar a few hints) and they focus on narrating the strike. This was the main hook for me, learning about how and why the action progressed. How, whilst I was being born, men, women and children were practically starving in Great Britain (the same year as Band Aid).
Beckett and Hencke's research appears extensive and it seems they spoke to most of the major players in the saga as well as viewing government papers released under the Freedom of Information Act. However, the two major characters - or should I say caricatures - both declined to contribute their voice. This may have been an error - particularly on Scargill's part - as, while they both come across as determined, stubborn and seeking all out victory, it is Scargill who by not compromising essentially sped up the subsequent scheme of mine closures.
Whilst the narrative is intriguing and enlightening, it is in the conclusion where Beckett and Hencke get their message across best. During the narrative I was feeling seeing the stupidity of Scargill and the genius of the government, winning a battle that essentially irradicated the stress and strain nationalised industries and trade unions had brought to Britain over the previous generation, allowing Britain economy to move forward. But after the conclusion, in which Beckett and Hencke present the downsides to Thatcher's steadfastness, I was left lamenting a lost Britain. Where then; Mining communities were tight-knit and self-regulating; they are now desolated and drug addled. Where then, most of Britain's coal was domestically produced, providing jobs for Britons; now we still rely on coal to power our power stations but it is mostly imported.
This book is therefore a place for the uninitiated, like me, to learn about the ‘Civil War’ as they call it, that ended the way industry operated in Britain. But also it is a book for those who, despite knowing about the strike, want to know more.
by Charlie Intern x