The 1984-5 miners' strike and the spirit of solidarity

Summer 2015

The thirtieth anniversary of the 1984-5 British miners’ strike has seen a number of attempts to engage with the legacy of the dispute. This article discusses three examples: Pride, a dramatised account of Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners; Still the Enemy Within, a documentary that presents an overview of the strike from the perspective of rank-and-file activists; and Pits and Perverts, a play focusing on a gay couple in London who gave accommodation to Welsh pickets. Particular attention is given to the ways in which the support movement is represented, which is taken as the starting point for a wider discussion about the nature of solidarity. I argue that focusing only on 1984-5 risks positioning the coalfields as only recipients of solidarity, whereas the support of the miners for the Grunwick dispute in the late 1970s and other struggles suggests a more reciprocal relationship. This mutual solidarity was often rooted in a conception of the ‘labour movement’, but one whose boundaries where frequently contested. I conclude by arguing that representing this spirit of solidarity is not an exercise in nostalgia, but an attempt to keep alive the memory and possibility of alternatives to neoliberalism. 

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