Those celebrating the Durham Miners’ Gala this year will have experienced an uplift to their spirit and morale. Over 120,000 trades unionists and their families, representing up to four generations, marched through Durham full of optimism, good humour and determination to build a Britain with a future for workers.
Beautiful banners from many unions, and particularly from numerous lodges of the National Union of Mineworkers, were on display. The marching was done to the rhythm of over 50 brass bands playing the traditional music of workers, expressing the optimism and fight of those present. Marchers were joined by representatives from Cuba and Venezuela.
Not for them the ‘no option but subservience to the bankers and their aspirations’. Instead their vision of a productive society for the common good is becoming the aim of workers everywhere. The speakers reflected this outlook with passion and spirit. Jeremy Corbyn, the only Labour Party Leadership candidate to speak, rejected ‘austerity–lite and New Labour. The General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, quoted a Spanish fireman, who was sent to break the door into the flat of a pensioner who had fallen behind on the rent and was about to be thrown out, so the banks could re-possess the flat. He refused saying: ‘We save people not banks’.
ASLEF president Tosh McDonald denounced the closure of British pits using the excuse of ‘green policy’, pointing out that 50,000 tons of coal are being imported to increase profits for the now foreign utilities.
Most importantly for the coming battles Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE, announced the decision of their union ‘rules revision’ conference to delete from their rule book the words engage in ‘only lawful’ industrial action. This change has been made in anticipation of the declared intention of the Tories to make lawful industrial action close to impossible.
Nazis were condemned for carrying out orders that were legal under the Nazi regime. Trades unionists are now saying clearly we will not cooperate with immoral undemocratic laws, which deprive us of our hard won rights.