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Westoe Colliery Band and South Tyne contingent pass the County on the way to the racecourse, 11.30am
On Saturday, July 11, over 100,000 took to the streets of the city of Durham for the 125th Durham miners Gala, according to official estimates, with some 50,000 on the racecourse, and a crowd several thousand strong taking part in the Big Meeting. Workers from across the region and other parts of the country representing miners, railway workers and public service workers were amongst those participating. Prominent this year were hundreds of steel workers from the Corus steel plant on Teesside which is under threat of massive job losses and closures. Some 70 banners and almost as many bands led the contingents through Durham and onto the racecourse. The first bands and contingents reached the racecourse around 9.00am, while at 1.30pm when the Big Meeting was in progress contingents were still arriving to join in the events.
The Chair of the Big Meeting, David Guy, President of the Durham Miners Association, to great acclaim, called for everyone to get behind the steel workers in their fight against the cutbacks and closures at Corus. He pointed out that the calls of the working class enshrined on the banners of the contingents were the values that stand the workers in good stead today. Such slogans as Workers of all countries, unite! An injury to one is and injury to all! are just as much watchwords now as they were in the past, and will be in the future also, he said to huge applause.
This theme continued with the speakers who addressed the Gala Big Meeting. Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, opened the speeches with a call for unity and struggle which he said was a struggle for a better world. Ian Lavery, President of the NUM, gave a speech in which he showed how the miners, win or lose, had kept their dignity and kept alive the spirit of the struggle of the working class for a better world, a world where the miners would play a decisive role in revitalising the economy for the future. Len McCluskey, Unite Assistant General Secretary, said that it was no longer a question of repeating that capitalism has failed. Even the Financial Times is saying that. It is a question, he declared, of fighting for a practical alternative to the 100,000 workers a month who are being thrown onto the dole. He ended his speech with a quote from Che Guevara who, when asked how long the struggle must continue, replied, "Until the final victory!"
Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT, denounced the governments justifications for scapegoating Muslims, in the same way that governments before had attacked Asians, and the Nazis before that had attacked the Jews to try and sabotage the working class movement and destroy its unity. He opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said that the workers demanded that the troops be brought home. He denounced the succour the government gives to the Israeli state which has 200 nuclear weapons and which with only the slightest pretext has smashed to bits what little infrastructure the Palestinians have. He called for the working class to fight for a better world and uphold once again the fight for socialism.
A special international guest, Ana Margareta Fuertes Elizarde, Cuban teacher and trade unionist, who was invited on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, then addressed the Gala. She thanked the Durham miners for the invitation to celebrate this anniversary alongside the 125th miners Gala. She brought, she said, the solidarity of the Cuban working class and people. She pointed out that the internationalist solidarity of the Durham miners in support of the Cuban people, which included the material support of ambulances and medical supplies, had been given especially during the special period. She spoke of the unjust US sanctions against Cuba and said that after the recent hurricanes which had devastated the country the US had not lifted the embargo even for a few days to enable the Cuban people to obtain emergency building materials and medical supplies. She said that the US sanctions were in fact the greatest hurricane that Cuba has faced, and spoke with pride of how the Cuban people were nevertheless standing firm. She referred to Cubas great achievements Cuba, a small island that, unlike those powers that send troops to other countries, has instead sent 35,000 health and education workers to as many as 79 countries. Ana Margareta Fuertes Elizarde concluded by hailing the solidarity between the two peoples and the working class in particular, and wished the Durham miners Gala a successful future.
During the Galas proceedings, activists of the Northern Region of RCPB(ML) distributed hundreds of the Party's special edition of North East Workers and Politics and Workers Weekly. The call of the Party Oppose the dictate of the monopolies! Take up responsibility for the fate of society! was well received and the comrades engaged in discussion with many workers on the tasks the workers themselves face in turning the situation around so that it favours the working class and all the oppressed sections of society. This is what is missing and what the Gala needs to take forward that it is the workers who must become organised as an effective independent political force in their own right. And worker politicians must champion a new direction for the economy under which it becomes the people who decide, and which turns the tables on the anti-social programme which is sending the economy into deeper and deeper crisis. It is the working class with its worker politicians who can and must save the day. This is the question that needs to be confronted if the workers movement is to make progress: it is that workers have no choice but to shoulder their responsibility for the fate of society. This was the call of the Party on the occasion of the historic 125th Durham Miners Gala. This was the alternative which the Party activists took to the class, bringing out what is most positive in the spirit of the Gala and which will serve to unite the workers in the cause of paving the way to a new society, the better world to which so many speakers had referred.
Eppleton lodge starting in the market place, 9.30am
Banner of the British Battalion International Brigade 1936 - Old Elvet, 9.30am
Contingent of Corus steel workers marching down Elvet, 10.30am
Health worker contingent - Old Elvet, 11.35am
Contingents of workers still arriving as the Big Meeting starts - Racecourse, 1.20pm
Ian Lavery, President of the National Union of Mineworkers - Big Meeting
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary - Big Meeting
Ana Margareta Fuertes Elizarde, Cuban teacher and trade unionist - Big Meeting
Elvet Bridge in the evening sun - 4.00pm
Chopwell banner featuring Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin - The County, 4.30pm
Lancashire Area banner featuring Che Guevara and Georgi Dimitrov - Old Elvet, 4.30pm
Last band off the field, Fishburn Colliery Band - Old Elvet outside the County, 4.45pm
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