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128th Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting:
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128th Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting:
The Strength of Character of the Working Class and Turning This into a Powerful Force to Change Society!
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128th Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting:
The 128th Durham Miners Gala took place on Saturday, July 14. The Durham Miners Association estimated the number of working people taking part as 100,000. On a bright sunny morning, once again there were unforgettable and incredible scenes as the contingents of working people, of brass bands, pipe music and bright beautiful banners turned Durham into a huge manifestation of the strength of character of the working class in the fight for the alternative against the Coalition government. At the heart of this and reflected in the banners and faces of all those present was the determination to build the resistance and opposition to paying the rich, privatising public services, wrecking the economy at home, and the continuing the wars, in Afghanistan, and with now threats of war against Syria and Iran. This was evident when the RCPB(ML) contingent marched with its banner among the contingents of workers and distributed many copies of The Line of March. The banner and the paper attracted much attention from workers and from youth who saw their own experience being reflected in this stand of the Party with the demands put forward in the fight for that alternative to build the Workers’ Opposition, to end the dictate of the monopolies, to change the direction of the pay-the-rich system and for an anti-war government.
David Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, chaired the Big Meeting. He paid tribute to DMA President David Guy, who is in hospital, by saying that his struggle against serious illness over the past four and a half years has been an inspiration, and he sent the thoughts of all those at the Gala to Dave and his family. Two speakers representing the Spanish miners who have been on strike for 50 days got a huge welcome. David Hopper announced that the NUM and the Durham Miners Association had contributed £10,000 to their fighting fund. Other speakers were: Tom Watson MP; Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty; Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary; John Hendy QC; Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary; and Ed Miliband. leader of the Labour Party. So powerful is the mounting resistance of the workers, reflected sharply in the Big Meeting with the thousands gathered in front of the speakers, that every speaker had to address themselves to the alternative to the agenda of the Coalition government. There were calls from David Hopper and the trade union leaders to mobilise for the mass TUC demonstration on October 20 in London.
In deep contrast, the national media, who had refused to report on the Durham Miners Gala over decades, made the issue the return of the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, to speak at the Big Meeting after a gap in which the Labour Party leaders have boycotted attending for 23 years. Ed Miliband, having failed to attend last year, wrote twice to the Durham Miners Association this year to accept his invitation. If the kernel of the significance of the Gala for the workers lies in the necessity of the working class to strengthen their organisation so as to bring the force of their numbers and their independent programme into play, then for Miliband it is that the “popularity of the Gala has grown in recent years” so that “it is literally the biggest trade union gathering in Europe”. These are two fundamentally different messages, one on making the resistance of the Workers’ Opposition effective and charting a course to resolve the crisis in favour of the workers, the other to curry favour with the workers so as to convince them not to take up their own agenda.
In fact, one of the main characteristics of this year's Gala was that every force that considers itself serious had to be there to at least address the agenda of the working class movement to build the workers’ opposition and fight for the alternative. This shows that the working class movement is making its voice heard through its struggles and its collective actions and its mass demonstrations and political activities and must give serious consideration to organisation.
The workers are focusing in on the government’s arrogance that it can get away with anything. The Durham Miner Gala reflects this strength of character of the working class which is continuing to resist, and that this must be turned into building its opposition in order to bring about a bright future for all in society. It also reflects that RCPB(ML) has continued to work hard to map out the line of march to building socialism in Britain by calling and working for this future. A future that works is one that stands in stark contrast to irrelevance and irrationality of an archaic political system that dictates austerity measures on behalf of the monopolies and financial oligarchy. It is a future that stands for democratic renewal and the conscious participation of each and all in the workers’ movement to build the opposition, become organised as an effective independent political force in their own right, and become a powerful force to change society!
Left: Cotia Pit - Jack Elliot, Jock Purdon.
Right: South Hetton Lodge- Lest We Forget Those That Went Before Us.
Left: Unison Durham County Branch. Right: Hartley Colliery Hester Pit.
Left: Yorkshire Area - The Past We Inherit The Future We Build.
Right: From Old Elvet Passing the 'County' to the racecourse.
Left: Coming Back Past the County - Follonsby Lodge - Lenin. Right: Vane Tempest Lodge - Unity Is Strength.
Much hysteria is being generated over the issue of “security” during the Olympic Games, which has its opening ceremony on July 27.
The Games have become a pretext for the militarisation of society, and as a training exercise for the military, besides being organised to serve the interests of the financial oligarchy, not the people.
Using some vague and undefined threat of a “terrorist attack” on the “attractive target” of the Games, in the words of the head of MI5, surface to air missiles are being placed on the roofs of blocks of flats and elsewhere near Olympic venues. One of the most notable is the placement of Starstreak missiles on the tower of what was the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, now flats, which is the site of the famous match-girls strike of 1888, a landmark in British working class history. As many have pointed out, the move lacks all sense of logic, and the conclusion has to be drawn that it is a calculated exercise of the militarisation of society. Another is the Fred Wigg Tower at Leytonstone, East London, after the local council signed a secret deal with the Ministry of Defence earlier this year. On nearby Wanstead Flats, which has the legal status of common land, there has also been erected an eight-acre camp for the police, surrounded by an 11-ft fence. It is also reported that the Metropolitan Police have been stockpiling rubber bullets.
All this has aroused the anger not only of the local communities but a wider sense of outrage. Despite a campaign being fought through the courts to prevent the police base being built, Parliament temporarily suspended the 136-year-old act which prohibits building on the common land. Residents of the tower block took their opposition to the High Court, who ruled in favour of the MoD, and they now find themselves being harassed by the soldiers on “security” grounds, as they enter and leave the building.
There are six locations in and around London where it is known that missiles are being placed. Rapier missiles sites are at Blackheath Common, Oxleas Wood, Eltham, William Girling Reservoir, Enfield, and Barn Hill, Netherstone Farm, near Epping Forest, in addition to the Starstreak missiles in Bow and Leytonstone. The opposition was summed up by a South London resident: “They have not answered any questions, they have just said we’re doing it – it’s a sad day for democracy.”
All sections of the armed forces are involved in this militarisation, including the Special Services. The navy’s biggest warship HMS Ocean is being moored on the Thames, and the air force is ready to scramble Eurofighter jets to combat any “terrorist” threat from “rogue” aircraft, and has many other aircraft in varying roles. Fighter jets will be stationed at RAF Northolt, in west London, for the first time since the Second World War. RAF and Navy sniper teams are on standby. Puma helicopters will be based in Ilford, east London. Naval vessels will be stationed along the south coast. Already there are restrictions on the airspace over London and over much of South-East England, enforced by the military. An MoD spokesman told the press, “The government has reserved the right to extend the airspace restrictions, and the deployment of military assets, including ground-based air defence.”
In what is being described as a “significant” step, US security agents are being stationed at Heathrow and other airports from one week before the Olympics to one week after the end of the Paralympics, a period of almost two months. Can this just be considered a one-off, or is there some more long-term aim?
On top of this, the G4S scandal broke, that late in the day it has been discovered that this private security firm has recruited and trained only 4,200 of the 10,400 staff that were promised to the government. What is also part of the story is that last December, LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, suddenly decided that the number of security staff required would not be 2,000 but 10,400. G4S employs over 657,000 worldwide. It is the company which has a number of public sector contracts, including running prisons, and in whose custody an asylum seeker recently died during deportation. Thus the government is drafting in 3,500 extra army soldiers. This is on top of the 13,500 which it was revealed are ready to be deployed. This compares with the number of 9,500 British occupying troops in Afghanistan. What is the role of 17,000 soldiers? Where will they be stationed? Airport-style checks are being mentioned. It is reported also that a further 2,000 are being held in reserve “on notice to move”.
There is a connection here with the Jubilee workfare scandal, when unemployed were bussed in to act as stewards and treated like serfs. Not only is G4S part of the Department of Work and Pensions “Work Programme”, but CPUK, the company which did the bussing, is subcontracted to G4S to provide fire safety stewards for the Games, and had justified its Jubilee behaviour by saying that the experience would be good preparation for the Olympics. It was to recruit students and the unemployed that G4S had been awarded the £284 million contract.
Added to all the above, it was suggested at the beginning of this month that police are expecting that riots will take place in August as they did last year, according to a study conducted by the London School of Economics and The Guardian. This promotion of police scaremongering both adds to the hysteria and prepares the ground for further police repression.
All in all, it can be seen how a hysteria is being created in order to give effect to restructuring the state and openly let the state forces free rein against the people.
It emphasises how the occasion of the Olympics is being made the occasion for the overt use of the military in public life, and is of a piece with its promotion in the monopoly media and elsewhere.
Paying the Rich
As part of the hysteria, it was also announced that 300 “brand police” – uniformed Olympic officers – are to check up that only the brands of the Olympic financial oligarchy who are its corporate sponsors are associated with the Games. These sponsors include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, BP and Adidas. Thus pubs are not to be allowed to advertise viewing of the Olympics in conjunction with any other logo, for example. In advertising, non-Olympic brands must steer clear of Olympic-associated words, such as “summer”, “London”, “bronze”, “silver” or “gold”. It is even reported that the 800 food outlets other than McDonald’s at the Games should not serve chips because serving fries is to be the exclusive right of that global giant. It is not the Olympic financial oligarchy, but the small businesses who fall foul of these edicts who are said to be engaging in “ambush marketing”. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has appointed the uniformed officers who have powers under the Olympic Games Act passed in the last session of Parliament to take offenders to court where they face a fine of up to £20,000. This emphasises the stranglehold of the monopolies on the economy as well as on society’s cultural life. These “partners” of London 2012 together are funding £1.4bn of the Games’ £11.4bn budget, but naturally expect a massive return on their investments, not to mention the tax breaks such sponsorship brings with it.
The IOC itself is dominated by the international financial oligarchy, and the Games are organised in a totally capital-centred way. Everything is done to serve and protect the interests of monopoly capital. Whether it is on the construction projects, on infrastructure, on security or the armed forces, the people are being made to pay for the Olympic Games. While billions are going to the monopolies, musicians and others for example, are being asked to contribute without being paid. The people of London in particular and the people as a whole are being saddled with the extra burden of state spending, not to mention the cost of attending the Games and the massive disruption to normal life being caused. This is coming at a time when the government is cutting investment in essential social programmes and further privatising them, is dragooning the youth through workfare programmes and slashing benefits under the fraud of having to reduce the deficit.
For a Human-Centred Alternative
Although they are being promoted as a great people’s spectacle, every aspect of the Olympic Games in its present form is being organised to serve the monopolies and as an exercise against the people. Whether it be on the massive cost as a festival for the monopolies, or through the militarisation of society or with the hysteria and suspicion being fostered on the issue of security, the burden of the Olympic Games falls on the people and leaves them politically and culturally marginalised.
The stated ideals of the Olympics of sport in the service of the harmonious development amongst people, promoting a peaceful society and human dignity are completely swamped in the context of an exercise against the people’s well-being and strengthening the power of the state against them. The working class and people must demand a human-centred alternative.
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