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Volume 46 Number 17, July 18, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

In Memoriam

Dave Hopper

April 1943-July 16, 2016

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In Memoriam - Dave Hopper

Workers' Movement:
Durham Miners Gala Affirms the Role of the Working Class as the Main force to Chart a New Path for Society

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In Memoriam

Dave Hopper

April 1943-July 16, 2016


The Executive Committee of the Durham Miners' Association (DMA) announced with great sadness the unexpected death of their Secretary, Dave Hopper, on Saturday, July 16, at 4:00pm, following a heart attack.

The statement continues: "Dave was elected General Secretary of the NUM (Durham Area) in 1985 and led the union through the difficult years in the aftermath of the 1984/85 strike and the final closure of the Durham Coalfield. He was an inspirational leader who held firm to his deeply felt socialist principles.

"Last Saturday Dave presided over the 132nd Durham Miners Gala the 31st under his leadership - the greatest number of any General Secretary. This Gala attracted the largest crowd in 60 years and this achievement and the Galas to come will be his legacy."

We join with the Durham Miners' Association, and all those many others in the workers' movement who have paid tribute to Dave Hopper, in sending RCPB(ML)'s deepest condolences to his family and all those closest to him.

The DMA said that the details of the funeral will be announced at a later date.

Dave (Davey) Hopper was a young miner of 15 when he started work.

He led the Durham miners through the 1984/85 strike and its aftermath, playing a key role in keeping the miners' union united in the Durham coalfield.

His stands unwaveringly represented the internationalist traditions of the working class and its abhorrence of racism. He was a deeply principled socialist, with great integrity, who inspired the respect and love of working people. The development of the Durham Miners Gala as a working class affirmation and festival under his dedicated leadership was something that has uplifted all those who have participated, and its spirit will continue to inspire.

Along with Dave Guy, President of the DMA from 1985 till his death in 2012, Dave Hopper was the driving force behind the Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting. He recognised its political significance and that of the DMA for the working class movement and selflessly dedicated himself to their success and flourishing. This was despite the fact of the decimation and closure of the coal industry and the devastation of the Durham coalfield, leaving the DMA itself with a vanishingly small membership of working miners.

Under Dave Hopper's leadership, the DMA and the Durham Miners Gala stood for the rights of the Cuban people, the Mexican people, of striking miners, and all those forces internationally fighting for a new world and against oppression. Representatives of the Cuban trade unions were regular guests at the Big Meeting, and the DMA was staunch in its support for the Cuban revolution, in its opposition to US sanctions against Cuba and stood in support of the campaign to free the Cuban 5.

Last year, Dave Hopper met in Durham with guests from the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), a meeting which will facilitate contact between the DMA and the miners' trade union in the DPRK.

He made sure that the miners' hall and headquarters in Durham, "Redhills", was put in the service of the workers' movement as a whole, both locally and internationally. The centenary of the Durham Miners' New Hall last year he described as an opportunity to "remember our defeats and celebrate our triumphs". Dave Hopper affirmed: "Whatever the future holds in these uncertain times we are determined that this magnificent building will remain a facility for the use of the labour movement and the people of Durham. It is our heritage and we must cherish it."

On the verdict of unlawful killing in the recent Hillsborough disaster inquest, Dave Hopper said: "There wouldn't have been a Hillsborough without Orgreave. What happened at Orgreave meant South Yorkshire Police thought they were a law unto themselves and could get away with anything." He urged Theresa May, then Home Secretary, to start an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave, saying the police should not be "above the law".

The Durham Miners' Association, with Dave Hopper as general secretary, fought tirelessly and in the face of unprecedented difficulties for the well-being and rights of the miners. The DMA backed test cases on vibration white finger, chronic bronchitis and emphysema when there was a massive financial risk and the government refused to meet its responsibilities to negotiate a compensation scheme. As a result of the DMA's decision and looking at the government's own figures, Durham miners and mechanics had the highest success rate and the highest level of compensation in the country but that success helped all workers. It was not insurance companies, not claims' farmers, not legal aid funds who were prepared to fight but it was the DMA and other areas of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Dave Hopper's whole life was dedicated to the cause of the working class, and RCPB(ML) and its activists are proud to have known and worked with him. His legacy will live on.

Quotations of Dave Hopper

1999:


"The last Gala of the twentieth century takes place a few weeks after NATO stopped the bombing of Yugoslavia. Who would have thought that a Labour Government would have so readily supported Clinton's bombing campaign with so much relish?"

"Who is to wonder that there is disillusionment when those in most need in our society are under attack through the proposed changed to the Welfare Benefit System, in which the right to Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance has been curtailed."

"More and more we see evidence that the policies of the three major parties have moved closer together. Increasingly Labour appears to be represented by an elite clique and the name 'New Labour' more and more appears to mean ' Old Liberalism'."

2004:

Twenty years after the commencement of the miners' strike, on May Day: "The miners' defeat was also a defeat for the working class as a whole."

"The Thatcher government had prepared well for the strike. They manipulated the media to sow division in the trade union movement, and they used the might of the state machine to smash trade union and community resistance. Yet the strike stimulated a magnificent demonstration of solidarity in Britain and across the world. As young miners went courageously into action on mass pickets against the paramilitary national organisation of the police, trade union and socialist activists formed support committees -Throughout the world, the labour and socialist movement came to our assistance."

He continued: "The experience of standing up to the dictates of the owners of wealth and privilege is part of a process of change taking place in the wider working class movement. In factory and workplace - in spite of the blacklist - miners have been called upon to become shop stewards and take office in trade union branches. They carry into the wider movement their experience of struggle against the brutal class nature of the state and the class bias of the judiciary and media."

2014:

Dave Hopper pointed out at the Big Meeting that every year the Gala is increasingly getting financially attacked by the authorities, and he said the DMA is in a very, very difficult situation to keep it going. But he hailed the support of the Friends of the Durham Miners Gala and the trade unions who have supported the gala through thick and thin, and will no doubt continue their support as long as there is a Gala in Durham. He assured those that took part that whilst there had been some speculation in the press, "We will be back next year - that's a certainty!"

2015:

"Despite all the attempts by the Tory press and media to write us out of history, we are still here in massive numbers to celebrate our community spirit and carry our socialist message on behalf of the working class."

"Capitalism has failed the people. The banking system was brought to its knees by the relentless drive to extort profit from the efforts of working people and now the bankers continue their parasitic activity while the poorest are made to pay.

"Politicians of all parties are all talking about aspirations as if aspirations are exclusive to the middle class. The subtext, of course, is the daft idea that the lower classes have no aspirations and are content to live off benefits. But we all have aspirations. Aspirations to live in an equal society where there is adequate social housing, schools and healthcare for everyone and where the sick and disabled are looked after and those who are unemployed are treated with dignity.

"Capitalism has proved incapable of providing such a society, so surely we must start with the aspiration to create a socialist society and demonstrate to the 15 million who did not vote in this election that there is an alternative to the career politicians.

"It is not going to be easy but they have drawn the battle lines. We have to resist these attacks on the weakest in our society and give our youth an opportunity in life. So let's start the fight back at today's Gala."

On the Trade Union Bill (now an Act): "How can a government elected by a tiny percentage of the electorate demand that a trade union ballot can only be valid if a certain percentage of people vote. It is even more hypocritical when we consider that in Parliament there are no secret ballots and no requirement for a certain percentage of MPs to vote."

Article Index



Workers' Movement

Durham Miners Gala Affirms the Role of the Working Class
as the Main force to Chart a New Path for Society


The 132nd Durham Miners' Gala was held this year on Saturday, July 9. Coming in the wake of the EU referendum and the vote to leave which has created a deep political crisis of the ruling elite it once again affirmed the role of the working class as the main force and leader to chart a new path to fight for a new direction for society. Again this year the Gala was massive - estimated figures of 100-150,000, despite the rain, with tens of thousands attending the mass open air Big Meeting on Durham racecourse where Jeremy Corbyn was the keynote speaker along with trade union leaders and others from the working class movement.

Writing in the souvenir brochure on the invitation of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to speak at the Big Meeting, Dave Hopper, the General Secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, set the scene in a prophetic way when he wrote: "It is in that spirit of solidarity and selflessness that we welcome the 132nd Durham Miners' Gala. It will have a unique place in the history of our Big Meeting." Contrasting this with past years he pointed out: "It is a far cry from the days when New Labour dominated and Tony Blair refused to attend what is the biggest celebration of working class solidarity and community values in Europe. However, in hindsight, I think it was a blessing that the now totally discredited warmonger, whose actions destabilised the Middle East and gave rise to the so-called Islamic State, never sullied our platform. It would have been an insult to our mining families and our history."


Tens of thousands of people took part in the day's celebrations. Marching to the racecourse, the bands and contingents paused at the County Hotel where the Durham Miners' Association leaders and their guests cheered and waved from the balcony. Guests this year included two of the Cuban heroes, René González and Gerardo Hernández, released from prison in the US, and a leading Mexican trade unionist, Napoleon Gomez. As the contingents passed through the City and onto the field, and as many took part in the ceremony in the Durham Cathedral to dedicate new banners, what was striking was the glimpse of a different nation and different world from the mantra of the ruling elite of Westminster politicians and their state and media. They talk about governing for "one nation" and even standing with the "working poor". In reality the "shared values" that they emphasise turn out to be not shared at all but they are the values of the ruling elite and the monopoly capitalist interests they represent. The reality is the driving down of incomes and pensions, "austerity", cuts to public services, privatisation and racism and war. This is in stark contrast to positivity of the working class values of the Durham Miners' Gala with all the trade unions, the working class leaders speaking there to condemn these attacks on the people, to build the alternative that defends everyone, with the Brass and Pipe bands and other musicians with young and old, male and female and the different nationalities reflecting the composition of the area. It all gives a glimpse of what the nation is that the working class has the potential of constituting. It gives a glimpse of the people being in control of their destiny - building a nation that vests sovereignty in the peoples and nations of Britain.


It was in this spirit that Jeremy Corbyn received a massive and special welcome as the final speaker at one of the largest ever Big Meetings held on the racecourse with tens of thousands taking part. After all the confusion-mongering following the EU leave vote, he delivered a pro-social speech that captured the sentiment of the people over the social injustice inflicted on the working class and people, but one that also expressed great optimism for the future of society where the rights of all are upheld. He inspired and lifted the movement in concluding the Big Meeting by saying that "the exciting thing about the current period is that so many people reject absolutely this whole economic model (of austerity measures) and want to build a sustainable world, a culturally strong world, a world where the wealth is created and shared as a result of it. Those that fought for the miners' unions in the 19th and 20th centuries did an amazing job and the mines may have closed but that spirit of unity, that spirit of doing things together, that spirit of community lives on in the hearts of everyone of us here today at the Durham Big Meeting."

During the Gala day RCPB(ML) activists and supporters made contact with hundreds of people as well as engaging a large number of people in discussion in the parade of banners, on the racecourse and at the Party's stall. Hundreds of the Party's publication The Line of March and a special issue of North East Workers' & Politics, both which contained the call of the northern Region of RCPB(ML) The Working Class Can Grasp the Opportunity to Fight for a New Direction for Society, were distributed. The call concluded: "As we take part in the Durham Gala and the Big Meeting, let us all unite around the need to build a Workers' Opposition to fight for the alternative, to defeat austerity and defend the rights of all. Let us adopt the programme for democratic renewal so that the people are increasingly empowered to make all the decisions in society. The movement of the workers can be built which will bring about change that favours the people and the nations which at present constitute Britain. Grasp the opportunity to bring about a new direction for the economy and society!"

This is the spirit that is the Durham Miners Gala. Let us take this forward and build the Workers Opposition to fight for a new direction for society.


Left: Party Banner - Right: Cuban heroes, René González and Gerardo Hernández

Jeremy Corbyn at the Big Meeting

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