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Volume 41 Number 22, July 16, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

127th Durham Miners' Gala and Big Meeting:

The Strength of Character
of the Working Class

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

127th Durham Miners' Gala and Big Meeting:
The Strength of Character of the Working Class

75th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

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127th Durham Miners' Gala and Big Meeting:

The Strength of Character of the Working Class

Durham Miners Gala 2011

The 127th Durham Miners' Gala on Saturday July 9 was very well attended by thousands of working people with estimates this year of 100,000 to 130,000 in attendance. There were 80 banners ahead of their contingents and 40 bands. Once again, there were incredible scenes starting from early in the morning as these contingents of the working class movement marching behind the miners lodge and trade union banners made their way through Durham on to the racecourse for the Big Meeting. These included the new Follonsby banner with Lenin at the centre. It was a day that was bright with sunshine one minute and stormy with torrential rain the next. The gathering storms did not dampen the spirits of the crowds or the growing consciousness of the mass movement that started in London in March this year where over 500,000 marched for the alternative and which continued with the June 30 strike of three quarters of a million teachers and public service workers.

In this respect Gala was a snapshot of the working class movement as a whole. The Gala manifested that the fight for the alternative is continuing in response to a government that is saying there is no alternative to their increased destruction of jobs, robbing of pensions, eroding of terms and conditions. Whilst they pay the rich, privatise public services and wreck the economy at home, and continue their wars of aggression abroad against Afghanistan and Libya.

That snapshot of where they were in the fight for the alternative came from the Durham miners’ leaders and some of the platform speakers at the Big Meeting. Especially from Dave Prentis of Unison and Len McCluskey of Unite, who took up the call to build the resistance which was about trade union values that were more than just narrowly fighting the cuts, or having illusions that Ed Miliband and the Labour Party were presenting any alternative. Rather they declared that there is an alternative direction for society that the millions of public sector workers are fighting for alongside all of the working people of Britain.

At the Gala too workers expressed support for the fighting calls of RCPB(ML) to build the Workers' Opposition and make it effective, to fight for the alternative programme of stop paying the rich and for an anti-war government. This was evident when the Party contingent marched with its banner among the contingents of workers. The banner drew massive attention from the workers who saw their own experience being reflected in it with the demands it put forward pointing out the line of march to a differently organised society. This was also true of the stall and on the field where activists distributed statements of the Party and sold the Party's monthly paper The Line of March. The issues the Party raised are crucial for workers to achieve a turning point in their struggle to build this opposition. What must be the next step? The call identified that what is on workers’ minds is how their struggle for the alternative can be effective and outlined the programme Stop Paying the Rich and Increase investments in Social Programmes! The Party called for the conscious participation of each and all in the workers’ movement to build their opposition and become organised as an effective independent political force in their own right and to build the Workers’ Opposition as a powerful force to change society!


Bands and Banner Parade through Durham City to the Racecourse

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The Big Meeting on the Racecourse

Big Meeting 2011
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Big Meeting


Evening Return from the Racecourse

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75th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

July 17 marks the 75th anniversary of the commencement of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, which was precipitated by a fascist military coup against the elected government of Spain. The civil war in Spain became a major international conflict, a key battle in the struggle against fascism and a global war. From the start the fascist generals led by Franco had the full support of the major fascist powers Germany, Italy and Portugal, and benefited from the supposed neutrality but tacit support of the governments of Britain and France. The government of the Spanish Republic, on the other hand, was supported by the Soviet Union and internationally by all the democratic and anti-fascist forces. The most notable feature of this support was the creation of the International Brigades of volunteers, established and led by the Communist International, who went to Spain to support the Republican government and fight in the front lines against fascism.

In 1935, the democratic forces in Spain, including the Socialist Party, the Republican parties, the two largest trade union centres, the Basque Nationalists, and with the Communist Party playing a leading role, had established a united political bloc against fascism, the Popular Front, which stood on a joint platform in the parliamentary elections in February 1936. The Popular Front, representing the vast majority of the people of Spain, triumphed in the elections and duly formed a government. However, this government failed to take the necessary measures to remove fascist elements from the army, police and state apparatus, which created the conditions for the July coup, and then failed to take decisive measures to crush it.

Had the Spanish people been left to resolve their own problems it is quite possible that the fascist coup would have been defeated. However, the Republic was severely handicapped first by the refusal of the French government to supply it with arms as provided by an agreement between the two countries and then by the fact that the fascist powers sent troops, armaments and planes to aid Franco’s forces. Thereafter an international agreement, brokered by Britain and France, on non-intervention and prohibiting the supply of arms to either side was agreed but ignored by the fascist powers. As a result, in October 1936 the government of the Soviet Union announced that in the circumstances it would not be bound by this agreement, and it became the main supplier of weapons and other support to the Republican government.

The International Brigades were first established in September 1936 under the direction of the Communist International but open to all anti-fascists. It is estimated that some 60,000 volunteers participated in the Brigades from over fifty countries and all continents, including over 2,000 volunteers from Britain. Recruitment increased considerably after the publication in October 1936 of a telegram from Joseph Stalin to José Diaz, the leader of the Communist Party of Spain, declaring that the conflict in Spain was a struggle not just of the Spanish people but of all “progressive humanity”. The International Brigades played a heroic role in the struggle against fascism and in defence of the rights of the people Spain and many gave their lives in the struggle against fascism. They embodied the spirit of the times that inspired all democratic people to take a stand and unite in action in opposition to fascism.

The government and people of Spain, aided by the Soviet Union, the International Brigades and the anti-fascist forces, had to overcome overwhelming odds in order to defeat fascism. The Republican government took measures to unite all democratic forces and to curtail the rights of the big landowners, bankers and other exploiters in the interests of the majority and in order to advance the struggle against fascism. The Communists also played a crucial role, building the unity of the people, co-operating closely with other parties and opposing those forces that attempted to break the unity of the people’s front against fascism with provocative and premature demands for revolution. It is not for nothing that in the recent list of the British volunteers released by MI5, showing that the British state took a great and antagonistic interest in the volunteers who went to fight in Spain, those who were known to be communists are singled out. In Spain, the anti-fascist forces were ultimately unable to prevail but the struggle that was waged created the conditions for the eventual victory over fascism led by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

It is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the International Brigaders, the fact that they were prepared to give their lives to defeat fascism and in defence of the liberation of humanity, that the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) continues to honour their memory in Britain, and that there are similar organisations in other countries from which volunteers came, as well as in Spain itself. As many speakers emphasised at the annual commemoration at the monument in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank held by the IBMT this year on July 2, the requirement for this spirit is not confined to history but “No Pasarán!” resounds as a clarion call to the progressive forces to take a stand against the trampling of the rights and freedoms of the working class and people in the present circumstances.

Today, as the times again cry out for the unity of the people in defence of their rights and against fascism and war, it is fitting that we commemorate and learn from the experience of the heroic struggle waged during the Spanish Civil War.

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