We’ve got used to today’s crisis in the Middle East – the Syrian horror, Daesh, Al Qaeda and the drift away from democracy in Turkey. Well, in the early 80s it was all about the recent revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Both questions divided the left. The events of those times have rumbled through to our own time.
Iran had overthrown the Shah, a royal dictator, in 1979. The revolution had started as an urban workers movement but was hijacked by an exiled theocrat called Ayatollah Khomeini. He returned from Paris to Teheran and imposed an Islamic state to the horror of secularists and left wingers in Iran. The country has been ruled by this theocracy ever since.
In the early 80s, the left highlighted the crushing of workers’ rights by the mullahs and the use of capital punishment. Nothing much changes eh?
We all know Thatcher defeated the National Union of Mineworkers in 1985 – but not before, through heavily gritted teeth, she climbed down in the face of the miners in 1981.
On 10th February that year, the Prime Minister announced the closure of 23 pits. This was part of a Tory drive to ‘slim down’ and eventually privatise the nationalised industries that then existed in the UK – like the National Coal Board and British Leyland, which dominated the car industry.
The miners had been instrumental in bringing down the 1970-74 Conservative government of Ted Heath and so the fight with the NUM wasn’t just political and economic…but totemic and personal.
Thatcher was going to take down the workers who took down the Tories seven years before. But in 1981, it was not to be. Faced with strike action, she caved in eight days later. The show down with the pit workers would have to wait another three years…
Click HERE to read the BBC account of what happened.
Here is leaflet I have in my collection when miners and NHS workers took action together in the early 80s.