The Durham Miners’ Gala has always been a key date in the labour movement calendar. But with British capitalism lurching from one crisis to the next, this year’s ‘Big Meeting’ was marked by a palpable sense of anger at the current situation.
And with another ‘hot strike summer’ beginning to take shape across many different sectors, the Gala was an opportunity to gather these forces together, galvanise the movement, and show the strength of the working class.
The Big Meeting
The Gala opened with the usual parade of trade union branches and mineworkers’ lodges through the cobbled streets of Durham. Although the skies were dark and grey, the city was lit up with the bright colours of trade union banners.
Crowds then gathered on the Racecourse for the Big Meeting, where trade union leaders, officials of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), and Labour MPs gave a series of rabble-rousing speeches from the stage.
Overseeing the meeting was Stephen Guy, the chair of the DMA, who called for the repeal of anti-trade union laws, a public inquiry into Orgreave, and a return to democratic socialism in the Labour Party.
Alan Mardghum, the president of the DMA, stood up to Starmer’s purge of the left, declaring that he “stands shoulder to shoulder with Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Loach“. This attracted some of the loudest cheers, showing the complete rejection of Labour’s pro-business leadership among the attendees.
Unfortunately, however, neither of these speakers drew any lessons from the defeat of the Corbyn movement: that there can be no compromise with the bosses’ agents within the movement; and that the rank-and-file must be mobilised around a bold socialist programme to sweep out the right wing.
Fran Heathcote, the president of the PCS union went a step further: rather than waiting for pro-business politicians to come to our rescue, she correctly pointed out that the working class can only rely on its own strength. She put forward the need for united action around bold demands, such as reversing privatisation and cuts, and public ownership.
Many speakers also decried the bosses’ profiteering, and the record-breaking income inequality we see today. Zarah Sultana, the left-wing Labour MP for Coventry South, pinned the blame for this on ‘greedflation’.
While it is correct that the bosses have made a killing as living standards have plummeted for millions, the cause of this profiteering is not simply greedy bosses, but the logic of capitalism itself.
Therefore, it’s not enough to simply “tax the rich” to fund public services, as Sultana put forward. Instead, we must expropriate the bosses completely, and use their wealth as part of a socialist plan of production.
Armed with these revolutionary ideas and demands, members of the International Marxist Tendency held a bold intervention at the Miners’ Gala – our most successful to date!
The striking back page of Socialist Appeal – emblazoned with a huge hammer and sickle alongside portraits of Marx and Lenin – called on the labour movement to reclaim its communist traditions.
— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) July 8, 2023
Around 50 comrades from across the North East and beyond held a number of stalls around the city, selling the Socialist Appeal newspaper and other Marxist literature, and recruiting for revolution as part of our Are you a communist? campaign.
Our bold, revolutionary slogans such as “Unite the strikes! Overthrow the bosses!” and “Fight for revolution! Join the communists today!” went down well with the crowds.
The mood amongst our comrades was electric, with spontaneous renditions of the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa breaking out at several points.
Throughout the day, we managed to sell a record 355 copies of our newspaper, nearly £300 worth of literature, and another £300 in donations to our fighting fund. In total, that’s well over £1000 going towards the communist cause!
Once the main rally was over, comrades gathered for an open-air recruitment meeting, aimed at those who were interested in joining the IMT. A comrade gave an inspiring speech, appealing to radical workers and youth to get organised with the communists.
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This meeting was a huge success, with several of those in attendance immediately agreeing to join the IMT. This has brought us ever closer to reaching the milestone of 1000 members in Britain.
We have planted the red flag of communism at the Gala this year. But now we must renew our efforts to build the communist leadership the working class deserves.