On the second Saturday in July every year, around 250,000 people of all ages descend on Durham for the annual ‘Big Meeting’. This year marked the 135th Durham Miners Gala, with militant speeches from leaders of the labour movement.
The Durham Miners Gala is a celebration of working-class history and traditions. It is the largest annual event of the labour movement in Europe – a mixture of a parade, a demonstration, and a family day out.
That being said, the political nature of the Gala cannot be understated. Many trade unions, left-wing organisations, and political campaigns are present. This year, notable attendees included the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign and the Labour Against the Witch-hunt campaign.
There was a positive mood at this year’s event, as could be expected at such a proud celebration of working class heritage.
Many in attendance showed a great interest in Socialist Appeal and our ideas. Workers are increasingly angry at the continuing Tory attacks on living standards. But grassroots members of the labour movement are also furious at the attacks on the left from Tom Watson and his ilk in the Labour Party.
This anger was reflected in the speeches at this year’s Gala, which were very militant. Labour MP Laura Pidcock’s powerful and evocative speech stood out in particular, receiving rapturous applause from onlookers.
In her speech, the North West Durham MP decried Thatcherism, the dismantling of the NHS, the ever-increasing exploitation of workers, and the “sucking of colour from our communities”. She went on to rightfully place blame squarely at the feet of exploitative bosses and the corrupt capitalist system.
There were also fighting words from Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union. In his speech to the Gala, McCluskey echoed the sentiment of Socialist Appeal’s front cover, stating that “there is nothing funny about Boris Johnson”; he is a dangerous enemy of the workers.
The Unite leader also openly called out Tom Watson, the Machiavellian deputy Labour leader, in relation to his recent and utterly disgraceful attacks on Jennie Formby, the party’s general secretary.
Corbyn was also at the Gala, for the fourth year running. The Labour leader addressed a crowd that was in high spirits despite the rainy weather. Workers and youth are hopeful for a general election and the prospect of a Corbyn Labour government, committed to nationalisation, an end to austerity, and a redistribution of power and wealth in favour of the working class.
As a first time attendee of the Gala, I was blown away by its power, its scale, and the unbent pride of the mining communities present, represented by their brass bands and colourful political banners.
For all the attacks on the working class during the Great Miners’ Strike and since, the labour movement has not been broken. Instead, it is gathering strength and looking forwards to kicking out the Tories and bringing a socialist Labour government to power. This should fill all of us with enormous optimism for the future of the working class and the fight for socialism.