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Packed Morning Star conference debates lessons of the miners' strike for today's struggle

UNION militants, miners’ strike veterans and left activists packed Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church at the weekend for the Morning Star’s Fightback conference.

Addressing the state of “the movement 40 years on from the miners’ strike,” sessions looked at lessons from the great 1984-5 strike itself and maintaining the strike wave in the face of draconian new anti-strike laws, with organisers from Unite, RMT and GMB among those setting out the strategies needed.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery roused the hall with his recollection of how as a 21-year-old indentured apprentice with no record of trouble with the authorities, he found himself battered and bloodied in the back of a police van on his first ever picket line. 

Speaking of the hours held in the back of the van with other beaten-up miners, he said: “We had no idea what we were supposed to have done wrong.”

Other speakers included Professor Lydia Hayes of Liverpool University, who told how the shift from collective to individual rights following the defeat of the strike had done lasting damage to social provision, standards at work and living conditions. 

Peace movement leaders Andrew Murray of Stop the War and Kate Hudson of CND spoke of the burgeoning movement in solidarity with Gaza, the “no ceasefire — no vote” demand and the need to reverse TUC decisions of recent years in favour of higher arms spending.

A session on state repression saw John Rees make an impassioned call for mobilisation at the Royal Courts of Justice on February 20-21 to oppose the extradition of Julian Assange.

Multiple speakers pointed to the unique role of the Morning Star, with Mr Lavery citing it as a lone voice of truth during the mass media propaganda assaults on the miners — and more recently on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and himself as Labour chair in that period, and Terry Renshaw of the Shrewsbury Pickets praising its dedicated coverage of their fight for justice over decades.

Mr Corbyn himself ended the session with a powerful appeal for solidarity with Palestine and a politics that prioritised human need over endless aggression.

Each session saw lively audience debate and over £800 was raised for the Morning Star Fighting Fund, while more than £500 of shareholdings were sold.

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