industries to avoid facing a determined industrial
union, said union activists in Newcastle, England. The
workers spoke on March 6, 2005 at a British centennial
celebration of the Industrial Workers of the World
(IWW) and the National Union of Miners’ (NUM)
the event by speaking about the origins of the
Industrial Workers of the World and the key role the
Western Federation of Miners played in the founding of
the revolutionary industrial union.
IWW member Dave Douglass who until March 2005, was the
delegate of the now-defunct Hatfield Main branch of
the National Union of Miners in South Yorkshire, and
Ian Lavery, president of the National Union of Miners,
spoke about the struggle of British miners for justice
during the afternoon and evening events.
“The option was to walk away from a fight and see the
industry butchered quicker than what we did,” said Ian
Lavery, the current NUM president. “The only thing you
can do is fight back and
fight back immediately and that’s what we did.”
But the strike failed in large part due to a lack of
solidarity from other British unions, such as the
dockers, and from a minority of miners, primarily in
the Nottingham regions.
The strike was a defeat for the miners, but it did not
dull the will of the miners to fight for their jobs.
Less than two years later, 77.5 per cent of the
100,000 remaining miners voted nationally to strike
again. In response, the government accelerated its pit
closure and privatization program.
“The only way to solve the problem of the miners was a
to get rid of the mines. That was a final solution, a
form of industrial genocide against a race of people
who’d always been there,” said Dave Douglass. NUM
membership now stands at 3,042.
Lavery said the government is putting Britain at risk
with this policy. “You cannot control something that
you don’t own,” he said. He urged the government to
fund clean coal burning projects instead of this
“ludicrous” pipeline scheme and the war in Iraq.
Members of Germany’s Women of Courage organization
told the gathering that the German coal industry has
undergone the same collapse faced by the National
Union of Miners in Britain and elsewhere.
What was once an industry employing 607,000 German
miners in 1957 has become just nine mines employing
34,000 workers. Despite higher coal yields per men per
shift of 6.5 tonnes versus 1.6 tonnes in the Fifties,
German miners are paid between 1,100 and 3,000 Euros
per month, with at least half of their earnings going
to pay state social security and taxes.
“The coal miner dropped from the top of the industrial
pay scale to its end,” said Ilka Schroeder, whose
father and brother both lost their jobs as miners. The
result is the devastation of the Rühr, Germany’s
“Courage and determination are required against
powerful and often unfair opponents. We need to stand
firm in situations where we have problems against
those who we thought were on our side and who betrayed
us,” said Nikole Weber, a German social worker,
referring to the social democratic and green parties
of her country.
The German women’s answer to this crisis has a
distinctly syndicalist tone.
“We could take charge of this wealth and use it for
the benefit of all mankind. We could control
production and living ourselves, much better and more
effectively than those who are currently in charge,”
said Karin Krehl.