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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Scargill Speaks In Belfast


Anthony McIntyre • Other View, Summer 2004

Arthur Scargill in Belfast as part of May Week – it was an opportunity I did not want to miss. It’s not that often that this conservative city plays host to radical guests. Occasionally Bernadette McAliskey and Eamonn McCann come and speak publicly. That helps ensure that what vestiges of radicalism remain here do not fall under the right wing juggernaut that blazes through our social and economic life, imposing privatisation and cut backs as it goes.

The last great voice of English trade union radicalism and militancy, Scargill’s head to head stance with Margaret Thatcher in the mid 1980s, gave him iconic status in the H-Blocks. He was putting it up to the most trenchant right wing prime minister in decades and republican prisoners loved him for it. The organisation most of us belonged to had just tried to kill Thatcher in Brighton in an action described at the time by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams as a blow for democracy. On the jail wings there were no dissenting voices.

Tommy Gorman and Kevin McQuillan completing the company, the three of us made our way to Transport House. We arrived early. It was as well we did. There proved to be standing room only and those without seats were congregating tightly at the back and along the sides of the hall. I scanned the audience in anticipation that I might see some people who were in the H-Blocks alongside me when Scargill led the miners against the Tories. It was a hopeless task. It was the same when George Monbiot came to speak in Belfast, arousing a suspicion in my mind that left wing politics were something to while away the time in prison but had little mileage for most people once they were released.

Arthur Scargill is one of the Left’s great orators. His voice boomed across the hall, robust and direct. With words as his weapons, he made incisive thrust after thrust into the ’systematic cleansing of socialism’ that is taking place throughout the world. Despite having locked horns with Thatcher in mortal combat for over a year, his real contempt was reserved for of the current British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he said made the former Tory leader look like a left winger.

Of Blair’s Britain, Scargill observed: ten million live below the official poverty line; one million children do not have enough food to eat and are categorised as going hungry; five million represents the true unemployment figures once the statistics are de-rigged

How, Scargill, boomed could a leader such as Blair lecture Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan on what is right and what is wrong? If the British or US governments really wanted justice and human rights to prevail throughout the world they would send in troops to occupied Palestine and end the Israeli occupation.

Scargill literally learned his politics at the coalface. Twenty years ago when he predicted the destruction of the mining industry and launched a strike to save it, he was called a nutcase and ridiculed. His reminiscences of the strike were a blend of serious critique and black humour; 17 dead, 13, 000 arrested, 11, 000 injured. For the first time the state had faced a leadership not prepared to bend or sell out the membership. And it was concerned.

Uncompromisingly socialist, he argued that all the industries privatised under Thatcher and Blair should be taken back and placed under public ownership. Private medicine should be abolished. The education system is a mess with the highest illiteracy rate in 25 years. Faith schools would have to go. The thought crossed my mind that they would let their hospitals go first in this part of the world.

The contributions from the floor ranged from the rigorously reasoned to the incorrigibly silly. One Socialist Worker’s Party member who seemed to want his observations to take as long as Scargill’s address was hackled, the audience losing patience with what was fast becoming a rant. Scargill merely joked about it.

At the end, after a standing ovation, myself, Tommy and Kevin stood alongside him to be photographed. Evidence for our offspring in years to come, when they find themselves paying for their health, education and water, that Belfast was not always a socialist free zone.











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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

19 September 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Get On With It
Dolours Price

Who Pulled the Strings
Eamon McCann

Can of Worms
John Kennedy

British Terror in Ireland
Kevin Raftery

Big Snake Lake
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'Ulster Britishism' or the Myth of Nationality
Liam O Comain

An Teanga Once Again?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Converting Waste into Value
Liam O Ruairc

Scargill Speaks In Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

NIPSA, the Most Important Workers Strike in Northern Ireland in 20 Years
Davy Carlin

12 September 2004

Standing Down
Mick Hall

Life in the Party
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Is There a Peaceful Way to a Peoples Republic?
Liam O Comain

Rising to the Top of the Hate List
Fred A. Wilcox

Books Not Bombs
Mary La Rosa

Fighting for the Right to be a British Drug Dealer
Anthony McIntyre

Document Stamped 'Secret'
submitted by Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

The Final Insult
Starry Plough Editorial Collective

Tensions Escalate as Loyalists March Through the Ardoyne
Paul Mallon



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