A brilliant new documentary about the 1984/5 Miners Strike goes on general release at the start of October. ‘Still The Enemy Within’ is an independent, crowd-funded film lasting 112minutes, that has no experts nor film stars in it, and is sadly only likely to be seen at smaller independent cinemas. Pre-release screenings have been taking place at various festivals these last few months such as Sheffield DocFest & Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival (where we saw it), to rave reviews, while a formal cinema licence was being obtained. You can catch it locally on 21 October, 7.30pm at the Cube Cinema in Bristol (ticket info), as well as nearby in Cardiff, Bath & Clevedon – full list of screenings.
Still The Enemy Within tells the story of the strike from the perspective of rank & file striking miners and their supporters from various different coalfields, and the interviews are intercut with archive film & photos. The film covers the whole strike, from localised strikes in Yorkshire, to their spread across all coalfields after the announcement of 20 pit closures in early March 1984, and thereafter the ups & downs of the struggle and pulls no punches – picketing, demos, strike-breaking & scabs, community support & fundraising, the rise of Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC), the desperate financial struggles of mining families reliant on voluntary kitchens & donations, the family breakdowns caused by hardship, the lack of support from other unions/the TUC & the Labour party, police harassment & brutality and state dirty tricks, the rigid almost stalinist nature of local NUM branches (Lodges) and their officials, the failures & errors of the miners union (NUM) leadership, and much more.
The film also brings out the miners & supporters sense of working class humour, their political understanding of the need to fight for their jobs, their determination and willingness to struggle. And finally it shows that the miners & the country were indeed lied to by the Coal Board management and the Tory government, that there was indeed a secret plan to close down not just the 20 pits but at least 75 pits; that
the attack on the mining communities was a well-planned assault on trade unions and nationalised industry by the neo-liberal Thatcherites in their pursuit of privatisation & profit; and that the sort of greedy, unequal, alienated society we experience today is a direct result of the defeats of the working class in the 1980’s. But this is not a sad film, it is defiant, angry, emotional and uplifting, and we defy anyone to leave a cinema without a strong urge to fightback now. Go and see this film, it is important history and an education if you werent around at the time.
What the film-makers say: ‘Still the Enemy Within is a unique insight into one of history’s most dramatic events: the 1984-85 British Miners’ Strike. No experts. No politicians. Thirty years on, this is the raw first-hand experience of those who lived through Britain’s longest strike. Follow the highs and lows of that life-changing year…..Still the Enemy Within is ultimately a universal tale of ordinary people standing up for what they believe in. It challenges us to look again at our past so that in the words of one miner, “we can still seek to do something about the future”. Full synopsis.
There have been many articles/books written on the 1984/5 miners strike, but you can best enhance your understanding of the reality of the miners struggle by reading the words of striking miners themslves. Here’s 2 such men well worth reading:
Norman Strike was a miner from Westoe Colliery in South Shields. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the miners strike he created a blog and uploaded his diary of the strike, a warts and all history of one man’s involvement and political awakening. He is one of the main participants in Still The Enemy Within. Read Norman Strike’s strike diary.
Dave Douglass was already a political activist, and NUM branch delegate for Hatfield Colliery in South Yorkshire, when the strike began. He has remained politicised and active to this day, and has published numerous articles, pamphlets & books on the strike and many other struggles & issues as well. Read some of Dave Douglass’s writings.