Welsh Assembly

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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Riots to Reform.. The evolution of organised Labour

In 1910 one of the most fierst riots took place at Tonypandy in the South Wales Coalfield....

The miners of the Cambrian Combine took to the streets following a bitter dispute with the pit owners. Violence ensued and the striking miners fough for a living wage against the owners. The situation soon escalated and the South Wales Miners Federation urged a strike of up to 12,000 miners employed by the combine to support them. As the riots developed, the owners found solace in a certain Winston Churchill, soon to be war hero. Churchill with his well known skill for leadership, sent in army infantry to the area, along with hundreds of metropolitan police soldiers to crush the miners in their tracks.

The result, a paltry wage increase, a strong mark in the local phsyche, still felt by many, and determination to organise and change society.

1984, during the last conservative government. South Wales agian found itself at the brunt end of the rugged individualism found in thatcher's economics. This time however, the troops were not needed. Slash and Burn to the NCB and the south wales coalfield led to community destruction. Miners were put against miners. The struggle that lasted a year took its toll on these communities, whose solidarity was never questionable. "There is no society." she proclaimed. And her attack on South Wales went along way to making her farcical idea a reality. However the miners and their families, their communities and their neighbours were more together than ever. Food organisations, strike committees, Choirs and Rugby Teams; all helped eachother in the finest principles of organised labour.

So what does all this mean for us today? well, as we listen to the various views in this leadership contest, we must ask ourselves 'were are we taking society next?'. Labour values, trade unions, organised for better wages, an NHS, freedom from the fear of poverty and despair. yet we canot let the wheels of our movement grind to a slow walk.

Who is going to take us further, bring in new ideas, solve the modern problems that we have in society?

While reading about David Miliband making a speech at the Keir Hardie lecture in Aberdare, i couldnt help but cast a thought back to the struggles our communities have previously fought. Will we need to fight the same battles? its very unlikely, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt take the values from what those who have gone before us used in their own troubling times. Our world is not perfect, our problems will grow under the ConDem cuts, and we will dountless feel the pain of the global recession. 

After a labour government of 13 years, now is our chance to look back, take stock, rethink, revise and revolutionise our party. The way forward is in real redistributive policies that protect and promote equality in our society.

Can we find the answer in any of the Labour leadership candidates?


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