Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Miners' Strike And International Women's Day.

       International Women's Day, in 1910, in Copenhagen, a second International Conference of Working Women was held. At that conference Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) put forward the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result. 

       It is fitting that we celebrate the start the 30th anniversary of the miners strike, as we celebrate International Women's Day, for during that year long savage and bitter strike, the courage and solidarity of women is writ large. Throughout the miners strike, March 1984 to March 1985, women were an integral part of the struggle. They took their place in lines against the police brutality, they organised fundraisers, organised and ran soup kitchens, they battled on the streets, they were the cement that helped hold the mining communities together. Without the strength and backing of the women and the communities, the strike would have been quickly crushed.

       International Women's Day is a day when we can pay homage to all those women who selflessly fought to improve the conditions of not just women, but all humankind. Women who struggled to improve working conditions, for justice, for peace, for unity of all ordinary people. The miners strike was not just about miners and pit closures, it was about communities and an attempt to stop the devastation of those communities, and women were an inseparable part and parcel of that struggle. That is why the women of the miners strike can take their place on that roll of honour, not only of women, but of working class heroes.

   Every country, every city, every town, has its roll of honour of such women, perhaps not publicly displayed but it will be there, in folklore, in song, in theatre and poem. Glasgow can be proud of its list of women who fought injustice where they saw it, some struggled away in obscurity, some in the limelight of publicity, all paid their part in improving our lives. Today more than ever we need our women heroes, we need the unity of all men and women to combat the savage onslaught against our living standards. Today more than ever people have to stand up and join hands in solidarity with all people's across the globe.
      Here are just a few of Glasgow's women from our recent past that are worthy of being honoured today.

Mary Barbour, Ethel MacDonald, Helen Crawfurd, Agnes Dollan, Jenny Patrick, Rita Milton, who would you add to this list, there are hundreds if not thousands, from which to choose. Where are our modern Mary Barbour's, where is today's Ethel MacDonald? Can you name them?

       "It is not by changing ministers - such guilty men! - or issuing declarations that fascism will be conquered. The problem is more complex than that. We do not intend to add our voice to those who delude the workers that their 'leaders' will get them out of the mess. The problems need a complete transformation in the present attitude of the working class." Marie Louise Berneri From; War Commentary, December 1940.

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