NUM'S PAST MASTERS OF DEBATE TAKE ON THE CLIMATE CAMPERS - 17 AUGUST 2008
from the yorkshire NUM website
Dave Douglass former NUM Yorkshire Area Executive member writes this report of his visit to the so called Climate Camp."
In August, me an Arthur Scargill enter another big field to fight the corner for the miners and coal our industry and cause. Last time it was that field at Orgreave, this time it’s the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth Power Station and instead of thousands of cops there’s thousands of eco-warriors who now believe coal is killing the planet and want to stop all new coal stations.
If truth were known, they want to close down all coal stations per sae. This time there is only Arthur, and me, we have no squads of pickets, no marching bands and no flying banners. It is in many respects as daunting a prospect, but it shows the quality of this man, our differences aside, he came into the teeth of opposition with an unpopular and untrendy message, among people who are hardly receptive to his old school brand of Marxist-Leninist socialism but prepared to debate till the cows come home why the NUM and clean coal technology are allies in the struggle for a socialist ecology and a just world.
Arthur is now 70 and I am 60, I think we present a figure of two rather battered and scarred alley cats come for a peace conference with the league of dogs. This is a sad and confusing conjuncture of forces. I have never in my life experienced a situation where the miners and what we do is the unpopular foe except among the ruling class and Tories.
Outside of the Young Conservatives, I have never known young people regard mining and pit heads as their enemy. What is worse is that these are my traditional constituency on the Anarchist left, they have the aura of the hippies, they aspire to the freedoms and love of life, which our 60s/70s generation did. I come across the Newcastle and Scottish camp, and know many of the activists from the Toon scene and demonstrations. Previously we have always held each other in a silent mutual respect, now there is a mutual distance, coolness, a sort of mutual Et tu Brutus. However, I see here also the mortified conviction of my own anti-nuclear youth. The conviction that myself and the world were on the brink of extinction. The certainty that if we delay we are all doomed to a wretched and painful end. Now it is climate change, and the gathering speed with which the earth is crashing toward climatical obliteration ironically for all carbon based creatures and vegetation on the earth as we know it. A change, which will cleanse us all from the surface of the globe for eternity.
The camp like some latter day Woodstock; they are a commonwealth, locked in debate and dedication, little communities with kids romping through the fields, longhaired, dreadlocked, singing and dancing. It is deeply wounding to be the enemy.
This is an anti-Durham gala, everywhere are Workshops on mining, on resistance around the world to mining of all descriptions, pictures of headgear and open cast, industry and miners, and the campaigns against them. It is like a Durham miner’s gala on bad acid. Instead of everywhere a celebration of the miners, our work, our communities, are protests for its end. I am shocked that many left groups are now Groupies to the eco movement and have abandoned all attempts at class analysis.
Arthur’s worst critic in the field is the local secretary of The Socialist Party, who tells him the NUM and miners’ struggle was yesterday’s cause, this was where the struggle was now, that Eon and the big generators to facilitate their profits are using us. I argue the opposite that every attack on coal feeds the nuclear agenda, sets the agenda for government policy. I remind them too that they are enthusiastic supporters of EON when it comes to ramming wind turbines down the throats of protesting locals resolved not to have them.
Around the tent, are dotted Trade Union members of the SWP are they now ready to bury him having once been full of his praise? For a month, the Weekly Worker has carried uncritical adverts for the camp while the Morning Star warned me I was underestimating the forthcoming climate holocaust and declined my article criticising the camp.
I have the honour to have wrote the official NUM bulletin The Miners and The Climate Camp, which Ken Capstick the Miner’s editor has managed to reduce from 8 sides to four with a bit of clever editing. I’ve humped 2000 of them in a huge bag from Doncaster and have spent the morning spreading them round the field, where they are received with less than enthusiasm. About 150 protesters turn up to the tent, where Arthur and I are speaking from 1500 in the field. Their bottom line argument is we shouldn’t be generating so much power anyway, it should be cut by 50% and we need to get use to not having electricity.
Arthur gets one of the Greens scientific officers to admit she was talking about taking out all nuclear and coal capacity, which would leave Britain virtually without power generation of any sort.
They are non-plussed by the fact that we both accept practical renewables, that we see solar energy as the long-term future for the planet. That many other clean sources, as long as they are not equally environmentally damaging (like land wind turbines) should be deployed along with mass insulation projects and energy saving programmes. But that coal should be the base supply agent and buy the world a breathing space so long as we developed carbon capture systems to burn it cleanly.
There is sympathy for the miners generally accepted as the most exploited people in Britain over the last century, but there has to be losers if we are to save the Planet, and we have been chosen to be it. Few people believe that CO2 capture works, and anyway will not be ready ‘in time’ to stop the climate going into free fall.
At the same time as facing the Climate Camp and linked to it across the left and green movement, more and more people are coming over to the Government programme for nuclear power, and an end to coal mining and coal burning in Britain. I have argued far and wide that clean coal is the alternative to a civil nuclear programme. I am stunned to be told the NUM’s new policy supports both coal and nuclear although I still claim this to be untrue. It needs urgent clarification, because this is a central plank in our defence.
I am asked to give a Workshop on the relevance and importance of the great 84/5 coal strike, nine people come. The relevance clearly isn’t too well established.
‘The Earth’ becomes an abstraction, humanity is some sort of foreign and alien invader and the storm troops, this time not of the TUC but of tidal waves, poverty and death, are the miners.
Of course, Arthur’s arguments are not totally mine, he talks of ‘dirty foreign coal’ and unfair competition, slave labour and child labour, these are not my arguments. Import controls are not a progressive answer, in my view, but I am for a level playing field of subsidies and a ‘fair trade’ standard of terms, conditions and union rights, which would be, for the millions of coal miners abroad as much as for us. We agree though that clean coal technology is an achievable science now, and it is vital that it is applied wholesale across coal generation.
The cops are arseholes as usual I am stopped and searched two sometimes three times a day, against my consent and often with force. Indeed, I am almost arrested, which would have been proved interesting in court. They could hardly argue they had reasonable grounds for suspecting I was going to sabotage the Power Station when I had gone down two thirds of the country with half a tonne of literature in its defence.
They attack the camp on numerous occasions and lay into protesters with truncheons; day after day, they line people against the fence from the very youngest toddlers to very old people, and search and harass them. Arthur makes a very strong Statement to the media at the gate, in defence of the right to protest and welcomes the protesters invitation to him and to debate this vital issue.
It was a privilege to stand with Arthur again, in the teeth of opposition again, though we could have done with thousands more supporters so short sighted ‘greens’ are not allowed to dominate this crucial debate.
I am trying to put together a Labour Movement Conference on Climate, Class and Clean Coal in Newcastle for the end of the year, and very much hope the NUM sponsor it and supply key speakers. Watch This Space.