OVER 200 workers and youth took part in a powerful 25th anniversary meeting of the heroic 1986-87 printers strike at St Bride’s Institute yesterday.
A special tribute was paid to those who died, including cartoonist Tony Hall and former print union militant John Breen.
The first to address the meeting was Unite official Simon Dubbins, the son of former NGA leader Tony Dubbins.
He said that the printers strike ‘was a pivotal dispute’.
He stressed that the state, Murdoch and the Tories were prepared and determined.
He said: ‘Police attacked pickets with a viciousness and the miners strike followed on immediately from the Eddie Shah dispute.’
He said the printers waged a ‘fantastic’ struggle and added: ‘We should pay tribute to the brave men and women and their supporters.’
He went on to say that ‘Today, as far as we are concerned, Murdoch is unfinished business.
‘A fightback is underway.’
He added: ‘Unite is 1.5 million strong. We are a powerful force.’
He said that it was disgraceful that after 13 years of a Labour government that the anti-union laws are still in place.
Dubbins said: ‘Very few of us at that time realised the dimension the dispute would take.’
He said today there is a ‘groundswell of unrest and we are building for March 26’ when the TUC stages a national demonstration against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s savage spending cuts and attack on the Welfare State.
Former National Union of Mineworkers President Arthur Scargill told the rally: ‘We are meeting today to report on an historic struggle.
‘We have to look to the future.
‘If we don’t learn from the past, meetings are irrelevant.
‘History has taught us an important lesson – if you don’t fight back, they’ll always come after you.
‘The way to fight back is to strike. Stuff the ballot.’
He added: ‘What we face is not a banking or finance crisis, it’s a crisis of capitalism.
‘It’s a rotten, corrupt system and it deserves to perish.’
He said what was important about the miners and printers disputes was ‘the collaboration of TUC leaders, Hammond and the right wing of the Labour Party, betraying the printers and the miners’.
He said in 1972 and 1973, the miners had brought the Tories ‘to their knees.
‘We should just have finished them off.’
He stressed that the lesson of these strikes is ‘if one section of our society is under attack, it is an attack on us all.’
He saluted the printers for refusing to print a picture of himself portrayed as Hitler in ‘The Sun’ and for getting a Right of Reply in the ‘Daily Express’.
He added: ‘It’s high time that leaders of the trade union movement did not just sit in their cars, but led from the front.’
Unite MoC Sheila O’Regan said: ‘Thatcher was out to destroy the closed shop.
‘The miners’ strike wasn’t a dispute, it was a war.
‘They battled with the state and workers supported them.
‘The real thing is they were left to fight alone by the TUC.
‘But workers wouldn’t go back.
‘It’s a tough working class.’
She paid tribute to John Breen and Tony Hall.
She said although the printers were betrayed by the TUC and Hammond, ‘the EETPU have had their comeuppance.’
She added: ‘I was there when the EETPU was expelled (from the TUC). A scab is always a scab.’
She said the Tories of today are like Thatcher.
‘Murdoch is still with them. It’s the same gang.
‘But this time they are taking on the whole working class and the youth.
‘Workers have learned. They know you have to bring the whole working class out.
‘You have to bring this government down and take power and bring in a socialist government.’
She added: ‘Millions are fighting all over the world.
‘In Tunisia, they brought the government down in a week.
‘In Ireland the government’s about to fall.
‘People all over the world have had enough.’
She concluded: ‘The next round of battle we have to win, it has to be victory. We are going to bring this government down.’
Paul Lepper, Young Socialist Editor, said: ‘This is not just a commemoration of the printers strike, it’s important for the future.
‘It is vital for young people. Every job that is attacked is an attack on the future of young people.
‘The fight we are in today is at another level.
‘The state will be used against us. You saw how the police used the tactic of kettling against the students.
‘In Birmingham, police smashed up an occupation.
‘This is the death agony of capitalism.
‘We have to bring down this government and have a workers government and socialism.’
Other speakers included Bill Rogers (Chingford ASLEF and Secretary of the North-East London Council of Action) and Frank Sweeney (WRP General Secretary).
Dave Wiltshire, national secretary of the All Trades Union Alliance, chaired the meeting.