MINERS at Kellingley colliery walk off the job for the last time today, in what National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Chris Kitchen is right to call a sad day for this country.
After the shutdowns of the Hatfield and Thoresby collieries earlier this year, Kellingley was the last deep coalmine in Britain. Its closure marks the end of an industry that, more than any other, laid the foundations for this country’s wealth.
The 450 people who have lost their jobs have, like thousands of fellow miners before them, the Tories to thank for it. This is not an industry that has died a natural death, superseded by technological advance.
On the contrary, Britain still burns tens of millions of tons of coal every year — 54 million in 2014, to be precise.
But most of the coal we burn now is imported from abroad, often from countries with weaker labour laws, less unionised workforces and poorer safety records.
Those inclined to celebrate the demise of an industry focused on burning fossil fuels should realise there is no environmental benefit in using other countries’ coal to power our nation rather than our own — quite the reverse.
Nor is Kellingley being shut for ecological reasons.
Whatever the agreements it signed up to in Paris, Britain’s Conservative government has slashed subsidies for renewable energy and is so committed to the dirty and dangerous process known as hydraulic fracturing that this week it made it legal to frack under national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas of special scientific interest.
No, Kitchen is right that this is “another vindictive act” from a government that turned down the opportunity to save Britain’s coal industry, though the £338 million needed was insignificant compared to the hundreds of billions thrown at the financial sector since the economic crash it caused.
We still need coal. Today’s tragedy is one more spiteful blow aimed at an industry wantonly destroyed in a Tory project that began over 30 years ago, not because it was unnecessary or out of date but in order to break the back of the working class in one of its best organised and most militant sectors.
THE Kiev regime has finally succeeded in banning the Communist Party of Ukraine.
This was a long-expected blow — ever since EU and US-sponsored fascist mobs violently overthrew the elected Viktor Yanukovych government in February 2014 the post-coup government has sought to crush the political left.
Communists have been attacked, their offices ransacked, the term itself and the symbols of the movement banned. It is illegal even to sing the Internationale in the former socialist country.
History has been rewritten, with monuments to the many Ukrainians who gave their lives to defeat nazi Germany torn down as Ukraine’s far-right rulers honour fascist collaborators such as Stepan Bandera, whose Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists murdered thousands of Polish and Jewish civilians in the second world war, as national heroes.
The communists are not a marginal political force — they are a significant party in Ukraine who received 2.6 million votes, 13 per cent of the total, in the last pre-coup election. As party leader Petro Symonenko points out, they have been targeted for providing the only serious opposition to a government waging a brutal war on the eastern part of the country while enforcing a bonanza of privatisation and pay cuts on its citizens.
All democrats must offer their solidarity and support as the party takes this fight to the European Court of Human Rights. And we have a duty to expose the far-right character of the illegitimate Ukrainian regime.