chapter  Three
22 Pages

The Myth of the Radical Miner

ByDick Geary

The miner has often been depicted as the archetypal proletarian. The miner has been seen as a prime vehicle of industrial militancy and proletarian radicalism. Syndicalism and communism have had an appeal amongst some groups of mineworkers yet the political history of miners is, if anything, even more diverse than that of their industrial behaviour, and their politics have often been far from radical. Occupational identity and solidarity was endangered by a high incidence of job changing and geographical mobility, and both of these factors characterized the Ruhr before 1914, as they did many of the American coalfields. Authoritarian employers in continental Europe and the USA had recourse to a huge armoury of weapons in the battle to control labour. In the British coal strike of 1984, the fact that miners picketed the Ravenscraig steelworks, which were threatened with closure at the time, scarcely indicates a class, as distinct from occupational, solidarity.