“I will never stop fighting … You must make fun, right?” said Arthur Scargill when he joined striking railway workers on strike in Sheffield.
The former head of the National Union of Mineworkers is 84 and may not be as nimble on his feet as he once was, but the fire in his stomach does not appear to have been extinguished. Nor have his opinions become softer.
“I have nothing but utter contempt for the management of Labor party, especially [Keir] Starmer, ”Scargill said in response to a question about Labor’s stance on this week’s strikes. “Honestly, the Labor Party has blown completely. It does not represent the working class in this country. “
Scargill joined the strike wearing the same cap he was wearing then he was arrested at the Orgreave Coke Works 38 years ago during the miners’ strike. He was then escorted away by police and later found guilty of two charges of obstruction and fined £ 250.
His visit on a sunny Thursday morning at Sheffield train station was much more relaxed. It was unannounced and warmly welcomed, though most glances were in the direction of, “Is that who I think it is?”
Scargill was joined by his 21-year-old grandson Thomas Logan, who also hopes to have a future role in the trade union movement. Scargill joked that his grandson was more militant than he was.
“He’s like any normal grandfather,” Logan said. “Maybe a little more assertive. He has tried to influence me from an early age and he has succeeded. It is his storytelling that sets you on fire… he does it well.”
Scargill was president of NUM for 20 years, which led the miners to a defeat in the 1984-85 strike, which marked a turning point in post-war history. After resigning as union leader, he became something of a recluse as he struggled with those who once followed him.
Chris Kitchen, who has been general secretary of NUM since 2007, once accused Scargill of trying to destroy the union. He also pointed to the “second-to-none” pension that Scargill received from NUM.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2014, Kitchen said: “I do not see the big difference between the way Arthur has lived his life and the capitalist system he built a reputation for fighting – in that he is completely after himself. And he has done very well out of it. ”
Scargill still gives speeches and is the titular leader of the socialist workers’ partywhich he created in 1996 in response to Tony Blair and his amendment of paragraph four of the Constitution of the Labor Party.
On Thursday, Scargill said he felt obligated to offer his support to railroad workers. “I am here because I am a trade unionist and a socialist. “When people have to strike to get a wage and stop unnecessary redundancies, it is time for the workers to come together,” he said.
“I would urge all railway workers to strike and force this government to withdraw.”
He added: “We would not be here today if our ancestors had not intervened against the laws of the land at that time. They knew they had to act to achieve justice. Think of the suffragettes, think of the Tolpuddle martyrs , think of the Jarrow marches… it is an ongoing struggle. ”
According to Scargill’s allies, he was demonized in the 1980s and is still being demonized today. His appearance Tuesday at a strike line in Wakefield, where one by-elections are held Thursday, Boris Johnson at PMQs accused Labor of being “out on the strike lines and literally holding hands with Arthur Scargill”.
“It’s a tribute to me,” Scargill said. “Honestly, for a pillow like him … the crime he has. The only crimes I’ve ever committed are to join a strike line.”
Scargill hopes and predicts that it will be the summer when the trade union movement fights back.
“Are you NUJ [National Union of Journalists]? ” he asked the Guardian. “Because it’s your turn next time.”