Miners’ strike was ‘secretly financed by Communists’

06 Jul 2010

Documents found by historians from The University of Manchester and the University of Glamorgan allegedly show that East German Communists helped to finance the British miners' strike in 1984 and 1985.

Manchester’s Professor Stefan Berger and Glamorgan’s Dr Norman LaPorte saw the documents from the East German Communist trade union federation which say that 'substantial sums of money in hard currency' were secretly transferred to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The papers also allege the German Democratic Republic provided free holidays for striking miners and their families - courtesy of the union.

The  material is published in Prof Berger and Dr LaPorte’s new, book, Friendly Enemies: Britain and the GDR 1949 to 1990 by Berghahn Books this month.

Professor Berger, who is based at Manchester’s School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures said: “The records allege East European Communists helped to finance the NUM during the strike.

“My research finds that the NUM and the East European Communists wanted to keep the affair secret and had some consequential problems getting the money to the NUM.

“The documents talk about the possibility of using a 'go-between' from the French communist union CGT who would deliver the money straight from Eastern Europe to representatives of the NUM.

“They also allege that East German FDGB Union helped the miners by providing free holidays for the families and children of British miners in the German Democratic Republic.

“The FDGB, the documents say, also coordinated the shipping of food parcels, clothing and so on to British miners.”

He added: “The Communists perceived the NUM as an ally in the international class struggle against capitalism - hence the close interest in the strike.

“Relations between the NUM and East European communism had been good since the 1960s.

“It was among the first major trade union federations to call for the recognition of  the GDR.

“However it was by no means the only union with a cosy relationship with East European Communism.

“By the late 1970s, 24 of 44 members of the general council of the TUC represented unions which had 'fraternal relations' with East European communist unions.

“It was, above all, the anti-capitalism of left-of-centre British trade unionists which made them believe that East European Communism was on the right path.

“But the British Left ignored massive human rights abuses and the lack of basic freedoms behind the Iron Curtain because they believed that the basic development in the direction of Socialism was right.”

Notes for editors

Professor Berger is available for comment

For more details contact:
Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567