Artwork by Freya Ward-Lowery
Margaret Thatcher called miners ‘the enemy within’, and Still the Enemy Within is an account of the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike told by those who fought it, and those who supported it. It details the systematic destruction of the British mining industry through archive footage, interviews and re-enactments.
Today Britain’s history of mining coal is barely visible, hidden in the bowels of the earth or in skeletal pit heads. From my grandparent’s house in an old pit village you can see artificial hills made by the former mines, but mostly Britain’s old mines are concealed in wasteland or shopping centre developments. Still the Enemy Within brings the voices of miners and those involved in the fight to the forefront, documenting a struggle that still feels relevant.
Still the Enemy Within weaves a sinister story of how the Conservative government planned and carried out the destruction of the power of trade unions, with pits randomly earmarked for closure and stock-piling of coal to prepare for any strike action. Ex-miners from South Yorkshire, South Shields, Scotland and Wales talk about the living politics of being a miner, how it felt real, that solidarity was a tangible thing. They speak of the strength of an organised working class and their belief in the power a strike held.
The strike was an intersectional struggle, with one miner remarking that ‘it attracted individuals because they’d experienced oppression, gay, racial or female oppression, they could find an expression through working with people in the struggle’. People of colour, students, gay people and women were all involved in the struggle. The film Pride told beautifully the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and a member of LGSM wells up when interviewed about the part he played. The film portrays how the Miners’ Strike changed people’s lives in a way that is not clichéd or trite. Women were listened to for the first time in their lives; they were a part of the fight. One woman says that Margaret Thatcher ‘called herself an iron lady, but she’d thousands of iron ladies in the coalfields’.
The strike is not shown through rose tinted spectacles, despite the fact that the film depicts many of the positive aspects of the strike. Police brutality, poverty and the collapse of marriages are highlighted throughout the film. Many pieces of archive footage show police beating picketers and riot police destroying crowds. Two picketers, David Jones and Joe Green died during the strike.
Still the Enemy Within is a representation of the extraordinary will, generosity and sacrifice of human beings. It’s heart-warming and upsetting, but it is an excellent example of how every battle against oppression is a fight for the freedom of every human, and a better world.
By Maya Ward-Lowery
Maya is a seventeen year old from Lincolnshire who spends all her time thinking about teen films, Gael Garcia Bernal and feminism. Her favourite films include Pride, Mood Indigo, Lore, and Ida. Tweet her about burritos @ayaM_esoR