Comrade Bridget Bell, a dedicated fighter for the working class, lost her struggle against cancer on 8 August 2019 in her adopted home of Barnsley.
Bridget came to prominence in the 1984/5 miners’ strike as a leading member of North Staffordshire Miners’ Wives Action Group, and later served as the secretary of the national strike support organisation, Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC).
Talking in later years about the strike and the women’s role in it she said: “We all came together and formed a united front, and that was what was so wonderful about it. We know that when there is a serious attempt to destroy our class we can all unite. I can’t think of anything more inspiring than that.”
In 1997 she joined the newly formed Socialist Labour Party (SLP), and won huge respect when, after the attack on the twin towers in 2001, she refused to equate the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressors – a position that angered many of those inside the SLP still tied to social-democratic thinking.
She resigned from that party in protest at the expulsion of a group of communists whom she then joined when they formed the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 2004. It was during that year, with the closure of Selby colliery, that Bridget in a public meeting displayed her understanding of imperialism and the support given to it by social democracy when she said: “We think it’s a scandal that, seven years into a Labour administration, we’re still facing pit closures”.
Bridget’s heart was always with the mining communities, even after the pits were destroyed. Unfortunately for the wider movement, this meant that she let all other forms of struggle lapse as she concentrated on the work of bringing to public awareness the plight of victimised miners who had been sacked during the strike, along with the struggle to get justice for those injured and imprisoned by the police who rioted at Orgreave with batons, shields, cavalry and armoured vans, assisted by a troop of media liars and newsroom con-artists.
Bridget always knew which side she was on in any struggle because she always looked at the basic question of which class was the beneficiary of any given position and action within that struggle. She could put aside the illusions of bourgeois democracy and see that in a class society an action by the poor in retaliation could not be viewed in the same way as the actions of the rich against the workers.
Farewell, Comrade Bridget, we are stronger for having known you.