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Up close and personal

Peter Arkell reviews the third volume of Dave Douglass’s autobiography, Ghost Dancers, which covers the period of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Dave Douglass’s book tells the story of the ghost dance, a dance of resurrection and defiance by North American Indians as a way of asserting that their culture would never die. The ritual would last for days.

The dancers, in their passion and fury, came to believe that the “white man would lose his strength, the buffalo would return to the prairie and the fish to the streams and birds to the sky”, writes Douglass.

“The authorities hated it. It scared them. Here was defiance beyond reason. The era of the red man had gone. Why wouldn’t they disappear with it?”  On 29 December 1890, the US Army shot the dancers down.

By giving the third volume of his autobiography the title of Ghost Dancers, Douglass, a  rank-and-file leader of the miners’ 1984-85 strike, emphasises the importance of preserving the memory of the desperate fight to save jobs, communities, the union and  a vision of socialism.

The ghost dance of the native Americans is seen as akin to the annual Durham Miners Gala. Despite the closure 15 years ago of nearly all of the deep-mine pits in Britain and of every single pit in the Durham area, the 2009 gala attracted up to 100,000 people from all the former coalfields.

Full review can be read here: