A couple of academics have become very excited about their "discovery" that the National Union of Mineworkers took money from Communist bloc countries during the 1984-5 miners' strike.

There's a detailed account of the movement of Soviet money in Marching to the Fault Line by me and David Hencke, published a couple of years ago by Constable and Robinson.

True, we didn't have some specific detail  about East German money, now revealed by Manchester’s Professor Stefan Berger and Glamorgan’s Dr Norman LaPorte.  They have added some detail, and congratulations to them on that, but that's all. 

And the trouble is that, on the back of that detail they have hung some amazingly superficial political judgements.

They write:

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

This is garbage.  This tiny bit of new detail does not constitute new evidence for the old, old smear that the unions in the seventies and eighties were in the pockets of the dreaded Russians; nor that - as the two writers claim - the unions supported East Germany. 

Even less does it provide evidence from their implied conclusion: that unions are anti-British and should never be allowed to flourish here again. 

Unions in the seventies, as now were mostly involved in the tedious but necessary work of protecting workers from exploitation, a task they did rather well until deprived of the power to do it. 

Incidentally, Dr LaPorte and Proifessor Begregr add:  “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."  Really?  Well, if they will only read our book, they will be able to work out what his name is.