Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Spirit of 45 in Forest Hill (and a couple of things tangential to that)

Chris Flood has asked me to pass on details of this screening in my manor tomorrow night, which I've left a bit late due to being away from my machine:
The Spirit of '45 leaflet
Friday, 28 June: Special Question and Answer showing of The Spirit of 45 Film by Ken Loach hosted by Lewisham Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC)
The Spirit of '45 is a documentary, interviewing people who remember the mass movement to create the welfare state following World War Two. Ken Loach was asked after the film showing in Cardiff why he made the film.
"I want people to be angry," Ken Loach said. "This is not about history. It's about the fact that society doesn't have to be this way.
We can seize control of the economy, protect the environment, share out the work. You can only plan what you own - collectively for the benefit of all! Another world is possible. My god, we have to change it."
The film shows the contrast between the poverty of the 1930s and the hopes and aspirations of the working class that there should be no return to these conditions.
One contributor from Liverpool described his living conditions before the war, with all the children getting into a bed every night which was crawling with vermin. The happiest moment in his life was moving into a new council house.

Doors open 7pm
Friday, 28 June
Venue: The Hob
7 Devonshire Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3HE (nearest station Forest Hill)
Q&A after the film, followed by live music
I've been a fan of Ken Loach's films since I was a teenager. Riff-Raff, Raining Stones and Land and Freedom are probably my favourites. I haven't managed to see The Spirit of 45 yet, so am sorry that I can't make it tomorrow.

Here's an extract from what Flesh is Grass wrote about it:

It is a series of excerpts from interviews with activists and trade unionists on different themes cut with photographs and footage of the post-war years of social democracy until Thatcher ended it. What I found convincing were the grievances of the interviewees, many of whom had watched loved ones die meaninglessly due to reckless profiteering in the mines or lack of adequate housing. Others had had brutal encounters with the police, who I thought were represented with restraint here but nevertheless as the enforcers of the rich and powerful that they have been and sometimes still are. Julian Tudor Hart, the GP who revolutionised blood pressure management (and on whose book I founded my PhD) was utterly convincing – it was great to see him. I wonder if David Widgery, the East End GP who wrote the very good memoir Some Lives would have been in it had he still been alive. I can probably tolerate John Rees if he sticks to the point – and he was well-edited here – didn’t seem at all malevolent. 
Everybody in the film was white – reminding me of trade union support for the colour bar in the ’60s – and largely male. They were also practically all retired, but Loach successfully made a virtue of the fact that retired people carry the torch – they have stories to tell of how things used to be in the bad old days before the NHS. But it’s a real shame that Loach is not a reflective man because this film misses an opportunity. Others have observed with incredulity his omission to tackle the gap between the triumph of nationalisation and the rise of neo-Liberalism represented by Thatcher. That gap is precisely what the labour movement needs to get to grips with, because that is where the ground was lost. Loach prefers to point the finger at Thatcher. It is well known that Thatcher was voted in by disaffected Labour voters.
Anna Chen has also recently picked up on the same theme of the invisibility of non-white stories in the film in her very sharp review. And some of their criticisms are echoed in another sharp review, by HarpyMarx. Flesh goes on to mention "Ken Loach’s own anti-Jewish proclivities", a topic which obliquely features in Rachel L's post about the film's forthcoming screening in Israel.

A couple of other things to mention. First, a purely local matter. Lewisham remains the only borough in London without a cinema. Sadly, the volunteer-run Brockley Jack Film Club is no more. There are, however, well over a dozen independent, self-managed and mostly non-profit film clubs across South East London, which all deserve your support. And a Pop-Up cinema will be coming to Lewisham in the summer.

Less parochially, but perhaps more obscurely, I am intrigued that the socialist electoral coalition TUSC are screening a film by Loach, who is so closely associated with the Counterfire-run "People's Assembly", a rival socialist coalition. Does this mean anything? (Myself, I am keeping a watching brief on both for now. Some of my blogospheric colleagues are more partisan. Read, for example: Shiraz Socialist, Coatesy, Anna Chen, The Third Estate or Ian Bone.)

19 comments:

sackcloth and ashes said...

Just as a matter of interest, did Loach draw any correlation between the Labour government's ability to introduce the welfare state and NHS at a time of extreme post-war austerity, and the UK's receipt of US$2.7bn from Uncle Sam as part of the Marshall Plan?

Waterloo Sunset said...

Your sectariania is weak, young Jedi. While Loach has been involved in the People's Assembly, "closely associated" is overstating it.

Loach's main loyalty is to the new Left Unity project, which aims to set up a new party. That puts him into conflict with at least some of the people behind the People's Assembly (Owen Jones et al) who are still firmly in the Labour camp. There was some tension at the Assembly because of that particular issue.

Left Unity are potentially the one to watch. Interesting developments have taken place there- OMOV, refusal to grant factional rights to the Trot groups, all policy to be decided by the membership, in general a seeming commitment to bottom-up democracy. (This differentiates them heavily from the Counterfire/Labour Left top-down approach to the People's Assembly and from previous projects like the Respect Unity Coalition). It's a mixed bag from what I can tell, containing everyone from old Eurocommunists to Anonymous types. It's looking increasingly like it may be uncontrollable, which is going to be interesting.

For a pithier overview, Mr Bone is on good form- http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/game-of-trots/

bob said...

S&A-

Indeed!

Of course, it would be wrong to think of the Marshall cash as direct subsidy for the NHS and welfare state: a huge amount went into defence spending, into our late imperial adventures (Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, etc etc), keeping up the gold reserve, keeping the pound strong against the dollar etc. But I'm sure the Atlanticist and late imperial part of the Little Britain social democratic story is not something Loach wants to dwell on either...

WS-

Bone's Game of Trots is such a perfect summary - thanks for that!

I had thought that LU had thrown in its lot with PAAA, altho PAAA as "movement" versus LU as proto-party doesn't fit together, with PAAA trying to keep Labour leftists and Greens on board (particularly laughable while Brighton's Greens fuck over their workforce...).

My main problem with LU is similar to my main problem with PAAA: the people at the top. I don't trust Hudson and Burgin (tankie/Stoppers) much than I trust Rees and German, altho the fact they don't have so many troops to mobilise might make them less toxic and hence more possible that LU can become "uncontrollable".

Waterloo Sunset said...

I think that "cordial relations" is how I'd best described the relationship between LU and the PAAA. There's seems to be a bit of a "don't ask, don't tell" thing going on when it comes to hostility to Labour. You also have the complication that the (ex SWP) International Socialist Network are involved in LU and they despise Rees and German with a passion. I believe that "Lord and Lady Macbeth" is a common nickname in those circles.

The Greens are complicated, as always. Part of the issue is that they're so broad that they contain everyone from ecosocialists to tory ecologists. I tend to think it's best to take them on a case by case basis. I know you're not the biggest fan of Caroline Lucas, but she's actually been sound on the Brighton issue.

I don't particularly trust Burgin and Hudson and I especially don't trust Socialist Action. However, it's interesting to note that, while I've never met him myself, Burgin especially has a decent reputation on a personal level among many people you wouldn't expect. See Ian again- http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/if-only-everyone-on-the-left-was-like-andrew-burgin/

As while as the lack of troops, I think there's several other reasons why they're less likely to be toxic. The first is that they must be aware that, after Respect, any whiff of top-down maneuvering is unlikely to be tenable to a lot of the people LU is hoping to recruit. The second is the structure of LU. They absolutely don't have the numbers to stack the founding conference and the way it's being run means that, in fact, they will have to win the arguments. It may lead to a situation where people able to do the populist demagoguery thing have a particular influence. I'm not necessarily against that, for obvious reasons...

That's very different then the PAAA where it's absolutely being run from the top with little to no room for rank and file rebellion.

In general, with LU, I think it's probably worth steering a middle course between the Scylla of credulity and the Charybdis of outright dismissal.

There do seem to be some elements in terms of internal democracy that do seem to be a genuine break from what we've seen before, at least at this stage of the project.

Boffy said...

I watched the film the other night on Film4. What came over to me was just how unsound the basis was that was created in 1945. Many have commented that a weakness of the film is that it does not cover the period between 1945 and 1979. If it had the reason Thatcher was possible might have been even clearer.

But, enough is in the film to demonstrate it. For example, the miner who commented about the situation after nationalisation, when the old bosses remained in place and treated the men with the same disdain as before, and the former owners who were appointed to the regional boards. As Tony Benn pointed out top down, statism.

The same was true in relation to the NHS which started off by giving concessions to the consultants and GP's, and left in place the monopoly of the drug companies and others to use the NHS as a cash cow, and which like the nationalisations was another exercise in undemocratic top down bureaucratic, statism that has only become worse.

One contributor said the NHS could be a model for Socialism. If Socialism is about the kind of bureaucracy that exists in the NHS, or the kind of feudal, stratified organisation structure and relations within it, or about killing people and then covering it up as happened at Stafford, Cumbria and numerous other places, its no wonder today few takers for Socialism can be found.

Finally, in relation to Council housing there was the woman who reported that after years of people waiting, she attended the Housing Office one day where anotehr oman came out and declared she'd got a house, because she'd locked the door and given the housing officer "what he wanted". Again typical, of the kind of bureaucratism and oppression of statist provision that existed and made it easy for Thatcher to persuade people that it would be a good thing to be able to buy their house.

The Spirit of 45 is a good film to watch to learn how not to convince workers today of the need for Socialism.

Richard Armbach said...

the Methodists mangled pour encourager les autrs

http://hurryupharriet.wordpress.com/modus-example-the-methodists/

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I am wondering about the definition of the welfare state, especially after reading that:

http://simplyjews.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/why-indeed-and-revelation-about-guardian.html

If, as the youngster that has written that extraordinary piece, thinks, socialism means a easily available fallback for every parasite, it leaves that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" in the dust.

That poor "from" part seems to totally escape the limited attention span of some people. I only ask myself - how many are these "some"...

Waterloo Sunset said...

In other news, Ronnie Fraser chooses some interesting speaking engagements...

Engage's silence on this is telling as well. As we've seen before with David T/Atzmon, Engage's position is "only our mates are allowed to hang round with the far right".

bob said...

In reverse order...

Re Ronnie Fraser: I had no idea about this and had to google to see what you were on about. I think that it was a disastrous and stupid decision made probably in genuine ignorance and complete lack of political savvy. My impression is Fraser is not particularly political, outside the single issue of being pro-Israel, and probably had no idea what he was getting into. It was also sad to see Charles Small speaking there, who does have more political savvy, but who seems to have misplaced his political compass over time.

The conference of this amusingly named AFA looks appalling, with the giveaway word "demography" looming large, not least over the sessions relating to antisemitism, which they clearly blame wholly on the demographic "penetration" of Muslims into Europe.

bob said...

Re Spirit of 45: Boffy, those are spot on comments.

One contributor said the NHS could be a model for Socialism. If Socialism is about the kind of bureaucracy that exists in the NHS, or the kind of feudal, stratified organisation structure and relations within it, or about killing people and then covering it up as happened at Stafford, Cumbria and numerous other places, its no wonder today few takers for Socialism can be found.

Sad but true.

Waterloo Sunset said...

I think that it was a disastrous and stupid decision made probably in genuine ignorance and complete lack of political savvy.

I don't remember either of us being particularly sympathetic when Delich (sp?) used that defense for linking to far right sites. And, arguably, linking is way less serious then addressing conferences. (A quick Google should tell anybody that this was not something to be attending).

The Contentious Centrist said...

Bob: Can you link or illuminate WS's reference to Fraser's faux-pas? I'd to check for myself what it was. Thanks.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Oh never mind. Got it. Robert Spencer's presence at the conference. I see. A very good reason to launch an attack on Engage and David Hirsh and a very pertinent analogy between Atzmon and Spencer. Looks like someone is in desperate need of polishing up their credentials for a certain crowd and what do you know, plenty of Joos conveniently around to throw some necessary mud on. Mud is excellent for polishing up credentials.

The Contentious Centrist said...

There was an earlier comment of mine that disappeared into the ether which is what the "Never mind"" is about. Sorry about that.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Ah, I see, so it's not acceptable to point out that someone is attending a far right conference if that person happens to be Jewish?

I believe we've found that elusive beast that everyone's always asking for. Here is someone expressly making false accusations of anti-semitism, without any attempt to provide supporting evidence, in order to try and deflect criticism.

You do know that if I felt the urge I could sue you for libel, yeah?

Waterloo Sunset said...

p.s. You do know that the Atzmon reference was to a close ally of Engages going out drinking with him, yeah? Not that I expect you to do anything other in response to that either a) make another false allegation of antisemitism or b) refuse to directly address the issue.

Waterloo Sunset said...

My comments are disappearing as well. I'm sure they'll turn up. It's an occasional blogger problem. At that point, you can continue with your apologist stance on the far right.

bob said...

Moved one WS and one CC comment out of spam queue, tho no idea why those particular ones went there...

Have not managed to read the comments yet

bob said...

On one hand, Ronnie's "sin" is not simply to have appeared with Robert Spencer. It's the whole conference, and the stream on "demography", with people like Wilders and so on. Extremely unsavoury. Sharing a panel with one or another of these people is not such a crime, but the whole conference and the whole of AFA is not something someone who is genuinely concerned about antisemitism and racism should have anything to do with. It's not even vaguely antisemitic to want to throw mud at this crowd.

On the other hand, while Fraser had more time to reflect and withdraw his involvement than Delich did with what she posted, I'm not sure the AFA people are as beyond the pale as a David Duke.