Keeping their dreams alive

Submitted by martin on 5 February, 2013 - 8:21

Tim Thomas previews Ken Loach’s new documentary, The Spirit of ’45.

Ken Loach’s documentary, to be released in March, is probably not going to be seen at your local cinema. You are more likely to be offered Sylvester Stallone in Bullet to the Head (two stars and totally worthless).

Spirit of ’45 should be shown in every cinema in the land but it won’t be; you can maybe catch it on Film Four. You might guess the reason why!

The production team (Sixteen Films) are letting groups book it for public film showings. Getting this film shown depends on you.

It is a film about the General Election of 1945, which was won by Labour because the working class had had enough of the appalling conditions they endured in the 1930s. They had seen fascism, fought against it and won. Here was the promise of a better world, better living conditions, better health, housing, an end to the corruption of a coal-owners’ state. Perhaps a socialist state instead.

We are told and shown what it was like before and after and then we are shown what it is like now. We see the destruction of all the heroes’ and heroines’ ideals — the selling off of coal, steel, water, electricity, transport and the termination of the hope of the Labour Party’s “Clause Four”.

All this we see through the eyes of ordinary people. And how wonderful they are and their stories are. It is not by any subtle design of the film maker that the eyes of the nurses, the GPs, the railway workers, the miners seem to shine with humanity, and the men and women in the crowd that adulated Margaret Thatcher’s first victorious conference seem so intensely mercenary, so filled with hatred and triumph over what had been built and was now to be destroyed for the sake of a quick profit and the gangsterism of the banks.

No matter what ideological disputes we may have with Ken Loach, he has the ability to make matters clear cinematically. So you must see this film, no matter how old you are, no matter whether you are a man or a woman, no matter what your sexual orientation is or what your culture might be, or whether you are in Cameron’s England because your village has been bombed by British imperialists or by the clerical-fascism born from this same imperialism. Don’t let them split us. But Loach puts it better than I do:

“The Second World War was a struggle, perhaps the most considerable collective struggle this country has ever experienced. While others made greater sacrifices, the people of Russia for example, the determination to build a better world was as strong here as anywhere. Never again, it was believed, would we allow poverty, unemployment and the rise of fascism to disfigure our lives.

“We had won the war together, together we could win the peace. If we could plan to wage military campaigns, could we not plan to build houses, create a health service and a transport system, and to make goods that we needed for reconstruction?

“The central idea was common ownership, where production and services were to benefit all. The few should not get rich to the detriment of everyone else.

“It was a noble idea, popular and acclaimed by the majority. It was the Spirit of 1945. Maybe it is time to remember it today.”

• If you want to book this film for a public showing, email

• Screenings already scheduled

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