Interview with Ken Loach, socialist film director

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Ken Loach: Bring back the Spirit of ‘45

Ken Loach is a film director with strong opinions. He is famous for his social-realist style of making films. He is famous for his socialist opinions, and for not accepting an OBE from the Queen, He talks to Amy Hall. Why is it now the time to go back to the energy and spirit of 1945?


What’s your first memory?

I remember hurting my fingers in a deckchair. I can still see the scar on my finger!

What do you feel strongly about politically?

Where to begin? I feel strongly against the cruelty, inequality and unfair power of capitalism and its child, Imperialism. I feel strongly about finding leaders for the working class that can make revolutionary change. That also means teaching people about the class system and fighting the idea from David Cameron that says ‘we’re all in it together’.

Do you think people can really change history?

Yes, the power of working people is difficult to stop. But I worry about what will happen if people power doesn’t succeed.

Who or what makes you feel really good?

People who fight. Ordinary trades unionists like the miners in our country, or the Industrial Workers of the World in the US. The people of Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba and, earlier, Spain, who fought to make a socialist society against the capitalist governments of the US, Britain and others. The Partisans in Yugoslavia who fought fascism; Palestinians; the people of Western Sahara and everyone who fights against people who take their land and liberty.

Your latest film, Spirit of ’45*, is about the building of the Welfare State and socialism in Britain after World War Two. What gave you the idea to make this film now?

History doesn’t talk about the years after 1945 because it doesn’t help any of the main political parties. But as the economic system fails I think it’s important to remember the few years when there was the beginning of new ideas and different ways of doing things. And we mustn’t wait too long to talk about the memories of people who were active at the time. As the economic system fails, we need to think about new ways of organizing society. This is because the very big unemployment and the cuts and everything that people are suffering cannot continue.

Do you think the same kind of energy and the feeling of working together is possible now?

It’s certainly possible, but we need a big change in our way of thinking. I think we could do that with the right leaders and a plan which everyone could see would help them. We need a strong Left in the unions, a strong Left in the leaders and we need to break with New Labour [Britain’s opposition party]. The problem is that the 1930s were a very quiet time in politics. There was very little industrial conflict, but there was very big unemployment and many problems for the people. And to create the energy we had to fight fascism. The danger is that fascism comes again and we find ourselves in another battle – that would be very bad.

Who do you want to see Spirit of ’45?

I hope the young people will see it. We showed some young people the [Labour Party] Manifesto of 1945 and they were saying ‘wow– that’s what we want now’. They really liked the fact that people wanted to build theatres and concert halls and libraries when now they’re shutting all those things. They just liked the idea of a good and fair society.

Some of your films were stopped. Have you had any problems with this film?

Not really, because it’s made as a film for the cinema; the films which were stopped were made as films for television. In the 1980s we could at least make the film. Then, when people found it was saying something they didn’t like, they stopped it. Now people can’t get the money to make a film if the people in power don’t like it.

What’s your biggest fear?

That we do not stop the power of the big companies before the planet is ruined.

Where do you feel most at home?

The West Midlands, walking around my home city of Bath, and at a football match.

1. * The Spirit of '45 is out on DVD on 15 April 2013.

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