LaborFest is proud to launch its opening with the US premier screening of the new Ken Loach film, Spirit of ‘45. Ken Loach is the leading film maker in the world about working people and the issues they face, including his work “Bread and Roses” about the organizing of immigrant janitors in Los Angeles. His new documentary film is about the end of the 2nd World War and the pivotal year, 1945, which saw a major transformation take place in England with the introduction of national healthcare and nationalization of the railroads and mines. Workers not only in England but also in the US were unwilling to go back to poverty and the depression, and were ready for action to defend their unions and human rights. In 1946, in fact, there was the last general strike in the US when workers struck to back clerical workers in Oakland. The film presents archival material, and we see and hear how workers perceived these major changes and what differences it made in their daily lives.
Attending the opening and introducing the film will be Dot Gibson, one of the voices in the documentary, who is also chair of the National Pensioners’ Convention, which links up retired workers and unions who are fighting to defend their social security benefits so they do not sink into poverty. The attack on the social rights and benefits were, of course, joined by UK Prime Minister Thatcher and her ally, former President Ronald Reagan, to attack the welfare state and social rights. Their motto was only that the market should determine your life and your future.
This film shows that working people can successfully confront issues facing them; the gains made by the British working people after the war are important lessons for American workers today.
“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, 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.”
- Ken Loach